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A Bit of Wisdom for the Ages

by Dr. Karen Clickner, ND


So many people think that aging has typical symptoms that everyone can expect and will experience. Arthritis, memory loss, fatigue, digestive problems, hair loss, cancer may be what we think is unavoidable but in fact how we age and how that process unfolds is created by each of us early in our lives. So what actually makes the difference between the 70 year old that is barely able to get around a store and the 90 year old that still drives and enjoys a drink and a card game?

Aging is actually a cellular program where the end of the genetic strand begins to unravel and the code that controls the function of the cell begins to be lost. So the key question is what speeds up or slows down this unraveling process? The answer is regulating our daily life and the life of our cells. The better a cell can do its job and repair itself, the healthier it will be and the longer it will be able to function. This really is the determining factor of illness and disease. So every choice we make has an effect on our cells and often the longer that choice is allowed to continue, the more of an effect it has, for better or worse.

Diet: When we talk about a healthy diet, we are talking about the realization that food is the way in which our cells receive all their supplies for healthy living. So the quality and variety of the food you eat determines how flexible and responsive a cell can be. So to eliminate large sections of nutrition for long periods of time creates deficiencies that a cell cannot sustain. Simply eating as close to nature as possible is the best option.

Toxin Exposure and Detoxification: This tends to be taken to extremes in our culture and we forget that the body has a very effective detoxification system with pathways of elimination for just about everything we could be exposed to. The problem is when one or more of those pathways is blocked forcing toxins to be handled by pathways that are not equipped to deal with the hand they are being dealt. If we cannot neutralize or eliminate a toxin, then our body tends to store it, creating a ticking timebomb somewhere in our tissue. This is especially true for those that are exposed daily to toxins, such as construction, painters, metal-workers, mechanics, hair stylists, nail technicians, landscapers just to name a few. Many workers find protection from toxins cumbersome and difficult, preferring to just go without. I'm also talking about toxins in our food. It is one thing to have wheat once in a while, it's another to have it every day. This is true of so many things in our diet such as soy, eggs, nuts, milk products, sugar. All of these may be fine in small amounts, but have them daily, particularly in synthetically altered forms and we are feeding our body nothing, literally forcing the "shelves" of our cellular stores to be empty.

Cellular Environment: Our internal body environment includes not just our cells, but liquids, structures and all the space in-between. The cleanliness of these spaces and the ability of chemicals to move from one place to another is critical for cellular health. Sitting on the sofa does nothing to mobilize our fluids and even though our blood is pumped through our arteries, it's only as effective as our heart is strong, as our blood pressure is regulated and our target tissues are relaxed and receptive. After all you can't get water through a hose that is kinked can you? But we also have a more important fluid than blood, the lymph. Lymph doesn't have a pump, instead relying on our movement and our breathing to be moved through lymphatic vessels. It is the lymph that touches cells and carries materials to and from the cells and body tissues. It is also the lymph that maneuvers our immune system resources around the body. So sitting in front of your computer all day, driving in the car, sitting at a desk may be the majority of our daily lives, but it does not contribute to our cellular health because we need to be moving to cleanse our internal environment and promote our immune system.

Sleep: Have you noticed more and more people are having trouble sleeping? Lack of sleep will increase how much pain you feel, prevents healing from injury or surgery, reduces immune responsiveness and suppresses normal body function, all of which make sleep even more elusive. It's not by chance that pain relievers include sleep drugs as an ingredient. Ever increasing infertility and menstrual problems in women can also often be tied to lack of restorative sleep. The hormones are disrupted and the body cannot restore normal hormone levels because it has to happen during sleep. But the hormones that control sleep, such as melatonin, cannot cycle properly due to lack of sleep. It's a vicious cycle. So why is sleep such a rare commodity? This is again because of our choices. Too much time in front of a screen, too many electrical fields in our bedrooms, disruption due to pets, a snoring spouse, a crying baby, a 2AM text, not to mention the most disruptive ... stress exhaustion, all create disruption to our normal sleep cycle. I hate to break it to you but sleep is an active experience. Sleep does not happen because you are exhausted. It actually requires energy to sleep because of the restorative purpose of sleep. Have you noticed that when children are sick they sleep more? That is the normal body response because energy must be conserved for recovery from illness. This is also why severe and chronic stress prevents normal sleep patterns, because we are too exhausted to sleep. So if you are unable to sleep try looking at when your sleep cycle changed and why. You may realize that you don't have enough energy TO sleep. There are so many natural ways to restore your sleep cycle you really don't have to watch reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies at 3 AM.

Our choices, our lives, how we spend our days may pay the bills, it may bring us happy times, it may help those around us, but it does not necessarily make us healthy. Paying attention to what your body needs is the only way to take control of your aging process and ensure that your golden years will be truly golden.

Dr. Karen Clickner, R.N.D., is a Nationally Registered Naturopathic Physician with 35 years of experience. She specializes in chronic immune disorders, natural fertility and whole body medicine. She is also the owner of Conscious Body Natural Medicine with locations in Holden and Westborough, MA. For an appointment call 617-505-3585.


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