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Reduce the Effects of Aging with Natural Supplements

by Annie Osborn, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

By supplementing with certain nutrients, one can experience a sense of greater well-being and youthfulness, increased quality of life, and an extended lifespan. 

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Are you feeling the effects of aging? Whether you are in your early 40s or late 80s, you may experience some of the following signs or symptoms: increased skin wrinkling or sagging; weight gain (especially around the belly and/or hips); increased body pains or inflammation; decrease in memory; low energy or lack of stamina; decrease in muscle strength or mass; increased heart problems (high cholesterol, blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, etc); and vision problems, such as needing stronger glasses.

While the degeneration process inherent in aging is inevitable, the visible and internal effects of aging can be significantly reduced with the use of natural supplements. By supplementing with certain nutrients, one can experience a sense of greater well-being and youthfulness, increased quality of life, and an extended lifespan. 

The most effective utilization of supplements requires a foundation of proper diet, lifestyle, and exercise. No supplement can compensate for deficiencies in these areas. A healthy diet consisting of good quality whole foods--proteins, vegetables, grains, and fruits--and excluding sugar and allergenic foods is fundamental.  Research has shown that individuals with a lean body mass (calorie restricted diet) have a significantly longer lifespan.  

Anti-oxidants such as glutathione scavenge free radicals and promote detoxification via the liver. Free radicals are among the top contributing factors in aging. They are known to accelerate the aging process by damaging cells through oxidation. Foods high in anti-oxidants include blueberries, green and yellow vegetables, and green tea.

Other anti-oxidant nutrients include alpha lipoic acid, grape seed extract, vitamin C, and coenzyme Q10, which powers the cell’s vital energy, and protects and supports the heart. 

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is important for healthy aging as it supports transcription of DNA and thus proper cell replication. Cells are the fundamental unit of every living thing. Healthy cell structure and replication are crucial for vibrant aging. RNA, extracted from brewer’s yeast, has been shown to stabilize cell processes, and increase synapse function as well as short-term memory. For increased brain function or memory, also consider acetyl-L-carnitine, vinpocetine, phosphatidylserine (PS) or gingko biloba.  

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are important because they support the integrity of the cell structure. They feed the brain, which is 60% fat. EFAs play a major role in reducing joint or other inflammation, and can prevent plaque buildup in arteries. Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA) found in fish oils and flax seed are deficient in the typical American diet. 

EFAs also nurture and tonify the skin. Another vital skin supplement is hyalauronic acid, which helps retain moisture, regenerate skin elasticity, and lubricate arthritic joints. Hyalauronic acid can be taken internally or applied topically as a cream.  

Herbs effective for anti-aging include ginseng, maca, and tribulus. These adaptagenic herbs work by supporting the immune system to reduce stress, tension, and enhance endurance, stamina, and vitality. Vision health is supported by bilberry, an herb containing phytochemicals that nourish the eyes and enhance visual function.  

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and are fundamental for longevity. The amino acid L-Carnosine has been shown in clinical studies to protect against age-related degradation of protein, extending cellular lifespan. L-Carnitine can protect the heart and liver, and aid in weight loss by increasing fat metabolism. Because muscle strength and mass deteriorate as we age, L-Creatine can also be helpful. L-Phenylalanine promotes vitality and alertness and can decrease pain.  

Enzymes are crucial to increase absorption of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbohydrates. Many people lose the ability to properly assimilate nutrients as they age. A supplement containing pancreatin (or vegetable enzymes if vegetarian) can spark those digestive juices. Because most people have difficulty fully digesting or breaking down proteins, protease is especially important as well. 

Aging need not be a discouraging process. The wisdom we acquire as we grow older can help sustain a fulfilling life. With supplemental support, we can reduce pain, fatigue, and inflammation, while increasing mental and visual acuity, physical vitality, stamina and an overall sense of joy.  

Annie Osborn has been practicing acupuncture and naturopathic medicine in Santa Rosa, CA for over 10 years.  For more information call 707-547-0500.

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Living Well: A Guide to Anti-Aging
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