We all want to live longer, healthier lives — that’s why anti-aging is such a hot field of research. But Steven R. Gundry, M.D., author of The Longevity Paradox ($14.49, Amazon), has discovered that the key to adding years to our lives isn’t high-tech therapies, it’s our microbiome. “The beneficial microorganisms that live in our gut determine how long we live as well as how healthy and happy we are,” he asserts.
Indeed, researchers from Italy found that people who are healthy at the age of 105 harbor an abundance of the gut bacteria that usually decline with aging. Fortunately, Dr. Gundry has discovered strategies that balance the microbiome and turn back the clock to reclaim health, energy, and more.
Sip a green drink.
“Leafy greens satisfy your gut bacteria so they can help keep your brain young,” Dr. Gundry notes. Tufts University researchers found women who regularly enjoy greens have a brain that’s 11 years younger than those who skimp. To get the perks, sip a green smoothie daily: Blend 1 1/2 cups of greens, 1/2 cup of berries, half an avocado, 2 Tbs. of lemon juice and 1 cup of water.
Take a bath.
Immersing your body in hot water stimulates the microbiome, causing the release of anti-aging compounds, Dr. Gundry asserts. “Called heat shock proteins, these compounds tell old, worn-out cells to self-destruct so fresh, healthy cells can take their place,” he explains. To optimize this renewal process, Dr. Gundry advises soaking in a hot bath for 20 minutes once a week.
Be picky with produce.
Pesticides used on conventionally grown produce can wreak havoc on the microbiome, warns Dr. Gundry. “They kill your ‘gut buddies’ and disrupt their ability to safeguard mood and energy.” Plus, organic produce contains up to 10 times more microbiome-boosting flavonoids. If going 100% organic doesn’t fit your budget, opt for organic leafy greens, celery, oranges and carrots. Their non-organic counterparts have the highest levels of pesticide residue.
Play with a puppy.
Exposure to bacteria in dirt increases good bacteria in the gut. “And since dogs get dirty outside, playing with them is a great way to get the benefits,” Dr. Gundry says. Swedish researchers report that dog ownership reduces the risk of premature death by up to 30 percent. If you’re allergic to dogs (or they just aren’t your thing), Dr. Gundry suggests getting a bacteria boost by spending time in your garden instead.
Take a gratitude break.
High levels of stress allow harmful bacteria to take over the microbiome. To help, Dr. Gundry advises developing a sense of “pessimistic optimism” by taking five minutes to reflect on what you’re grateful for each day.
“This practice dials down stress and helps hone the ability to accept life’s negatives with humor and humility.” In one study, daily gratitude practices lowered stress hormone levels by 23 percent .
Work in a workout.
“Exercise increases the diversity of your ‘gut buddies’ to turbocharge energy and protect against aging,” says Dr. Gundry. The exercise regimen he suggests: Select an activity you like (such as walking or jumping jacks) and do it as hard as you can for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of a more moderate pace. Switch between the speeds for 10 minutes—a strategy that boosted energy by 69 percent in a Mayo Clinic study.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine
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