What causes aging?
Aging is what happens when tissue breaks down more quickly than it renews.
According to Dr. Karlis Ullis, who has performed extensive research on Olympic-grade athletes, there is a threshold over which peak training can be exceeded, and which will catapult the body into a state similar to rapid aging. Just like it is for athletes, there is a critical point between cellular anabolism (cell renewal) and catabolism (cell breakdown or death) that determines an individual’s rate of aging.
Hormones play a critical role in the rate of tissue repair. Sub-optimal hormone levels will only achieve sub-optimal tissue repair. An individual who is very active will put more stress on the body triggering more tissue break down. To compensate for the increased activity level there needs to be a closer attention paid to the state of the individual’s hormonal system to prevent rapid aging.
Nutrient-deficiencies also play a critical role in aging, as well as the shortening of DNA at the end of each chromosome, known as a telomere. When cell division occurs, telomeres become shorter, placing a limit on the amount of times cells divide before death. Researchers are discovering methods to cease the shortening of telomeres, which slows down the aging process.
Scientists are also using stem cell and regenerative medical intervention. Reducing degeneration of the nervous system, according to Dr. David Williams, can impede the aging process in noticeable ways.
What happens to the body during the aging process?
As the body ages, many changes occur. Here are some of the conditions that the human body experiences during the aging process:
- Lowered cognition abilities
- Increased fat levels
- Gray hair
- Wrinkling of skin
- Loss of elasticity in eye lens leading to increased far-sightedness
- Lowered levels of smell and taste
- Decreased bone density
- Decreased kidney and bladder function
- Lower lung capacity
- Reduced muscle tone, strength, and grip
- Reduced sexual drive and libido
How can we counteract the aging process?
In an aging body, it becomes increasingly more challenging to obtain proper levels of critical nutrients from our diets. This is particularly true due to the efficiency of how our digestive tracts function, which decreases with age. As a result, nutrient absorption becomes compromised.
The following are important to supplement as a measure against the effects of aging:
- Antioxidants - reduces damage from oxidative stress in the body and damage by free-radicals, which typically increases with age
- Probiotics - boosts digestive tract / immune system function and keep the body's vulnerability to illness and chronic disease at a minimum
- Omega 3 essential fatty acid - especially to counteract effects on cognitive function such as memory loss, dementia and neurological disease
Researchers have discovered that the production of hormone FGF21 (responsible for aging) can be reduced with exercise. This hormone also supports the secretion of immune boosting endorphins, detoxification, and healthy blood sugar levels and bones.
Optimizing your hormones
Age-related decline in hormone production is well-known and understood by health practitioners and scientists. Specific hormone therapy protocols and monitoring are intended to address hormone deficiency which can lead to chronic health issues and premature aging. The following hormone imbalances are typically monitored and considered to return health to optimal levels:
- Cortisol - known as the "fight or flight hormone" which enables the body to deal with stress, this hormone is also responsible for controlling blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. When this hormone is out-of balance it can cause the markers of Metabolic Syndrome including weight gain, blood sugar instability, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
- Insulin (produced by the pancreas) - supports healthy cellular function by driving the energy source of the cell, glucose, through the cell wall to be converted to energy in the mitochondria.
- DHEA - deficiencies are associated with chronic inflammation, depression, immune dysfunction, excess body fat, increased percentage of cancer, cognitive decline, osteoporosis, some complications of Type II diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. As DHEA can decline as much as 95% in those who reach age 85, addressing this hormone deficiency with bioidentical hormone replacement is warranted.
- Estrogen - the safest form of estrogen is Estriol, a weak estrogen that is a fully detoxified estrogen which requires higher dosage levels. It provides a protective effect and can guard against maternal breast cancer in pregnant women and relieving of menopausal symptoms. An optimum level of estrogen can support healthy brain function, prevent osteoporosis and benefit the heart.
- Progesterone - typically the first hormone to decline in women. Primarily manufactured in the adrenal glands and ovaries, it is an essential hormone for gestation to happen. Symptoms of deficiency include night sweats, hot flashes, depression and loss of well-being.
- Testosterone - essential for men and women alike. Produced at one-tenth the level in a man's body in the adrenal glands and ovaries in women, and is critical to maintenance of sexual drive, bone health and muscle strength. The lack of this hormone can promote development of breast cancer or even heart disease in those who have had hysterectomies.
- Thyroid - this hormone regulates metabolism, and breaks down energy from iodine and the amino acid tyrosine found in food consumed. Before administering hormone therapy, seeking the cause to what is impeding the body from a lack of ability to convert the thyroid hormone T4 to its active form T3 is critical. The first step is to address the cause of the conversion problem (i.e. inflammation, nutritional deficiency), in the hopes that you may not need replacement hormone. To get a more accurate thyroid function test it is important to not only test TSH, free T3 and free T4, but also reverse T3 and whether you are producing antibodies against your thyroid. It is important to understand that even though the blood tests are normal, your thyroid can still be dysfunctional.
Dr. Jonathan Wright, M.D., an advocate and creator of biological alternatives to conventional drugs has extensive experience in hormone replacement therapy and pioneered the use of bioidentical estrogens and DHEA in the 1980s. He and Ed Thorpe, a compounding pharmacist, were the first who offered women viable options to synthetic, conventional pharmaceuticals used so pervasively in our culture.
“You need to use natural means to restore the body’s hormone balance,” says Dr. Wright, member of the Life Extension Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board. “Bioidentical hormones are superior to patentable drugs because they are exact copies of what the body produces. They work better than the deformed, inexact copies that are required to get a patent.”
He goes on to say: “By replacing the hormones that decline as time goes by, you can sustain your health and promote longevity,” asserts Dr. Wright. “It’s never too late, either. I have had patients in their eighties who saw their health improve. For example, in cell cultures, gender-specific bioidentical estrogen or testosterone supplementation slows the accumulation of tau protein, neurofibrillary tangle, and amyloid in human neurons, reducing the potential for Alzheimer’s disease. The bioidentical versions of these two hormones reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis as well. By returning to the physiological hormone levels you had earlier in your life, you can slow down the aging process and maximize your quality of life.”
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