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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eat and Be Young

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You are what you eat, as the old saying goes.

But we’d like to add this simple thought: What you eat can make you old.

Last month we explained how age equals inflammation and why inflammation could play a role in many degenerative processes, including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. (See the April 17 issue of the Shepherd for details.)

Reducing inflammation may be able to slow down the aging process. And, even more important, it’s something you can do every day, very simply, just by eating the right foods.

Here’s how it works: The internal pH (level of acid) of the body is a critical factor in producing inflammation. The body is designed to function properly when the internal environment is neutral, with the exception of the stomach’s acidity.

When your body becomes too acidic, it tries to come into balance by retaining water and taking calcium and other minerals from your bones. Over time, these processes may lead to inflammation and osteoporosis. Your cells, tissues and organs may prematurely break down. And some studies have shown that tumor cells, bacteria and viruses will grow at explosive rates when placed in an acidic bath.

One culprit is your diet. The typical American consumes a wide variety of food and substances that create acidity within the body, such as pharmaceutical medicine, soda, processed foods, additives and preservatives.

Fortunately, reducing your acidity is pretty easy. Try these tips:

Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably raw. Processing foods kills the enzymes they contain when they’re fresh, which forces the body to use its own limited reserves to digest what you eat. Plus, additives and preservatives create acidity, contributing to the aging process.

Consume Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily from fish oil, flaxseed or hemp oil. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency has been called the scurvy of our time, with an estimated 90% of Americans lacking in this vital nutrient.

Eat the right kind of processed foods. Nearly every culture in history has relied on lacto-fermentation in food processing, which keeps the food alive. Traditional foods like pickles, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, soy sauce and miso retain critical nutrients and help to slow down the aging process.

Check out your pH balance. A simple way to check your own internal environment is to purchase a simple pH strip from a health food store and begin monitoring one of the most important factors in premature aging.

You can start changing your life today. Don’t dig your grave with your fork.

Ty Wade, D.C., has a private practice in Saukville. David Wade manages an assisted living home in Sheboygan County. They can be contacted at wellness@shepex.com.