Lifestyle and nutrition strategies that can help you slow the hands of time
If you told me I could look 19 again, I’d pass. You see, at 19, I “looked 50” according to my niece, Cecelia (see my photos, below, at 19 on the left and today, at 47, on the far right). I understand what she saw—the health issues I had at 19 are more commonly seen in 50-year-olds. At 19, I suffered from an eating disorder that eventually led to life-threatening autoimmune and liver problems. At 24, I finally took charge of my health by drastically changing my diet and taking supplements. Today, I look more vital (who cares about “younger”?) with each passing year.
There is a growing area of research called epigenetics, which deals with matters of genetic expression. It turns out that our genes are not our destiny, and that even a genetic predisposition to disease is not our fate. Rather, how our genes are expressed impacts quality and length of life—and nutrition and lifestyle can have an incredible influence on that expression. Ron Rosedale, MD, author of The Rosedale Diet, explains it this way: “Miscommunication between cells causes all disease. Diabetes, for example, is a miscommunication of [the hormones] insulin and leptin. We are not our genes, but rather the ‘music’ our genes play. Your breakfast choice alone can change 8,000 genes. Genes can play the music of either diabetes or of long life.”
So how do we help our genes make beautiful music? Hormonal imbalances are often caused by consuming excess sugar and processed foods, as well as by a lack of good fats in the diet. Low-fat diets and trans fats can wreak havoc on hormonal function. But just as fast as a poor diet wreaks havoc, eating the right way can have a stunning, nearly immediate impact on hormonal balance. I have seen my clients experience incredible reversals in health problems linked to hormonal imbalance after removing sugar from their diets and increasing healthy dietary fat (e.g., from grass-fed animal products)—for example, their periods normalize, fibroids shrink, fertility increases, and hot flashes stop suddenly.
The greatest threat to longevity and health may be stress—the effects of which can be controlled by our own choices, and mitigated nutritionally, to a certain extent. And of course, lifestyle choices such as not smoking and exercising can have dramatic impacts on health, and thus how much life we get out of our years.
Get Enough Zzzs
Sleep (or a lack of it) also affects gene expression. Too little sleep interferes with the release of human growth hormone (hGH), a hormone found in higher levels in young people. This can have a domino effect on hormonal and metabolic processes throughout the body. Sleep is also now known to have a huge impact on the health of our genes. In other words, poor sleep equals negative gene expression and far greater predisposition to disease.
As we age, not only are we subject to free-radical damage, but also a process called glycation, which is essentially a slow “cooking” of proteins throughout the body, accelerated by rises in blood sugar. This not only causes wrinkling, but if not kept in check, a potentially dramatic rise in oxidative stress throughout the body as we accumulate these glycated proteins. Eating a diet high in sugar, because it raises blood sugar, spurs this process—and speeds the aging process. Regaining cellular sensitivity to insulin by reducing daily blood sugar spikes can be correlated with just about every aspect of healthy aging. In my own experience, I have seen the greatest payoff by reducing sugar intake from all sources, including flour and grains.
Toxins According to Stephanie Senneff, PhD, a senior research scientist at MIT, herbicides used to grow non-organic and genetically engineered foods contain glyphosates that disrupt cellular signaling in the body. This, in turn, can age us and even reduce fertility. Senneff says that exposure to such herbicides is also devastating to our healthy gut bacteria and our ability to absorb and utilize nutrients from food.
You can also impact gene expression with the right supplements. The sidebar below features a list of nutrients that I commonly recommend to clients—and take myself—for healthy aging.
Editor’s note: Next month, read about three clients who had sccess following Kat James’ anti-aging protocol.Your A–Z Anti-Aging Arsenal
The Amino Acids ornithine and arginine have been shown to assist in the release of human growth hormone (hGH). Try: Solgar L-Arginine L-Ornithine 500 mg/250 mg.
Antioxidants, such as alpha-lipoic acid, green tea extract, astaxanthin, and vitamin E (mixed tocopherols with tocotrienols—never the synthetic form, dl-alpha tocopherol). Try: The Vitamin Shoppe Antioxidnt Cocktail II.
Antioxidant enzyme catalysts such as SOD and catalase are more powerful than typical antioxidants, and can reduce levels of oxidative stress in the body down to very “young” levels. Try: Source Naturals GliSODin Powder.
Betaine HCL is a stomach acid, production of which decreases as we age. Many so-called “signs of aging” are caused by low stomach acid, which in turn causes poor absorption of food. Try: The Vitamin Shoppe Betaine HCL with Pepsin.
Chromium, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Benfotiamine reduce cravings and blood sugar swings, and carnosine potentially reduces the damage caused by glycated proteins in the body. Try: Nature’s Way Blood Sugar.
COQ10, L-Carnitine, and other mitochondrial energy boosters help make fuel in the cells available for use by the body. Try: Life Extension Mitochondrial Energy Optimizer with BioPQQ.
Melatonin protects against a long list of age-related health risks. Many doctors recommend taking smaller dosages, such as 2 mg or less. Try: The Vitamin Shoppe Melatonin 1 mg.
A Good Multivitamin. Look for one with folate (not folic acid), and the methylcobalamin form of B12, as well as an array of minerals in their best forms. Try: Doctor’s Best Best Multiple.
N-Acetylcysteine boosts glutathione levels, which is one of the most important body-wide antioxidants. Try: Doctor’s Best NAC Detox Regulators.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids are not made by the body and are absolutely critical to every cell in the body. Try: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) has demonstrated in more than 3,000 studies that it can rejuvenate brain cell membranes and cognitive function. Try: The Vitamin Shoppe Phosphatidylserine Complex.
and 7-Keto DHEA, can offer incredible hormone balancing benefits. It’s best to get your levels of DHEA tested before using it. DHEA levels drop as we age, and with poor sleep or coffee use. Its effects on weight, mood, and libido are well-established. Pregnenolone is viewed as a milder precursor with many of the same effects. Try: Nature’s Plus Ultra Pregnenolone.
Probiotics. Choose a brand that contains superior strains of good bacteria as well as prebiotics. Try: Essential Formulas Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics, Original Formula, which needs no refrigeration.
Taurine benefits the eyes and the liver and improves digestion. Try: Solgar Taurine 500 MG.
Resveratrol has antioxidant properties that caused cancer cell death (apoptosis) in non-human studies. Try: Reserveage Nutrition Resveratrol 250 mg.
Vitamin C is not made by the human body, so it is critical that we get it from food and supplements. Liposomal vitamin C is better absorbed. Try: Mercola Liposomal Vitamin C.
Vitamin D is critical to basic immunity and reduction in all-cause mortality. Try: The Vitamin Shoppe Vitamin D3.
Vitamin K is critical for eliminating excess calcium so that it does not wind up in arteries or contribute to cancer risk. The risk of excess calcium wreaking havoc grows with hormonal changes. Try: The Vitamin Shoppe Vitamin K2.
Nutrition expert Kat James is founder of the Total Transformation Program and author of the award-winning book The Truth About Beauty. To learn more about her nutrition programs, including the Total Transformation program and TeleProgram, go to informedbeauty.com.