Written by Elizabeth Boham, MD
Improve Your Cellular Age

Improve Your Cellular Age

Our bodies are meant to age, they change with each passing year and we may notice both internal and external signs that things aren’t working the way they used to. But, it’s important to note, that though aging is a natural process, many aspects of our modern world can unnecessarily accelerate the process and lead to a much more rapid decline of function and appearance.

The good news is that with scientific breakthroughs we’re able to understand, better than ever before, how rapidly we are aging and what types of interventions can help slow the process and help us walk into the future feeling healthy and confident.

Getting to Know Our Telomeres

If you’re not familiar, telomeres are like little caps on the ends of our chromosomes, that protect genetic information from becoming damaged during cell replication. When the telomeres become too short to allow for replication, the cell eventually dies—a natural part of the cellular life cycle. Because telomeres become shorter as a cell ages, we can test the length of telomeres to gain a picture of the aging process.

In looking at telomere length, an abnormal increase in telomere loss can tell us there may possibly be an immunoproliferative disorder (the inability to handle oxidative stressors), metabolic abnormalcy, or progressive chronic disease that is present. Chronic diseases like diabetes, insulin resistance, and other inflammatory conditions can all contribute to decreases in telomere length.

At The Ultrawellness Center we use Telomere Testing, to gain a fuller understanding of telomere status in order to implement the most effective wellness solutions.

Anti-Aging Diet & Intermittent Fasting

There are many lifestyle choices that can lead to an increased loss of telomere length, thus encouraging the aging process. Foods that increase inflammation and oxidative stress are the main culprits, such as those containing refined carbohydrates, artificial and refined sugars, and trans fats. It’s clear that packaged, processed, junk foods are going to be the worst for our health because they usually contain all of these ingredients at once.

Studies have shown a diet rich in phytochemicals from colorful plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, and teas can reduce oxidative stress and slow the processes of telomere shortening. Try to “eat the rainbow” every day and you can be confident you’re getting a wide variety of beneficial anti-aging nutrients. Foods like berries, spinach, peppers, cabbage, garlic, and carrots are just some of the amazing options that will start turning back time for your body.

Alternately, fasting and calorie restriction have also been shown to have healthful benefits for our cells. There are several mechanisms behind the helpful effects of restricting calories, such as improved cellular turnover and hormonal balance and reduce oxidative stress, leading to anti-aging effects. Due to the difficult nature of calorie restriction and the adverse effects malnutrition if practiced long-term, intermittent fasting is a more balanced approach for most people. This practice of waiting longer periods of time in between meals is associated with drops in insulin and increases in human growth hormone, both of which make weight management more successful, plus intermittent fasting provides those same benefits of calorie restriction through reducing oxidative stress and boosting cellular repair.

I usually recommend people try to fast for at least 12 hours overnight and for 6 hours between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner. Everyone is different, so some people may need some snacks. Others may find it helpful to start with shorter fasts and work their way up to longer ones. Many people take intermittent fasting a step further and practice extended fasts with significant calorie restriction a few times per week. It’s important to note that intermittent fasting is not the right approach for everyone—those who are underweight, fatigued, pregnant, breastfeeding, or dealing with an eating disorder should use a different approach to support their nutritional needs. If intermittent fasting is something you are interested in implementing, I recommend that you work with a nutritionist to make sure you are doing this effectively and safely.

Lifestyle Changes

Body weight and composition also influence telomere length. Decreasing excess visceral fat (intra-abdominal fat) is helpful to decrease any enhanced aging that might be occurring (due to inflammation) while also reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. An easy way to assess your belly fat can be done by measuring your waist to hip ratio. An ideal W/H ratio is <0.8 for women and <0.9 for men.

To take your W/H ratio measurements:

  • For your waist, wrap a measuring tape across your back, just above the highest point of hip bone or ½ way between here and the bottom of your 10th rib. Be sure the tape is horizontal to floor, just above the navel.
  • Tape should be snug but not compressing skin, you should be able to breathe normally.
  • For your hips, measure at the widest point, right below the bones of your pelvis and around your buttocks.
  • Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

Measuring your w/h ratio monthly is a great way to track your progress.

Exercise is an important lifestyle choice with anti-aging effects that also helps maintain a healthy weight, possibly by producing a compound that acts to protect the telomeres. Including both aerobic and resistance training into your weekly routine are ideal for supporting a lean body composition. It’s also important to get at least 8 hours of sound, restful sleep each night, so that your body has time to relax and repair.

Stress reduction techniques are another valuable tool to slow the aging process in the body. We know that stress increases inflammatory hormonal imbalances which contribute to oxidative stress within the body, and it’s been found that meditation can reduce the stress arousal process and may also assist with maintaining healthy telomeres.

Beneficial Supplements

While diet and lifestyle are cornerstones for a healthy aging process, supplements can lend an extra hand in making sure you get all the necessary nutrients for optimal health. I recommend a good quality multivitamin—look for one with the methylated version of folate, instead of folic acid, to support your neurological, cardiovascular, and detoxification systems to be their best. A high-quality omega-3 supplement is also really beneficial for the skin, brain, and cardiovascular function while fighting inflammation in the body, and vitamin D is a very powerful fat-soluble vitamin that many people are deficient in, playing an important role in bone health and hormonal balance.

As you can see, there are many interventions you can take to slow the aging process and support your body’s ability to stay strong and youthful. A colorful, whole-foods diet, intermittent fasting, regular exercise, restful sleep, and stress reduction are all accessible and effective practices that will help you live a long and vibrant life.

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