The composition of your gut microbiota changes as you age. These changes can have profound influence on your health. Recent studies have indicated differences in the composition of gut microbiota from infants, toddlers, adults and elderly.
Microbiota through the aging process:
From Birth to Three Years
It is well recognised that the initial microbiota of an infant is affected by the type of birth and the mother’s gut microbiota. During the early stages of life, the colonisation and development of the infant’s microbiota changes rapidly. These changes are influenced by early life experiences.
These include the type of birth.
- For babies who were born naturally their microbiota resembles the maternal gut and vaginal microbiota.
- And for those born by caesarean section their initial microbiota is more like their mother’s skin and oral microbiota and environmental bacteria.
The composition of the microbiome changes rapidly from three days through to three years.
- Breastfed babies develop increased levels of Bifidobacterium.
- Significant changes occur as the baby is introduced to solids and a varied diet.
- Other factors that influence the microbiota include the environment, medications and vaccinations.
The number of species in the gut also continues to expand from approximately 100 species in an infant to about 1000 species in an adult.
From three years to adulthood
From the age of three the main microbiota balance becomes a lot more stable. Their development has been influenced by geography, diet, early life environment and genetics. Microbiota are continually affected by:
- GI disorders
- Illness & disease
- Sex-hormone effects
During this time the microbiota can quickly adapt to dietary changes. A Mediterranean diet promotes healthy gut microbiota while a standard Western dietary pattern causes changes and a vegetarian diet increases Bacteroidetes and decreases Clostridia.
More significant changes can occur due to puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
70 Years onwards
Gut microbiota becomes more vulnerable and the number of species decrease from 70 years of age on. These changes are influenced by the aging processes and choices of:
- Reduced exercise
- Decreased intestinal function
- Reduced immunity
Bacteroidetes increase and Bifidobacteria decrease.
Your own Microbial footprint
While the gut microbiota can be generalised across the aging process it is important to note that each and everyone of us have our own microbial footprint. This is influenced by gender, diet, geography, age, occupation, genetic, travel, season, medications, air, water, probiotics, etc.
What do those long names mean?
Some species names have been provided in this article. Watch this space for future articles that will explain what these names mean.
If you would like to find out more:
Janne Ramsay is a Naturopath at Mr Vitamins. She runs regular workshops on the Gut Connection and understands the importance of good digestion and its impact on health and wellbeing. To find out how your digestion and microbiome is affecting your health make an appointment to see Janne.
For a Naturopathic consultation: BOOK HERE
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Odamaki T et al. Age-related changes in gut microbiota composition from newborn to centenarian; a cross-sectional study. BMC Microbiology (2016) 16:90
Palmer C et al. Development of the human infant intestinal microbiota. PloS boil. 2007;5e177.
Gronlund M et al. Influence of mother’s intestinal microbiota on gut colonisation in the infant. Gut Microbes. 2011;2(4)277-33.
Guilliams Thomas G. Functional Strategies for the Management of Gastrointestinal Disorders. The Point Institute. 2016