The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: Five Ways to Help Your Gut Bacteria Keep You Younger!

13 Sep

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing.  You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do.  In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

Last month, we reported on how taking a daily probiotic to improve the health of the gut microbiome resulted in surprising benefits like bone strengthening and better blood pressure control. Maintaining a healthy population of gut bacteria can also benefit the immune system, glucose levels, mood, and even help prevent acne. When your microbiome is out of whack because of an unhealthy diet, chronic stress, overuse of antibiotics, chronic infection and inflammation, or lack of physical activity, then you may face an elevated risk for some cancers, heart disease, depression, obesity, and autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s or irritable bowel disease (IBD). This month, we’ll talk about five ways to avoid and five choices to make to help your microbes keep you younger.

How to throw off the healthy balance of microbes in your gut…

#1 Eating highly-processed foods that are short on fiber and loaded with chemical additives, sugars and syrups, unhealthy oils (trans fats and saturated fat-containing foods like egg yolks), and emulsifiers. Processed foods starve your good gut bacteria while letting bad ones thrive.

#2 Eating red and processed meat. Red (that includes pork) and processed meats change your gut biome, trigger inflammation, and are associated with everything from heart disease and depression to obesity, mental dysfunction, and cancer (especially breast and prostate).

#3 Eating the same old, same old. A narrow diet limits the diversity of your gut microbiome and its adaptability when battling disease and working to keep you healthy.

#4 Taking un-needed antibiotics—often mis-prescribed for viral infections. At least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed for outpatients are unnecessary, meaning that no antibiotic was needed at all.

#5 The 3 S’s: Sitting too much; Sleeping to little; Stressing too often. This triumvirate kills off gut diversity, which damages your endocrine and immune systems.

Five ways you can build—or rebuild—a healthy balance of microbes in the gut:

#1 Exercise. A 2017 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that in healthy-weight folks, six weeks of endurance training three days a week, increasing from 30 to 60 minutes a session, created measurable changes in the composition, functional capacity, and metabolic output of gut microbiota—but you have to keep up the exercise to maintain the improvements. So get a buddy and a pedometer and get going—heading for 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent.

#2 Eat Prebiotics. These foods provide fuel for health-promoting gut bacteria. Prebiotic foods include oats and other 100 percent whole grains, legumes, nuts, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus.

#3 Eat Fermented Foods. Sauerkraut, low-fat, no-sugar added yogurt, and kimchee, for example, deliver probiotics directly to your gut. As we stated in prior articles, you can get probiotics from yogurt and keifer, etc., but you have to eat more than several quarts a day of those to get the same number of Lactobacillus colonies as you get from one of the probiotics we favor (we like Culturelle—I am on the company’s scientific advisory board—and Digestive Advantage—which are both designed to survive the trip through corrosive stomach acids).

#4 Embrace Diversity. Chemical messages from gut bacteria can alter chemical markers throughout the human genome that may help fight infection and chronic diseases. And those messages are produced when bacteria digest fruits and vegetables! So adopt a diverse, plant-heavy diet! You’ll be rewarded, because your gut biome reacts to the input of healthy food pretty quickly.

#5 De-Stress and Sleep Well. Just two days of sleep deprivation can increase the amount of gut bacteria you have that are associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and slower fat metabolism.  Chronic stress also affects the balance of gut bacteria, allowing for a less vigorous response to disease. So check out the Cleveland Clinic’s free StressFreeNow and Go! To Sleep apps at iTunes.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions to:

Dr. Mike Roizen


PS: Please continue to order the new book by Jean Chatzky and myself, AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip.



NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice.
This article is of the opinion of its author.
Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.


You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week).  The YOU docs have two newly revised books: The patron saint “book” of this column YOU Staying Young—revised and YOU: The Owner’s Manual…revised —yes a revision of the book that started Dr Oz to being Dr OzThese makes great gifts—so do YOU: ON a Diet and YOU: The Owner’s Manual for teens.  


Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

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