HAVE YOU noticed how there is a huge trend, both in healthcare and beauty, toward anti-ageing? Perhaps this reflects the far bigger issue of how poorly we treat the elderly in our society. But the fact is, there’s nothing wrong with ageing. It’s how well you age that should really influence the choices you make. You can reach a ripe old age while still having use of your mental faculties, being physically active, having good digestion, balanced hormones and a happy heart. In fact, there are common denominators that cross all of these apparently separate areas. In a word, your real enemy is not ageing per se, but inflammation. Inflammation takes many forms throughout the body, making it appear like you have individual health concerns to tackle. Really though, if you can get inflammation under control, you can go a long way toward helping the body and mind repair themselves.
With that in mind, there’s a word you may want to get familiar with, and that’s glutathione (glue-ta-thigh-own). This remarkable substance plays a key role in keeping you in great health right through life. People who achieve great longevity tend to have very high glutathione levels and those with excellent health in their older years tend to have the highest levels. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant which helps to keep cells in optimal working order. The body does an excellent job of producing it, provided you supply it with the right building blocks. It’s understood that production decreases with age, but, like most things, that depends largely on how well you look after yourself as you age. If you are exposed to chronic stress, if you get repeated infections, have poor quality sleep, which, to your body, is a major source of stress or generally have a diet that’s low in suitable nutrients, your glutathione levels can plummet. This means your cells are very vulnerable to wear, tear, ageing and infections.
If you can address aspects of your diet that help support the production of glutathione, you can turn this around or better yet, prevent it happening in the first place.
You’ve often heard me talking here about sulphur-rich foods. These include brassicas such as kale, cabbage and broccoli but also alliums like garlic, leeks and onions. Protein sources are also rich in sulphur, which is itself a detoxifier. But it’s been suggested that a part of its detoxification role comes about as it increases our glutathione levels, so eat those greens!
More protein, namely beef and chicken but especially organ meats, are a great source of selenium, another excellent antioxidant that plays a key role in the glutathione pathway. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium too, as is cottage cheese. If you can choose organic sources of all the above, all the better. Selenium tends to be very depleted in soil which has been intensively worked, so the animals which graze on it and the plants grown there will also be selenium-deficient. Good crop rotation is required to keep the mineral balance at optimum levels, and this tends to be an integral consideration with organically-produced food.
The liver is a key player when it comes to antioxidant regulation and we can see this by two specific glutathione influencers. Milk thistle, a herb that is known to have great affinity with liver health, appears to inhibit the breakdown of glutathione. Producing it is one thing, keeping it in circulation is equally important. You can take a course of milk thistle for a couple of months as a way of detoxifying the liver, helping it to perform its multitude of purification and manufacturing roles. The other liver aspect we need to consider to protect glutathione levels is alcohol consumption. A glass of a good, organic merlot can be quite beneficial, as it delivers resveratrol and some other antioxidants, helping to thin the blood and keep free radicals at bay. But if you are binge drinking on a regular basis, even if that’s with organic, heart-healthy merlot, you’re overdoing and are most likely causing quite a bit of extra work for your liver. That becomes even worse if your choice of beverage is spirits, beers or both.
The quantity you consume is all-important. Hitting the liver with huge quantities really does create a damaging, toxic environment, which generates that all-important inflammation we are trying to avoid. A sharp decrease in glutathione levels has been linked to those who regularly abuse alcohol. Finding ways to manage this, if you feel you have a problem, will have far-reaching repercussions for your long-term health and longevity.
So, rather than focusing on what body parts are breaking down or what aches and pains are appearing as you age, focus on getting your glutathione levels up to naturally help your body help itself.