Thursday, June 27, 2013

Healthy Aging and Brain Health

Healthy aging is not just about taking care of our physical bodies as we get older. Healthy aging can be starting to develop lifestyle changes when we are young that will insure we reach old age with our bodies, minds and spirits being at their optimally healthy level. We all know that as we age our bodies can't do the same things as when we were younger. We have all also experienced the memory lapses and changes related to cognitive functioning. Just as there are natural solutions to keep our bodies supported through healthy aging, there are also natural solutions that can help with brain health as we age.

We start noticing many of our physical and mental limitations in midlife, but studies have shown that many of the memory problems we start experiencing in midlife are due more to distraction and interrupted attention. This is due to changes in the frontal lobe that start in midlife. This is also the time of life when we start experiencing the mind only being able to handle so much information before it becomes overwhelmed and blocks out anything new trying to come in, trouble remembering things that have to be done at specific times, and a decline in being able to retrieve information as fast as we once could. In fact there is a study that shows elderly people are more able to remember to take medications on time than middle aged people because middle aged people are more likely to get distracted by other life factors. Cognitive dysfunctions don't just happen all of a sudden when we reach old age, so the time to start improving brain health is as early as possible.

Natural Solutions for Healthy Aging and Brain Health
It's hard when you start realizing your mind and body can't perform they way they once could. There are natural solutions you can use to support brain health and cognitive functioning and as aids to coping with memory problems. You can be creative when coming up with things that will spark the memory. Here are some basics that can work.

-Challenge your brain by learning new things, use the internet to search for information on things you've always wanted to learn about, do mental puzzles and games. An active brain continues to develop. Studies at UCLA have shown that internet searching uses neural circuitry that is different from that used in reading.

-Write notes to yourself not just at home or your desk, but for in the car when doing errands or anytime. Don't tell yourself you'll write the note later; get in the habit of writing things down as soon as you think of them.

-Use index cards with key phrases as reminders during meetings or social functions.

-Find time to relax as stress can be counterproductive to brain health. Meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga are all good for stress management. Meditation has also been shown to create growth in the cortex area of the brain which is responsible for memory.

-Use a calendar, write specific information about appointments in it, always put appointments in immediately and don't agree to anything without being able to schedule it in your calendar.

-Use alarms as reminders.

- Aerobic exercise can keep the mind sharp and has also been shown to increase brain tissue.

-Some new studies are starting to indicate that taking probiotics to support gut health can have an effect on brain health. These studies indicate there may be a connection between the health of the friendly bacteria in the gut and a reduction of brain activity associated with stress, anxiety and depression.

-Assign a particular place for needed items such as keys, wallet, and glasses and ALWAYS put them there. Avoid going on auto pilot when dealing with items and consciously put them in their assigned place.

-A new study shows cocoa drinks with antioxidant flavanols may help boost brain health in older people.

-Create a list of stalling tactics or phrases you can use in situations to give you time to think of the word you want to say or to retrieve information not coming to mind immediately.

- Another supplement to the diet that can be supportive of brain health is a blue green algae supplement that also supports an active lifestyle. Besides the blue green algae that is a good source of whole food nutrition, it has the added ingredients of bee pollen, vitamin A, enzymes, antioxidants, gluten-free wheatgrass juice, Hawaiin noni, eleuthero, ginkgo, and turmeric. Bee pollen is reported to have a high amino acid content useful for stimulating memory and concentration. Wheatgrass juice has been found to provide nutrients that support brain health and clearer thinking. Gingko has been used for a long time to promote increased memory and mental concentration by increasing circulation and providing increased oxygenation of brain cells. Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been the basis of much research and found to have benefit for enhancing memory, as an anti-inflammatory, for enhancing nerve growth in areas of the brain and as an antidepressant. It is also being studied and used in relation to treating Alzheimer's.

Start a Brain Health Program Early
New studies show that healthy aging in the brain could be tied to blood pressure levels. In midlife those with higher blood pressure levels are found to have cognitive and memory problems as they get older. The bad news is that elevated blood pressure levels occur in around 50 million Americans and less than 60% of them know that they do and get treatment. ( The good news is that this information indicates that using natural solutions for balancing blood pressure is also a natural solution for brain health. The first step is knowing what your blood pressure is. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg. If you find you have blood pressure higher than normal, your brain health and physical health could benefit from treatment to lower the blood pressure. Natural solutions could include reducing saturated fat and sugar from the diet, taking supplements with coenzyme Q10, garlic, hawthorn and folic acid.

Research also shows that those who stay active and socially connected are emotionally and mentally healthy which has an effect on physical health too. Being active physically produces body chemicals that promote positive emotions whereas inactivity can lead to depression, anxiety and stress. Sure there will be activities our bodies just won't still do as we get older, but finding alternative activities to replace them are important. If you can no longer run, then walk.

Don't wait to start practicing some of the healthy aging tips mentioned here to support brain health. Whatever age you are, now is the time to start working towards being a mentally sharp elder.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out the free health resources or order blue-green algae products at wholesale prices on our website.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Natural Solutions for Occasional Heartburn, Post-Meal Drowsiness, and Other Digestive Issues

Got occasional heartburn? Do you feel like taking a nap after eating a heavy lunch? Got other somewhat embarrassing occasional digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, or gas?

Guess what? You are not alone! Did you know that according to the CDC, 51 million Americans seek medical help (from doctor visits to the ER) for digestive issues each year? And those are just the people who actually get help. Many people simple suffer through those occasional digestive issues rather than seeking medical attention.

What Digestive Issues Mean
These digestive issues are flags that your digestive system is not always working as well as it could. Possibilities include:

Need for digestive enzymes
Without enzymes, your body cannot convert the food you eat into usable fats, starches, and proteins. As you age, the number of enzymes your body produces decreases, increasing the need for supplemental enzymes. Lack of enzymes is the reason you might feel tired after eating a particularly large meal: your body doesn't have enough enzymes to digest the meal, and consequently spends a lot of energy on digestion!

Imbalance of bacteria in intestines
Stress, antibiotics, alcohol, tobacco, and drinking chlorinated water are all lifestyle factors that can cause an imbalance of the bacteria that live in your gut. When the non-beneficial bacteria, such as Candida, overtake the gut, the result can range from heartburn and gas to nasal congestion and heart palpitations.

Lack of probiotics in the gut
Imbalances of bacteria in the gut can also mean a lack of probiotics (or beneficial bacteria) in the gut. Such probiotics include acidophilus, bifidus, and numerous other friendly bacteria. Luckily, if you have a lifestyle that causes an imbalance in your gut between probiotics and non-beneficial bacteria, you can rebalance your gut by adding probiotic supplements to your daily regimen.

Insufficient nutrients for the gut
Like all organs in the body, your gut needs nutrients, including nutrients that soothe and heal the gut, plus nutrients that feed the probiotics in your gut. Insufficient amounts of these nutrients can lead to many symptoms of poor digestion.

Got Digestive Issues? Natural Solutions That Can Help!
If occasional digestive issues are really starting to bother you, you can make dietary and lifestyle changes to support your digestive system. Natural solutions for digestive support include:
  • Enzyme supplements
  • Probitoic supplements
  • Small simple lifestyle changes
Enzyme Supplements
In a perfect world, our food should include all the enzymes necessary for full digestion. Unfortunately, because of trends such as over-farming, genetic modification of foods, the use of chemicals in food production, and food packaging and cooking, most foods that arrive on the table lack enzymes.

In addition, as we age our bodies all produce fewer and fewer enzymes. Conversely, the lack of enzymes can also contribute to the aging process. According to Dr. Edward Howell, known for his enzyme research: "Diets deficient in enzymes cause a 30% reduction in life-span." Yowza!

Luckily, there are many enzymes for digestion that you can easily add to your daily diet. Simply take enzymes with meals to support your body's digestion, and take enzymes between meals to help "clean up" any undigested food in your gut!

Probiotic Supplements
Adding probiotic supplements to your daily regimen is another simple way to improve digestion. The probiotics that live in your small and large intestines are integral to healthy digestion. In addition, many of these beneficial bacteria, such as acidophilus and bifidus, play other important roles in our health. For instance, these bacteria are responsible for producing B vitamins, which contribute to health factors such as good mood, hair and nail growth, and energy production! We suggest taking probiotics before breakfast or right before bed. This schedule allows the probiotics to reach their intended destination without having to make it past any food in the stomach.

Lifestyle Changes
In addition to adding supplements to your diet, making small incremental changes in your lifestyle can make a big difference to your digestion. To keep it simple, we have borrowed a list of lifestyle changes from one of America's most notable doctors--Doctor Oz. According to him, these lifestyle changes can really support your digestive health (read more at
  • Stay hydrated (we suggest non-chlorinated water)
  • Physical activity to speed digestion
  • Limit fats
  • Eat more fiber
  • Maintain healthy weight
  • Eat slowly
  • Dietary supplements (like probiotics and enzymes)
  • Decrease bloating ingredients like sodium and artificial sweeteners
Pretty Sweet and Simple, Right?
Nobody likes dealing with gas, heartburn, constipation, or other digestive issues--even if they are occasional. Luckily, the natural solutions that support healthy digestion are pretty simple. So follow these steps and you will actually be able to enjoy your favorite foods with fewer digestive issues!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out the free health resources or order blue-green algae products at wholesale prices on our website.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Causes for Insomnia and Natural Remedies That Work

Having trouble sleeping and not sure what causes of insomnia affect you? Do you find yourself unable to fall asleep at night knowing you need to get to sleep and stressing because you can't? Or are you one of those who wake up tired in the mornings even though you think you went to bed early enough and slept late enough to get enough sleep time? If any of these apply to you, you're not alone. USA Today published a study showing that 26% of Americans claim to get a good night's sleep only a few days a month. And of those surveyed, 24% claim to get a good night's sleep only a few days a week. That leaves a lot of people counting sheep at night. Not getting good quality sleep at night can lead to a cycle of drinking coffee in the morning to get going and energy drinks in the afternoon to keep going, just as not getting enough sleep can. First let's take a look at some things that could be causes of insomnia and then we'll take a look at some natural solutions for causes of insomnia.

What Is Good Sleep?
About an hour and a half after a person goes to sleep, they enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. When we talk about good quality sleep, this stage is important. This is the stage of sleep that restores the body and when dreams occur. If sleep is interrupted in this stage you can find you have trouble concentrating the next day, have a lack of energy and find yourself becoming drowsy during the day. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep either. You might even need different amounts of sleep on different nights depending on what is happening in your life at the time. At different stages in your life the amount of sleep you need can also change. For most adults seven to eight hours of sleep is optimal. To find your individual optimal amount of sleep time, note what time you go to bed, then don't set an alarm clock and see what time you naturally wake up and feel well rested and alert. Add up the hours and that will give you an idea of how much sleep you need a night.

Causes For Insomnia
Even if you think you are getting enough hours of sleep in, there are interruptions and other factors that reduce the quality of your sleep. You may not even remember in the morning all the times you woke up as some of them can be brief, but enough to interrupt your REM sleep. Sometimes the reason your sleep is interrupted or you can't fall asleep is obvious – noisy neighbors, the barking dog next door, a sick child in the home or a hungry infant. Other times though we don't always realize how often our sleep is interrupted or know why. We just know we are still dragging in the morning. Here are some causes for insomnia and factors that can influence the quality of sleep you are getting.

You may find yourself drowsy after having a few drinks and think that is a good way to unwind and help yourself get to sleep. But studies show that alcohol actually can be a cause for insomnia because it does not lead to good quality of sleep. The amount of REM sleep is reduced and you are more likely to talk and/or walk in your sleep. Alcohol may put you in a deep sleep at first, but once your blood alcohol level drops, you wake up again. 

Age Factors
Children get more deep sleep than adults do which leaves them more rested and energetic come morning. They need this type of sleep because their bodies are still growing. Once they reach adulthood their deep sleep time is half as much. That means adults are not only getting less of the restorative type sleep, but they are awakened easier at night so their sleep is more often interrupted. Older people have the increased interruption of often having pain from conditions such as arthritis or acid reflux that interrupts sleep or take medications that can interfere with sleep.

Too Much Activity
This can apply to you or your sleeping partner. If your sleeping partner is restless or snores, stays up later than you and keeps a light on working or reading, or is making noise, your sleep can be affected. This applies to those who sleep with pets also. Pets don't have the same sleep cycles as humans and when they wake up during the night moving around your sleep can become interrupted.

Your own activity before bed could also be the culprit. What did you drink or eat before bed? What type of activity did you engage in? Exercise is good for you, but exercising up to an hour or two before bedtime can act as a stimulant. People who drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks all day or in the evening can find themselves too wound up to go to sleep. Eating spicy foods or a heavy meal can also interfere with falling asleep. Are you coming home exhausted thinking you will be able to fall asleep in no time only to find the reverse is true? Could be the activity that led you to be exhausted was too stimulating and you didn't take any time to decompress and unwind before hitting the sheets. Take a look at what you are doing and what your sleeping partner is doing to get some clues as to your causes for insomnia for you.

Sleep Disorders
It could be that your causes for insomnia actually stem from an undiagnosed sleep disorder. It is reported that about 40 million Americans have sleep disorders that have not been diagnosed. These could include conditions such as sleep apnea or PKMD (Periodic Limb Movement Disorder) both of which interfere with getting good quality sleep. You could also have pain from other sources that will interfere with getting a good night's rest. Back pain, headaches, cramps or a variety of other aches and pains, even if not severe, can keep you from getting to sleep, wake you up during the night or interfere with the quality of sleep.

Natural Remedies
If you find yourself dragging and tired in the morning, needing a caffeine fix to get moving, irritable after waking up, drowsy during the day, lacking in energy, or having trouble with short term memory then you possibly are not getting enough good quality sleep. Here are a few natural remedies that can help you get to sleep and have a better quality of sleep.

Establish a Bedtime Routine
Start training your body to know when it is time to sleep and when it is time to get up. Pick the same time each day to wake up and avoid taking naps during the day. Establish a nighttime routine that cues your body to get ready for sleep. Begin dimming the lights at least an hour before bedtime, put away all work and conflict situations. Do something relaxing to unwind and clear your mind of worries from the day. Taking valerian root or drinking a cup of chamomile tea can help you relax before bedtime. Avoid any kind of stimulants such as coffee or caffeinated teas.

Regular exercise can help with sleep problems. Do not include this in your bedtime routine however as it can also act as a stimulant. Exercise should be done at least 3 hours prior to your bedtime routine. Yoga and Tai Chi are good practices that have been found to be helpful with sleep problems.

Eating a late meal or heavy snack before going to bed can activate your digestive system and keep you from being able to go to sleep. On the other hand, going to bed hungry can also prevent sleep. A light bedtime snack of complex carbohydrates or dairy foods like cereal and milk can be helpful in easing hunger and not interfere with sleep for some people.

Algae and Probiotics
Adding some probiotics and blue green algae to your nightly regimen can really help you recharge while you sleep. 1-2 capsules before bed of the form of blue green algae that is the core of the algae without the cell wall, relaxes the brain and allows you to get a good night's sleep. Taking 2-4 capsules of bifidus before getting ready for bed can help with more restful sleep so you wake rested and confident. Digestive enzymes help us digest our food, but on a metaphysical level, they can also help us digest and "work through" worries and problems that have built up throughout day. If you're facing a difficult situation or problem and need some solutions, taking 2-4 digestive enzymes before bed can help you work through the problem and possibly rise in the morning with a solution.

Has this article given you some ideas of causes for insomnia that can be affecting your sleep and keeping you from being alert and energetic during the day? We certainly hope so. Take a good look at some of your lifestyle habits and add one or all of the natural remedies suggested here and we'll bet you will get a better night's sleep and awake better able to live your life as a result.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out the free health resources or order blue-green algae products at wholesale prices on our website.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Want Better Hair? 5 Lifestyle Habits to Break Now

You can spend a fortune on beauty products that promise shinier, silkier hair, but to really have better hair you have to start with looking at your lifestyle. A healthy diet not only supports your overall body health, it also gives your hair the nutrition it needs to stay healthy. You really can't expect to have shiny, silky hair without it being healthy. So before you stock up on all the latest hair products, take a look at making some lifestyle changes to your diet and stress level. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself and determine which lifestyle changes you can make to have better hair.

1. Is Your Hair Getting Enough Protein?
Each strand of hair is made up mostly of protein. If you are not getting enough protein in your diet, then your hair will suffer. The average person has 120,000 to 150,000 strands of hair. Anywhere from 50 to 100 of these strands are shed per day. Hair growth goes through phases. Each one of your hairs has a growing phase of 2 to 3 years in which the hair grows about 1/2 inch each month and then a resting phase of 3 to 4 months. Hairs then are shed and new hairs grow to replace them. Without enough protein to support new hair growth you may have more hair in the resting phase than in the growing phase. If you start noticing a significant loss of hair, start noticing how much healthy protein you are getting in your diet.

When you start looking at the types of protein you have in your diet, make sure you are getting the "good proteins". This would include whole grains, soy foods, sprouts, blue green algae, fish, nuts, leafy greens, beans, carrots and white meat.

2. What Vitamins Does Your Hair Need?
Biotin is an essential B vitamin that promotes healthy hair growth, prevents breakage and protects against dry hair. As an extra bonus, biotin also contributes to healthy digestion of fats and carbohydrates. Foods such as beans, breads, egg yolks, fish, liver, meat, dairy products, nuts, peanut butter, whole grains and poultry are all sources for biotin. Your body however can produce biotin on its own. The healthy bacteria in your large and small intestine make biotin that is readily absorbed and used by your body. So one way to support your body in making more biotin for better hair is to support your gut probiotic growth with supplements of high quality acidophilus and bifidus.
Other nutrients to check for in your diet for better hair include vitamin E and certain trace minerals including selenium, copper, and magnesium
3. Are You Getting Enough Iron?
Iron is another must for healthy hair. Meat is the main way most people think of to get iron in the diet, but stick with healthy meats such as pork, lean beef and fish. For vegetarians, look for cereals fortified with iron, soybeans, white beans, spinach and lentils as good sources of iron. The body does not absorb iron from plant based foods as readily as it does from animal sources, so even if you eat a lot of soybeans and lentils you may not be getting enough iron. Iron supplementation may be needed to get enough iron and you should check with your health care provider for testing to see if you need iron supplements.

4. How's Your Stress Level?
More than 20 million Americans suffer from health problems related to chronic stress and 95% of visits made to healthcare professionals are for issues related to stress. Stress alone may not necessarily cause hair loss but there are certain stressors mostly related to physiological change in your body that can be the cause. So for example if you lose a considerable amount of weight or your body goes through some other type of drastic change, hair loss can be a result. High fever or a severe infection, major surgery, certain medical conditions such as thyroid disorders or a severe change in diet can all be physiological stressors that can affect your body and be related to abnormal loss of hair.

B vitamins, especially B-12, help us relax. When we are stressed, we tend to use up our body's supply of B vitamins and need to replace them before getting into a Catch-22 situation. Fortunately, we can replenish the body's supply of B vitamins naturally by replacing the probiotics or "friendly bacteria" in the intestines. These friendly bacteria produce the B vitamins in our bodies and taking probiotic supplements like acidophilus and bifidus can give your body a boost to keep producing these vitamins and help your body cope with stress.

5. Is Your Scalp Healthy?
Healthy hair comes from a healthy scalp. Getting omega-3 fatty acids in your diet does a lot to help keep your scalp healthy. Good sources for omega-3 include fish, nuts, leafy greens and AFA blue green algae. Most Americans tend to get too many omega-6 fatty acids in their diets and not enough omega-3s. AFA blue green algae is one of the best wholefood sources of omega-3 fatty acids and it has the exact ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that your body needs.

How did you do on answering these questions? We hope it gave you some tips and ideas on how to have better hair before investing in all the hair beauty products the media assures us will make us all look like hair models. For any part of the body to thrive and look good, being healthy is the key. Making some of these lifestyle changes can go a long way to helping you and your hair look good and feel good.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out the free health resources or order blue-green algae products at wholesale prices on our website.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to Get Clear Skin with These Homemade Facial Masks

Skin is part of the immune system and the body's first line of defense in keeping out foreign invaders that can make us sick, but beyond that we all want our skin to look healthy and knowing how to get clear skin is a part of that. Since this part of our immune system is out there for all the world to see, knowing how to get clear skin and looking our best is important too. The beauty industry will sell you a multitude of products promising to keep your skin clean, hydrated, wrinkle-free, moisturized, and youthful looking, but do you really need all those expensive products? And do you really need the chemicals and man-made substances some of them contain? Personally if I have the choice of using inexpensive, natural ingredients that's the way I'd rather pick for how to get clear skin. Here are a few facial masks that can be used for all types of skin that are easy and made from natural ingredients that you may find already in your kitchen.

Oatmeal Honey Yogurt Mask – beauty(
This facial mask is good for rejuvenation and cleansing of skin. All you need is:
  • 1 tbsp. finely ground oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp. plain organic yogurt (with live active cultures)
  • Several drops of honey
Mix the oatmeal and yogurt together in a bowl. Hold a spoon over hot water or warm the spoon by holding it under hot water, then add honey to the spoon. This serves to warm the honey up a bit before adding it to the mixture. Stir all 3 ingredients together until mixed well and apply the mask to your face. After 10 minutes, rinse the mask off by splashing warm water on your face and then wash off any remaining with a warm cloth. You can then apply your favorite natural moisturizer and you're done.

Peach-Vinegar Facial Mask
This mask works well to clean all skin types. All you need is:
  • 1 organic peach
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Peel the peach and mash it up to a fine consistency (or puree it in a food processor). Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to the puree. Depending on the size of the peach you use, you may need to adjust the amount of vinegar you add. Add just enough vinegar so that the mask is firm enough to stay on your face after you apply it. Apply the mixture to your face and leave it on for about 15 minutes. Rinse your face with warm water and follow up with a natural moisturizer.

Sugar Scrub – beauty(
Skin is constantly regenerating itself. As new skin cells are formed at the lowest skin level, they push their way up to the surface and most of the dead skin cells fall off. Exfoliating the skin gets rid of the dead skin found on the surface which help keep skin pores clear keeping away blackheads and other small bumps on your face. Some people use salt to exfoliate their skin, but sugar is less likely to tear at skin. All you need for this is:
  • 2 tbsp. of sugar
  • 3 tbsp. of warm water
Pour the sugar into the water and stir until it is dissolved. Put it on your face and massage it all over your face. Use warm water to rinse it off. That's it, super simple and you've removed all those leftover dead skin cells and cleared out your pores.

Deep Cleansing Aciophilus/Enzyme Mask
This mask is great for deep-cleansing your pores and works well on all skin types. After using it, you'll notice your skin will be smooth and your pores will appear smaller.
All you need is:
  • 1 enzyme capsule (open to pour out powder inside capsules) 
  • 1 acidophilus capsule (open to pour out powder inside capsules)
  • spring water
Mix powdered enzyme and acidophilus, which both usually come in capsules, with spring water until the mix achieves a mud-like consistency. Apply the mixture over your entire face or just over your T-zone. Leave the mask on until it dries completely, and then rinse your face with warm water. Follow with a natural moisturizer.

There you have it – how to get clear skin the natural way. Whether you need to exfoliate, deep cleanse, or clear out pores you can do so inexpensively and with all natural ingredients. That's the way I like it – all natural cleansing for my all natural skin. Give it a try and see what you think!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out the free health resources or order blue-green algae products at wholesale prices on our website.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Aging Gracefully: Is Your Diet Aging You?

When you look in the mirror, what do you see – are you aging gracefully or do you look older than your years? If you don't appear to be aging gracefully, consider looking at what you eat. Beyond that consider what you are actually digesting. After all, no matter what types of foods you have in your diet, if your body is not getting the full nutritional value out of them then you are losing the health benefits. Either or both of these dietary concerns could lead to not aging gracefully.

What Are You Eating?
Not eating a healthy diet can certainly lead to looking older. Fast foods, junk foods, foods high in trans fats, sugar and/or carbs and lots of processed foods can cause an inflammatory state in your body. An unhealthy diet can not only lead to many diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, but can also cause damage to skin collagen and fibers. If your diet mainly consists of foods of this type, it's no wonder you don't find yourself aging gracefully.

Really start taking a look at the types of foods you eat and if you are not reading labels on products already, start doing so. Processed meats such as sandwich meats or hotdogs for example tend to be high in saturated fats, nitrates and sodium. Add some french fries with that hotdog or sandwich and you are adding trans fats to the meal. Anything deep fried has lots of trans fats which the American Heart Association recommends should be less than 1% of your daily dietary intake. They recommend that saturated fats be kept to less than 7% of your daily diet. These saturated and trans fats add to the inflammatory state in the body as well as contribute to problems with your arteries. Having too much sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure and higher risk of heart attack or stroke. If you just can't give up your sandwich or hotdog for lunch, look for a brand that has low or no salt.

The good news is that the inflammation caused by this type of eating can be reduced and you can start looking like you are aging gracefully by making some dietary changes. Eating a variety of high quality vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low fat dairy, lean meats and other protein sources is the best way to keep your body healthy, active and looking its best. Including fish such as tuna, salmon and herring which are high in omega-3 fatty acids can help fight the inflammation. Whole grains such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice and quinoa not only have been found to help reduce inflammation but also have thiamine and riboflavin which help keep skin healthy. Your skin also needs lots of good protein to keep it healthy. Look for lean meats and healthy alternative protein sources such as soy and beans. Eating a variety of food high in antioxidants can also help when it comes to aging gracefully. These foods added to your diet can help you get more antioxidants:
  • Lettuce, broccoli, spinach, and arugula are high in antioxidant vitamins A and C
  • Blueberries, green tea, sprouts, garlic, blue green algae, edible grasses and tumeric are all sources of antioxidants
  • Tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, asparagus and red cabbage are high in the antioxidant lycopene
  • Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale are high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber, calcium, iron, and folate
  • Beans are a lean source of protein and have lots of fiber and antioxidant vitamins.
Antioxidants protect cells from oxidative damage, help with cellular repair, replace lipids in the membranes that have been damaged and act as cleansers or scavengers for free radicals. If your lifestyle is such that you just can't get in enough antioxidants through the foods you eat, you can add supplements to your diet such as one loaded with sprouts, chlorophyll, glutathione, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Instead of giving up on the nutrition you need, search for other ways to get it that fits with your lifestyle.

Another consideration as we get older is what medications we are taking. There are some foods that may be in the healthy eating category that do not mix well with certain medications. For example, my father is on some medications that prevent him from eating dark green leafy type vegetables and cranberries. These are healthy to eat, but not for him. The nutrition he would get from eating these foods has to be found from other sources. Don't miss out on the nutrition from the foods you need to avoid, just search for another source that is acceptable. It is always a good idea when taking medications to ask your health care provider if there are any foods you need to avoid.

What Are You Digesting?
If you are eating a healthy diet, good for you! You are one step ahead in the aging gracefully game. Consider now how much of that food your body is able to actually use. How is your digestion? Another thing to consider for seniors is special problems that cause us to avoid some of the foods that can keep us healthy. For example, many people find beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other vegetables of this type cause them to pass excess gas and/or have stomach cramping or that dairy products cause them to have stomach distress. Instead of discounting beans, vegetables or dairy products that cause problems, try adding them in slowly a little bit at a time to your diet and/or drinking extra water when eating them. With dairy products, you may need to look for lactose free products. You can also use digestive enzymes to help in the digestion process of problem foods like beans.

Adding food enzymes to the diet can complete the metabolization of fat, proteins and carbs when taken with food. Taken between meals they are absorbed into the blood and can help clean out residual food particles. There are four types of enzymes that break down food molecules:
  • lipase for fat molecules
  • protease for protein
  • cellulase for cellulose 
  • amylase for starch molecules
Enzymes found naturally in foods become inactive when food is over cooked or processed. Most of us don't get all the enzymes we need for proper digestion for this reason. Not having enough active enzymes puts extra stress on the pancreas, liver and spleen as they have to work overtime to produce enzymes that we are not getting from the foods we eat.

The beneficial bacteria in our intestines is also very important to the digestive process. They support proper digestion and help eliminate waste. The problem is that there are so many things that can throw off the balance of these friendly bacteria. Antibiotics, antacids, other medications, radiation, stress, chemicals in our food, water or air are just some of the things that can contribute to throwing off this balance allowing an overgrowth of yeast and unfriendly bacteria. Adding probiotics to the diet can help balance the friendly bacteria which aid in the digestive process and take stress off of the immune system.

Latobacilluls acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus, better known as acidophilus and bifidus, are found naturally in the intestines. Acidophilus is needed for nutrient absorption and is found along the wall of the small intestine. It activates vitamin production, helps in digestion of food, and in lactose tolerance. Bifidus helps with absorbing water from foods, helps prevent bloating and gas, and aids in the eliminating of waste materials.

Next time you look in the mirror and think you are looking older than your years, think about these two questions: What are you eating? and What are you digesting? Making some simple changes to diet and digestive health can go a long way to helping you with aging gracefully.

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