Optimal Health for Youthfulness

Compiled by John G. Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac. Edited by Barbara Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
There is a wealth of information available on how foods, herbs and nutrients can be helpful in keeping us fit and youthful in our older years.  Barbara and I have tried to consolidate this information here in order that you may be able to see at a glance how these foods, herbs and nutrients may help you maintain your youthful state of vim and vigor.

BLOOD CIRCULATION AND HEART HEALTH
· Bioflavonoids – Appear to offer protection against heart disease.  Researchers speculate that the anti-oxidant action of bioflavonoids may prevent the oxidizing of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which can cause atherosclerosis.  Food sources include the white skin and segment part of citrus fruits, buckwheat, red and yellow onions, blackberries, cherries, rose hip tea and apples.

· Butcher’s Broom – Contains compounds called ruscogins that are similar in structure to steroids.  French studies have shown that butcher’s broom is a vasoconstrictor, it strengthens veins and reduces capillary fragility.  Many European studies show that, when used over an extended period of time, it can greatly relieve the pain and swelling associated with varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

· Fo-Ti (He Shou Wu) – Several Chinese studies have shown fo-ti can lower blood cholesterol levels, thus helping to protect against heart attack.  It is also believed to help prevent the hair from turning gray.

·   Garlic – Lowers “bad” cholesterol.  In a recent study at Tulane University, those adults on garlic had an 11% reduction in low-density lipoproteins or “bad” cholesterol versus only a 3% drop in the untreated group.  Caution: Avoid high doses of garlic if you are taking aspirin or other drugs that thin the blood.

· Ginkgo – Although the focus of attention has been on brain circulation, the extracts of ginkgo have also been shown to be effective for peripheral arterial occlusion, angina pectoris, heart attack and for alleviating muscle spasms.  Clinical trials have reportedly found positive influence of ginkgo on vertigo, hearing disturbances, macular degeneration and depression.  Caution: Avoid taking ginkgo if you are taking aspirin or other drugs that thin the blood.

·   Gotu Kola (Centella asciatica) – Compounds in centella have been shown to strengthen and tone veins and capillaries, and centella may be beneficial for problems related to venous insufficiency.  Caution: Do not use during pregnancy or if you have an overactive thyroid.

·   Grapefruit pectin – Pectin, a compound in the pulpy membranes that separate the individual sections in oranges, and especially grapefruits, can lower blood cholesterol levels.

·   Grapeseed extract – Contains unique types of bioflavonoids called proanthocyanidins.  By protecting against free radical assault, grapeseed extract may help prevent weakening of capillaries.  In addition, since vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, and grapeseed extract enhances the performance of vitamin C, it is indirectly involved in collagen production.  According to researchers at Nagasaki University, the bioflavonoids in grapeseed extract have stronger antioxidant activity than vitamin C.  Food sources of proanthocyanidins include cranberries, cola nuts, and other fruits and vegetables.

·  Hawthorn (Crataegus) – Pharmacological and clinical studies have shown that hawthorn helps increase the heart’s efficiency by increasing the blood supply to the heart muscle itself and by strengthening contractions.  It has also been shown to improve circulation to the extremities by helping to reduce arterial resistance.

· Potassium – Is important for healthy nervous system and a regular heart rhythm.  It also regulates the transfer of nutrients through cell membranes.  This function has been shown to decrease with age, which may account for some of the circulatory damage, lethargy, and weakness experienced by older people.  Food sources include dairy foods, fish, fruit, legumes, meat, poultry, vegetables, whole grains, and especially apricots, avocados, bananas, brown rice, dates, dulse, gigs, dried fruit, garlic, nuts, potatoes, raisins, and yams.

·   Umbelliferous vegetables – Are rich in antioxidants—carotenoids such as beta-carotene, flavonoids, and phenolic acids.  Researchers believe that antioxidants may prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins, or “bad” cholesterol, which may promote atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.  Food sources include carrots, celery and parsnips.
Note:  For more information on Heart Health you may wish to read our article entitled High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol and Heart Disease on our website.

EYES
· Beta-carotene – Several studies have shown that antioxidants in general and beta-carotene in particular can protect against the formation of cataracts.  Food sources include apricots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, carrots, mangos, peaches and spinach.

· Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Can help prevent damage to the cornea of the eye, which can result in cataracts.  Food sources include cheese, egg yolks, fish, legumes, meat, milk, poultry, spinach, whole grains and yogurt; asparagus, avocados, broccoli, brussel sprouts, currants, dandelion greens, dulse, kelp, leafy greens, mushrooms, molasses, nuts and watercress.

IMMUNE FUNCTION
· Astragalus – Is a Chinese herb that has been shown to stimulate T cells (one of the key white blood cells of the immune system) in healthy animals and helps to normalize the immune system of cancer patients with impaired immunity due to chemotherapy.  It stimulates the production of interferon, a protein produced in cells that fights against viral invasions.

· Folic Acid – Strengthens immunity by aiding in the proper formation and functioning of white blood cells.  It is considered a brain food.  It may also help prevent heart disease by maintaining normal levels of homocysteine.  Food sources include barley, beef, bran, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, cheese, chicken, dates, green leafy vegetables, lamb, legumes, lentils, liver, milk, mushrooms, oranges, split peas, pork, root vegetables, salmon, tuna, wheat germ, whole grains and whole wheat.  Cooking destroys folic acid.  Caution: Do not take high doses of folic acid for extended periods if you have a hormone-related cancer or convulsive disorder.

· Glutathione – Is a potent antioxidant that is synthesized by our own body cells.  Dr. Simin Meydani, Ph.D., found that glutathione gives the immune system a much-needed boost.  It not only improves the blood cells’ ability to produce substances that can help ward off infection, but it also reduces the amount of inflammatory substances produced by the cells.  Glutathione has a greater effect on the sluggish cells of older people than on younger ones.  Food sources include fruits and vegetables; however, cooking can reduce its potency.

· Grapeseed extract – Contains unique types of bioflavonoids called proanthocyanidins that are synergistic with vitamin C; that is, they greatly enhance the activity of vitamin C.  Food sourcesof proanthocyanidins include cranberries, cola nuts, and other fruits and vegetables.

· Selenium – Protects the immune system by preventing the formation of free radicals, which can damage the body.  It works with glutathione peroxidase to prevent damage by free radicals.  It is also involved in the metabolism of prostaglandins.  When combined with vitamin E and zinc, it may also provide relief from an enlarged prostate.  Food sources of selenium include brewer’s yeast, organ and muscle meats, fish, shellfish, grains, cereals, Brazil nuts, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, radishes, garlic, onions, molasses and dairy products.

· Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid – Is an antioxidant that is required for tissue growth and repair, adrenal gland function and for enhancing immunity.  Food sources include berries, citrus fruits, green vegetables, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cantaloupe, collards, kale, mangos, onions, papayas, green peas, persimmons, pineapple, spinach, strawberries and tomatoes.

· Yogurt – May help to maintain normal immune function.  In a University of California study, people who ate yogurt with live cultures had substantially fewer colds and allergy symptoms than those who did not.
Note:  For more information on immunity we invite you to read our article entitled Immune System Enhancement on our website.

MEMORY, BRAIN AND NERVES
· Biotin – Promotes healthy nerve tissue and bone marrow.  One hundred mg daily may prevent hair loss in some men.  Food sources include brewer’s yeast, cooked egg yolks, meat, milk, poultry, saltwater fish, soybeans and whole grains.

· Blueberries, strawberries and spinach – A recent Tufts University study on rats that were fed the equivalent of half a cup a day of blueberries shoed an improvement in balance, coordination and short-term memory.  Rats fed strawberry and spinach showed some improvement in memory.

· Choline – Is needed for the proper transmission of nerve impulses from the brain through the central nervous system.  Without choline, brain function and memory are impaired.  It is beneficial for disorders of the nervous system such as Parkinson’s disease and tardive dyskinesia.  Food sources include egg yolks, lecithin, legumes, meat, milk, soybeans and whole grain cereals.

· Club moss (Huperzia serrata) – Chinese studies have shown that huperzine can help to improve memory function in stroke victims.  Dosage: 1 or 2 cups of brewed club moss tea daily.

· Coenzyme Q10 – Is a vitamin-like substance that may be an even more powerful antioxidant that vitamin E.  It is used to treat anomalies of mental function such as those associated with schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.  It has been shown to lower high blood pressure.  Several studies have shown that it can increase stamina and reduce angina in heart patients.  Food sources include mackerel, salmon, sardines, beef, peanuts and spinach.

· DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) – Appears to be especially beneficial in many areas related to memory loss, recall, long-term memory and Alzheimer’s, and it may enhance the youth-preserving effects of growth hormone.  DHEA is manufactured in the adrenal glands and is the most abundant steroid hormone in the body.  However, DHEA levels in the blood decline as we age.  If you wish to supplement with DHEA and you are a man over 40 years old, take 25 mg daily.  If you are a woman, take only 10 mg a day or every other day.  It is recommended to have your blood or saliva levels tested at least every six months to make sure you are not overdoing it.  Caution: You should avoid DHEA altogether if you have or have had a hormone-sensitive cancer such as breast, ovarian, testicular or prostate cancer.

· Garlic – Researchers have noted that garlic extract appears to slow down brain deterioration.  In addition garlic normalizes the brain’s serotonin system.  If the serotonin system malfunctions, it can cause depression.

· Ginkgo – Research has shown ginkgo’s potential to relieve difficulties with short-term memory, attention span, and mood by improving oxygen metabolism in the brain.  It may also help to alleviate memory problems that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.  Other studies demonstrate its benefits in treating chronic bronchitis, Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia.  Caution: Avoid taking ginkgo if you are taking aspirin or other drugs that thin the blood.

· Ginsing – Panax quinquefolium, better known as American ginseng, enhances cerebral circulation, improves mental clarity, improves spleen and stomach function and strengthens the nervous system.  Caution: Do not use ginseng if you have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat.

· Gotu Kola (Centella asciatica) – A number of pharmacological studies show that gotu kola may be beneficial in improving memory and overcoming stress and fatigue.

· Magnesium – A deficiency of magnesium interferes with the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses causing irritability and nervousness.  Food sources include dairy products, fish, meat, seafood, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, brown rice, dulse, figs, garlic, grapefruit, green leafy vegetables, kelp, lemons, peaches, soybeans, tofu, what and whole grains.

· Manganese – Minute quantities of manganese are needed for healthy nerves.  Food sources include avocados, nuts, seeds, seaweed, whole grains, blueberries, egg yolks, legumes, dried peas, pineapples and green leafy vegetables.

· Vitamin B3 or Niacin – Aids in the functioning of the nervous system and is a memory enhancer.  Food sources include avocados, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, carrots, dates, eggs, figs, fish, peanuts, potatoes, prunes, tomatoes, wheat germ and whole wheat products.

· Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid – Plays a role in the production of the adrenal hormones and is involved in the production of neurotransmitters.  A deficiency of vitamin B5 may cause tingling in the hands.  Food sources include beef, brewer’s yeast, eggs, fresh vegetables, kidney, legumes, liver, mushrooms, nuts, pork, royal jelly, saltwater fish, torula yeast, whole rye flour and whole wheat.

· Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine – Is required by the nervous system and is needed for normal brain function.  It is involved in more bodily functions than almost any other single nutrient.  Food sources include brewer’s yeast, carrots, chicken, eggs, fish, peas, spinach, sunflower seeds, walnuts and wheat germ.

· Vitamin B12 or Cyanocobalamin – Is required for proper digestion and absorption of foods.  It also prevents nerve damage and is linked to the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that assists memory and learning.  A lack o this vitamin can severely hamper mental agility in people of all ages.  Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause severe neurologic and psychological symptoms in older people ranging from numbness or tingling in the arms or legs to balance problems to confusion and even dementia.  If caught in time, many, but not all, of these problems can be reversed with B12 supplements.  Because of problems with absorption of B12 in the elderly, it is recommended to take a nasal gel or sublingual form that bypasses the stomach and is directly absorbed into the bloodstream.  Food sources include brewer’s yeast, clams, eggs, herring, mackerel, dairy products, meat, fish, dulse, kelp, kombu, nori, soybeans and soy products.

MUSCLE AND BONE
· Calcium – Is needed for the prevention of muscle cramps, prevents bone loss associated with osteoporosis, helps to keep the skin healthy and aids in neuromuscular activity.  Foods high in calcium include kelp, cheddar cheese, collard leaves, kale, turnip greens, almonds, brewer’s yeast, parsley, dandelion greens, hazel nuts, Brazil nuts, watercress, goat’s milk, tofu, dried figs, buttermilk, sunflower seeds, yogurt, whole milk, olives, broccoli, clams and spinach.  Use supplements consisting of calcium citrate and/or calcium malate.  Antacids such as Tums are not recommended as a source of calcium as they neutralize the stomach acid needed for calcium absorption.  Caution: Calcium supplements should not be taken by persons with a history of kidney stones or kidney disease.
Note: For more information on the need for calcium in bone formation you may wish to read our article entitled Osteoporosis on our website.

SKIN AND HAIR
· Aloe – Aloe gel may give the appearance of younger-looking skin by plumping out dry, fine lines, making wrinkles less noticeable.

· Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) – Are an effective treatment against extremely dry, flaky skin.  They may also help erase fine lines and age spots and improve the tone and texture of the skin. Food sources include sour milk, grapes, sugar cane, apples and citrus fruit.

· Antioxidants – Such as vitamins A, C, E, B1, B5 and B6, the bioflavonoids, zinc, selenium and cysteine can greatly reduce the damage from free radicals and cross-linking.  Free radicals cause the visible brownish pigment accumulation in the skin called age spots and the process of disease.

· PABA Para-Aminobenzoic Acid – Supplementation may restore gray hair to its original color if the graying was caused by stress or a nutritional deficiency.  Food sources include kidney, liver, molasses, mushrooms, spinach and whole grains.

· Pineapple and papaya – Contain enzymes called proteases that aid in the destruction of hard bonds that form in the body, a process called cross-linking, that results in conditions such as hard, inflexible arteries and wrinkled skin.  Cross-linking can be caused by acetaldehyde, which is made in the liver from alcohol, cigarette smoke and free radicals.

· Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Facilitates the use of oxygen by tissues of the skin, nails and hair.  Food sources include cheese, egg yolks, fish, legumes, meat, milk, poultry, spinach, whole grains and yogurt; asparagus, avocados, broccoli, brussel sprouts, currants, dandelion greens, dulse, kelp, leafy greens, mushrooms, molasses, nuts and watercress.

OTHER BENEFICIAL FOODS, HERBS AND NUTRIENTS
· Melatonin – Is a hormone produced by the pineal gland.  In one study that compared melatonin to a common sleep medication, melatonin was shown to be better tolerated and to improve the quality of sleep.  Melatonin supplementation as a sleep aid may work better for the elderly than it does for middle-aged or younger people.

· Monounsaturated foods – Such as almonds, peanuts and walnuts may increase longevity.  In one study of 26,000 members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, those who ate almonds, peanuts and walnuts at least 6 times a week had an average life span 7 years longer than the general population.

· Nucleic Acids (RNA & DNA) – A handful of studies suggest that nucleic acids may increase the life span of animals.  Researchers also noted that the mice given nucleic acids looked healthier and were more alert than the other mice.  Food sources include Portuguese sardines (water packed), salmon, wheat germ, asparagus, mushrooms and spinach.  Caution: Drink at least 8 glasses of fluid daily if you are taking nucleic acids in supplement form or are eating a diet rich in nucleic acids.  RNA can raise uric acid levels, which may trigger gout in susceptible people.

· Propolis – Some researchers believe that the flavonoids in propolis not only reduce inflammation but also strengthen the blood vessels in the gums, making them less prone to injury.  Honey is rich in propolis.

· Vitamin A – Slows the aging process.  Food sources include liver, fish liver oils, green and yellow fruits and vegetables, apricots, asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, dandelion greens, dulse, garlic, kale, mustard greens, papayas, peaches, pumpkin, red peppers, spirulina, spinach, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, watercress and yellow squash.  Caution: If you have liver disease, do not take over 10,000 IU of vitamin A a day.  If you have hypothyroidism, avoid beta-carotene because your body cannot convert beta-carotene into vitamin A.

· Vitamin B1 or Thiamine – Acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from the degenerative effects of aging, alcohol consumption and smoking.  Food sources include brown rice, fish, legumes, peanuts, peas, poultry, rice bran, wheat germ and whole grains.

· Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – People over 55 are at risk of developing a riboflavin deficiency, especially if they do not eat a well-rounded diet and do not take a vitamin supplement.  The primary function of riboflavin is to work with other substances to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy.  It is also necessary for red blood cell formation, antibody production, cell respiration and growth.  Food sources include cheese, egg yolks, fish, legumes, meat, milk poultry, spinach, whole grains, yogurt, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, brussel sprouts, currants, dandelion greens, dulse, kelp, leafy greens, mushrooms, molasses, nuts and watercress.

· Vitamin D – Is important in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and hypocalcemia; it enhances immunity and is necessary for thyroid function and normal clotting.  Exposing the face and arms to the sun for 15 minutes three times a week is an effective way to ensure adequate amounts of vitamin D in the body.  Food sources include fish liver oils, fatty saltwater fish, dairy products, eggs, dandelion greens, liver, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, salmon, tuna and vegetable oils.

· Vitamin E or Tocopherol – It is an antioxidant that is important in the prevention of cancer and heart disease.  It is a natural blood thinner and may prevent the formation of blood clots.  Vitamin E in cream form can prevent the signs of aging skin and may prevent age spots.  A recent study showed that short-term supplementation with high doses of vitamin E can enhance immune responsiveness in healthy individuals over sixty.  It also aids in preventing cataracts, relaxes leg cramps and maintains healthy nerves and muscles.  Food sources include cold pressed vegetable oils, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains; also brown rice, cornmeal, dulse, eggs, kelp, flaxseed, milk, oatmeal, soybeans, sweet potatoes, watercress, wheat and wheat germ.

· Vitamin K1 – Aids in promoting longevity.  Food sources include kelp, alfalfa, green plants and leafy green vegetables, cow’s milk, yogurt, egg yolks, blackstrap molasses, safflower oil and fish-liver oils.  Vitamin K1 is fat-soluble and can be manufactured in the intestinal tract in the presence of certain intestinal flora.  Rancid fats, radiation, X-rays, aspirin and industrial air pollution all destroy vitamin K.  Antibiotics and sulfa drugs kill intestinal bacteria, which depletes stores of vitamin K.  Caution: It is important for those who are on blood thinners such as warafin and coumadin to consult their physician before taking vitamin K supplements.

EXERCISE, MEDITATION, ETC.
·  Exercise – Studies suggest that exercise may increase the level of antioxidants such as glutathione in older people.  A recent study of 10,000 Harvard graduates, ages 45 to 84, showed that those who participated in moderately vigorous activities (such as tennis, swimming, jogging and brisk walking) had up to a 29 percent lower death rate than the sedentary men.

· Meditation – Is highly recommended as a way of retaining youthfulness, and it is also known to raise DHEA levels.

· Be cheerful  – “If you don’t want to be old before your time be cheerful in deed and word and in appearance — most of all in appearance. It is a divine art to look cheerful, it helps others.” — Meher Baba

·   Avoid stress – Chronic stress leads to chronically elevated cortisol levels, which lessen our immunity against illness.  The result of many years of constantly high cortisol levels can exhaust your adrenal glands, cause output of cortisol and DHEA to drop to unhealthy lows.

· Drug side-effects – Many common drugs, including antihistamines, antidepressants, and antispasmodics, may block acetylcholine and can cause short-term memory loss.  Very often, memory is restored when the drugs are stopped.

REFERENCES
Balch, James F., M.D., Balch, Phyllis A., C.N.C., Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Garden City Park: Avery Publish Group, 1997
Dharmananda, Subhuti, A Bag of Pearls, Portland: Institute for Traditional Medicine, 1998
Dharmananda, Subhuti, Ginkgo, Portland: Institute for Traditional Medicine, Dec 1997
Foster, Steven, The Best Anti-Aging Herbs, Herbs for Health, Jan/Feb 2000
Kirschmann, Gayla J. and Kirschmann, John, Nutrition Almanac, New York: McGraw Hill 1996
Mead, Nathaniel, Consumer Guide: 20 Best Anti-Aging Supplements, Natural Health, Jul/Aug 1999
Mindell, Earl, R.Ph., Ph.D., Earl Mindell’s Anti-Aging Bible, New York: Simon & Schuster 1996
Mindell, Earl, R.Ph., Ph.D., and Hopkins, Virginia, M.A., Prescription Alternatives, New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, 1998
Werbach, Melvyn R., M.D., Nutritional Influences on Illness, Tarzana: Third Line Press, 1996
Yance, Donald R. Jr., C.N., M.H., A.H.G. Herbal Medicine, Healing & Cancer, Chicago: Keats Publishing, 1999

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Compassionate Acupuncture and Healing Arts, providing craniosacral acupuncture, herbal and nutritional medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Phone number 919-309-7753.

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