In our three-part blog series, we’re talking about the tips and secrets of living a long life. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Longevity Part 1 of 3, which covers the world’s Blue Zones, dietary staples, and simple lifestyle habits that help these communities live healthy lives well past the age of 100. In Part 2 of 3, we talk about the little things that add up (or take away!) and how to use exercise to tack on years to your life.
Biohacking the body
Today, we’ll be digging a little deeper with some science-y stuff that can help to fight disease and increase your lifespan by optimising your bodily functions from the cells to the gut. These “hacks” might seem negligible at first, but they provide an opportunity to work from the ground up. What happens on the inside does count.
Get your blood tested
Some extensive blood testing – beyond what you might get done at your annual checkup – might be all you need to reveal how prone you are to things like heart disease or cancer. While we can do everything in our power to ensure a long, vibrant life, genetics do play a role, and awareness is key. Blood tests will disclose risks that are specific to you alone.
With a comprehensive analysis of your blood, you can uncover potential risks that could compromise your health long-term, including hormonal issues, organ health, energy and tons of longevity factors, so it’s a worthwhile pursuit, especially as you get older.
Tend to the microbiome
All disease begins in the gut (or the cells, but we’ll get into that). Thus, optimising gut health can do wonders in disease prevention and subsequently, reduction in our risk of dying from said disease.
Genetics determine some things about our health, but looking after our gut bacteria can help defy even the “bad genes.” For example, inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease is something we’re generally predisposed to developing, yet poor gut health is a determining factor in chronic symptoms and worsening of those symptoms. This is true for many autoimmune issues. Certain bacteria and microbes have even been studied in the prevention of disease, specifically type 1 diabetes. That’s why the autoimmune protocol can be so powerful in treating disease via diet – because it heals the gut.
The bottom line? Our gut thrives on certain “good” bacteria, and it suffers when the gut flora is out of balance and is overloaded with bad bacteria. It’s up to us to feed our bodies right and keep our gut microbiome balanced, happy and healthy.
Antibiotic use affects the gut health negatively in two ways – it’s found in the food we eat, and we are prescribed them when we’re sick. They wreak havoc on the microbiome with continual exposure. Always consuming conventional, factory-farmed meats and fish (rather than eating grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught options), can contribute to gut problems.
Clostridium difficile – a strain of bacteria – is known to encourage disease in the bodies of both humans and animals. So, who’s at high risk? Individuals who take antibiotics. Antibiotics don’t discriminate when it comes to fighting bacteria, so they strip our guts of the good and the bad stuff. This leaves us vulnerable to disease and weakens the immune system.
The solution is to purchase sustainable foods from animals who aren’t fed antibiotics, and to take proper care to replenish good gut bacteria after a dose of antibiotics, if they’re at all necessary.
Becoming a gutsy guru
How can you take action to ensure proper gut health? Much of it comes down to focusing on how you can add good bacteria to the microbiome while giving the bad bacteria less room to grow. Here’s what you can do:
- Eat fermented foods. Fermentation is a process that allows natural and healthy bacteria to thrive and ‘cook’ the food you’re preparing. Having a serving or two per day provides a healthy dose of probiotics and nutrients that your gut will love. Consider incorporating foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt, kombucha, natto, miso, and tempeh.
- Take probiotics. If you don’t regularly consume fermented foods, a probiotic supplement can ensure that you feed the gut daily. This is especially important after taking a course of antibiotics.
- Avoid processed foods. Excessive amounts of sugar wreak serious havoc on the gut, allowing bad bacteria to thrive and disease to bubble up. Moreover, common additives and dyes have been linked to damaging the gut flora.
- Avoid factory-farmed meats. Consuming animal protein that is fed grass in contrast to grains (often GMO) and not injected with antibiotics can eliminate a substantial amount of distress on the gut. Better yet, eating quality animal products can help good bacteria to thrive.
- Ditch the antibacterial products. Our bodies need bacteria, but it’s time to be picky! Antibacterial soap is a little too good at killing “germs,” thus having a similar effect to antibiotics as it’s not discriminatory, thus killing off good bacteria.
Sip your supplements
You can skip the aisles of capsules and tablets containing magical mixtures of vitamins and minerals. If you’re eating a diet comprised of real food, you’re a step ahead of the game. We covered some ground on nutrition, but beyond food, these are the elixirs you should be sipping (think of these as drinking from The Fountain of Youth!).
You might already sip green tea daily. Its health benefits aren’t necessarily news; long-lived Asian cultures have been drinking the stuff (and plenty of it) for a long time. Many studies done in terms of disease-fighting properties and longevity observed individuals who were drinking five or more cups per day, so get brewing!
Green tea substantially reduces the risk of cancer. One of the active antioxidants – EGCG or epigallocatechin-3-gallate – has an uncanny ability to kill cancer cells without damaging the healthy cells. This is especially true of gastrointestinal cancer cells. This powerful polyphenol has also been shown to reduce risk of dementia, high blood lipids, and pain and inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis.
It also protects the body against heart disease, as it increases blood flow to the arteries. Moreover, its flavonoids reduce oxidative stress on the cells. This comprehensive, eleven-year study shows that green tea intake was associated with lower risk of mortality in general and due to heart disease.
Finally, green tea aids in bettering metabolic health, minimising blood sugar spikes and weight loss. Naturally, maintaining a healthy weight is a huge factor in living a long and healthy life.
A mug of bone broth is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. This ancestral diet staple is economical and simple to make by boiling well-sourced animal bones down to extract all the goodness hiding out within.
The science is simple: the same body parts of an animal will benefit our body parts when consumed. For example, using bones with the joints in tact like chicken necks is useful to our joint health. Collagen found in bone broth is useful to our skin, which is comprised mostly of collagen. Simply consuming a food product made of bones is fantastic for our bones. The list goes on and on.
It’s a very easy food for the body to digest, so it’s great for healing, while batting diseases like Crohn’s or IBS which take their toll on the gut (coming back to our first point!). Gelatin, which is found in bone broth, can help keep your red blood cell count healthy, which addresses some health issues such as anemia. Broth made from bone marrow contains components that allow our bodies to produce white blood cells which increases immunity, keeping us healthy throughout life. Bone broth is your one-stop-shop if you’re shopping for longevity.
And that’s a wrap! Our three part series on longevity covers everything from nutrition and exercise to what makes the Blue Zones thrive. Share this series with your friends. Cheers to a long, healthy life!
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