We've been told aging is natural, so why do so many people dread it? What do you think of when you hear the words 'getting older' or 'old age pensioner'? Is aging, as we perceive it inevitable? It need not be so.
No one has found a magic potion as yet, over the centuries so much energy and research has gone into the pursuit of the 'fountain of youth' but in recent years much light has been shed on the subject. Thanks to all this effort we now know there is so much we can do to slow down the aging process. The lifestyle you choose can have a profound effect on enhancing or accelerating the degenerative process.
Off-course aging is inevitable but is so much suffering inevitable? Around 85 per cent of diseases are degenerative illnesses, the other 15 per cent are genetic, infectious or trauma. So what causes our body to fall into rapid decline? It never fails to make me wonder why we look after our cars better than we look after ourselves. Yet we can go out anytime and buy a new one when we've out lived the old one. It's not quite as easy for us to trade-in our old bodies for a new one. I can hear you saying "there are bits we can have replaced", yes there are, such as a new hip joint, new heart or just the valves, new liver or new blood from a transfusion, and so much more.
Going back to our car, we do not generally wait for our car to break down, we have it serviced regularly making sure it has very thing it needs to perform its daily task well. 'Well' being the operative word, not 'just spluttering a long'. We should treat ourselves with the same respect, giving our bodies everything it needs to perform its daily task well. Most people will wait until their body breaks down.
So back to the point, why do our bodies fall into decline? Researchers have several theories such as the Hayflick Limit Theory – each cell contains a program that limits the number of divisions a cell may divide before it dies. Another theory is the Waste Accumulation Theory – our cells simply produce more waste than they are capable of eliminating, all helped along by our typical diets and life-styles. As waste and toxins builds up in the cell, it accumulates and eventually the cell drowns in its own toxic waste.
The other main theory is the free-radical theory, first developed as much as 50 or more years ago, offering an explanation that helps us to understand degenerative disease, accelerated aging, and prevention or at the very least slowing down its onset for much later in life. Free-radicals roam about trying to break up stable pairs of molecules by stealing their partners. A little like a bachelor breaking up stable married couples. Once the free-radical manages to steal a partner, the other molecule is now unpaired, unstable and is now a free-radical on the hunt, a bachelor now themselves. This reaction is a little like the domino effect setting off a chain reaction of a cell-damaging viscous circle.
The most attention is focused on the oxygen-based free-radicals called oxy-radicals. It is these tiny molecules that are responsible for the free-radical damage we know as oxidative stress that contribute to degenerative diseases much in the same way they rust metal. We slow down this process by coating the metal with a protective covering, helping to prevent oxygen and moisture from doing its worst, by applying a primer and then a coat of paint we effectively extend the life of the metal. By protecting the metal from free-radials we can extend the life of the metal by many years.
There are things we can do to protect and slow down our own deterioration. We can slow down our own rusting process, however most people choose a lifestyle that speeds up this process.
Having said all of this not all free-radicals are all bad, we do some free-radical activity to help fight infections from bacteria and viruses. These free-radical bachelors are also involved in the production of vital substances such as prostaglandins, hormone-like substances vital to many processes of the body. Our bodies also release free-radicals during energy production like periods of strenuous exercise, during prolonged periods of stress, excitement, anger or during an infection.
However, the vast majority of our oxidative damage in our body comes mostly from excess free-radicals found in our environment and the food we choose rather than those produced within our bodies as a natural by-product of our own metabolism. Air pollution, tobacco smoke, toxic waste, herbicides, pesticides, chemicals in cosmetics or cleaning products, preservatives, additives in processed foods and processed oils all form free-radicals. Then add these factors to too many negative thoughts you have a recipe for accelerated aging and damage. So what can we do to protect yourself from this destruction? What can we do to equip our bodies with the right tools to cope with all this destruction?
Most of us have now heard of anti-oxidants, they prevent or slow down the damage caused by free-radicals. These days our environment places a tremendous strain on our bodies over which we have little choice and often no control. However, we do have a choice over whether to consume anti-oxidants or free-radicals, directly speeding up or slowing down our aging process. Antioxidants act a bit like Kamikaze pilots they sacrifice themselves by donating one of their own electrons. Certain vitamins and minerals, plant compounds are very effective anti-oxidants protecting us from rusting so to speak. Researchers are telling us over and over again how the lack of antioxidants are contributing to degenerative diseases like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, eye problems, pain and needless suffering as we age.
The goal is to look at health care as a method of promoting wellness rather than treating illness, this is two completely different things. Prevention is easier and less expensive than waiting to treat a disease. People often say to me in our clinic when discussing lifestyle changes, 'I do not want to live to 110'. I am not saying for one minute that making lifestyle changes will make you live for a very long time. It's the quality of life that is so important and we owe it to ourselves to be as happy and as healthy as possible. Be positive and play an active role in your own health.
What does prevention mean to you? In conversations I have with people about their health, they tell me they are really healthy. So how does one define healthy? Is healthy merely an absence of a named disease? In other words your Doctor has not given you a label, angina or diabetes, a named disease, so therefore you must be healthy. I hear things like – I have my annual check-ups and various tests every year and I am told I am 100% okay. What does this mean 100% okay?
I observe people – they eat and drink all sorts of unhealthy foods and drinks, are not active, are often over weight and put up with many physical annoyances. Annoyances like aches and pains, headaches, migraines, blocked nose, painful digestive problems, asthma, insomnia, fatigue, various skin conditions like eczema, hypoglycaemia, and more. But would definitely consider themselves' healthy. Many people I know consider taking conventional tests as their 'preventative' measure / medicine.
To me this is like 'Russian roulette' you are pulling the trigger until one day, bang! The tests, then one day suddenly, out of the blue come up with some 'negative result'- you've taken the bullet! Just like that. Suddenly you have heart disease or diabetes or suddenly you have a thyroid that has stopped working properly. So why should you worry if the tests keep showing you are in the clear this time, the barrel was empty this time? In truth you do not just wake up one day with a thyroid problem or a heart disease problem. It has taken many, many years to develop. Few tests give you any indication of things in their very early stages, for instance a thyroid that is struggling. The tests will keep showing your thyroid is absolutely fine. Then when 'broken' so to speak you are told your thyroid is under-active and you need medication, what happened in the interim, the time leading up to this problem? Off-course there are always exceptions, where a thyroid could have a problem overnight – for instance in a case of a car accident, where whip lash can dramatically affect the thyroid function.
It is true some cancers can be detected in their early stages of development, and that is wonderful. However, most research shows time and time again that a really healthy lifestyle can cut down our chances of suffering cancer in the first place. And that a typical lifestyle encourages the on-set of cancer. Here is one example – you may decide to take 'hormone replacement estrogens' and as a 'preventative measure' so to speak take an annual mammogram, because artificial oestrogen is known to increase your chances of breast cancer.
Many people consider these mammograms, as their preventative measure, wait and see.
To me prevention is not even considering taking something that would encourage cancer in the first place but to find herbs, supplements and a change in lifestyle to minimise the natural transition and generally make you healthier in the long run improving your quality of life.
Bearing in mind the menopause is natural even though the medical profession have declared it a disease. Eat, drink and be merry, after all the tests keep telling you that you are 100%.
Or maybe you think you are one of those rare people who can cheat that lifestyle of yours and not pay the consequences eventually. Many of the common diseases we are suffering in the developed Western world are preventable in a truly preventable sense, with changes in lifestyles. Change your lifestyle now do not wait until it is serious (a negative test result), before you change things. Get healthy now.
This is where alternative medicine differs from conventional medicine. We see things differently health is not just the absence of a disease, but a real state of wellbeing and vitality. We see all symptoms and signs as significant (no matter how small) as they all add up to reveal a picture about your state – which organs and systems are struggling, what deficiencies, and imbalance you might have.
I would like to make it clear it is important to have tests, but just because your tests reveal everything is okay, do not be complacent remember chronic conditions take years to develop most often undetected until it is well advanced.
Scientific evidence backs up the idea that the type of diet we choose has a very deep and fundamental impact on the way we age, this has far deeper more reaching consequences than the genes we have inherited. We can not choose our genes but we can choose our lifestyles. What does this mean? People tell me they have several close family members who are diabetic. So they have the idea that they have no say in their own destiny, that they too will eventually be diabetic. Yet I see them eat loads of refined carbohydrates – dough-nut, cookies, bread, pancakes, pasta, chocolate, sugary foods, sodas, coffees, with next to no fresh food what so ever. Their diet is so very lacking in enough vital nutrients, but full of foods that will speed up aging and encourage much more suffering. Though this diet will not guarantee diabetes, it will certainly increase your chances of getting diabetes, regardless of our close family members.
However, with close family members with diabetes and that lifestyle the chances are very high. A self-fulfilling prophesy. You inherit genes but you also inherit habits. Born in Japan you might have acquired a taste for raw fish, born in America you might have acquired a taste for doughnuts. That is not genes but acquired taste and habits.
When we think of aging, we think of it involving some degree of physical and mental decline, however there are many people who maintain comparatively full physical and mental health throughout a very long life. A healthy life depends on many aspects, a person's constitution, their family or society, their past lifestyle, whether they are lonely or fulfilled. Whether they smoke or drink too much. Diet plays a huge part of our physical and mental well-being, but it is not the only aspect we need to consider. Too much research has been done to ignore the facts – aging can be a very pleasant experience. They can be the best years of your life. There is a huge amount to look forward to.
I recently came across a 55 year old man in our clinic with mild diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poor digestion, heartburn, overweight, but for him the biggest worry was that he had been refused further medical insurance (he was from the US) due to his state of health, the amount of surgery he'd already had and the large amounts of medication he was taking. The condition this man was in is pretty typical in our Western society.
On the other hand there is a 64 year old who visits the clinic for acupuncture as part of his maintenance program, has none of these problems is taking no medication what so ever, is not over weight and is extremely fit, still riding a bike for many miles up and down the mountains around here. I do not except you to buy a mountain bike for one moment, I am just pointing out that anything is possible you can choose your path, way to go, so to speak. The first man has all the conditions that have been proven to be self inflicted by the life-style he chose, and that these conditions can improve or even reverse with the right choices.
Incidentally, the first man has made vast improvements in many areas since treatment, lifestyles changes and supplements. His recent blood tests have revealed – bad cholesterol down, triglycerides down, blood pressure down and weight down, medication down. He is a different man.
We are all at great risk of not getting adequate nutrients due to refining and processing of food but even more so as we get older, due to the decline in our digestive function. As fewer calories are needed due to a reduction in general activity, and for some appetite declines, which may be in part due to changes in taste and smell. As we get older we can often lose our sense of thirst, so dehydration is more likely. Our digestive system starts to cause us a problem, having been so abused for years. The stomach slows down its production of digestive juices and enzymes this in turn affects absorption of B12, iron and calcium to name just a few. There is a reduction in lactase production, which causes milk intolerance.
Constipation is often a problem as we get older, as more fibre is needed compared to our younger days. Medication can change the way food tastes, cause nausea or the way the bowel works. For some of us just having to eat alone can put us off bothering to cook and eat well. Smoking robes the body of large amounts of vital nutrients. Nutrients that are needed to repair joint 'wear and tear' or maintain healthy bones or even teeth, the list is endless. Try not to drink too much, more than a small amount of alcohol can have a negative effect on your general health and well being. Are your tests showing – high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol, are the scales screaming out "you are overweight" but you knew this before you got on the scales, because your 'lower front' was causing your 'lower back' a problem ! They are telling you that you are now prone to diabetes. That the menopause is a disease! What does that make puberty? That osteoporosis is only a matter of time. Prostate cancer, no man gets away with it! That incontinence pads are for life! And soon you will be battling with false teeth!
In our culture we hear of people after a certain age (but now happening at a younger age than before) suffering diabetes or stroke or arthritis or heart disease and hardly batter an eye lid. Yet if we lived in a more traditional society these diseases would be rare at any age, but very rare at as young an age as we are now suffering these now, they would be quite a talking point. For instance, women who eat a traditional diet in Japan hardly ever suffer osteoporosis and few menopause symptoms. Yet the modern Japan woman who lives on a typical western diet suffers osteoporosis and the usual symptoms of menopause! This is not genes.
We need to look at the facts – a speedy decline is not inevitable. There is so much research that proves things can be different, that your life can be different. That your life can be so much better, you can be healthier, happier, slimmer, and more active late into your life. Do not be brain-washed by the advertising companies, by the lure of the addictive ingredients sitting on the supermarket shelves that are aging you.
Think positively, as it is never too early or too late to start an anti-aging program.