My parents are in their 50's. They're taking care of their elderly parents, while soaring to the top in their career fields, traveling, chasing my toddler, and getting stronger all the time. When I post picture of them on social media my friends from high school often comment "HOW DO THEY NEVER AGE?"... They aren't magical unicorns, but they do work as hard on their health as they do at their jobs. They're often surrounded by friends their age with aches, pains, and conditions equated with "just getting old." It doesn't have to be so, but it does take an open mind and dedication. Here are a few ways your body changes as you celebrate more birthdays, and what you can do to with nutrition to improve your quality of life:
Exercise is a must for healthy aging. I don't know anyone who quit working out 10 years ago that feels UH-MAZING now. More like "uggggh-mazing" (can't a girl squeeze in a dad joke in a post about aging?)... Many people stop working out because of painful joints that have lost cushion over time. With high quality nutrition you can increase that cushion and decrease the pain that comes with movement. It's all about collagen! Collagen is an essential material in the discs and tissues that cushion high impact joints like knees and hips.
Wear and tear doesn't just apply to joints. Saggy or thin skin can be one of the most obvious changes with age. Some of the best things you can give your body are the ingredients to make collagen. Collagen accounts for about 80% of your skin, and helps keep skin and other tissues strong. Collagen supplements are popular right now (for good reason, we love our morning matcha!), but you can actually give your body what it needs to make it's own collagen.
Vitamins (C, A, E, & B1) + Iron and Zinc + Protein (meat or beans) = Collagen
Giving your body these ingredients can help restore elasticity in your skin and strength in your nails.
Acid reflux? Years of belly aches? I hate to break it to you, but you might need to start taking those symptoms as a signal for change. I know people get set in their ways, particularly with food. Food is often an emotional topic. It makes us feel things. It's got range, helping us cope AND celebrate. That being said, if you've been experiencing health issues you might need to check in and see if the same 'ol recipes aren't serving you anymore (i.e. a temporary diet change, a "whole 30" month is normally very telling). For example, people often lose the ability to tolerate dairy as they age, as the levels of lactase (enzymes that break down dairy) decrease. I.e. we aren't necessarily built to survive on mass quantities of milk past childhood! Don't be surprised if making changes in your diet makes HUGE changes in how you feel. Consider reading this post about food sensitivities, and acting on it.
In addition to food, medications can change your gut health. Taking an acid reducer over and over again does just that: reduces stomach acid until you're out. You actually DO need some stomach acid to break down your food and absorb the nutrients from it. If this sounds familiar you might want to try a digestive enzyme that helps promote a healthy amount of stomach acid you may have lost over the years.
In a similar sense, years of exposure to toxins (think food pesticides on non-organic goods, the toiletries we put on our bodies, pollution we breathe) can kill some of the good bacteria we need to boost our immune system. Yes, bacteria is GOOD for your immune system! If you haven't been in on the health and wellness scoop lately, there are millions and trillions of little bugs in your intestines that are responsible for 70-80% of your immune system. Taking a probiotic to replenish your gut flora can keep you feeling well as time goes on. You can also find "good bugs" in fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, an saurkraut.
It has been said before that:
"Our hormones don’t decline because we age. We age because our hormones decline."
Understanding the hormone cascade of aging may seem overwhelming. The more you know, the more you can support and understand your body! Let's outline some changes for men and women that typically occur after 50+ years of cruising around on Mother Earth.
A profound Testosterone decrease, and less profound estrogen decrease: lowers ability to promote collagen production, decreased muscle tissue, increased fatty tissue, decreased libido, crappy/low/depressed mood, and low energy.
An Estrogen decrease (okay... "plummet"): lowers ability to promote collagen production. Can lead to insomnia, irritability, decreased libido, and low energy.
Lifestyle changes CAN slow the decline and help stabilize hormones. Consider these goodies: Exercise. Whole foods. No smoking. Low alcohol. If you were hoping to get out of this quick with little to no work... sorry! You are in charge, but you do have to take part in the change. There isn't an easy button, but upgrading your multivitamin to something high quality and physician grade can help give your body what it needs to create more hormones when necessary.
If you can find a functional medicine practitioner near you, USE THEM, pay them, honor their time so that they can honor you as a patient. You'll live happier, healthier, and longer because of them!