How to age gracefully
As a naturopath, I meet lots of clients with a desire to improve their appearance in an effort ‘grow old gracefully’. The ‘anti-ageing’ business is a multi-million dollar industry; people spend thousands trying to turn the clock back with topical treatments and even resort to cosmetic surgery. However, as a naturopath I believe the key comes from within. Naturopathy is a system based on treating the individual and the cause of health complaints rather than treating the symptoms alone. Follow these tips and you’ll not only look good on the outside, but will also feel great on the inside.
Diet & Nutrition
For me, good nutrition is one of the best kept secrets to growing old gracefully. Food is the most natural form of medicine and eating well supports and contributes to physical and mental wellbeing. In fact, poor dietary choices significantly contribute to the ageing process and the development of chronic disease. The most effective kind of anti-ageing diet would include increased fresh vegetables, fruits and legumes, all of which include micronutrients and fight free radicals (which encourage ageing) with antioxidants, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, omega 3 and protein.
The free radical theory proposes that ageing is the cumulative result of oxidative damage to the cells and tissues of the body that arises primarily as a result of aerobic metabolism. Omega 3 is great at fighting free radicals and is also known to lower blood pressure and improve brain function. Vitamin C is particularly effective in helping reduce the signs of ageing and essential for the production of collagen and elastin which are the proteins that keep your skin firm and supple. The vitamin can be found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, capsicum, kiwi fruit and strawberries. Vitamin E is known to lower the risk of strokes and can be found in nuts and seeds including almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Essential fatty acids can also help to maintain the integrity of our cells, whilst a protein rich diet can help to maintain collagen, both of which work to keep our skin youthful.
Hippocrates, a Greek philosopher, once said “All disease begins in the gut”, which is why it’s so important to promote good gut health. As we get older, we need to be even more diligent about the food we choose and should have our health in mind. We should always try to choose healthy whole foods over processed foods as this is the key to prevent disease and continuously boost immunity.
What many people don’t realise is that we have over 1.5 kilos of bacteria that populate our large intestine. The health of your ‘gut flora’ is critical for digestive health and wellbeing as they have many important functions including nutrient absorption and assimilation, production of vitamins, digestion of fat, carbohydrate and protein, hormonal signalling and immune function to name a few. A diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes will ensure good gut health.
Water is the nectar of life. Your body contains between 50% and 70% water, depending upon your age and how much muscle and fat you have on your frame. Water is a solvent; it dissolves other substances and carries nutrients and other material around the body.
A minimum of 8 glasses of water a day is recommended before thinking about any other fluids. In fact, caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, cola and alcohol actually act as diuretics in the body therefore you should consume even more water to compensate.
Hydration is essential for health and dramatically affects the look and feel of our skin, a dehydrated complexion is almost certainly going to look aged compared to a hydrated dewy appearance. Make water a lifelong commitment and your body will repay the effort many times over.
A regular exercise routine is extremely beneficial for the body, a minimum of 30 minutes daily is recommended. Exercise is linked to anti-ageing as it is thought to increase anti-ageing hormones and oxygenate blood vessels. It is also promotes blood flow to the brain and encourages the growth of new brain cells which is key for healthy brain function.
A glowing complexion is the ultimate desire for anti-ageing and the journey starts with healthy skin. Antioxidants and vitamins are fantastic at promoting healthy skin and can be found in a variety of whole foods.
Skin is our largest organ and changes dramatically over the years. However, it can be vastly improved by introducing natural antioxidants or supplements as part of your daily regime. As we age, our skin naturally loses collagen and elasticity, the supplement Glucosamine accelerates wound healing and increases hyaluronic acid which is also effective in plumping the skin. If skin is damaged (particularly from the sun) antioxidants such as CO Q10 can support cell turnover and repair cell damage. Skin inflammation can be reduced with a supplement such as Resveratrol or Vitamin E found in almonds, beans and sunflower seeds. Vitamin C maintains cell regeneration and growth and can be found in citrus fruit, broccoli and capsicum.
Stress management is fundamental for health as increased stress can have a profound effect within the body and lead to the development of many health conditions in addition to wrinkles and gray hair, including depression, digestive and cardiovascular disorders, fatigue, immunity issues, thyroid imbalances and even memory loss.
One of my favourite ways to unwind is to drink herbal tea, which has been an ancient stress remedy for centuries throughout many cultures, because it considered has a calming effect on the mind, body and soul. The process of drinking the tea itself is relaxing and the heat of the beverage works to soothe you from within. But whilst the latter can be applied to almost any warm beverage, some herbs have been scientifically proven possess healing qualities which are thought to alleviate anxiety and stress. For example, the main ingredient in green, oolong and black tea that helps you relax is the amino acid theanine. In fact, research shows that this amino acid promotes alpha waves in the brain, which are linked to relaxation.
You should also try to ensure you are getting enough sleep – an average of 7-8 hours a night is recommended for adults. A lack of sleep is thought to cause weight gain primarily through its effects on the secretion of the hormones growth hormone, leptin and cortisol. If you’re having trouble sleeping you may consider herbal teas such as Chamomile which is known for its calming and sedative properties or valerian root which regulates the nervous system allowing for a peaceful sleep as well as clarity of mind.
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