Healthy aging is critically important for us to enjoy the second half of life. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things where you don’t see the fruits of your labor until decades later.
Over the last decade, I’ve made it a point to focus on building a foundation for later health. In my late 20s I had pre-diabetes and was overweight. Though, most wouldn’t think of me as overweight.
My focus was initially on gut health, and how that could set me up for life. But when I stumbled on to circadian rhythms, I realized that both factors are essential to health.
It’s impossible to decouple gut health from circadian rhythms, particularly as it comes to healthy aging. We have circadian rhythms in all our tissues and organs, as do our microbes.
Aligning them is essential to making the machine work properly and limiting the accumulation of damage.
Circadian rhythms, metabolism, and healthy aging
A recently published paper looks at dietary interventions for building strong circadian rhythms. Diet is one of those critically important aspects of our lifestyle that regulates circadian rhythms.
The reasoning behind this is quite clear. A healthy metabolism is central to circadian variation in metabolites that relay time of day. Furthermore, one of the purposes to circadian rhythms is to tune our physiology to when food presents itself so we can attain it.
Calorie restriction, time-restricted feeding, and various forms of fasting help our clocks tell time. The nutrient quality of our diet is pretty important too. But it’s important to understand that diet is only one piece of the puzzle.
Unfortunately, as we age, our clocks get thrown out of whack. We can address the extent of this caused by changes in our behavioral rhythms.
Behavioral factors under our control include diet, exercise, exposure to stress, sleep hygiene, light exposure, nutritional adequacy, and how all these factors impact our microbiome.
Simply addressing diet is inadequate because, as we age, we become more susceptible to circadian disruption. This means we require more factors to tune our body to help it tell time so it can function optimally.
The microbiome, circadian oscillations, and healthy aging
All the cells in our body produce their own circadian rhythm. Under ideal circumstances, these rhythms are synchronized with one another. As a result, different cell types that coordinate things like blood glucose regulation and hormone regulation function optimally.
Within our gut, members of our microbiome synergize with one another, the cells that form the intestinal barrier, and our immune system. Microbial metabolites secreted by our microbiome interact with cells in the gut and enter circulation to communicate with the rest of the body.
You’ve likely heard of the gut-brain axis, which is one of these communication hubs. But the truth is, the gut communicates with essentially every system in our body, and vice versa. Outputs from our microbes communicate with our liver, muscle, fat tissue, brain, and everything under the Sun.
This delicate dance between our circadian rhythms and that of our microbes promotes healthy aging by limiting damage to our cells, allowing our cells to repair damage, fine tuning our immune system to prevent chronic inflammation.
As we get older, our gut becomes more permeable and this disrupts communication between our us and our microbes and increases inflammation. Part of this is caused by our clocks wearing down, and part of it is caused by changes to the microbiome.
Therefore, it’s important to address both to promote healthy aging.
If your goal is healthy aging, building strong circadian rhythms and a healthy gut should be at the top of your priority list. Both of these factors require you to build a routine that you can stick to day in and day out as you age.
Chaos is the enemy of the microbiome and circadian rhythms. Both work to help your body adjust to routine, and the most important factor is to develop a routine that you can stick to. We talked about how this works in a recent Youtube video you can check out here:
Build a daily routine that takes into consideration diet, exercise, activity patterns, sleep hygiene, and stress management. Track how your body responds, and make changes along the way until you find your best routine.
This is the key to healthy circadian rhythms, a healthy gut, and healthy aging!