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Is the Fountain of Youth in Your Hands and Within Your Control?

Dr. Michelle Salga, BTR (dip.), BSc., ND - Naturopathic Doctor

What is Naturopathic Medicine? The main principle of Naturopathic Medicine is all about prevention, prevention, prevention! The flip side of preventing disease is about promoting longevity and quality of life. Let’s face it, aging is inevitable. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do it gracefully.


Our life expectancy has increased in the last 100 years, from barely making it 45 years of age to now living well into our late 70s. Advances in medicine and public health measures have allowed for this increase in longevity. Today it is known that genetics only account for about 25 percent of our longevity and that 75 percent of how we age is determined by epigenetics which is controlled by our lifestyle choices. Yes, you potentially have the fountain of youth in your hands and within your control.


But what causes aging? You may have heard of telomeres, the end parts of genes that preserve the precious genetic material. When telomeres get damaged, they shorten the genetic strain of DNA and prevent the DNA from properly replicating. If a cell stops dividing, then tissues start to age. The goal is to preserve telomeres and lifestyle choices, like a healthy diet, can keep them robust. It has been found that the ‘right’ lifestyle choices can potentially reverse aging to some degree. Regular exercise, sleep and stress management are also associated with better aging. In a nutshell, oxidative stress and inflammation damage DNA and contribute to not only aging but cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and Alzheimer’s.


Which takes me straight to the top of this article, what is Naturopathic Medicine and how can it help? Naturopathic Doctors provide guided advice and natural treatment options that focus on preventing disease or progression of a health concern.


Let’s cover some causes of aging and how guided advice from a Naturopathic Doctor can help.


A Healthy Diet

What we choose to eat is central to aging well. A major contributor of inflammation is oxidative stress which is caused by free radicals that damage cells including our telomeres. The antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other plant based whole foods are important. The Mediterranean and DASH Diet have been proven to decrease the rate of cardiovascular disease. Ultra-processed foods like chips and fast foods cause inflammation and shorten telomere lengths. Watch your sugar! Each daily 8 ounce serving of soda was associated with nearly two extra years of cellular aging. Other inflammation stokers are foods with refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta with added sugars. They cause insulin spikes that negatively affect the immune system. People who ate 5 servings of veggies a day had a 12 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 10 percent lower risk of death from cancer. In general, aim for the most colourful fruits and vegetables. The more colour on your plate, the more antioxidants they contain.


Recognizing your individual food sensitivities can also stave off inflammation. Delayed food reactions can cause low energy, headaches, IBS, brain fog and/or skin issues. Identifying your individual food sensitivities can contribute to regular and healthy digestion, clearer skin and better energy levels.


Exercise

The hormonal changes that can lead to age related muscle loss start around the age of 40; muscle mass naturally declines 3-8 percent per decade. Strength training is still the best way to preserve muscle that not only boosts our metabolism and calorie burning potential but also protects us from hip fractures that can commonly occur in old age. Let’s not forget that weight training helps boost testosterone which is a hormone that is important for sex drive, skin tightness and general well being. Remember protein is important to build and preserve muscle mass so on average, depending on your health profile, you should be getting 0.54 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Everyone is different so it’s important to contact your Naturopathic Doctor to figure out how many grams of protein per day is right for you. If you are feeling fatigued, it might be a good idea to get your blood testosterone levels checked to ensure that your levels are where they should be. Natural herbs may also help boost levels if low.


Lifestyle Choices

Who doesn’t like to dabble in a little bit of wine occasionally? Well, there’s some good news here. Red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol which studies have shown can help slow down aging. But, of course, everything in moderation so you should aim for no more than 5 servings of alcohol per week. Depending on your metabolism and genetic make up, some of us can metabolize alcohol better than others. Certain levels can be toxic with regular consumption and can lead to cancer. Let’s face it, if I told you to drink red wine often, I’d be your favourite Naturopath! And as much as I like to be liked, the best advice is that turning to colourful fruits and veggies would be a better way to get in your antioxidants.


Stress Management

Your stress levels not only impact your quality of life but also contribute to premature aging and disease. Did you know that the stress of loneliness and social isolation is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day? In other words, stress is toxic. One tip for managing stress would be to make time for social interaction. So, calling a friend or family member for a few minutes per day to catch up is more important than you think. Studies have also shown that walking 60 minutes per day can improve depression and may compare to the effect of an antidepressant drug. Self care is critical too for lowering stress levels. Be sure to take the time to do something nice for yourself, whether it be taking a warm bath or getting a massage with a registered massage therapist, these will help reset your mood. If you are feeling anxious, exhausted or ‘tired but wired’, it may be important to get your cortisol levels checked. The right natural therapy can help bring those levels up or down depending on your results and get you feeling better.


Overall, it has been found that slowing down the process of aging is possible. Now who doesn’t want extra years added to their life? Not only are we are striving for having more time, but quality time is the goal.


A Naturopathic Doctor can help and he/she has many tools to do so, including an individual blood test profile. This tells the story of your overall health, how your lifestyle choices are impacting it and what you can do to have a longer, youthful life. Don’t hesitate to reach out for a free 15 minute discovery call to see how I can help you with your current health concerns and your longevity goals.

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