We're in a golden age of research when it comes to new findings about how the body works––from discoveries about the integral role of the gut microbiome to a much deeper understanding of the role of genetics in health, this past decade has been a fascinating time to follow health and wellness research.
One area we're particularly excited about is how more and more rigorous, scientific studies are focusing on "alternative" medicine, with many of them taking a deeper look into some of the most long standing health quests: more specifically, longevity.
Recently, researchers have found that taking a combination of probiotics and triphala, a traditional Ayurvedic blend, significantly encourages a long lifespan in fruit flies––and since fruit flies have such similar biology to people, the implications for human longevity are well worth looking into.
Probiotics + Triphala for Healthy Aging
Researchers from McGill University found that fruit flies given a blend of probiotic strains L. plantarum, L. fermentum, and B. longum and the traditional Ayurvedic formulation triphala lived up to half again their normal lifespan.
Typically, the maximum lifespan of fruit flies is 40 days, but researchers discovered that taking a single probiotic increased this by 16 days. Taking triphala on its own increased this by 14 days, and taking a combination of probiotics increased lifespan by 24 days, but the best results came with a blend of probiotics and triphala, increasing lifespan by 26 days. Overall, the formulation boosted longevity by 60% compared to fruit flies on a conventional diet while the probiotic formulation on its own increased longevity by 55%.1
And, the fruit flies didn't just live longer; the blend seemed to help them better deal with changes in metabolism, oxidative stress, and temporary bouts of internal imbalance that tend to take their toll on the body as part of the aging process.
While research is still ongoing, it appears that the blend was able to be so impactful because of the gut-brain axis, the communication system that directly links the gut microbiome and the brain. It's one of the reasons why your gut microbiota are so important: their connection to the brain means that they play a big role in supporting emotions, hormone production, and psychological health, among many other things.
The researchers found that this particular mix of probiotics and triphala was able to work with the gut-brain axis to support the body positively in three main ways: it helped the fruit flies maintain their metabolism, particularly when it came to regulating insulin; it reduced unwanted free radicals that can damage mitochondria and lead to some of the most common unwanted changes in aging; and it helped the body support healthy immune function.
These results do make sense in light of previous research indicating that a healthy gut microbiome is closely correlated with healthy aging, and that older people tend to have some distinct trends in the composition of their gut microbiomes.2,3 What's more, a balanced gut microbiome also plays a role in supporting metabolism, your body's response to free radicals, and immune function.
• Metabolism. Beneficial bacteria help keep everything in your gastrointestinal system working as it should, supporting digestion and nutrient absorption, and even working with your brain to help encourage the production of hormones that signal when you're full. Additionally, the gut microbiome supports appropriate insulin levels, and helps your body maintain blood sugar levels already within a normal range.
• Oxidative changes. Caused by everything from exposure to environmental pollutants to the aging process, unwanted free radicals are one of the main culprits behind many age-related changes. But having a healthy gut microbiome can have an antioxidant effect on the body, and research indicates that several strains of Lactobacillus help to buffer oxidant activity.4
• Immune function. The gut microbiome synthesizes short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) by fermenting dietary fiber.2 SCFAs are important for supporting immune function, but older people tend to have fewer SCFAs in general. A balanced gut microbiome can also support your gut lining, keeping it strong so toxins and pieces of food don't get into your bloodstream.
Long story short: taking a combination of probiotics and the triphala Ayurvedic formula seemed to help fruit flies' bodies age slower and more healthily. This is in line with what we already know about the supportive benefits of probiotics, but is particularly interesting with the added component of Ayurveda and because we actually share about 70% of our biological pathways with fruit flies, meaning that we can reasonably expect our bodies to respond at least somewhat similarly to theirs.
The Role of Ayurveda
While previous research has demonstrated the support that a healthy gut microbiome lends to aging and overall health, the Ayurveda component is definitely newer––at least from a research perspective. But if you look at how Ayurvedic physicians have traditionally used triphala, it becomes clear that actually, this is nothing new.
Ayurveda is based on the idea that the body needs to be in balance, and that when things get out of balance, you experience unwanted changes in your health. But you can rebalance your body by understanding your inherent body type and how that interacts with specific foods, herbs, and exercises. Triphala is one of the most commonly used formulas for supporting healthy aging, with triphala benefits ranging from maintaining metabolic health and managing the body's response to environmental stressors to supporting immune function.5,6
For instance, research shows that triphala can help the body maintain a healthy metabolism and use insulin effectively, even when the body has struggled with it in the past.7 Additionally, studies indicate that it can promote an appropriate cell-mediated immune response in rats, even when the rats feel stressed (which typically lowers immune function) and can even help certain types of immune cells work as they should.8
There's also a growing body of work about the effectiveness of the individual components of triphala—amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki. Amalaki, for instance, has been shown to reduce bouts of internal imbalance in the body, while bibhitaki stimulates appropriate insulin secretion and can help the body maintain its natural ability to heal.9 Haritaki also helps the body respond appropriately to environmental stress, and can help support immune function.10,11,12
Finally, triphala appears to be particularly effective in combination with probiotics because of its high polyphenol content. Polyphenols are micronutrients that act as prebiotics, meaning that in addition to all their other potential benefits, the herbs in triphala can help nourish probiotic bacteria so they can help to crowd out the bad guys and support a balanced system.
Tips for Healthy, Gut-Friendly Aging
Combine all of the potential benefits of triphala with the many benefits of a healthy gut microbiome, and it's clear that this is just the beginning when it comes to supporting healthy aging.
So what can you do to support your body as it ages? The first thing to remember is that just like anything else to do with the body, aging is a holistic process, and that the best anti-aging plan is actually a lifestyle that's focused on maintaining healthy gut microbiota to support your body.
Three areas to pay particular attention to are your diet, your exercise regimen, and your relationships. Eating a diet that's rich in seasonal, local, organic food––especially fiber-rich produce––can give your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy over time, not to mention give your bacterial allies a boost of prebiotic fiber. (Another easy way to get all the fiber your good guys need is with Prebiotic Powder, which gives you the specific blend of fibers most needed to nourish beneficial bacteria.)
Match that with an exercise routine that meets your body where it's at, and you've got a recipe for feeling good, since moderate exercise can increase the beneficial species in your gut by 40%!
Finally, don't forget about your relationships. While people come and go throughout your life, it's important to maintain your friendships and relationships. Loneliness is so destructive to your body and mind, and is a particular problem among older people in the Western world, so make sure you're taking the time to connect with people, even just for a few minutes a week.13,14
And of course, make the most of your gut microbiome by supporting it with a premium probiotic like PRO-Bifido. Specially formulated to replenish the important strains that tend to decrease throughout the aging process, PRO-Bifido is designed specifically to support a healthy aging process. We're all living longer, and there's no reason to settle for less-than-vibrant health in your golden years. With a lifestyle focused on health and the support of a balanced gut, you can give yourself the foundation for healthy, happy aging for years to come!
1. Westfall, S., Lomis, N., and Prakash, S. (2018). Longevity extension in Drosophila through gut-brain communication. Scientific Reports, 8. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-25382-z
2. Biagi, E., Nylund, L., Candela, M., Ostan, R., Bucci, L. . . . de Vos, W. (2010) Through Ageing, and Beyond: Gut Microbiota and Inflammatory Status in Seniors and Centenarians. PLOS ONE 5(6): 10.1371
3. Park, S.H., Kim, K.A., Ahn, Y.T., Jeong, J.J. . . . Kim, D.H. (2015). Comparative analysis of gut microbiota in elderly people of urbanized towns and longevity villages. BMC Microbiology, 15(49). doi: 10.1186/s12866-015-0386-8.
4. Martarelli, D., Verdenelli, M.C., Scuri, S. . . . Pompeii, S. (2011). Effect of a probiotic intake on oxidant and antioxidant parameters in plasma of athletes during intense exercise training. Current Microbiology, 62(6). doi: 10.1007/s00284-011-9915-3
5. Naik, G.H., Priyadarsini, K.I., Bhagirathi, R.G. . . . Mohan, H. (2015). In vitro antioxidant studies and free radical reactions of triphala, an ayurvedic formulation and its constituents. Phytotherapy Research, 19(7). doi: doi.org/10.1002/ptr.1515
6. Ihantola-Vormisto, A., Summanen, J., Kankaanranta, H. . . . Moilanen, E. (1997) Anti-inflammatory activity of extracts from leaves of Phyllanthus emblica. Planta Medica, 63(6). doi: 10.1055/s-2006-957754
7. Singh, N., Mahajan, S., Subramani, S.K. . . . Prasad, G.K.B.S. (2015). Triphala improves glucose homeostasis by alleviating atherogenic lipids and oxidative stress in human Type 2 diabetes mellitus. International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine, 6(3).
8. Srikumar, R., Parthasarathy, N.J., Devi, R.S. (2005). Immunomodulatory Activity of Triphala on Neutrophil Functions, Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 28(8), 1398-1403. doi: 10.1248/bpb.28.1398
9. Kasabri, V., Flatt, P.R., Adbel-Wahab, Y.H. (2009). Terminalia bellirica stimulates the secretion and action of insulin and inhibits starch digestion and protein glycation in vitro, British Journal of Nutrition, 103(2), 212-217. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509991577
10. Choudhary, G.P. (2008). Wound healing activity of the ethanol extract of Terminalia bellirica Roxb. fruits. Indian Journal of Natural Products and Resources, 7, 19-21.
11. Cheng, H-Y., Lin, T-C., Yu, K-H. . . . Lin, C-C. (2003). Antioxidant and Free Radical Scavenging Activities of Terminalia chebula. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 26(9), 1331-1335. doi: 10.1248/bpb.26.1331
12. Gupta, A., Mishra, A.K., Bansal, P., Singh, R., Kumar, S., Gupta, V. (2010). Phytochemistry and pharmacological activities of Haritaki - a review. Journal of Pharmacy Research, 3(2), 417-424.
13. Holmen, K., Ericsson, K., Winblad, B. (2000). Social and emotional loneliness among non-demented and demented elderly people. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 31(3), 177-192. doi: 10.1016/S0167-4943(00)00070-4
14. Killeen, C. (2002). Loneliness: an epidemic in modern society. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 28(4), 762-770. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1998.00703.x
Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.