What is the secret to everlasting youth? Eat healthy and exercise. Not that it is a secret. Not that you already don’t know it. But it feels like hard work to most of us. In an attempt to escape being disciplined, you may try going by all the gimmicks or short cuts in the world. But, the thing about short cuts is that results show up half baked.
We all might know the gist. However, visible youthful vigor kick-starts as the sum total of making hundreds of small good choices micro-managed on a daily basis.
Age might just be a number and being young might just be an attitude; but you will be left with little confidence in the above quote if your insides are not in perfect sync with each other.
We do not know what is happening inside our body. It would be tiresome to keep a track even if we could. But there are often visible signs like skin allergies, food intolerances, constipation, bloating, flatulence, constant anxiety or inexplicable lethargy that are dropping major hints and sometimes literally crying for us to make amends. We just learn to ignore them and end up shocked when a major disease hits us to really ruin this party themed, ‘our life!’
Popular nutrition books define the problems caused by poor eating habits before advocating a well balanced food plan. But the dos and don’ts of nutrition often confuse and feel restrictive. In her book, ‘Eat Yourself Young,’ British Naturopath and Herbalist, Elizabeth Peyton-Jones establishes a strong rationale for cleaning up your diet. She claims that there are five interrelated internal aging processes that ruin the harmony between all our main organs, sucking into our energy and vitality; making us ‘look’ old at a much younger age.
Her case in favor of whole foods was so strong that we decided it should be conveyed to a greater number of people. The following rehash explains in simplest possible terms how your body is getting contaminated in stealth mode, how to read the signs and the fundamental adjustments required.
Meanwhile, it is left upon you to reflect upon your daily diet and consider the elementary improvements you need to make. Just remember, vegetables, fruits and nuts are your best friend!
- Slow Gut? Initiation of all other problems!
The ideal time for complete digestion should be 12-24 hours. Any faster, then the nutrients from food won’t get absorbed. Any slower, then the waste pile up will cause extra bacteria and hormone creation in the body, stressing the liver out. Once the liver gets busy dealing with the toxic build up outstaying its welcome, the small intestine may not be able to block the debris while letting the nutrients pass through. If unwanted junk starts overflowing into your bloodstream, it invokes an immune response leading to physical fatigue, body pains, bad breath, excessive flatulence, bloating, skin diseases like eczema, acne and psoriasis.
Did you know that 90% of the neurotransmitter, serotonin is produced in the digestive tract? Lack of it causes depression, makes you aggressive, irritable and provokes crazy eating habits. Hence, first step to happiness and being in control? Keep your bowels moving like clockwork!
Fix the problem:
Increasing consumption of fiber rich foods should be your first line of defense. Broccoli, peas, carrots, lentils, barley, oats, rye, apples, pears, almonds, walnuts are a few of many options. Aim for at least 1.5 liters of water intake daily. 2.5-3 liters if you exercise regularly. Take out 30 minutes for any physical activity every day. If you are overweight, losing 4-5 kilos will help immensely.
- Interior Inflammation – Say hello to bad skin and stiff joints
Every time you get hurt or fall ill, your immune system retaliates by creating inflammation in the body. During this time, the white blood cells are fighting hard to defeat the infection. Once the threat is subdued, inflammation is switched off and the healing officially begins.
But, exposure to chemicals like those in household cleaning products, consumption of food preservatives in processed food and most importantly STRESS; never let the inflammation ever get completely switched off in our body.
This prolonged low grade inflammation is setting you up for a painfully troublesome future. Classic signs include constant annoying painful joints or muscles, frequent allergies / asthma that often get worse, perpetual fatigue, skin problems or blood shot eyes.
Fix the problem:
Eat food rich in polyphenols; which includes all citrus fruits, all kinds of berries and green tea. Include anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and cinnamon in your daily cooking.
- Oxidative Stress – Internal Pollution that causes a wrinkly face and a soft body
Oxygen easily responds to form a chemical reaction in presence of other elements and compounds. This process is called oxidation and is a normal part of our everyday world inside and outside our body.
Externally, for instance, rusting is a direct result of oxidation. This process, inside our body, fights bacteria and gets rid of inefficient cells. One side effect that we don’t want is that oxidation often creates plenty of hyperactive, unstable atoms called free radicals that are constantly looking to produce even more of their kind by damaging healthy cell structure.
Though our body is awesome at fighting these free radicals on its own but, in the face of stress, exposure to harsh sunlight, environment pollution, antibiotics, cigarette smoke and excessive exercise; some part or the other is bound to crumble.
Around 70 common and widely spread ailments associated primarily with faster aging have their root cause in oxidative stress. These include heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autoimmune disease.
Fix the Problem:
Load up your diet with antioxidant arsenal of beta-carotene and Vitamin E.
Consume veggies like sweet potato, carrots, spinach, lettuce, bell peppers, peas and broccoli cooked in olive oil to aid maximum absorption. Plant oils and nuts like almonds and walnuts further add to your Vitamin E resource.
- Acid Build Up – Bye-Bye Healthy teeth and bones
Life flourishes in an alkaline environment. From sea water where all life began to the fluid of the human fetus in the cervix; they all have a highly alkaline ph value of 8 or more.
Human body is no different. It literally thrives in a slightly alkaline environment of pH 7.2-7.4 (pH 7 being neutral). This healthy internal environment is reflected in great skin, strong muscles, improved physical stamina and co-ordination, minimum belly fat as the kidneys and liver are detoxifying your body efficiently and as such any kind of fungi or yeast finds it hard to survive in your digestive tract.
Unfortunately, modern diet is rather rich in acidic foods which include; hard meats, cheese, eggs, processed grains, processed sugary cereals, sugary drinks, alcohol and coffee. If your consumption of alkaline food is equally high, the body uses it ready resource of bases to neutralize these acids released by kidney, lungs, intestines and skin, as soon as they enter the bloodstream.
The problem starts when the process begins to slow down. These acids bind themselves to cartilages and connective tissue and start sucking on iodine. To contain and fight these acids, calcium and magnesium gets pulled out from our bones and teeth and body produces greater fat and cholesterol to save our organs from damage.
Fix the problem:
Cut the horror story short by increasing your consumption of vegetable protein, legumes and plain yoghurt. Although lemon is highly acidic, it has the greatest alkalizing effect inside our body. Splurge on all citrus fruits and consume lemon juice as frequently as you can.
At least, 2 to 3 times a week indulge in short bursts of intense exercise to really get your heart rate up causing heaving breathing and sweating. This massive jolt to your body will extract and shed off plenty of damaging acids.
- Hormonal Imbalance – Feeling fat, Irritable, needy or anxious?
Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, adrenaline, cortisol and thyroid hormones all co-exist in an intricate balance inside our body. They are directly responsible for how we feel about ourselves.
An overproduction or deficiency of any of the above hormones over a long term is directly related to over consumption or under consumption of certain kinds of foods aggravated by STRESS! Yes, this again!
Usually the culprits are too much daily white bread, white flour, sugar, caffeinated beverages like coffee and coke.
If you find yourself stressed out on a daily basis and constantly seek sweet treats as respite, then the excess supply of cortisol and insulin in your blood stream is responsible for putting the natural fat burning process of your body to sleep. You see, the liver burns fat only when the above two hormones are NOT active. Sluggish fat burn means sluggish metabolism which causes the thyroid hormones to go off track.
You will know your hormones are not in balance if you feel persistently blue, sleep poorly, often feel bloated, constantly crave comfort food like refined carbs, sugar or alcohol, have thinning hair, brittle nails, acne, excess belly fat and lack concentration.
Fix the Problem:
Start by eating foods that make your gut healthy. Do you see the vicious cycle?
Ensure quality deep sleep of 7-8 hours. Meditate and do breathing exercises for 5-10 minutes every night to calm your mind. Consider taking omega-3 supplements but avoid or at least limit Omega-6, primarily found in refined cooking oils. Long slow cardio sessions will mess up your hormones further. Instead, incorporate more of weight training and do cardio in short explosive bursts within time frame of 15 minutes. Visit a nutritionist to dig deep if problems still persist. Lastly, limit caffeine.
Now that you know the horrifying details of all the aging processes, you know exactly how and why to eat healthy and exercise!
Tackle aging in the face and make it slow down to a crawl!
As George Burns puts it aptly:
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”
You can maintain a youthful bounce in your body as long as you wish. It just takes a little more self awareness and discipline. Life is so much more fun as you grow older, wiser, smarter and hopefully richer!
Just make sure your body does not lag behind to ruin the fun.