Frailty, aging, and the microbiome

Frailty is something we often associate with weakness. When we think of it, we more often than not think of a physical form. For example, an elderly person with low muscle mass and osteoporosis.

But it actually encompasses a lot more than an outward looking appearance. Frailty is a state of increased vulnerability to death or disease due to decreased resilience and.or functional reserve within in one or multiple physiological systems.

Clearly, having low muscle mass and bone density does this, particularly as we get older. But other factors that aren’t visual in nature play a role too.

In today’s video blog, we chat about frailty and the many factors that promote it. After you catch the video, read on to learn how frailty and gut health are intimately linked to successful aging.

How frailty speeds up our demise

We shouldn’t conflate frailty with physical stature. Sure, if you have higher muscle mass and bone density you’re less likely to fall and more likely to recover if you do. And as we age, we lose both.

However, other things that come with aging make us more frail. Every system in the body degrades with time. On top of this, changes to our body create a sort of momentum towards becoming frail.

Inflammaging is a process whereby our immune system changes with age. Basically, there is an increase in cells that create inflammation, and a decrease in cells that fight infections. As a result, we’re chronically inflamed and can’t fight off viral and bacterial pathogens as well.

There are also changes to metabolism. We become more insulin resistant as we grow older. This leads to poor blood glucose control, and lipid metabolism changes as well.

Changes in inflammation and metabolism link gut health, aging, and frailty.

How poor gut health makes us frail

Suffice it to say, we want to slow down or prevent age-related frailty. As we discussed in the video, this isn’t simply a process of losing muscle mass and bone density. There are a lot of other systems that become impaired as we age.

Generally speaking, age-related dysbiosis promotes greater intestinal permeability. But this isn’t simply driven by aging. Many age-related behavior changes drive these changes.

  • We become more sedentary
  • Our diet becomes less than ideal (Low fiber, low protein, high junk)
  • Our circadian rhythms become disrupted
  • Sleep is poor

You can check out our podcast on aging and the gut where we cover some of this here.

What’s interesting with respect to the microbiome, is that it essentially functions as an organ, but can also be a biomarker for our lifestyle. Most aspects of a healthy lifestyle impact the microbiome in some way.

This infographic shows the factors that regulate the microbiome in the upper right hand corner. And in the rest of the image, it shows how dysbiosis causes dysfunction throughout the systems of the body, promoting frailty.

Frailty and gut dysbiosis

When we’re young, our body is resilient and resists it. But as we grow older, the propensity towards becoming frail increases. Sure, the microbiome likely drives this to some extent, but you have a lot of control over that contribution.

The time to address this isn’t when you’re older. The time is now!

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