We all want to have optimal health. We all want to age well and enjoy life. I haven’t yet met anyone who wants disease, stiff achy joints, fuzzy thinking, excess body fat, and fatigue as their ultimate life goal. Yet we tend to accept these things on a daily basis.
The precursor to optimal health is healthy hormones and everything you eat or drink has an effect on your body - the way it operates and those hormones that drive it. If one system is off kilter, all other systems suffer, and your body can’t so what it is meant to do to keep you healthy.
There are things you can do to mitigate this, and I am going to talk about these today.
So grab a cuppa, and settle in for a bit of learning, as today’s article is a bit longer than usual. (Warning! Some science ahead 😉)
Balance your fat intake
Hormone synthesis depends on the presence of adequate fatty acids, particularly saturated fatty acids (cholesterol is the precursor to all sex hormones like progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone).
Omega-6 fatty acids — typically found in processed oils and foods — stimulate inflammation, while omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA — found in marine life such as fatty fish, krill, and algae — control it.
Saturated fats and DHA/EPA are also crucial in preserving brain health. However, some of us lose the ability to digest fat properly as we age. Short- and medium-chain fatty acids seem to work better in these cases, so coconut oil and butter may be good options.
Lose body fat
Adipose tissue (body fat), in excess, can disrupt proper hormone production and cell signalling. This leads to metabolic dysfunction as well as loss of mobility.
Assess and seek to correct underlying hormonal and metabolic dysfunctions
For most of us, this can be done by following good nutritional principles. However, some of you may also need to work with a naturopath, endocrinologist, etc., to help you assess and correct any additional metabolic and/or hormonal problems such as hypothyroid or low testosterone which you can’t self-diagnose.
Decrease or remove inflammatory foods
In your 20s and 30s you could eat anything! Now suddenly your lunch salad bloats you!
Whether it’s a new food intolerance or allergy, or a slow-burning, low-grade food-related inflammation, look for foods that may be causing gastro-intestinal (tummy) dysfunction or systemic (whole body) inflammation.
Common offenders include:
Eat more building blocks
Over time, joints stiffen and become fibrotic, muscle dwindles (sarcopenia), and bone formation slows. Exercise is a major determinant of these processes, but nutrition is also important, as it provides the basic components of tissue rebuilding.
You can supplement with things like MSM, glucosamine* and other glycosamingen-rich foods (such as bone broth made with cartilaginous bones).
Boost your lean protein intake. We simply don’t digest, absorb, or use protein as efficiently as we age. Some evidence shows that BCAA supplementation* (especially leucine) may also be useful.
Enable the digestive system to do its job
Eat slowly and mindfully. Decrease stress and rushing around mealtimes — stress and haste decrease your parasympathetic nervous system activity and suppress adequate digestive action.
If you need to, supplement with broad-spectrum digestive enzymes. Supplement with magnesium if constipation is a problem.*
Increase intake of soluble fibre and probiotics (both as supplements and natural fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi); increase intake of fruits and vegetables. You may also be able to tolerate beans and legumes and/or whole grains.
Heartburn and GERD may actually signal inadequate stomach acid production. Supplement with betaine HCl.*
Supplementation with sodium butyrate may also improve gastric function and decrease colonic irritability.*
Decrease intake of simple/refined sugar-starchy carbohydrates
Doing this will help cut down inflammation, and address metabolic disruption from poorly regulated insulin/glucose.
Evidence suggests that the wide-ranging effects of metabolic syndrome include higher risks of:
Consider intermittent fasting if appropriate and properly applied
Autophagy — literally “self-eating” — is the basic method of “cellular cleaning”. Related to autophagy is apoptosis, or a form of programmed cell death. Both processes are necessary for tidying up, pruning, and removing dead or dysfunctional cells and their components.
We want a certain amount of autophagy and apoptosis for cellular health, just like we need to regularly clean our houses and throw away junk before we turn into hoarding cat people. Intermittent fasting, if appropriate and properly applied, can upregulate healthy autophagy and apoptosis.
On a smaller scale, you can also experiment with eating less frequently (e.g. 3 meals a day instead of regular grazing), or using a smaller “eating window” (i.e. extending the normal overnight fast to 12-14 hours). Evidence suggests that even brief, occasional periods of fasting will help with cellular tidying and decrease inflammation.
Just remember: Intermittent fasting is not for everyone.
Address meal planning
Although many of us have cooking skills, many of us face confusion on how to put a healthy meal together. Sometimes, food doesn’t taste as good or appealing as we age. (On the plus side, changing palates can also mean we know the joys of olives and better-quality wine.)
I have a handy giveaway that helps with meal planning. You can click here to grab a copy 😊
*Before taking any new supplement, check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that it’s safe to combine that supplement with other medications, health conditions, or supplements.
Click below to listen to a podcast episode I was interviewed for, about building resilience and my journey to being a Health Coach