There are many positives to getting older – yes you’ve read that right! You’ve made most of the mistakes you’re going to (and survived), you’ve likely got more time on your hands since your children are more self-sufficient, you now have the confidence to care less about what other people think of you and no longer suffer fools.
But do you find yourself thinking more about your long term health, wishing you had more energy and vitality, that you could get back your skin’s dewy glow and that your digestive system would sort itself out?
I want to let you know that the food you eat matters more than you think. Eating the right diet for you along with lifestyle focus on improving sleep, stress and exercise, will help you feel like a new you.
There’s no reason that you cannot feel fabulous at any age, if you take the right actions, and it’s my job as a nutritionist and coach to motivate and support my clients to do just that. Of course, working one-to-one means I can create a nutrition and lifestyle strategy built around your exact needs. I’m going to share 6 of the most common things that come up for my clients, and how you can use the immense power of good nutrition to lead a long and healthy life.
Feel more energised
There are so many reasons that you might be feeling more sluggish than you’d like and pinpointing what’s behind your lack of energy is something we’d need to discuss in person. But what I’m going to share with you is a simple strategy that can make a big difference.
Balancing blood sugar levels is one of the key things I help my clients with. Eating in a way that provides a constant supply of energy through the day will help you avoid dips in blood sugar than can leave you feeling tired, grumpy and craving the ‘wrong’ kinds of foods.
Very simply, you’d want to have a little protein at every meal and snack. This includes meat, fish, eggs, and vegetarian protein sources like tofu, lentils, beans, chickpeas and quinoa. You also need plenty of non-starchy veg (starchy veg includes potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, corn) and smaller portions than you may be used to of starchy carbs like potatoes, rice, bread and pasta.
Unfortunately, the staple diet for many people involves cereal, sandwiches and pasta – often several servings in the same day – and this can contribute to blood sugar highs and subsequent crashes.
Fix your digestion
As you get older, some very important changes take place that can alter the way you digest your food.
With age, the body produces less stomach acid. This acid is needed to break down protein in your food. Low stomach acid production is linked to a variety of gastrointestinal problems, including Helicobacter pylori infection, dysbiosis, food allergies and intolerance, rheumatoid arthritis, acne rosacea, asthma, and decreased secretion of intrinsic factor, a chemical required for vitamin B12 absorption.
Heartburn and indigestion become more common as we age. Contrary to public belief this – in the majority of cases – is a result of too little stomach acid, not too much. Because of that, many people take over-the-counter meds to neutralise stomach acid or are even prescribed a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), medication that blocks stomach acid production. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is common, especially in older people, and unfortunately it can be the single underlying reason for anxiety and depression. If you have been prescribed a PPI, do not stop the medication without your doctor’s help and support. Stopping the drug can result in ‘rebound reflux’ – heartburn that is much worse than before – so you must come off it in a controlled way. If you are found to be deficient in vitamin B12, but you have a condition that requires you to remain on PPI long term, your doctor may be able to support you with regular B12 injections.
The stomach and intestines secrete enzymes that help break down the food further. These enzymes reduce as you age, too – not least because enzyme secretion depends on adequate stomach acid levels. The rest of one or both of the above can be bloating, belching or flatulence after meals, undigested food in the stool, indigestion, and diarrhoea or constipation. The good news is that targeted supplements are available that can improve symptoms of both, but these should be recommended by an experienced nutrition practitioner.
Vitamin D is important for digestive function and affects all organs involved in the digestive process, including making stomach acid. The older you get, the more you are likely to be deficient in vitamin D, simply because you lose some of your body’s natural ability to make it. That extra holiday in the sunshine is important, along with supplementation (and finding the right dosage for you based on functional testing is key).
As the digestion starts to slow down, constipation can become a problem. Some types of medications may include constipation as a side effect. These include calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure and narcotic painkillers. Increased inactivity also plays a part.
SIMPLE TIPS TO BOOST DIGESTION
Get your digestive juices flowing by thinking about your food and how delicious it’s going to be. Saliva contains enzymes that are ready and waiting for that first bite!
Take 2tsp apple cider vinegar in a little warm water 5 minutes before a meal (or with a meal as part of a vinagrette) to stimulate stomach acid production.
Eat slowly and consciously, taking care to chew each mouthful plenty of times until the food is little more than a mush.
Try a gentle walk after meals for 15 minutes - this helps with the digestive process and can also help balance your blood sugar levels, which is important to avoid slumps in energy.
Pineapple and papaya are natural food sources of enzymes and worth bringing into your diet.
Look your best
For many, one of the most bothersome things about the ageing process are wrinkles and the dullness your skin can take on. Although it’s not possible to turn back the clock, there are a number of things you can do to bring back that feeling of radiance.
The ageing process is due to inflammation of one sort or another. I know you’ll get that in relation to joint pain, but did you know that what you eat has a big impact on how your skin ages?
Eating too much sugar and processed carbohydrates (like pasta, bread, and baked goods such as cakes and biscuits) can lead to damage in your skin's collagen, which keeps your skin elastic and resists wrinkles. Alcohol and caffeine can also have a negative effect on the appearance of your skin.
On a more positive note, you should bring more of the healthy fats into your diet. Essential fats found in fish, avocados, nuts and seeds keep cell membranes soft and smooth – they’re nature’s perfect skin plumpers.
You’ll likely have read about how some skin care ingredients fight age-accelerating particles called free radicals. The magic ingredients in this case are antioxidants, and they’re in plentiful supply in fruit and vegetables of all colours. Eating as many different colours over the course of a week is helpful.
As a very general rule, each different colour group contains a different set of plant chemicals. Scientists now know that bringing a variety of different antioxidants into your diet has a synergistic effect, which means the combined result is more powerful than the individual parts.
An invitation to you
There’s no question that you are not the same person you were 20 years ago. But at the same time, there’s no denying that there are challenges that come with advancing years. And there’s no time like now to prioritise your health and rid yourself of any niggles or concerns about any aspect of your well-being that you might have been putting off.
I work with people just like you who are ready to say ‘yes’ to transforming their health. I warmly invite you to book a free call with me to discuss how making small changes to your diet and lifestyle can help you create the best-ever version of yourself.
Please join my Facebook community Fuss Free healthy Eating, dedicated to making healthy eating easier!