Aging is a beautiful and natural part of the journey of life. Changes in the way we think, look and feel are a normal part of this process. We are wiser than ever before, and with this wisdom can come an inner knowledge of how to best care for our own body. In order to experience continued health and vitality as we age, we must tap into this inner wisdom and work to remove the underlying causes of physical and mental decline.
Key factors for Maintaining Health & Vitality
Reducing inflammation, strengthening the immune system, proper nutrition, and digestive support, along with a lifestyle that promotes activity, strong bones and good circulation can all be beneficial in transitioning through a beautiful aging process.
Inflammation is one of the main causes of disease and illness. Inflammation can lead to conditions such as arthritis, Alzheimer's, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and even cancer.
The function of the immune system declines as we age partly because of a reduction in the production of immune cells. However, this decline is in large part due to an increase in inflammation and oxidation throughout the body, as well as a dramatic decrease in enzyme production. As our immune response capability decreases, so does our defense against all illnesses from the common cold to cancer.
Nutrition is linked to immunity in numerous ways. A nutritional deficiency that is commonly seen in the elderly is called ‘micronutrient malnutrition’. Because older adults tend to eat less and have less variety in their foods, micronutrient deficiencies develop more readily, depriving the immune system of vital nutrients it needs to function optimally. Effective intervention is aimed at improving the immune system by incorporating antioxidants, anti-inflammatory herbs, and high-potency enzymes.
Try immune boosting and anti-inflammatory foods such as: berries, bright colored fruits and vegetables, peppers, garlic, onion, leafy greens, pineapple, mango, papaya, turmeric, and ginger.
Proper circulation is essential to overall health in all individuals. Poor circulation can result in mild discomforts (cold extremities, constipation, and varicose veins) to potentially life-threatening conditions such as peripheral artery disease and deep vein thrombosis. Blood needs to be able to circulate to all parts of the body in order for it to feel warm and limber. The best way to promote circulation in the body is through regular exercise. Any exercise is better than none, and consistent exercise yields the most effective results.
Try: Walking 1-2 x daily for at least 20 minutes, hot & cold water therapy, regular massage & stretching + deep breathing.
We naturally lose bone density as we grow older, especially after menopause. It is important to work towards improving and maintaining proper bone density as we age in order to prevent excess deterioration.
To prevent bone loss and maintain bone density as we age: avoid carbonated drinks; limit meat intake to once per day or every other day to avoid excess acidity in the body; limit or eliminate caffeine intake; increase consumption of (organic and whole) calcium-rich foods; increase Vitamin D levels to assist in the absorption of calcium; reduce stress and improve hormonal health; increase stomach acid; and incorporate weight-bearing activities multiple times a week.
Try Bone Building foods such as: leafy green vegetables (high in calcium), nuts and seeds (high in magnesium and phosphorous), eggs, salmon, bone broth, and organic fermented dairy products such as kefir if your digestion allows.
Nourishing the Skin
Skin elasticity tends to decline as we age for a number of reasons. The epidermis (outer layer of skin) thins and begins to produce fewer melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), causing our skin to become paler and thinner. The sebaceous glands are producing less oil and the layer of subcutaneous fat under the skin begins to thin out.
One of the best remedies for aging skin is bone broth, which contains plenty of bioavailable collagen, gelatin, and minerals, all of which can help to deeply nourish aging skin. Other internal remedies include antioxidants which help to clear the free radicals which can destroy skin cells, and topical oils such as jojoba, carrot seed, lavender, frankincense, vitamin e, evening primrose, and pomegranate seed oil to nourish and protect the skin.
Memory & overall cognitive function
Cognitive decline is considered a normal part of the aging process. We can see this in the dramatic increase of neurodegenerative diseases in older populations today. Although there is often a genetic component to some of these disorders, diet and lifestyle play a strong role in whether or not these genes are expressed. There is a lot that we can do through nutrition and lifestyle to combat these neurodegenerative diseases and improve memory and mental function as we age.
Some nutrients that have been shown to improve cognitive functioning include: B vitamins, polyphenols, fish oils, and an Indian Ayurvedic herb called bacopa. B vitamins help to produce the cellular energy necessary for clear thinking. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that scavenge free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, both of which can impair memory and cognition. The Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oils help to not only lower inflammation but improve cellular communication in the brain.
Try: consuming foods rich in B vitamins such as poultry, seafood, spinach, and bananas, including polyphenols from berries, dark chocolate, cinnamon and even a glass of red wine!
Omega-3 sources such as: hemp seeds, walnuts, and wild salmon, and supplementing with bacopa.
Depression and anxiety are increasingly common in aging populations. There is often a sense of isolation. Maintaining friendships and other meaningful relationships with family as we age can help to support a positive mental outlook.
Try: participating in group activities or classes that connect you to people with similar interests. Plan daily or weekly family + social time.
After retirement, there can be a sense of feeling lost or lacking purpose. Jobs give people a sense of structure in their days. Without something daily to attend to, it is easy for an individual to slip into isolation and a sedentary lifestyle.
Find fulfilling ways to spend your days. Try: to engage in new activities and explore different interests and creative pursuits. Spending time daily in nature, activities such as gardening, mastering an instrument, engaging in physical activity, and other activities of interest such as painting are all great ways to spend time in a way that nourishes the spirit.
Spend time in Nature
There is something sacred and healing about connecting to mother earth, the source of all living things. Spending time in nature has been proven to boost mood feelings of happiness. Being in nature is also very grounding, taking scattered thoughts and bringing them back down to the earth.
Try: going for a daily walk in nature if you are able, or sit outdoors in the sunlight. Take off your shoes, allow your feet to feel the grass or earth. If you are able, try growing a garden! This can be as small as a planter on a balcony, a plant inside your home or room, or as large as a backyard garden.
A diet rich in whole foods including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy protein sources is essential in aging gracefully.
Nuts: contain mono and polyunsaturated fats which reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and can delay/prevent cognitive decline
Berries: filled with antioxidants which reduce oxidative stress and free radical damage
Vegetables: leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, kale, as well as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, sweet potatoes, beets, and artichoke are all wonderful options for increasing antioxidants, fiber and aiding in detoxification.
Bone Broth: rich in bioavailable minerals and collagen which powerfully aids in digestion and can improve the appearance of skin.
Wild Caught fatty fish (salmon): omega 3’s, also contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant which not only reduces oxidative stress but also improves inflammation and increases good cholesterol (HDL) while reducing triglycerides.
Ginseng: Stress reducer, increases stamina, heightened mental and physical performance
Bilberry: contains powerful antioxidants that help reduce wrinkles and scars. Also supports eye health, slowing down macular degeneration.
Gotu Kola: wound healing, mental clarity, reduces varicose veins
Ginger: ginger is a wonderful anti-inflammatory herb and is also excellent in aiding digestion. As we age, our digestive system can slow and we may experience digestive upset. Ginger is great for stomach pain and nausea.
Try: boiling fresh ginger with honey and lemon for a soothing and nurturing tea.
Turmeric: anti-inflammatory, reduces oxidative stress and prevents tissues from damage. Can help to offset rising inflammation as we age.
Try: preparing a golden milk latte with turmeric, cinnamon, honey and a pinch of black pepper mixed with almond, coconut or cashew milk.
Ashwagandha: is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body adapt to change and stress. It’s soothing properties are excellent for aging and can be especially calming combined with magnesium.
Try: an ashwagandha supplement with magnesium.
Apple Cider Vinegar: apple cider vinegar works in a similar way to stomach acid in the body. As we age, there is a natural decrease in the amount of stomach acid our body produces, leading to less digestive action and sometimes indigestion.
Try: taking 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in water before meals to stimulate the digestive action in your stomach.
Enzymes: pancreatic enzymes decrease dramatically as we age and can affect digestion and absorption. Supplement with digestive enzymes to keep absorption and assimilation running optimally.
Try: a digestive enzyme supplement directly before meals.
Antioxidant Support: antioxidants are arguably the most powerful anti-aging preventative one can consume. Invest in a broad spectrum antioxidant formula to get as many antioxidants into your system as possible
Try: an ACES+zinc supplement
Vitamin D: not only does prolong cell life and reduce the signs of biological aging, but it is also essential to the absorption of calcium which can prevent or improve osteoporosis.
Try: spending time outdoors in the sun and supplementing with at least 1000IU of vitamin D daily.
Maca: Stimulates the production and rebalancing of the steroid hormones estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. Traditionally it has been used to treat osteoporosis, menopausal symptoms, fertility, and menopausal symptoms.
Try: adding 1tsp of maca to your morning coffee or a smoothie. Please note: maca can naturally increase energy, so it is best to avoid before bedtime.