Having a healthy, thriving, and diverse gut microbiome is important for a variety of reasons, especially as you age. And research supports it.
"According to the National Institute on Aging, recent research has shown that older adults that have a more diverse microbiome tend to be healthier, have an extended life span, and have overall better mobility than those with less diverse microbiomes," says Megan Roosevelt, RDN, founder of Healthy Grocery Girl.
"New research has found that the gut microbiome changes as we age, and an evolving microbiome indicates healthy aging processes," says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
While there are many ways to support your gut microbiome, including through physical activity and lowering stress, having healthy drinking habits is crucial as you age to promote the production of healthy bacteria and support a healthy microbiome.
Here are 6 drinking habits that will help you have a healthy gut as you age, according to dietitians. Then, for even more healthy aging tips, here are the 6 Smoothie Habits to Help You Live Longer, Say Dietitians.
Drink enough water daily.
"Drinking enough water daily is essential to our overall health and impacts our gut health," says Ehsani. "Water removes waste and toxins from the body, but if we are dehydrated and not drinking enough, it can cause constipation (which may result in an unhappy gut) and inhibits waste from being eliminated from the body as well."
"Aging may cause some people to lose their sense of thirst, making it harder to be excited about drinking water, and this can lead to dehydration," Roosevelt adds. "Adults should aim to consume 8 to 10 cups or half their body weight in ounces per day."
If you're bored of plain water, Ehsani suggests you try sparkling water, infused water (add your own fruit like grapefruit slices or oranges to the water), and herbal tea bags in boiling water (and serve it hot or iced.)
Make kefir a fridge staple.
"Kefir is a probiotic-rich fermented milk that has the same consistency as drinkable yogurt," says Ehsani. "It contains live and active cultures that can help balance and keep the gut flora healthy, which is important to keep healthy and in balance as we age. It has a tart and tangy taste."
If you don't prefer to drink it on its own, she notes that it can be used to make smoothies or used to make creamy salad dressings or sauces.
Cut added sugar and swap for sugar substitutes.
"Some studies have shown that high intakes of sugar can cause damage to the gut microbiome leading to things like inflammation," says Roosevelt. "As we age, chronic inflammation may lead to diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Swapping out your traditional sugar for a sugar substitute is an easy change."
Whip up gut-friendly smoothies.
Ehsani has the perfect recipe for a smoothie your gut will appreciate.
"Make a gut-friendly smoothie by using: a base of kefir or a yogurt (that has live and active cultures), a prebiotic-rich fruit like a banana (helps promote the growth of helpful bacteria), berries (high in antioxidants which help reduce risk of certain diseases), dark leafy greens like spinach (research found that those who eat dark leafy greens daily had a slower rate of cognitive decline), healthy anti-inflammatory fat like chia seeds or walnuts, and finally top with some grated fresh ginger or ginger powder, which can aid in digestion and helps reduce inflammation," she says.
Limit alcohol intake.
"Drinking too much alcohol can negatively impact one's gut health and overall health," says Ehsani. "Alcohol can cause gastritis which is inflammation of the stomach lining, which can cause acid reflux and heartburn, which disrupts the production of a healthy gut microbiome."
She also adds that alcohol also has a dehydrating effect, which can cause constipation and can slow waste from being eliminated from the body.
"Too much alcohol ingestion over time can also cause heart disease, liver damage, lead to certain cancer, and cause brain damage, all which doesn't support healthy aging," says Ehsani. "It's best to limit alcohol intake to the daily recommendation of no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men."
Hydrate before you caffeinate.
"Adequate hydration is important for regular bowel movements and preventing constipation, all of which affect your gut health long-term," says Roosevelt. "Older adults are more likely to experience constipation and slowed motility, meaning hydration is especially important. While research doesn't show that caffeine will necessarily cause dehydration, it still may have a mild diuretic effect. Start each day with consuming 1 to 2 cups of water before your coffee or tea to continue the habit of drinking water and aiding in gut health!"