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The natural way to slow down the aging process

Have you ever wondered why some 70-somethings are energetic, yet others in their 40s look, well, old before their time?

Most of us don't really look forward to being old! We might look forward to retirement, but not if our knees don't work anymore and we need surgery for bits we'd rather keep! And it's not just the golden years. Those of us that are a few decades away from retirement usually want to retain our youthful looks for as long as possible. (It's ironic that when we're young, we can't wait to look old enough not to have to produce ID, but anyway....)

How do you slow down the aging process naturally?

Let's start with where aging is most apparent. The part of our body begins to sag. We're talking about the SKIN! Now you could go spending money on all sorts of expensive creams and lotions, but the biggest differences to how quickly you get wrinkly lies elsewhere. First of all, a quick bit of science.

Your skin contains fibres that are made out of protein. Some of these fibres are made out of a substance called elastin. As the name suggests, they have an elastic property. They help your skin to spring back into shape. As you age, the rate at which elastin breaks down increases, and in a double hit, the rate at which you make elastin slows down.

Another fibre found in the skin is collagen. It's quite a strong and sturdy fibre, but just as with elastin, our ability to maintain it decreases with age. Put together, this loss of elastin and collagen means that your skin is going to get more wrinkly and saggier as time goes by. In an attempt to stop this, some people resort to collagen injections, but there are (surprise surprise) more natural ways to address this.

Let's start with the obvious. Protein.

These fibres are made out of protein, so it stands to reason that adequate protein in the diet is essential if you want to retain your looks. Oh, and by the way, the protein you consume will be used where it is needed most, and your body will priorities a whole range of other structures (like hemoglobin and antibodies) before it cares about your precious looks. So, protein is a must.

Funnily enough, a high carbohydrate diet is also associated with accelerated aging. Chances are, if you're not eating enough protein, you're probably consuming more than your fair share of carbs. Want to stay 'younger' for longer? Cut down on the carbs!

(As an aside, the one single most effective strategy to slow down aging, proved more effective than anything else, is a low-calorie diet. Unfortunately, a restrictive diet isn't much fun. Most of us enjoy food. We're hardwired to eat to ensure our survival. And living a long half-starved life isn't our idea of a picnic).

Part of the reason carbs is associated with more rapid aging is doing to with their metabolism. There is absolutely no avoiding it, but whatever you do, you'll be producing free radicals. These little critters actually have less damage on the skin than other much more important areas of your body, like the lining of your blood vessels. Free radicals are strongly linked to aging and many diseases. They pretty well run around destroying anything they can get their hands on.

To minimise free radical damage, you need antioxidants. These include vitamins C and E, and the minerals selenium and zinc. (There are quite a few more). You'll find these compounds in plenty of whole foods, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables. Go for the ones with bright colours. Blueberries are especially good as they contain oligomeric proanthocyanidins. (Try saying that with a mouthful of blueberries).

Some people like to wash down their brightly coloured fresh food with a moderate amount of red wine, which contains a compound called resveratrol, which has also been shown to slow down aging. That's handy if you like red wine, but to get a perfect dose you'd have to drink more than is healthy, so you could always consider a supplement containing your antioxidants, OPCs, and resveratrol.

Then there's exercise. It's funny how diet and exercise seem to be good for, well, everything! Exercise stimulates your immune system, improves your mood, and pumps circulation around your body, meaning all your cells receive more nutrients and dispose of their wastes more efficiently. You'll want to combine cardio (good for your heart, hence its name....) as well as strength training. (Lean muscle mass is one of the strongest predictors of healthy aging).

Excessive exercise - we're talking extreme sports and endurance events - might actually produce more free radical damage in the body though, so we recommend antioxidants to minimise the damage if you're a gym junkie.

Some other obvious tips include getting good quality sleep (aids repair of everything), and adequate hydration (improves skin tone as well as helping everything else in the body to run smoothly).

They're some of the goodies. Baddies include fried foods and processed foods (often high in free radicals) and smoking (duh!) Too much exposure to the sun also rips apart those fibres in the skin. Enjoy the beach when you're young, and you end up looking like something from Planet of the Apes further down the track.

Finally, think about your mood and outlook on life. People that are happier and have a positive mental outlook tend to live longer and healthier lives than those who are miserable. True. Fortunately, flower essences and Homeopathy can work small miracles in helping you to balance your emotions. And when you're happy and healthy, you tend not to care so much about the occasional wrinkle or smile line. Not only that but when you smile, all the skin in your facelifts up instead of sagging!

Smile! Here's to a happier and healthier future!

Want to learn more about natural medicine?

If you want to learn more about complementary medicine, Switch on Health has several short courses and accredited qualifications that you will love, including Advanced Diplomas in Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Naturopathy and Homeopathy. Browse the short courses or learn more about their accredited Advanced Diploma programs.


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