Is aging optional?
Imagine a world in which you could prevent the vast number of degenerative factors that contribute to aging.
Picture being able to look younger, feel more energetic, and actually be healthier than even when you were younger.
The future is now, my beauties. It IS possible today to make that a reality. While we may not have discovered immortality, degeneration is no longer a foregone conclusions.
Anti-aging and age protection is the backbone of my own practice even if it isn’t at the forefront of why women seek treatment it is always the background noise to how I work to heal them. If we can conquer hormonal balance, quell the immune system, get the genes expressing the right way, the gut firing on all cylinders and the liver eliminating like a champion, that is the foundation to making sure that the cellular metabolism is functioning properly and actually creates a canvas for the the mitochondria and genes to operate as a much younger organism.
Let’s face it, who doesn’t want a body that acts much younger than its chronological age?
So let’s look at two major reasons the body ages.
The first is shortening of the telomeres. While this is such a new field and many still feel that this isn’t a well-formed theory of aging, if we look at the basis for the theory, it comes into focus nicely.
So let’s first look at the definition of a telomere.
Telomeres are structures found at the end of every chromosome. They consist of the same short DNA sequence repeated over and over again. This is a little like a computer that starts out shiny and new. The computer will work because the systems are repeated over and over, even if you have a thousand tabs open on your internet browser, the computer will work mostly in the same way. It’s everything you put on the computer that inevitably leads to a slowing down of the computer and, inevitably, a “running out of space”.
Every cellular organism contain telomeres. In humans, the telomere sequence is TTAGGG. This may not be significant to you but if you look at the sequence being repeated, on average, about 3000 times replicating to about 15000 base pairs then you will understand the significance of more being more. (A base pair is two bases on opposite strands of a DNA molecule that are held together by weak chemical bonds. In DNA’s double helical structure, a base pair forms one ‘rung’ of the DNA ‘ladder’. The rules of base pairing are that A always binds to T and C always binds to G. The bp is also the measurement unit of DNA; the human genome contains more than 3,000,000,000 base pairs.)
So think about a shoelace for a moment. Think about your telomeres as being that little plastic cap on that shoelace. It keeps everything new and beautiful for awhile. Here’s the thing though, every time a cell carries out a DNA replication (and this happens a LOT during the day), the chromosomes are shortened a little, between 25-200 base pairs per replication. Our cells are constantly replicating.
Now because those plastic caps are on the shoelaces; the telomeres are on the end of the chromosome, only part of the chromosome is lost but the DNA is protected. Without that protective cap on the end of the shoelace, valuable DNA would be lost every time that cell divides. This would be disastrous as entire strands of DNA would be lost.
Ok, so as we get older (or are exposed to stress, including oxidative stress) between 25-200 base pairs are lost from the telomeres. This is called telomere shortening.
So the cells are constantly replicating. Sometimes at a fast rate and sometimes at a slow rate. (Think cellular metabolism). Oxidative stress contributes to a higher rate of telomere shortening, about 50- 100 base pairs per division.
We know that smoking, poor nutrition and other lifestyle factors contribute to oxidative stress.
Just as those shoelaces eventually will fray no matter how much we take care of the shoes, the telomeres will inevitably become so short (this is called critical length) that it can no longer be replicated. This process is called apoptosis or “programed cell death”. This happens all the time, though more often in the aging, but those cells are generally created to begin the cycle again.
Sometimes this cell death happens and, rather than dying and being reborn, the cell sticks around but no longer replicates. This is called senescence. This is one key factor in aging. So long as the cells are replicating, rejuvenating, and being reborn you have a youthful order to your body, at least in key areas.
When the cell is in senescence, this is almost like a car that no longer works taking up a parking space. The old junker car takes the parking space of a Ferrari! The junker car no longer has any value and cannot shuttle people from the mall to home. It has no function and it is taking up a space of a car (a cell) that has a function; that can shuttle people from the mall to home.
An even better analogy might be imagining a copy of a crisp fresh document. Now imagine that copy being copied and that copy of the copy being copied and so on and so on. Imagine what the last copy would look like. I am imagining pretty illegible.
Inevitably we get older because many of our cells are programmed to die with the DNA eventually being so misaligned or even missing that the cell just cannot replicate any longer
Getting the picture?
Telomorase: A blessing and a curse.
Telemorase is a naturally-occurring enzyme which lengthens telomeres when activated. It is, essentially, the enzyme that turns on and off the lengthening of these telemores. Germline (egg and sperm cells) and stem cells express relatively high levels of telomerase. Because stem cells affect immunity and germline cells are reproductive, this is understandable.
Many normal body cells express little or no telomerase. (This doesn’t mean that most cells aren’t affected by telemorase, just that telemorase isn’t the only factor in cell death in many cells.)
There are now some very expensive supplements on the market that promise to lengthen the telomeres but, in my view, the science is still a few years away for these supplements to have much if any value.
So where’s the downside in telemorase?
In a word: cancer. Cancer cells are, simplified, rogue cells multiplying out of control. Unhealthy rogue cells multiplying out of control. Cancer cells have their own DNA replicating, and telemorase, as the enzyme responsible for activating the lengthening of telomeres, seems to be released almost out of control.
Anti-aging science is moving towards being able to “inject” a telemorase blocker into cancer cells to stop them from replicating out of control while not affecting the telomeres in healthy cells.
Stress and Your Telomeres
Have you ever seen someone go through a period of extreme stress and one day you see them after a long absence and they look like they have aged 10 years? Or maybe this has happened to you. Though we do know that chronic or even acute extreme stress accelerates aging at a cellular level the exact mechanisms are still unclear but since stress and stress hormones and chemicals like cortisol increase oxidative stress and inflammation and stress hormones generally cause an imbalance in blood sugar handling issues, we can surmise that cellular replication under stress may be sped up and that replication may have transcription errors as a result of the stress.
In fact, even perceived stress has been linked to one measure of oxidative DNA damage in leukocytes (white blood cells) and this is result is amplified for women.
One thing I notice in my practice is that when I take on a new client and we repair her gut, get her liver working in tip top shape, all her elimination pathways wide open, her inflammation in check, and her blood sugar and, subsequently, all her hormones balanced she generally looks 10 years younger. While I do realize scientists believe cells close to senescence (cell death and stagnation, in a word) cannot be rejuvenated, I don’t see this as reality. While, yes, it is impossible to stop the march of time it IS possible to arrest it and slow it down considerably.
How do we do this?
Eating for Age Protection
Your genetic expression is not written in stone. Your genetic destiny is relatively easily affected and nutrition excels at offsetting weaknesses in genes. Many of the ways genes are expressed begin in the womb, in the first few weeks of life, and further molded into shape in your early years. Thereafter, they are influenced by a variety of factors, one of the most important factor nutrition but it goes without saying having a nurturing loving stress-free environment is also right up there for precursors to genetic wealth.
These factors are called epigenetic settings, and they determine how genes manifest their functions. For example, if we say that a thermostat represents your core genetic make up, then the temperature the thermostat is set to and the program that will raise and lower the temperature are epigenetic factors.
Telomere length is epigenetically regulated, meaning it is influenced by nutritional status. Mothers with poor nutrition status give their children a bad dealing of the telomere deck, leading to future increased rates of cardiovascular disease (atherosclerotic arteries have higher numbers of short telomeres). Well-nourished mothers, on the other hand, help establish optimal telomere length and quality in their children.
Healthy function of telomeres requires adequate methylation. Methylation is the chemical process of donating a methyl group (one carbon atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms —CH3) to the genetic material of the telomere, epigenetically marking the telomeres for proper function.
Your takeaway of this article is to understand is that the body needs an adequate supply of methyl donors for telomeres to work properly, just like a car needs petrol. The primary methyl donor, for our purpose is called SAMe, which uses nutrients like methionine, MSM sulfur, choline, and trimethylglycine (TMG) as building blocks. Forming SAMe from these building blocks requires vitamin B12, folate (folic acid), and vitamin B6. Folate and B12 actually play multiple roles in supporting telomere genomic stability.
The most important basic supplement for telomere support is a good adequate dietary protein, especially sulfur-rich proteins. Examples include whey protein (in yoghurt or UNdenatured whey protein and then only if you tolerate it), eggs, cottage cheese, raw dairy, red meat, chicken, legumes (if you have no gut issues in small amounts), duck,and small amounts of nuts and seeds. Eggs contain the highest source of choline in the diet, with others such as red meat, chicken, dairy, nuts, and seeds containing moderate amounts.
Your brain also requires a large supply of methyl donors to maintain balanced mood. Chronic stress and depression typically indicate a lack of methyl donors, meaning telomeres are undernourished and prone to accelerated aging. This is also major reason why stress ages people.
This simple fact can help you determine your personal “minimum daily requirement” for methyl donors. You may want to increase your B vitamin intake. Either take extra B-complex (though it should be the RIGHT B-complex), along with adequate protein and possibly include other cofactors such as MSM sulfur, choline, and TMG, to the point that you feel a significant improvement in energy and mood. We can assume that if you have sufficient methyl donors for healthy brain function, you will more than likely have adequately nourished telomeres.
To simplify this, if you are under stress or feeling generally unwell, be it emotionally, mentally or physically, the more you need to focus on getting an adequate support of basic nutrients, which will not only help your nerves and brain, but also your telomeres. If you feel pretty well and good most of the time, feel energetic and have positive upbeat mood and are handling stress, and you have basic B vitamins and adequate dietary protein, then you are doing a good job of covering your telomeres’ basic nutrient bases.
A Note About Genomic Stability, Telomeres, Minerals & Antioxidants
Good nutrition really does wonders at offsetting the wear and tear of daily life. Many nutrients actually enhance and protect the DNA’s ability to repair, and that includes your telomeres. Free radicals occur with a lack of antioxidants and that includes damage to telomeres. In fact, women with a lower intake of antioxidants have been shown to have shorter telomeres and a greater risk of breast cancer.
Magnesium, good for a host of functions in the body, is also necessary for many enzymes involved in the replication and repair of DNA. In fact, many studies have shown that magnesium deficiency causes rapid loss of telomeres and actually inhibits cell replication. Magnesium is something I tell my own patients is the “youth mineral” simply because of it’s ability to contribute long “sexy” telomeres.
Zinc is intrinsically involved with DNA repair and binding signals to DNA. Zinc deficiency causes DNA strand breakage. When looking at antixodiants which contain zinc, carnosine has been shown to slow the rate of telomere depletion in human fibroblast cells thus extending longevity. Carnosine is a fantastic antioxidant for the brain making it a great nutrient for stress management. Numerous other antioxidants have been shown to be DNA protective and can lengthen telomeres. Even Vitamin C has been shown to slow telomere loss in human endothelial sales.
The best news is yet to come. A special type of Vitamin E called tocotrienols has shown great promise in human fibroblast cells at lengthening telomeres in human fibroblast cells and staving off DNA replication damage. Going back to Vitamin C, it actually can boost the activity of telemorase (in healthy cells) so as to naturally lengthen telemorase.
The takeaway on this is that antioxidants are highly synergistic and mutually beneficial to the body. This tells you that getting a wide range of antioxidants, preferably from food and only well placed supplements is the best way to create a foundation of health when you are well, and increasing your level of antioxidants such as magnesium, zinc, Vitamin C, Tocotrienols, and carnosine during times of stress and illness will help protect your body from DNA damage and keep your telomeres long, young and beautiful!