Anti-ageing - Slow the Ageing Process
By understanding some of the underlying principles which result in us ageing, we can make interventions to slow this down. The biological clock starts ticking at birth and gives us the potential to live to about 120 years - if we lived the most perfect life, then we could not expect to live longer than this. This is because Evolution gets in the way - in order to adapt to our environment we need a new generation of Homo Sapiens. If the older generation persisted we would simply fail to adapt to the changing environment and become too overcrowded for the planet. So the natural history is for us to die and pass our selfish genes down to our children who, of course, go through the same process. So although you may think I am advocating all sorts of unnatural supplements to keep us healthy in our old age, actually the business of being old is in itself unnatural. By the time we have bred and raised our children, we are on the evolutionary scrap heap. As you get older you have to box clever to stay well!
Why do we age?
I subscribe to the free radical theory of ageing. The ageing process is determined by our mitochondria which are inherited down the female line. So look for potential longevity genes in your mother and her mother. However mitochondria are damaged by free radicals. Free radicals are an inevitable product of normal metabolism. You cannot "burn" sugar in the presence of oxygen and not produce free radicals! Free radicals can also come from our own internal toxic stress, and, in our increasingly polluted world, free radicals result from external toxic stress too. We can see examples of this in our everyday life. For example, people who smoke have an accelerated ageing process - just look at their skins and the fact that they die younger from heart disease and cancer. So putting in place lifestyle changes to reduce free radical formation, and to mitigate the damage that results from them, helps to slow the ageing process.
How to slow the ageing process?
The principles of slowing the ageing process emanate from the above understanding of ageing and they are:
- To reduce external toxic stress - sugar, fags, booze, prescription medication etc.
- To reduce internal toxic stress - not too much food!
- To improve our anti-oxidant status (these are the key molecules that mop up free radicals).
- Use supplements to heal and repair the body where damage has occurred.
- Allow time for sleep when healing and repair takes place.
- Exercise optimally to maintain muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness without wearing out joints, connective tissues and muscles. See Exercise - the right sort
- Exercise your brain daily.
- Detox regimes - these are now essential because we live in a polluted world and we all carry body burdens of chemicals. You can test for this by doing DNA adducts, Fat biopsy for pesticides or Volatile Organic Compounds, Kelmer test (best for specific heavy metals such as mercury).
- Fatigue is part of the ageing process - but it can be reduced by tackling mitochondrial function.
- Keep an eye on thyroid and adrenal function - it declines with age.
Avoid Toxic Stress
Most people are aware of the sort of toxins that produce ill health. In order of importance these are smoking, sugar, (excess of which causes diabetes, which again accelerates the normal ageing process), alcohol, prescription medication, industrial pollution, pesticide residues, heavy metals in dental amalgam and jewellery (especially nickel), food additives, background radiation etc. I've probably forgotten a few! Not only do these chemicals accelerate the ageing process, but many switch on allergy and autoimmunity. Avoid!
Reduce Internal Toxins
The single most important factor proven to increase longevity is the amount of food we eat. Food is intrinsically toxic as well as being nutritive and getting the balance right is very difficult! The less we eat, ie the minimum to maintain weight, the longer we live. Particularly as we age, we need to eat small amounts of the best quality food we can find. This is to balance up our body's ability to digest food efficiently. If this does not happen, one switches to a fermenting gut with all the problems that go with that! In modern societies we are seeing people eating large amounts of poor quality food, which has the effect of accelerating the ageing process. Taking drugs such as proton pump inhibitors, which reduce acid secretion, result in bacterial overgrowth downstream and therefore more fermentation. See Fermentation in the gut and CFS.
Improve Antioxidant Status
It is very likely that much of the ageing damage is caused by low-grade inflammation, which is triggered by free radicals (produced as a part of normal metabolism, as well as by toxic stress). But poor antioxidant status will mean that these free radicals are not effectively mopped up and hang around to cause damage. The "front line" antioxidants are co-enzyme Q 10, glutathione peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase. These can all be measured by blood tests. The results are given in parts per million. These front line antioxidants mop up free electrons (ie free radicals. which are highly destructive), released both by normal metabolic activity and also by xenobiotic stress. These "free" electrons are then passed on to second line antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin A and beta-carotene and these are measured in parts per thousand (milligrams). In doing this the front line antioxidants are recycled. The electrons are then passed back to vitamin C, which is measured in gram amounts - vitamin C is the ultimate repository of many "free" electrons. These "free electrons" can then be excreted safely. In the short-term, one can supply "instant" antioxidant cover with vitamin B12.
As well as ensuring that you have good antioxidant status, by taking a range of nutritional supplements (see below), there are many other antioxidants in vegetables, nuts and seeds. Make these among your staple foods.
During our wakeful hours, we are constantly damaging our body and breaking it down. During sleep, healing and repair takes place. Getting the balance between the two right is essential. If we get insufficient sleep then the rate at which we break the body down exceeds the rate at which we can heal and repair and our overall health gradually ratchets downhill. The average sleep requirement is for nine hours sleep between 9.30pm and 6.30am, a little more in the winter, less in the summer, with of course a certain amount of individual variability.
It has long been known that exercise improves longevity. It is exercise which determines the number of mitochondria in our muscles and hearts. Having good numbers of mitochondria means that we can function at a high level without undue stress. You can achieve this in just 12 minutes of exercise a week - almost everyone can do that! (CFS sufferers beware - please see Pattern of recovery) Also, see Exercise - the right sort.
Exercise the Brain
Throughout life the brain makes one million new connections every second! How these are employed depends on how you use your brain! You need new ideas and new horizons for good brain health, together with social interactions for good brain health (solitary confinment is a sure way to madness). Also see Brain fog - poor memory, difficulty thinking clearly etc.
Acquired Metabolic Dyslexias
As a result of nutritional deficiencies, exposures to viruses and allergens, physical damage from the trauma of life, exposures to internal and external toxins, failure of antioxidant status and so on, we cause internal biochemical damage to the body. This may be to DNA and chromosomes, it may be to the molecular machinery that renews essential molecules daily, it may be to cell structures themselves or even organ damage. The overall effect is that we get what I want to call 'acquired metabolic dyslexias' - that is to say our ability to make certain key molecules is impaired. There are several ways we can get round this. The first is that we should all be taking a package of nutritional supplements including a good multivitamin, multi-minerals, essential fatty acids, vitamins C and D. (See Nutritional Supplements). Many enzymes go slow because of a lack of essential co-factors such as zinc and magnesium and therefore the metabolism works far more efficiently when these essential molecules are present.
As we age there are some key molecules which are difficult to make because the biochemistry is complicated, or natural supply is in short demand and a bottleneck occurs at this level. Since the ageing process is determined by mitochondria, the mitochondrial package of supplements is vital. So probably from the age of 50 onwards we should be all taking a small daily dose of D-ribose 5 grams, Co-enzyme Q10 100mg, Acetyl L-carnitine 1 gram and NAD (vitamin B3) 500mg. See CFS - The Central Cause: Mitochondrial Failure
Thyroid and adrenal function
Again it has been well demonstrated that as we age, our ability to produce certain key hormones declines. This may be an acquired metabolic dyslexia. It is likely that melatonin is one of these and if the quality of one's sleep starts to deteriorate then this should be taken regularly at night, in doses between 1 and 9mg. Melatonin is also an important antioxidant and therefore slows the ageing process. With age our ability to produce DHEA also declines and at the age of say 60 one should measure DHEA levels and if low then a daily supplement should be given. I used to treat DHEA deficiency with DHEA. However, I believe pregnenolone is more physiological because it is upstream of all adrenal hormones including progesterone and cortisol. The same is also true for thyroid hormones. As the pituitary starts to fail, our ability to produce TSH declines and therefore the output of the thyroid gland falls. I would recommend measuring levels of Free T4 and Free T3 say every three to four years and if they slip into the lowest 25% of the normal range, one might consider a trial of thyroid hormones.
I do not recommend sex hormone replacement therapy in women or men - all these hormones are growth promoters and are therefore major risk factors for cancer. However, in men there is an acquired metabolic dyslexia, in which the enzyme that normally breaks down testosterone fails and one can get a toxic metabolite of testosterone building up, which is probably what causes prostate cancer. It might be advisable to take a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor (such as Saw Palmetto) on a regular basis after say the age of 60.
So What does this Translate to in Practical Reality
- Take my standard range of nutritional supplements daily ie multivitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, vitamin C and D (sunshine). Nutritional Supplements - what everybody should be taking all the time even if nothing is wrong
- As we age we become less efficient at absorbing certain nutrients - after the age of 50 everyone should take additional vitamin B12. I suggest 1mg, i.e. 1,000mcgms, orally daily (perhaps only 1% is absorbed), increasing with age until at some stage use injected B12 (I suggest 2mgs, ie 2,000mcgms per month) to ensure good levels in the blood.
- Aim to eat a largely stone age diet at home, but have what you fancy when going out! The diet should be low glycaemic index, strictly avoiding eating sugar (which I consider to be as dangerous as smoking), avoiding the growth promoters in food (dairy and high glycaemic index foods), avoiding additives and ideally eat organic. See Stone Age Diet - this is a diet which we all should follow. In fact, more often I now prescribe the ketogenic diet - please see Ketogenic diet - the practical details and My book The PK Cookbook - Go Paleo-ketogenic and get the best of both worlds.
- Include probiotics routinely by making your own yoghurt or kefir - grow on soya, rice or nut milks. See Kefir
- Exercise for 12 minutes a week. See Exercise - the right sort
- Use your brain actively daily - talking with other people, reading, games (crosswords, Sudoko). Watching TV is not using the brain!
- From about the age of 50 onwards, take the mitochondrial package of supplements as well, i.e. D-ribose 5grams, Co-enzyme Q 10 100mgs, acetyl-L-carnitine 500mgs, vitamin B3 (niacinamide) 500mgs.
- From about the age of 60 get thyroid Thyroid profile: free T3, free T4 and TSH and adrenal gland Adrenal Stress Profile (salivary) regularly checked (say every 3 years).
- Sleep well - aim for 9 hours sleep.
- Do sweating regimes either by exercise or sauna weekly (roughly speaking 50 saunas halves the body's toxic load). If you don't think you need to detox, do a Fat biopsy for pesticides or Volatile Organic Compounds to see how toxic you are!
Symptoms are an early warning sign of something going wrong! Try to work out what is causing that symptom - do not just put it down to "age"! This includes fatigue, arthritis and depression. Do not rely on drugs to cover up symptoms. Raised cholesterol is more likely to be a symptom of arterial disease from a high carb diet, not a cause. Stomach acid blockers greatly increase risk of osteoporosis because one needs acid to absorb minerals
These tests should pick up problems before they arise.
- Antioxidant status profile - SODase, glutathione peroxidase and co Q 10
- DNA adducts - this measures substances stuck on to DNA. There should be none. If anything is present there is a possibility it is stuck onto a gene controlling cell division, so a DNA adduct is a major risk factor for cancer. It makes a detox regime essential! Adducts can be got rid of! If Governments were serious about cancer prevention they would offer this test as a routine screen for everyone!
- Thyroid profile: free T3, free T4 and TSH
- Adrenocortex Stress Profile (salivary)
- Fat biopsy for pesticides or Volatile Organic Compounds
- Kelmer test
- Nutritional Supplements
- Stone Age Diet
- Exercise - the right sort
- Fermentation in the gut and CFS
- Pattern of recovery
- Brain fog - poor memory, difficulty thinking clearly etc
- CFS - The Central Cause: Mitochondrial Failure
- Ketogenic diet - the practical details
- My book The PK Cookbook - Go Paleo-ketogenic and get the best of both worlds.
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