How To Live To Be A Spritely Old Codger0
Words by Catie Payne
Despite the incredibly glamorous fad of carking it at age 27, forever immortalized as a leather-clad rock star, we in the natural health industry are more concerned with the preservation of life. Hazy hangovers and premature crows feet just ain’t really our bag.
Living to a ripe old age, looking less like a puckered medjool date and more like a plump and juicy mango, is surely an aspiration in which most of us can partake. Of course, remaining ridiculously good looking is a secondary motivation; youthful clarity, limber limbs, freedom from degenerative disease, open-mindedness, humour and a fully operational bladder are assets to not only preserve, but also cherish.
There is a quote from Nora Gedgaudas, cavewoman extraordinaire and author of ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’ that, at the tender age of 23, always gives me supreme hope for the future. She simultaneously empowers us and urges us to take responsibility for our health, now. Today. This very nanosecond. For the quality of our coming years depends on it. She says, “The commonality of degenerative diseases does not make these diseases a normal part of ageing, or even remotely inevitable”.
Bingo. A pearl of enlightenment, challenging the accepted norms of growing old disgracefully. No one wants to end their days a wilted head of cabbage, pickling in their own juices, so let’s stop accepting this dreary fate and defy convention!
Luckily I, along with Nora, believe that we can alter the course of our destinies with simple, intelligent nutrition, an active imagination, healthy movement and an unwavering conviction that we deserve to live long and vibrant lives. (In short, follow the advice of Mel’s blog!).
With the basic dietary recommendations of unprocessed, fresh, organic foods; an abundance of healthy fats to support cognitive function and cellular health; proper hydration; traditionally prepared foods – slow-cooked, fermented and nurtured into being; and the avoidance of modern agents of disease (chemicals & pesticides, sugars, gluten, hydrogenated and oxidized oils and trans fats), we can cartwheel in the direction of longevity.
I’ve been making a mental list of extra quirky, edible and slightly esoteric tips I’ve come across in my study of Naturopathy and Herbal medicine, as well as wisdom straight from my own incredible elders. I thought I’d share some of my anti-senility secrets!
- Turmeric. Yep. That luminous Indian spice that stains your fingers smokers-yellow and has more systemic health benefits than I care to list. It is one of the most powerful whole-body anti-inflammatories in herbal medicine, with actions including the downregulation of mechanisms driving cancer-cell proliferation and upregulation of the body’s ability to halt tumor growth in it’s tracks. (This incredible balancing ability of herbs continually astounds me). Curcurmin (one of the main active constituents in turmeric; though dozens work synergistically) is also an extremely potent antioxidant, and gently stimulates the liver with a marked protective effect. With more research on the way, I have no hesitation in putting all my pasture-raised eggs in one, turmeric-filled basket. The best way to eat it? I buy fresh turmeric root and grate it into eggs everyday – to get geeky, the lecithin in the egg yolk as well as the fat content increase curcurmin bioavailability. Add some black pepper (which contains piperine) and the absorption rate skyrockets. Also throw in curries, stews, when pan frying – the mild flavour lends itself to an array of dishes. The dried powder is also a fantastic addition; place one teaspoon in your dinner (or smoothie if you’re game!) and prepare for immortality!
- Slow-cooking. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about the nerdy science behind blackened, charred & fried foods, and found that this kind of preparation creates a lot of something called AGE’s (advanced-glycation end-products). The acronym says it all; these pesky compounds wreck haggard havoc in the body and contribute to ageing in a monstrous way. How to avoid them? Long, slow oven roasted meats (90-100 degrees), steaming, lightly sautéing and avoiding burning those patriotic shrimp on the barbie. Un-Australian.
- Flossing. I used to think this next level of dental hygiene was synonymous with a kind of attention to detail that was entirely superfluous. A waste of time. Just showing off, really. I couldn’t understand what all the floss was about. That was until I wised up as to the astounding health benefits of this simple, five-minute practice. Turns out, our oral hygiene reflects (and informs) the health of our entire being. All digestion starts in the mouth, and it follows that this should be a clean receptacle for our food. Furthermore, bacteria from the oral cavity can travel downwards, affecting the heart, gut and triggering inflammation in the rest of the body. There is insurmountable evidence that flossing daily prevents disease, and by extension lengthens our jolly little lives.
- Quit sugar! I know, I know. It’s all the rage. Everyone’s talking about it. But if ever there was a sincerely justifiable fad, this is it. Sugar isn’t called the white devil for nothing. How is it implicated in ageing? Glad you asked! As I bored you with in my previous post on AGEs, sugars tend to bind with amino acids, thus inhibiting their original function. Collagen and elastin (i.e the anti-wrinkle sheriffs) are composed of these very building blocks….lightbulb moment! Sugar has a host of other unwanted internal side effects, such as the depression of immune function, increased inflammation and elevated insulin levels. All these states are heavily implicated in shortened lifespan. Wean yourself off sugar (Sarah Wilson’s eBook comes highly recommended!) and reap the life-long, long-life benefits!
- Walking. Another no-brainer (or brain preserver, as it were). Walking is another easily overlooked key to a long and leisurely life, however it is imperative that we keep moving and mobile. My incredible Nan, a beast of a retiree (who walked the City 2 Surf aged 82!) upholds her morning walk as one of the secrets continued agility, flexibility (both physical and mental) and sprightliness. Studies show the less sedentary we are, the better our chances of meandering past the century mark. If walking doesn’t tickle your pickle, try any form of extended and leisurely movement. Yoga, cycling, swimming and frolicking amongst greenery are all wonderful substitutes.
Although some of these suggestions may appear bland and obvious, I urge you to consider their brilliant simplicity. Many of the most effective habits are those that can be replicated, maintained and follow what we know to be essential for a functional and happy life. So what are you waiting for?! Grate some turmeric over a sugar-free slow roast, floss your teeth while it’s cooking and take a lengthy walk around the park. Repeat.
Catie Payne is a writer and Food as Medicine coach. She regales whoever cares to listen with tales of whole foods, quirky herbal tips and ways to generate vibrant health and happiness at her blog, Head Plant Health.
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