The REAL Fountain of Youth

Jan 24, 2024

As a woman who has recently arrived at the half-century mark, I have been formally invited to join the AARP. Yup. A thick packet arrived in my mailbox, addressed to yours truly, and filled to the brim with all kinds of perks & benefits to be claimed upon joining the American Association of Retired People.  Geez! Sure, I'm fifty, but I'm just getting started. Circle back in a few decades, AARP… I'm a wellness practitioner who is busy working with other women in midlife and beyond! Which brings me to today's topic….a super fun conversation that affects us all….


that is: the topic of aging.


Sounds like a party, huh?!? We’ve heard it said that aging is all downhill, like a roller coaster of creaky joints, surprise wrinkles, and slowed metabolism, but fear not: You are about to be given the map to the fountain of youth! Let’s look at four things that are known to decrease with age (and what to do about them):  


  1. Muscle: Aging can feel like a subtle rearrangement of the furniture in your body. As the candles multiply on the birthday cake, the body starts to engage in a bit of downsizing, especially when it comes to muscles. Key contributors like hormonal changes, lessened physical activity, lack of weight bearing exercise, decreased protein consumption, chronic inflammation, and poor nutrition all create the perfect conditions for sarcopenia, or, muscle loss. A diet lacking in critical nutrients is an obvious factor, but GET THIS: even if you are eating a healthy diet, dysregulation in the digestive system and in the gut may prohibit the proper break down and assimilation of the nutrients that you are consuming. For the body to make muscle, certain amino acids are required, but low stomach acid and a dysbiotic gut microbiome impair the breakdown and conversion of dietary protein into useable amino acids. So, addressing digestion and gut health is key to making muscle! Without muscle mass, the stage is set for chronic disease, injuries, immobility, weight gain, and a reduced quality of life….unless you are proactively addressing the factors above.


  1. Collagen: Collagen is like the body's architectural glue, providing structure and support to skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones, and production decreases with age. Free radicals created from exposure to toxins, chronic inflammation, sedentary lifestyle, hormonal changes, smoking, and poor nutrition are the key contributors to this decline. Just like with making muscle, certain amino acids are required to make collagen. Low stomach acid and a dysbiotic gut microbiome impair the assimilation and use of those amino acids. So again, addressing digestion and gut health is key to collagen production. 


  1. Bone: Bone loss with age is known as osteoporosis. We see the same key contributors being hormonal changes, sedentary lifestyle, lack of weight bearing exercise, chronic inflammation, and smoking. Nutritional deficiencies are high on the list, specifically nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin K. But here’s something you may not know: vitamin K is mostly produced by your good gut bacteria! If the gut microbiome is dysbiotic and there are not enough beneficial species to synthesize vitamin K, your bones, coronary arteries, and cognitive function will decline, no matter how much you try to supplement. Addressing gut health is key to preventing bone loss!


  1. Stomach acid: Stomach acid is critical for the digestion of food, especially the breakdown of proteins. Your stomach should be HIGHLY acidic, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. While there are rare medical conditions and certain infections like H. pylori that lead to low stomach acid, lifestyle factors like stress, smoking, and poor dietary choices are huge contributors. The irony is that when stomach acid is chronically low, the lower esophageal sphincter stays open rather than closed, which drives stomach contents back up the esophagus, creating reflux and heartburn. The common thought becomes: “I have too much stomach acid,” which leads to the consumption of those dreaded PPI’s and other acid-blocking drugs that make a bad situation worse. If you suffer from painful reflux and heartburn, as nutty as it sounds, you actually need MORE stomach acid! When I work with clients, I spend several lessons on the fundamentals of proper digestion. Before we cover WHAT to eat, you need to learn HOW to eat to support the breakdown and assimilation of nutrients. As with all things, a dysregulated gut microbiome also leads to low stomach acid. Dysbiosis in the gut creates inflammation that reaches outside the walls of the intestines, and directly impacts the body’s ability to release stomach acid. 


Are any of these a surprise to you? Lots of common threads running through each category…and maybe a surprising thread: The gut microbiome affects ALL FOUR CATEGORIES…did you catch that? So the “natural” decline in muscle/ bone mass & collagen/stomach acid production is totally preventable AND reversible by focusing on key lifestyle factors and the state of the gut microbiome....making the keys to the REAL foundation of youth available to you! 


Until next time, I wish you good health.