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A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.

Aging

The biological and natural process of growing old is called aging, and it is an inevitable part of life. The entire body effectively ages and all internal biological processes are affected; that is to say, that all metabolic or other chemical processes taking place within the human body are affected in different ways: one of the easiest way's to notice aging is that the hair cover on the body gets thinner and there is a very gradual but noticeable graying or silvering of the hair on the head. As we age another change is in the quality of the skin, it loses its elasticity, becoming coarser and can no longer maintain its tautness, the skin tone changes and becomes duller. Alongside the changes occurring in the general skin texture, the most obvious sign of aging is the appearance of wrinkles, and the formation of crow's feet around the eyes. The process of aging also affects bone density and calcium uptake internally and it accelerates the loss of mineral ions at the same time. Bone density loss due to reduction in ions like calcium leads to painful joints and in cases is the warning flag signaling the possible and painful onset of arthritis, another aging related symptom besides painful joints is that muscle mass is lost and muscles lose their flexibility, becoming flabby and weak, the bones themselves lose their strength, senility often sets in and in a majority of cases, besides our normal mental acuities our general memory declines. Our general vision which starts deteriorating sometime in the forties also considerably weakens and declines in a variety of ways, most of them very normal in old people, our eyesight is very often the first casualty of the aging process. Another common accompaniment to the process of aging in the human body is that the general immunity and the effectiveness of the immune system which is the main weapon in the body's ability to fight illnesses is weakened as the process of aging continues.

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In a normal human body, one that is in puberty or one that is in the throes of aging, there are a definite number of cells that undergo division a definite number of times in a continually renewing cell cycle. Old cells that die off are recycled so to speak and are replaced by newly produced cells in the body, this turnover of the cellular structure is very high in a young body and especially so in the body of a growing person. With the coming of old age, this process slows down appreciably almost to a crawl and becomes less effective, there is a decrease in cellular growth in an older person and hence a slow but certain break down of all biological functions within the body sets in. Much of this decline due to aging is normal and unavoidable, in other words we are simply growing old.

There may, however be more to this decline involving other factors, much of which if carefully regulated and controlled can stall and slow the process of aging, research has indicated that short lived molecular byproducts of cellular activity, mostly derivatives of oxygen called free radicals are responsible for cellular aging-these free radicals which are extremely unstable and short lived molecular forms of oxygen-can largely accentuate and increase the rate of cellular destruction and thereby the process of aging to a very great extent, this molecules are natural byproducts of metabolic processes taking place inside the human body, and are released as cellular byproducts in all cells, they are however extremely harmful to the cellular framework and can interfere in many of the normal synthetic activities of the cell, they can thus make us age faster by increasing cell death rate and hence can bring about an abnormal situation in which we actually seem to be growing older at a rapid rate and much before our time has come for the natural process of aging to change us noticeably, in other words we may actually age faster only due to the production of a large number of these molecular forms.

Free radicals as such are unavoidable and they are not necessarily more harmful in the biological systems of older people-in fact they are the reason, the process of aging exists in the human body, in the first place! But the body is generally less capable of warding off their effects in an aging cellular system, hence the onset of cellular damage is unavoidable because free radicals are produced during the normal course of cellular activity, their production and more importantly their effects can however be precluded and counteracted by, for example: the maintenance and adoption of a very careful and natural diet regimen. We may also be able to minimize the aging process by avoiding external factors that engender free-radical formation within the body, dropping habits such as- smoking, choosing to live in an environment that has little or a minimal level of polluted air, lifestyle choices like place of residence are very important as most human environments are usually rich in free radical forming compounds from car exhaust and industrial waste, especially so if you live in a city. Avoiding the consumption of alcohol can also check the process of aging or at least its early onset, aging is also accelerated by over exposure to direct sunlight-that tan may not be very good for you in the long term! It is verifiably known that solar radiation can aid in the formation of free radicals due to the ultra violet component of sunlight- the very process of aging itself can also be minimized by strengthening the body's own antioxidant defenses through a careful and selected diet, rich in compounds that aid in the absorption of free radicals, these compounds come under the general classification of antioxidants.

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Antioxidants are the primary weapons in our fight against free radicals, these compounds are manufactured quite normally by the body's own cells and are obtained through a normal human diet, antioxidants are the first line of defense that can absorb free radicals, and through a process of chemically combining with them in the body, they annihilate so to speak the free radicals inside the body before these have had the chance to interfere with very important biological processes-most of which may have a direct bearing on aging. Green and leafy vegetables, including all herbs and fruits are the greatest sources of antioxidants and are naturally occurring sources for these compounds. It is therefore highly advisable to include exactly such kinds of food in our diet, not only for their substantial nutritional benefits-but because of their excellent value as sources for antioxidants.

Supplements and herbs

Herbal and herb based supplements are excellent sources for antioxidants. Herbal supplements along with other chemical or mineral based supplements should be consumed preferably along with a regimented diet by people worried or unhappy about the effects of premature aging or those unhappy with the telltale signs that an early onset of aging can bring around in the body. Water soluble and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin E (tocopherol) are known to be naturally occurring antioxidants that can effectively handle free radical production within the body. The water soluble vitamin vitamin C and flavonoids are active inside the cellular structure and are useful in water retention and maintenance of the osmotic potential within cells, this is important as cellular water content and retention is very important for a healthy body, and a good water reserve is important for cellular activity, since the human body is 70% water. A lot of water should therefore be ingested daily, recommended quantities are at least 7 glasses a day. Water is an essential constituent of a healthy diet.

The important fat based vitamin-vitamin E helps in the formation and the maintenance of the lipoid membranes that make up a large part of the cellular architecture, and is essential for fatty tissue formation and function within the cellular environment. Vitamin E is very important for a normally functioning immune system in older people, and its use as a supplement in food can alleviate or lessen some of the symptoms associated with a poorly functioning immune system and some other types of illnesses brought on by the aging process, this includes the ever present danger of heart disease which is always a clear and present danger in old age, it can also stall the onset of other forms of cardiovascular illnesses. Its use as a supplement can also possibly bolster the body against the onset of cancer and other tumors within the body, and it is very likely thought to be effective in avoiding early memory loss, and in preventing Alzheimer's, a disease that is always related to senility and old age. Other supplements that have a high antioxidant content include green tea extract, which unarguably is also known to be effective in increasing the lifespan of regular drinkers, it is almost legendary in its ability to promote a health and a long life and has been a staple in east Asia, where life spans are known to be the longest in the world. Other herbal supplements abundant in antioxidants are pycnogenol, and the easily available grape seed extract these substances are thought to be much more effective in combating aging and age related illnesses than the vitamin C and E. Dosage should preferably be about a 100 mg of extract two times a day, along with the normal diet.

The B complex vitamins, especially the folates such as folic acid, a B vitamin, helps maintain the production and normal functioning of red blood cells (RBC's) especially their oxygen binding properties, and their proper structural. And these vitamins in addition also play a very important part in the correct and seamless functioning of nervous tissue and in their ability to conduct nervous impulses in a proper way. These supplements are also good for the nervous system to maintain its normal conductive function and speed. These vitamins are also an essential element in the processing and elimination of a substance called homocysteine within the body, and are thus important for proper cardiac function, a high level of homocysteine in a sulfur-containing amino acid, in the body can complicate cardiac function and is implicated in heart disease in old age, these vitamins B and E aid in getting rid of this amino acid and are thus indispensable in the maintenance of a proper cardiac system. With regard to this property other B complex vitamins like pyridoxine B6 and B12 are also important and vitamin B12 or cobalamin is very important in the proper functioning of neural tissue and for smooth brain activity. Ingestion of this vitamin as a supplement is very important due to the fact that its absorption is hampered by age. The ability to absorb B12 naturally through food is lost with age and the only way to keep up is to take it in tablet form as a supplement, a decrease in the levels of this vitamin may possibly cause the onset of dementia and other forms of senility.

A pure and natural base for effective combat against aging related illness is the oil of evening primrose. This herbal supplement has a rich oil, which is filled with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is an essential fatty acid for many processes in the human body, along with about 20 fatty acids that the body cannot manufacture on its own. The body may not always be able to convert the lipids in the diet into fatty acid forms such as GLA with aging. Therefore it is essential that herbal supplements such as these be consumed along with the diet to increase the chances of its effective absorption into the body.

Additionally, some supplements address very particular and specific areas of the body and have peculiar importance. Glucosamine is a compound that is prevalent in cartilage and cartilaginous tissue, and may aid in the maintenance of cartilaginous tissues around the joints and in easing the major chronic pain arising due to the onset of arthritis in and around the joints. Due to its property of enhancing blood circulation and blood flow in the arteries and veins, the all purpose herb ginkgo biloba is an effective and necessary supplement in the prevention and alleviation of age related symptoms and illnesses such as, the onset of mild to chronic dizziness, the sudden and unexplained occurrence of impotence in old people, and in decreasing some of the unhappy and inexplicable causes of memory loss or senility that often accompanies old age.

Aromatherapy

Commonly used essential oils for aging:

Additional things you may do

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to avoid an excessive exposure to sunlight, or if exposure is unavoidable to use skin creams-such as SPF 15 or higher. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays is a primary cause for skin to age at a faster rate and can also bring on symptoms of melanoma and other skin cancers. Reducing exposure time to sunlight also proportionally reduces the chances of skin cancer; needless exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight increases the aging rate of the skin and has other health risks. Smoking is not only bad for your lungs it can also effect the way in which your skin ages, smokers lose elasticity in their skins at a faster rate than non-smokers, so if you smoke, the first thing you must do is to quit. There are also reports that smoking speeds bone mass loss and is of course well known as the main cause in lung damage and pulmonary cancer, even in people who normally smoke a lesser number of cigarettes or cigars at the same rate as chain smokers. Besides this, quitting smoking has other health benefits that may contribute to your longevity. Another important thing is to try and build and maintain your bone and muscle mass with weight-bearing exercise, supplemented by aerobic exercises such as walking and mass building-muscle building fat reduction type aerobic and weight bearing training. It is known that as we age bone mass and muscle mass are both lost at an alarming rate and having a well conditioned body aids in lessening this loss. Another equally obvious and healthy option is diet and one must ensure that one eats at least 5 to 10 servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day since they're rich in antioxidants and the more antioxidants in your body the healthier you become, and the lesser the rate at which you will age.

Usual dosage

  • Evening primrose oil, 1,000 mg three times daily. Can be replaced with 1,000 mg borage oil once daily.
  • Ginkgo biloba, 40 mg three times daily. Standardized to have at least 24% flavone glycosides.
  • Vitamin B6, 10 mg once daily. If taking levodopa for Parkinson's disease, vitamin B6 should be avoided.
  • Vitamin B12 / Folic acid, 1,000 mcg vitamin B12 and 400 mcg folic acid once daily. For best absorption, take sublingual form.
  • Flavonoids / Vitamin C, 500 mg flavonoids and 1,000 mg vitamin C twice daily. If diarrhea develops reduce vitamin C dose.
  • Vitamin E, 400 IU daily. If taking anticoagulant medicine check with your doctor.
  • Glucosamine, 500 mg glucosamine sulfate two times a day. If you have osteoarthritis increase to 3 times a day. Should be taken with food to lessen stomach upset. Not for diabetics.
  • Green tea extract, 250 mg two times a day. Standardized to contain at least 50% polyphenols.

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