What longevity lifestyle will you choose to improve your health now and during your golden years? … Here we glimpse a look at lifestyle changes endorsed by Naturopathic and Orthomolecular Professionals.
The BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND provides insight on Nutritional and Naturopathic approaches that matter most and have the potential to benefit both your physical and mental health. In this series we look at the treatment approaches and body-mind-links of aging, tiredness, mental performance, work performance, digestive problems, food intolerances, stress, cardiovascular health, insomnia, weight problems, and chronic disease. Winter 2014 blog themes rotate between the topics of longevity, immunity, and weight problems. Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.
Longevity (Part 3): The Ideal Longevity Lifestyle – A Naturopathic Perspective
Longevity – A Three-Part Blog Series
Longevity – A Naturopathic & Orthomolecular Balancing Act
As we age, all systems must function efficiently to get the most out of life. The previous two longevity blogs focused on antioxidant and vascular health longevity factors. A remaining group of longevity factors are found within a separate group of body system imbalances that when corrected help us to maintain optimal physical and mental health. The primary considerations here include balancing thyroid and adrenal metabolism, eliminating heavy metals, restoring methylation (B12 pathway) status, and correcting protein breakdown/deficiency. The secondary imbalances include deficiencies in copper, iron, vitamin D, niacin, calcium, magnesium, chromium, and more.
Here we step away from the biochemical balancing act and look at good habits associated with this ‘concept of longevity’.
Good habits described herein are a cross-over of healthy living principles adopted by a wide array of Naturopaths, Chiropractors, and Orthomolecular Medical Professionals.
1. Develop Good Habits- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
To live the healthy lifestyle, we need to develop a routine of good habits that are maintained by the ‘force of habit’.
To incorporate a sustainable lifestyle change we need to devote energy to initiate the change; then by repetition transfer it to a ‘force of habit’, a state of change that requires minimal energy to maintain.
2. Eat Three Solid Protein Meals/Day- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
Protein use and assimilation are integral to health. The body uses protein for structural purposes, to make enzymes (e.g. digestive enzymes), metabolites (energy pathway molecules, neurotransmitters), to carry nutrients and metabolites, to remove toxins, and to make antioxidants (glutathione, SOD).
Meat and eggs are considered the highest quality protein sources and I have several blogs on maintaining adequate protein nutriture for those that eat meat and eggs.
The body uses meat and egg protein well and wastes much less than it would if the diet were predominantly legume or dairy based. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t eat legumes and dairy, it just means that we need to be balanced and get the most out of the food we eat.
Vegetarians can maintain adequate protein but with a few caveats. B12 (which is more abundant in meat) deficiency is common in the general population so you do not have to be vegetarian to be B12 deficient. That being said strict vegetarians derive protein from vegetable or grain sources but invariably require separate vitamin B12 supplementation. Legumes and grains (if tolerated) are useful protein sources for vegetarians.
If you are vegetarian and opt to eat some eggs or dairy (if not intolerant) then you can get some higher quality protein in that way. If not there are amino acid protein supplements or powders that can help; some of these protein products are tailored to help prevent protein breakdown, which can be an issue for non-vegetarians that are protein deficient as well.
3. Eat a Big Breakfast- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
It is said that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. This adage dates its roots in Oriental medicine where we see the general health recommendation of eating the largest meal at breakfast time followed by subsequent meals that are adequate but not as big. The ‘energy’ channel associated with digestion is the ‘spleen’ and it is receptive to assimilating food between 7-9 am. Today we see several longevity and weight loss diets that focus on eating a big breakfast.
Although simple as it may sound, many have difficulty with this. Many adults and kids leave the house without eating or after eating only a fast carbohydrate last minute meal. Often the morning meal resorts to ‘comforting’ foods that require little preparation. If your morning food selection is a gluten-containing cereal with cow’s milk or some flour product (toast, croissants, bagels, or muffins) with coffee or juice, then you lack high quality protein to help you throughout the day.
An alternate more healthy choice might include a high quality protein (eggs, meat) breakfast along with a warm cereal made of gluten-free grains, carrots, and honey. For vegetarians a supplemental protein supplement is often necessary.
One way to get in a big breakfast is to cut down on preparation time by eating dinner for breakfast.
In today’s fast paced society, eating left over dinner meals for breakfast or lunch is a convenient choice. When you prepare night time meals that are nutritious, tasty, and keep well you can make extra portions for the next day. Although left overs should be consumed within 1-2 days, ideally they should be consumed the next day. [In oriental medicine it is said that left overs retain their chi when consumed sooner rather than later.]
Along with the big breakfast scenario is the concept that eating too much too late in the day has negative effects and yes that is the case.
Don’t eat large meals late in the evening; the body does not easily assimilate food at this time and it often disturbs restorative sleep quality which is important for life long health.
4. Avoid Cold Foods and Drinks- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
Don’t eat right out of fridge. Cold temperature foods lower your body temperature and deter digestive enzymes from reaching their reaction potential. This inhibits food breakdown and ultimately lowers the number of longevity nutrients that we derive from food.
Drink water without ice; remember to ask for room temperature water without ice when you eat out.
Warm foods, especially liquids, with high nutritive value, are received well by the digestive tract.
Soups for example are warming and a great food choice. Many consider soups the most nutritive meal that you can consume. Soups loaded with high quality protein (e.g. meat, eggs) have nutrients that are readily absorbed.
5. Eat Sweets in the Morning- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
To reduce evening cravings, eat sweets in the morning. There is an obvious limit to this, so keep that in mind. In Oriental medicine, the ‘spleen’ is the digestive energy ‘organ’ and it is most receptive to sweets between 7-9 am. Eating sweets in the morning and high quality protein with main meals will dramatically reduce night time cravings for sugar and junk food. This is especially important if you have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
Fruits and vegetables have good antioxidants that you don’t want to miss out on. Two fruit per day should be sufficient for that purpose.
The fruit sugar fructose is a fast sugar that does not provide sustained energy to the same degree as protein or fat.
Vegetables are the ideal carbohydrate source; eat a colorful array of vegetables daily.
6. Don’t Mix Fruit with Main Meals- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
As much as possible, don’t mix fruit with main meals as the pancreas in one digestive effort has difficulty releasing a full array of digestive enzyme to assimilate both fruit and other starchy, protein, or fatty foods.
7. Smoothies for Your Health- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
Smoothies are becoming a mainstay in today’s busy lifestyle. Fruit smoothies with added greens and some non-dairy milk, at room temperature, are great. For optimal absorption these should be consumed away from main meals.
If this is your only option as a meal replacement then you need to ensure that you add an adequate amount of a non-allergenic amino acid protein powder/supplement – this is ideal for vegetarians!
Smoothies are not intended to be a meal replacement but can be packed with high quality nutrients. Ideally it’s better to eat a separate main meal with high quality protein (e.g. meat, eggs).
8. Don’t Eat Foods That Make You Sick!- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
It is important to eat a variety of foods and to have a colorful plate of food at mealtime. That being said, you have to avoid foods that make you sick.
This is a hard learned principle for some but the benefits are rewarding. A good read on this topic can be found in: Hoffer, A. Dr Hoffer’s ABC of Natural Nutrition for Children with Learning Disabilities, Behavior Disorders, and Mental State Dysfunctions. Kingston, Ontario. Quarry Press Inc., 1999. The principles discussed apply for both adults and kids.
Although it is a struggle to eliminate specific food items, especially those that you enjoy, it can be accomplished if you approach it methodically. Gluten, one of the most likely protein allergen in society today, can illicit reactions that deplete your immune system, make you tired and weak, cause digestive problems, skin problems, mood problems, psychosis, and more.
If you are trying to eliminate gluten, it is best not to keep gluten containing foods around the house and it is best to have viable alternate options so you don’t feel deprived.
To do this, determine 7-14 winner recipes (ideally those that the whole family enjoys) that provide enough variety to make mealtime enjoyable. If you avoid gluten you should also avoid gliadin, the protein found in oats; both are structurally similar and cause similar allergenic reactions. A good gluten-free, high-protein recipe archive is found in my blog series. It will take some work but it is rewarding and much easier once you make a list of recipes that you enjoy.
You should never do this diet if you are avoiding gluten at the expense of reducing your caloric intake and essentially starving yourself.
Finally, save the re-introduction phase (the phase when you introduce a food sensitive item after a period of at least 3-24 weeks elimination) for a weekend. After eating a food sensitive item you should be able to observe and acknowledge the negative effects. This acknowledgement will serve as a force to keep you compliant, this is called negative re-enforcement. Every time you are exposed to this food sensitive item an undesirable effect emerges and that effect propels you to avoid it.
9. Treats are Acceptable- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
No one would accept a healthy diet without getting some sweets and there are great alternatives available. Again, moderation is important here. Many gluten-free processed products are out there for the choosing, and consumed in moderation for that purpose alone should be okay. Home-made alternatives are often better – frozen bananas dipped in dark chocolate with gluten-free sprinkles, popcorn, vegetables with dip, etc. Be creative. Good ideas for this are also found in my gluten-free, high-protein recipe archive.
10. Avoid Stress- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
Stress is a ‘killer’ and often triggers thyroid and adrenal dysfunction and heart conditions that can worsen with time. See my blog series on workplace stress, post-traumatic stress, and mineral deficient stress.
11. Hydrotherapy for Life- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
Many Naturopaths will tell you to alternate hot and cold water while taking a shower, then end the shower in cold water.
‘Cold water’ in this context needs to be a tolerable cold and the healthier you are the more able you are to tolerate colder temperature extremes. This alternating hot/cold therapy boosts your immune system, a body system that consumes a huge amount of energy reserve. This is important because in low energy states our body systems are inefficient and mood tends to be low (it is said that ‘you can’t be depressed if you have energy’).
You can also get in the habit of doing neutral baths with Epsom salt, this can be very calming for adults and kids, especially those with difficulty falling or staying asleep.
12. Good Sleep Habits- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
For good sleep hygiene and principles, see my blog series on insomnia and good sleep habits.
13. Get your Exercise- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
Exercise is healthy for adults and kids. Exercise improves sleep and reduces stress. Get outside, get fresh air and exercise. Naturopathic Pioneers endorsed ‘air baths’ which were outdoor hikes in the country. Walking may be considered a passive exercise but it is very healthy. Take the stairs whenever you can. Active exercise also has an obvious health advantage. Sports involvement can be an easy way to get exercise; any sports are good and team sports have social benefits. Raising your heart rate for at least 15 minutes a day is a great goal; it can be as simple as walking the dog or using a bike for commuting. It is important to get exercise on both weekdays and weekends.
14. Reading versus Electronics- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
Though both reading and electronics activities are passive in terms of physical exercise, the difference is in the stimulation. Adults and kids can become easily overstimulated (dopamine surges) with electronics and there needs to be a balance. Much of this concept is covered in my blog on The Nature Deficiency Syndrome.
15. Health Bowels, Healthy Life- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
We need to eliminate efficiently as this is a sign that we are absorbing nutrients well. It is important to have adequate fiber and water intake to aid in efficient elimination processes. We need to consume adequate amounts of vegetables, other fiber-containing foods, and water every day.
There is no nutrient value in food that sits in the lower digestive tract for more than 3 days and the large intestine is 9-11 feet long in adults and 3-6 feet long in kids. Based on these premises, total stool clearance per day should be 2-3 feet for adults and 1-2 feet for kids.
Frequent and sufficient bowel movements also aid in general detoxification which is especially important if you have heavy metals that you need to eliminate.
16. One-On-One Time with Others- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
We all need a supportive environment. It is important to take time out for things that you can do with others. Seasonal activities are great for one-on-one time; sports such as skiing, snowboarding, swimming, fishing, camping, etc. Experiencing nature to its fullest can be grounding for adults and kids. It can be as simple as walking the dog, playing street hockey, riding a bike, or taking a nature walk. Other one-on-one activities include playing a quick game of cards, or involving others in chores, woodworking, crafts, or cooking.
17. Laughter- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
If we are constantly bombarded with the rigidity of life stresses it makes sense to have dramatic relief.
All of us can intercede and lighten the load by using a little humor. Inside family jokes for example are a great way to lessen the seriousness of life.
18. Good Posture and Stretching- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
Good posture can improve our mental state. It is not uncommon to see adults and kids with poor sitting postures or poor gait. Instead of slouching, maintain vertical alignment. Self-monitoring of posture involves awareness which is not a passive process. Daily stretching can be a good way to reset and encourage vertical alignment and it has the added benefit of loosening muscles and relieving stress; this can be done while watching television if need be. Back packs should be worn on both shoulders to distribute weight evenly.
19. Yoga- A Longevity Lifestyle Principle
We are seeing more and more people incorporating yoga into their lifestyle. Type A personalities do very well with yoga. Yoga reduces stress and improves concentration.
Disclaimer: Information provided is not to be used for self-assessment, diagnosis or treatment. We advise the public to discuss these topics with their health care provider or book an appointment with our Toronto clinic.