Medical researchers have made great strides over the past decade toward understanding the intricate process we know as aging. In an article published in U.S. News and World Report, nutritionist Dr. Jonny Bowden identifies the four main causes of aging in the human body as free radicals, inflammation, glycation and stress.
While DNA and genetics play a minor role, poor diet and lifestyle directly contribute to the leading causes of mortality, coronary artery disease, cancer, stroke, and dementia. Fortunately we can steer our destiny toward optimal health even after years of dietary and lifestyle abuse by addressing each identified aging factor.
Free Radicals: Free radicals are unstable electrons produced during the normal course of metabolism, causing damage to the delicate cell nucleus and mitochondria. Free radicals can wreak havoc with DNA, altering its structure and causing mutations during cell replication. While free radicals are unavoidable, there are a number of changes you can make to offset the dangerous effects.
Consuming a natural food diet packed with organically grown fresh vegetables and fruits is the best way to combat free radicals. These foods are loaded with antioxidants which act to neutralize the free radicals before they penetrate the cellular matrix. Choose from a wide variety of brightly colored vegetables to benefit from an assortment of antioxidants.
Inflammation: Heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are all linked with inflammation, a condition where the body’s immune system begins to target healthy cells and tissue for attack. In an effort to stabilize inflammation, the body releases hormones such as cortisol and raises the core temperature in an effort to combat this invisible invader.
Following a Mediterranean-style diet of whole grains, olive oil, fatty fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds has been shown to dramatically lower the effects of inflammation. It’s important to limit meat with this diet, as most corn fed stock is very high in Omega-6 fats, offsetting the beneficial Omega-3 fat ratio which is known to promote inflammation.
Glycation: Sugar mixes with proteins in our body to create non-functional structures call advanced glycation end products (AGE’s) which accelerate the aging process. AGE’s enter our body either pre-formed from over cooked, browned foods or as a result of chemical reactions in the blood. Regardless of how they form, AGE’s result in cellular damage leading to disease.
You can fight the effects of glycation with a two-step approach. Steam vegetables instead of stir frying and avoid grilling or blackening foods. Limit or eliminate sugar in your diet to prevent the cross-links which bind proteins and fats, making useless molecular garbage which inhibits normal cellular function.
Stress: Continual stress forces the release of stress hormones in the body which help us cope under pressure. Stress which remains unresolved leads to excess cortisol circulating throughout the body, and is linked with shrinking of the hippocampus and accumulation of belly fat. Combat stress by identifying and removing the root cause, and try practicing meditation or yoga which are known to reduce stress. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to further lower stress hormone production.
Natural health followers have come to understand that aging is a disease unto itself which is accelerated by poor diet and lifestyle. Each of the identified factors which promote poor health and disease are preventable by following a natural diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and protein sources. The body has an amazing capacity to reverse the aging process afflicted by decades of dietary abuse by following the path to life extending, natural health.