70 may be the new 50 but its possible that it won’t be that enjoyable if you haven’t looked after your physical health. Over the last decade through global challenges, like the Covid pandemic and personal challenges like three rounds of surgery I have been researching how to age well and there are some common themes.
In 2016 I was able to do the training on the Recode protocol, which was developed by Dr Dale Bredesen. The training was run in San Francisco (which was a very good reason for enrolling as well as the content) and involved looking at thirty six points of intervention based on the five major triggers for Alzheimers. Dr Bredesen has subsequently completed two case study series and more recently a clinical trials for his protocol and it is showing improvement in over 80% of cases who had been classified as having mild cognitive impairment (1). For more information on the protocol have a look at the blog on Delaying Alzheimer’s .
In Melbourne in 2018 Dr Terry Wahl’s presented her strategies for managing Multiple Sclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases and I have followed her work extensively after that symposium. Her focus in clinical practice is on using food rather than supplements primarily as well as looking at specific types of exercise that can support recovery. Dr Wahl is a neurologist who was in a tilt wheelchair with her advanced MS and is now back to riding her bike. Her programs have been implemented at the Iowa City Veteran’s Affairs Hospital and she has conducted four clinical trials on the program. To date the trials are showing significant improvements in fatigue scores and quality of life. Key features of her program involve balancing blood sugar and flooding the body with nutrients from whole foods, in particular up to 9 cups of vegetables and fruit a day plus good quality protein. Her program really encourages the use of organ meats, like liver, for good levels of key nutrients which are quite expensive as supplements. In particular CoQ10 which is essential for energy production in your cells.
There are six key areas that you need to consider in order to age outrageously well.
- Eat your vegetables! Flooding your body with nutrients in a form that you are best designed to absorb. Make sure you are eating the rainbow with vegetables and including at least one cup of green leafy vegetables, one cup of brassica vegetables and one cup of brightly coloured vegetables daily. If you are trying to add more vegetables to your diet it is always helpful to increase gradually and to look at adding them to snacks, soups and smoothies as well. It can also be a good idea to prepare extra vegetables with dinner and have them ready to add to lunches or soups the next day. Roast vegetables are a particularly tasty way to improve the vegetable content of your lunch and you can add them to spinach leaves in a salad or blend them with bone broth for an easy and quick soup.
- Balance your Blood Sugar ideally by including protein with every meal and minimising your intake of sugary foods and simple carbohydrates like bread and cereal. You do not need to be eating large quantities of protein but rather a palm size amount at each meal over the day. Adequate protein for most people would involve 2 eggs at breakfast, a small can of tuna with lunch and a chicken breast fillet at dinner. At the same time it’s important to include some carbohydrate in the diet as well but optimally it’s from whole foods and provides a slow release of glucose and a good serve of fibre as well. If you struggle to add enough protein then adding a protein shake or smoothie can be a good way to up it daily. Usually I do recommend clean brands, whey protein if you can tolerate it or plant protein for those who like variety. The plant protein options that I find useful at the moment are Nuut, Amazonia and Vital Protein. Nuut is offering sampler packs which is a good way to try a few different flavours. The other two brands are usually available in health food stores and the fermented split pea protein from Vital Protein is one of the better vegan options as its not grainy.
- Exercise regularly and mix it up. Ideally including both strength based training as well as cardio will really assist in maintaining good bone health as well as improving balance and energy levels. Start low and build exercise levels slowly to minimise the risk of injury and setbacks. The simplest and easiest way to start exercising is to walk regularly, starting with a five minute lap of the block and then building up over weeks by adding five minutes each week and then multiple walks per day. On e of my favourite quotes about exercise is from JIm Rohn “Take care of your body its the only place you have to live in”.
- Identify the sources of inflammation and manage them as well as possible. Key areas to consider are a history of infections, such as recurring sinusitis, food intolerances and allergies, heavy metal toxicity, sedentary lifestyle and chronic pain from old injuries. There are a wide number of sources of inflammation in the body and dealing with those assaults can be challenging. That’s why quite a number of “anti-ageing” programs remove common allergens like gluten and dairy as anyone with gut problems will have challenges digesting and absorbing nutrients from them. Lactose intolerance is increasingly common as we age as we were really designed to have milk in our diets only as babies and small children. Generally we should be able to absorb small amounts if our digestion is working well. Removing allergenic foods can really assist you in feeling better however test first to make sure its the right foods. For ten years I removed dairy from my diet and whilst it helped a little removing gluten was the game changer for my brain and energy levels.
5. Meditate like a Buddhist monk! Research is showing that twenty minutes of meditation can reduce levels of anxiety, depression and pain (2). Meditation is a relatively inexpensive tool with many apps which can be helpful like Gaia and Calm. Recent research undertaken at a VA hospital in the States showed that twenty minutes of meditation twice a day reduced PTSD symptoms (3). The Wellness experience provide a free thirty day meditation series in either ten minute or twenty minute increments which you can do through the website themeaningoflife.tv . One of the most essential attributes of meditation is its ability to increase grey matter in the brain and assist with clarity and focus.
6. Add appropriate supplements as needed. Look at the key symptoms and determine what is needed for you. For those who are experiencing significant inflammation for example it can be useful to look at supplementing with Tumeric and good quality essential fatty acids. If your issues are more around cramping and low energy then consider adding a magnesium supplement (preferably a powder for better absorption) and a multi vitamin. Just make sure that you do check the use of any supplements with your medications. Your pharmacist or practitioner can advise you on the right dosing and minimise the risk of any interactions.
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Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives and is available for consultations online and in clinic.