Archive for the ‘Aging’ Category

Ashwagandha: The Rejuvenator

ashwagandha-root

 

Withania somnifera, or Ashwagandha, is a revered herb in Indian Ayurvedic medicine – referred to as the “Indian ginseng” and the “rejuvenator”. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used to increase the body’s resilience to physiological and psychological stress and improve the body’s state of health overall. Although useful for a wide range of other health conditions, Ashwagandha is particularly known for its adaptogenic properties and the regulation of hormones, reducing anxiety, improving sleep, and treatment of Alzheimer’s.

Regulation of Hormones

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb. This means that it supports the body’s systems, assists the body’s ability to adapt to stressors, and has a normalizing and balancing effect on the body. If a system is either under or over active, adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha will aid the body to restore its natural balance. Ashwagandha’s adaptogenic properties particularly benefit the endocrine system, which allows for the proper regulation of hormones. One study determined that Ashwagandha has thyroid enhancing properties and effectively regulates TSH, Free T4, and T3. This may be beneficial for those struggling with under or overactive thyroid glands, or for anyone looking to help balance their hormones.

Lower Anxiety

Traditionally Ashwagandha has been most often used for anxiety relief. A number of studies have demonstrated its effectiveness as both an anxiolytic and an anti-depressant due to its chemical composition and its adaptogenic properties. The biologically active chemical components of Ashwagandha include sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides, both of which are anti-stress agents. As well, because of its adaptogenic properties Ashwagandha improves an individual’s resilience to stress, and therefore improves overall mood. One study measured Ashwagandha consumption in stressed rats and found that serotonin levels went up with the use of Ashwagandha, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness. Another study on patients with alcohol addiction found that Ashwagandha significantly increased GABA levels, a neurotransmitter known to reduce anxiety. As made evident by these studies, Ashwagandha may be useful support for those experiencing anxiety, or for those looking to improve their mood and overall well-being!

Improved Sleep

Ashwagandha has also shown positive results in improving sleep and fatigue. One study measured mice with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a syndrome characterized by persistent fatigue and exhaustion. The study determined that Ashwagandha improves fatigue by decreasing lipid peroxidation and restoring glutathione (GSH) levels. Most people that struggle with insomnia have lower GSH levels, as it is an antioxidant that helps produce melatonin and induce delta-wave sleep. Another study demonstrated that Ashwagandha is effective for insomnia by decreasing cortisol, as elevated cortisol levels are another cause of insomnia. Ashwagandha may be a good solution for those looking to improve sleep, reduce fatigue, and boost energy throughout the day.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s

Ashwagandha has been shown to be effective in improving memory and cognitive performance. Many recent studies have also shown its potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. It does this by improving cognitive abilities, which allows for improved motor and memory skills. One study showed that Ashwagandha inhibits the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, plaques found in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients. Another study demonstrated that it has cognitive promoting effects and is useful for children with memory deficit and those with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. It does this by helping restore memory loss, as it aids in the formation of dendrites which are necessary for synaptic processing in the brain. In addition, while Ashwagandha is particularly helpful for those experiencing memory loss and cognitive impairment, it is also useful for improving cognition in otherwise healthy individuals. In a 2014 double-blind study, subjects were randomly given either Ashwagandha capsules or a placebo and assessed on cognitive and psychomotor performance. Significant improvements were seen in the Ashwagandha group as compared to the placebo group. Although further research is still needed, these studies demonstrate that it may be an effective natural treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, as well as support for improved cognition in general population.

 

Ask your naturopathic doctor for more information.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC

www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

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Can Sugar Speed Up Aging?

Aging is a complex process that affects every organ, cell, molecule and body function. Consuming high amounts of sugar will most definitely accelerate this process. When sugar gets into your circulation, it goes through a process called glycation in which the sugar binds to proteins, creating molecules called advanced glycation end products also known as AGEs-a fitting acronym for the topic at hand.

AGEs are harmful in that they are damaging to different proteins throughout the body. One of the main functions of proteins is to provide structure for the body. Approximately one third of the body’s protein is collagen. Collagen is found in areas such as muscles, bones, blood vessels, ligaments and the skin. Among collagen, your skin also contains another protein fiber called elastin, making the skin the perfect target for the AGEs. Elastin and collagen are the building blocks that keep your skin firm, smooth and help maintain its elasticity. When these protein fibers are damaged and their structures are weakened, the skin starts to lose its resiliency and the skin begins to sag and form wrinkles.  To add to the insult, AGEs also turn off some of your body’s antioxidant enzymes, further reducing your protective mechanisms against aging.

The negative effects of AGEs are very pronounced in individuals with delayed diagnosis of diabetes or poorly controlled diabetes. The chronic high blood sugar levels in diabetic individuals leads to the accumulations of AGEs which in turn not only reflect as premature signs of aging as the skin’s elasticity becomes compromised but can also damage the blood vessels of the heart, eyes, kidneys and the extremities. The blood test HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c) is used to measure the amount of glycation on red blood cells, making this test a very important tool to assess how well blood sugar levels are kept under control. The higher the HbA1c levels, the higher the glycation and the more accelerated the process of aging and damage to the body.

The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to minimize AGE formation. One way to do this is to reduce your intake of sugar since a rise in blood sugar levels is one of the main driving forces behind glycation. According to a 2011 report released by Statistics Canada, Canadians consume an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar a day, which amounts to about 88 pounds per year.  35% of this intake comes from added sugar. This is an area that we can definitely improve on.

Always read labels for hidden sources of sugar. For instance, many store bought sauces, salad dressings, dried fruit, canned foods and breads contain added sugar. Other high sugar ingredients to look for and avoid include corn syrup, malt, molasses, fructose, turbinado, dextrose, glucose and fruit juice concentrate.  And simply avoid adding sugar to your food and drinks. For instance, if you are used to adding sugar to your tea, next time try adding a dash of cinnamon instead. It gives it a mild, sweet flavor and has the added benefit of supporting healthy blood sugar levels. Eliminate poor quality carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta as these products quickly break down to sugar and spike up the blood sugar levels.  Also avoid “sugar-free” products as most of these are made with artificial sweeteners that among other side effects can trigger sugar cravings.

Another way to reduce the effects of glycation is to consume more antioxidants. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals that would otherwise be damaging to your skin. Many antioxidants inhibit AGE formation. Blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes are all excellent sources of antioxidants. Drinking green or white tea on a regular basis will further deliver potent antioxidants into your system. Supplementing with vitamin C and E also helps enhance your antioxidant levels.

More sugar does in fact amount to more wrinkles. But the skin is just an external indicator of internal health and eating sugar will actively age you inside and out. Making a conscious effort to reduce your daily intake of sugar and increasing your antioxidant intake will have a great impact not only on your skin but also on your overall health and in prevention of many diseases.

Always consult your naturopathic doctor before initiating a new regimen.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

Concentration and Memory Improved with B Vitamins

B vitamins are necessary for proper brain functioning and they also help improve concentration and memory. There are different studies relating the role of B vitamin to brain health. In a recent study, British researchers from Oxford University showed that high doses of selected B vitamins (namely folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12) can significantly slow down the rate of brain shrinkage in elderly people suffering from mild mental decline. The double blind controlled trial followed 168 volunteers aged 70 or over with mild memory problems. Half the participants took B vitamin supplements for two years, while the other half took placebos. The results were astonishing, the brains of those taking vitamin B tablets shrank at a rate of 0.76 per cent a year, while those taking placebo experienced brain shrinkage at a rate of 1.08 per cent a year. It was concluded that B vitamin supplementation helped lower the concentration of brain damaging homocysteine levels.

If you want to give your brain a boost, make sure your diet is high in B vitamins. B vitamins are found in foods such as beans, oats, spinach, brown rice, eggs, turkey, avocados, potatoes, lentils and whole grains. Even a simple step such as switching from white rice to brown rice can considerably enhance your vitamin B intake.

Always consult your naturopathic doctor before initiating a new regimen.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.