This past weekend I had the pleasure of connecting with a couple older friends. The topic turned to health, aging and their complaints surrounding getting old. It got me thinking about healthy aging. What does it mean to age gracefully? What are some keystones in the healthy aging process?
Of course my first thought is diet. (Exercise too but that’s for another rant.) Just as they’ve done to everything else the boomers are changing the way we think about aging. They are searching for answers and solutions about their health. But this is fraught with controversy and conflicting information. From my perspective there is no right diet for everyone. Food sensitivities, organics, seasonality, locality, sustainability all need to be taken into consideration. As a general rule, less processed more whole foods are better. Being a foodie, of course I think it should taste delicious, but I’m not immune to the power of convenience either. I don’t believe the two to be mutually exclusive. Eat from the farmer’s market people!! http://www.seattlefarmersmarkets.org/ Or consider having your produce delivered by one of the many Community Supported Agriculture programs. In Seattle there’s almost no excuse for not enjoying delicious, healthful eating.
Even my well educated friends I saw this weekend, who ARE diet conscious have trouble knowing what to focus on. Low fat? Low Carb? Weight watchers?(This one makes me cringe, but hey, it works and obesity isn’t healthy either.) Culturally we’ve become disconnected from our food, and we’ve certainly lost the idea of food as medicine.
Then there is the question of supplements. Which ones to take? How often to take them? Fish oil has hit mainstream awareness but other healthy heavy weights like fermented foods and beverages (Kombucha!!) are still on the fringe.(Though not for our wise readers!) Check out the book “Nourishing Traditions” for more info on the benefits of fermented foods.
I checked our Dr. Andrew Weil’s website. I’m not his biggest fan but he’s instituted a shift in the public awareness around alternative medicine which I think is good. He has created a new food pyramid which I think is useful in conceptualizing what foods to eat and in what ratios. Here’s the link. http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02995/Dr-Weil-Anti-Inflammatory-Food-Pyramid.html Here’s what he has to say about it.
- It is a practical eating guide that consumers of all ages can use, with tips on how to reduce risks of age-related diseases and improve overall health through diet.
- It is an interactive educational graphic to help today’s families prevent disease while eating well.
- It is a simple tool that promotes optimum health and healthy aging by providing dietary advice that addresses inflammation.
What is hard for me to see is that in their quest for healthier happier lives consumers’ pill boxes are filling up. I feel that it’s easy to underestimate the power of food, to discount food as viable medicine. More and more we are seeing the interactions of various medicines having unwanted and unhealthy results. Why not try a diet change first or at least concurrently with medications? I believe this to be especially important in all chronic diseases with an inflammatory component. A good resource for this is the “Anti inflammatory diet and recipe book” which we carry at our office. It explains that MOST diseases have an inflammatory component, not just the obvious ones like a stiff, swollen knee or allergies. This is one reason that acupuncture can treat such a wide variety of illnesses as well. It reduces the inflammatory response.
I guess my point is, don’t underestimate the power of the foods you eat. While medications can take care of symptoms, they can also have nasty side effects and unwanted interactions. Your diet is the foundation of your health, and a simple way to give yourself the best chance to age gracefully and healthfully.