If you have been looking into anti-aging remedies, you have probably come across a lot of topical products—some expensive, and some you can make at home. There are a lot of things you can try to slow the aging process, but if you are only looking skin deep, topical creams won’t help much. We’ve talked about inflammation as a root cause for disease, what if I told you inflammation also causes your skin to age more quickly?
Understanding How We Age
While there is no one factor or study that totally explains aging, there are generally two ways skin ages: intrinsic and extrinsic. (Source)
Intrinsic aging is an inevitable physiological process that we all experience as we get older.
Extrinsic aging is caused by external environment factors such as physical and psychological stress, alcohol intake, poor nutrition, overeating, environmental pollution, and exposure to UV radiation. Studies have shown that exposure to these factors induce the generation of free radicals as well as reactive oxygen species (ROS) of our own metabolism.
Whoa. Lots of terms there. Let’s define a couple so we’re on the same page.
- Reactive oxygen species (ROS): A type of unstable molecule that contains oxygen and that easily reacts with other molecules in a cell. A build up of reactive oxygen species in cells may cause damage to DNA, RNA, and proteins, and may cause cell death. Reactive oxygen species are free radicals.
- Free radicals: Oxygen in the body splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons. Electrons like to be in pairs, so these atoms, called free radicals, scavenge the body to seek out other electrons so they can become a pair. This causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA.
Basically, when these things happen, the body is under oxidative stress, which is a major contributor to aging.
Guess what can cause this oxidative stress state. Yep! Inflammation. (Source) There’s even a new term for it: inflammaging. And so, reducing inflammation is key in an anti-aging lifestyle.
We’ll focus on two main areas – collagen and nutrients that reduce inflammation.
Part One: Collagen
You can assist in slowing the aging process by helping your body produce more collagen. (Source) Collagen is an essential protein found naturally in the human body. It is found in our skin, bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. It is responsible for keeping the skin elastic, replacing dead skin cells, as well as making your hair and nails shiny and strong. Not only that, but collagen is anti-inflammatory because of an amino acid it contains called glycine. (Source)
There are two main ways you can try to combat collagen loss; topical creams and oral supplementation along with consuming collagen boosting foods. Targeting the problem from the inside is most effective.
Natural “collagen boosters” have the ability to encourage the cells in your body to make more collagen. These plant-based foods contain the building blocks for collagen such as amino acids and vitamin C. A few of these collagen boosters include blueberries, dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), garlic, eggs, mango, carrots, and white tea. Vitamin C is also necessary to enhance collagen production. You can take a vitamin C supplements or consume foods rich in vitamin C, such as broccoli and citrus fruit.
Taking Collagen Supplements
It is never too early to begin taking supplements. Many people will wait until they notice wrinkles and loss of elasticity in their skin to begin collagen supplementation, but it is a good idea to get a head start before this occurs in order to slow down any signs of aging.
Collagen supplements are easily accessible and can be found at many drugstores. The collagen in these supplements is solely derived from animals. Specifically, the skin, bone, and cartilage of cows, chickens, and fish.
My favorite source for collagen supplements is the Multi Collagen Protein from Ancient Nutrition, by my friend Dr. Josh Axe. His collagen products are from non-GMO, grass fed, hormone free, cage free and cruelty free sources! I put a scoop or two in my coffee in the morning and LOVE what it does for my skin!
You can also get collagen from bone broth, which you can easily make at home in an Instant Pot or with its recent popularity, buy premade in stores. Just be sure to check those ingredients for unnecessary additives!
Part Two: Controlling Inflammation
The next part of anti-aging has to do with reducing chronic inflammation to slow aging. Here we are going to talk about changing your diet to add in healthy fats and other important nutrients for reducing inflammation.
Don’t Be Afraid of Healthy Fats in Your Diet
You might think that fats are bad for your body, but there are several types of fats, and some varieties help to fight the inflammation that leads to aging. If you want to maintain a youthful appearance, healthy brain, and reduce your risk for age-related diseases, then incorporate these foods that contain the best fats.
Pastured Chicken or Duck Eggs
You may have heard that eggs are bad for your health, but eggs contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that can maintain the levels of your cholesterol to prevent cardiovascular disease. Dietitians recommend eating as many as three eggs each day, but you should discuss this with your physician first. Personally, I prefer duck eggs over chicken eggs. I steam them for 12 minutes and then put them in an ice bath to chill. Duck eggs are nutrient packed and many people with sensitivities to chicken eggs, find that they can tolerate duck eggs. I typically keep steamed duck eggs in the fridge for an easy pick me up snack.
If you want to reduce the inflammation in your arthritic joints, then begin to consume fatty fish at least three times a week. Fatty fish such as mackerel and wild caught salmon have omega-3 fatty acids that help to reduce pain in the body’s cartilage, bones and muscles.
While nuts are high in calories, these foods also contain nutritious fats that help to eliminate inflammation. Nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce the inflammation in your cardiovascular system and your joints. We like to soak our nuts and seeds overnight and then dehydrate them. Not only are they crunchier this way but this process helps your body to digest them better.
Cold pressed olive oil is a plant-sourced oil that you can use for cooking or pour on salads and other dishes. By consuming olive oil, you can reduce the inflammation that leads to arthritic pain or cardiovascular disease. Olive oil is not an oil to cook with at high heat though. At high temperatures, olive oil becomes denatured and toxic so save the olive oil to dress your foods after cooking them. Coconut oil or avocado oil is best for cooking foods at high temperature because they have a higher smoke point.
If you want to reduce the inflammation in your body’s lymph glands and bloodstream, then sprinkle chia seeds or flax seeds on your salads or side dishes. Both of these types of seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties. Some people call chia seeds the perfect food because they contain protein, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals in the proper proportions. I love to add chia seeds to my homemade kombucha drinks too.
Avocados contain antioxidants to eliminate dangerous free radicals from your body’s cells and unsaturated fat that helps to reduce your bloodstream’s cholesterol levels. An avocado is a large berry with a huge seed in the middle. You can scoop out the flesh of an avocado to eat it as a snack, or you can add avocado slices to sandwiches and salads. I love adding a sprinkle of pink salt to my avocados too!
Spinach is a dark leafy green vegetable that contains carotenoids that help to eliminate cancer cells. This vegetable also contains high levels of vitamin K that can reduce the inflammation in your bloodstream. Spinach is also beneficial for macular degeneration and eyesight, strengthening the bones and muscles, maintaining blood pressure and boosting metabolism. Popeye was definitely onto something when he popularized spinach!
The Role of Stress
As a stress reduction therapist, I would be remiss if I ended this article without mentioning that it has even been demonstrated that stress can induce DNA damage.
“Recent research has confirmed skin both as an immediate stress perceiver and as a target of stress responses. As the largest organ of the body, skin plays important barrier and immune functions, maintaining homeostasis between external environment and internal tissues.” (Source)
All the more reason to be intentional about taking care of yourself—body, mind and spirit.
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