Liver Health: Give Your Liver a Vacation

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Liver Health: Give Your Liver a Vacation

As we mentioned earlier, easing your liver’s burden by making healthy dietary and lifestyle choices is healthy and beneficial. For your liver’s sake, consider reducing its heavy burden by increasing the proportion of your diet that is made up of organically-grown, pesticide- and herbicide-free, preservative-free, additive-free foods. Why intentionally add to the work that must be done by a part of your body that is so very vital to staying healthy throughout many decades of life?

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Liver Health: Cut Down on Unhealthy Fats

 

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Liver Health: Enjoy the Spice(s) of Life

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Liver Health: Enjoy the Spice(s) of Life

In a presentation to the Fourth International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition, held in Loma Linda, CA, April 8–11, 2002, Dr. Johanna W. Lampe explained that even though they are thought of primarily as adding flavor or aroma to a meal, all of the spices found in the kitchen actually are used by the body to promote health, and many find their happiest home in liver cells, where they provide additional support for the biochemical functions that are required for detoxification.7 Spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander and saffron are just a handful that are known to enhance liver function. Go beyond salt and pepper and discover the taste delight of the common as well as the rarely used spices. Flavor up your foods and spice up your liver health.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Liver Health: Give Your Liver a Vacation

References:
7. Lampe JW. Spicing up a vegetarian diet: Chemopreventive effects of phytochemicals. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(Suppl):579S-583S.

 

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Liver Health: Enjoy the Colors of the Rainbow

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Liver Health: Enjoy the Colors of the Rainbow

No single food contains all of the beneficial liver-enhancing compounds.6 Interestingly, foods of different natural colors tend to contain greater amounts of different groups of these compounds. The varying and brilliant colors of fruits and vegetables are reflective of their differing polyphenol content. Various polyphenols are liver-supportive because they have antioxidant properties and confer additional health benefits. The truth is that if all of the whole fruits and vegetables you eat are white, or even green, you will be short-changing your poor overworked liver. (You can find charts linking the colors of foods and the nutrients they represent at http://www.5aday.org).6 Colorful meals are more than just visually pleasing – they are absolutely necessary for keeping your liver from getting old before its time.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Liver Health: Enjoy the Spice(s) of Life

References:
6. 5 a Day – The Color Way. Produce for Better Health Foundation. Wilmington, DE. http://www.5aday.org/html/colorway/colorway_home.php

 

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Liver Health: Eat, Don’t Cook

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Liver Health: Eat, Don’t Cook

Many of the biochemical processes that the liver must perform in order to help you stay healthy require the presence of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are most abundant in the vegetables and fruit that you eat. Including these foods in your daily diet will keep your liver cells fully prepared for the challenges that the rest of your diet and body will provide. However, the activity of many of the vitamins and other nutrients present in the diet is decreased by cooking. As explained in a recent review article, cooking vegetables (except beans and potatoes) destroys many of the nutrients the liver craves.5 It is much more efficient (from your liver’s point of view) to eat uncooked vegetables and fruit. Thus, adding raw foods to your diet can help increase the efficiency of liver function. High-quality dietary supplementation can also help bridge the gap between supply and demand and can “level off” day-to-day fluctuations in the nutrient and phytonutrient contents of the foods you consume.

Exception: Some foods need to be cooked to maximize the availability of liver-healthy phytonutrients. As an example, tomatoes contain liver-supportive nutrients in their fibrous materials, so they must be cooked to maximize the release of those nutrients for absorption into your blood.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Liver Health: Enjoy the Colors of the Rainbow

References:
5. Link LB, Potter JD. Raw versus cooked vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2004;13:1422-1435.

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Liver Health: Support the Body’s Detox System

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Liver Health: Support the Body’s Detox System

Liver Function

Your liver is your body’s own Environmental Protection Agency – it works continuously to screen, monitor and cleanse the contents of your blood – quite an important job! The ability of your liver to perform its cleansing operations efficiently and effectively depends on the balance between its cleansing capacity, the amount of cleansing you ask it to perform and the tools you provide to help it perform its functions.

The Liver Needs Help

While the liver is an extremely efficient organ, it can be overwhelmed with toxins that accumulate as a result of lifestyle activities. Things that can contribute to the pool of toxins that the liver must detoxify include the foods we eat, the air we breathe, and the liquids we drink. Other contributors to the overall toxic burden include drugs, heavy metals, and other chemicals we are exposed to at work and home. Smoking and alcohol intake are also obvious contributors to our overall toxic load. All of these factors play a part in increasing the liver’s workload. If liver supportive cofactors are not present in adequate amounts, the liver can become inefficient at performing its duties. Cofactors necessary for liver health and function include antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables, which function to help the liver directly and support our body’s production of innate antioxidants that fortify the liver’s detoxifying capacity. Thus, in order to fully support liver function, dietary and lifestyle factors that enhance liver health must be implemented.

Published research shows that dietary factors can make a large contribution to the liver’s overall efficiency – for example, in an animal study published in Biomedical Research, drinking green tea (which has a high content of catechins such as EGCG) helped protect rat livers from the damage caused by a deadly hepatotoxin.1 Another study in rats recently published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology showed that the dietary supplement N-acetylcysteine helps the liver protect itself.2 In yet another study published in the Journal of Nutrition, adding fish oil supplements to the human diet was found to accelerate the removal of some detoxified toxins from the liver.3 In contrast, the consumption of alcoholic beverages was again shown to interfere with human liver function in a recently published study.4

The liver is a complex factory that requires many individual tools and materials to foster the efficient performance of its machinery. Some of these tools perform very specialized functions while others are generally useful to the entire organ. You can assist your liver by providing the tools and help it needs. On the other hand, you have the ability to prevent your liver from doing its array of jobs effectively. Recognizing the balance between help and harm will enable your liver to remain healthy for decades, which is a vital component to healthy longevity.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Lifestyle Choices that Keep Your Liver from Getting Old

References:
1. Abe K, Ijiri M, Suzuki T, Taguchi K, Koyama Y, Isemura M. Green tea with a high catechin content suppresses inflammatory cytokine expression in the galactosamine-injured rat liver. Biomed Res 2005;26:187-192.
2. Rana SV, Attri S, Vaiphei K, Pal R, Attri A, Singh K. Role of N-acetylcysteine in rifampicin-induced hepatic injury of young rats. World J Gastroenterol 2006;12:287-291.
3. Jonkers IJ, Smelt AH, Princen HM, Kuipers F, Romijn JA, Boverhof R, Masclee AA, Stellaard F. Fish oil increases bile acid synthesis in male patients with hypertriglyceridemia. J Nutr 2006;136:987-991.
4. He P, Court MH, Greenblatt DJ, von Moltke LL. Factors influencing midazolam hydroxylation activity in human liver microsomes. Drug Metab Dispos 2006;34:1198-1207.

 

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Adaptogens – Rhodiola rosea – The “Gold-Standard” Adaptogen

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Rhodiola rosea – The “Gold-Standard” Adaptogen

Also known as golden root and Arctic root, Rhodiola rosea has been shown to have superior adaptogenic properties that support the various phases of the body’s stress response. Extracts of Rhodiola rosea root contain a variety of active phytonutrients (flavonoids); the best known are salidroside (also called rhodioloside or rhodosin), rodiolin, rosin, rosavin, rosarin, rosaridin and p-tyrosol.

Rhodiola rosea Enhances Physical Performance

Scandinavian and Russian professional and Olympic athletes have supplemented with Rhodiola rosea root extract for years to maximize endurance and accelerate muscle cell recovery after exercise. According to a detailed summary of research conducted within the former Soviet Union on Rhodiola rosea root extract, daily consumption of 200 to 600 mg of this herbal preparation has been relied upon for its abilities to 1) sustain a high level of conversion of energy to work during strenuous exercise; 2) reduce the recovery time immediately after a strenuous event; and 3) stimulate protein deposition and muscle growth.2 Although it is not possible to confirm this author’s evaluation of the research (available only in the original Russian), there is some independent scientific evidence that supports the ability of Rhodiola rosea root extract to support performance under stress.

In experiments in animals, Rhodiola rosea root extract has been found to improve physical working capacity by increasing the efficiency of conversion of nutrients into energy in muscle cells during exhaustive work. This effect of Rhodiola rosea root extract on muscle cells can explain at least in part the demonstration, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, that compared to the lack of effects of placebo, the consumption of 200 mg of Rhodiola rosea root extract (standardized to 3% rosavin + 1% salidroside) one hour before testing produced increased endurance (time to exhaustion) and maximum oxygen delivery during exercise without an increase in work by the lungs.3 In another experiment, untrained volunteers who consumed Rhodiola rosea root extract prior to beginning controlled exercise experienced faster recovery of muscle function and less soreness when they became exhausted.

Together, this body of science suggests that the capacity to perform any activity, even the activities of daily work, can be sustained and supported by appropriately timed dietary supplementation with Rhodiola rosea root extract.

Rhodiola rosea Promotes Mental Performance

Rhodiola rosea root flavonoids enjoy a reputation for stimulating the nervous system, increasing the ability to concentrate, enhancing the quality of work performance, enhancing healthy sleep and eliminating tiredness. For example, the flavonoids in these roots were shown to decrease mental fatigue and increase physical fitness, associative thinking and short-term memory, ability to perform mathematical calculations, ability to concentrate and ability to perform on standardized tests in studies of students during “exam week” and young physicians during generally stressful night shifts. It is likely that, as with muscular work, Rhodiola rosea root extract enhances the efficiency of physiological energy generation, and thus supports efficient mental function even during periods of energy-draining physical and mental stress.

Rhodiola rosea Strengthens Immune System Performance

According to recently published research, the flavonoids in Rhodiola rosea roots are effective promoters of the innate response of the immune system.4 Further studies suggest that Rhodiola enhances the production of several chemical messengers of the immune system that function as proliferators of a highly vigilant immune response.5 Chinese researchers studying the immune modulating effects of Rhodiola have also concluded that the herb has modulatory effects on both the Th1 and Th2 response of the human immune system, thus showing an ability to beneficially balance the immune response.6 Through its influence on cytokine and immune protein expression, Rhodiola may promote an active, healthy immune response.

Rhodiola rosea may be an ideal adaptogenic herb that is able to support the human stress response by relieving feelings of tiredness and lethargy, by tonifying the body to increase work capacity and physical endurance, by enhancing cognitive function through its ability to support concentration and memory, and by modulating immune function to promote an enhanced immune response.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Liver Health: Support the Body’s Detox System

References:
2. Abidoff M, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola Rosea. The Herbal Heavyweight from Russia. National Bioscience Corp., Chester, NY, 2005, 6 pages.
3. De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2004;14:298-307.
4. Ming DS, Hillhouse BJ, Guns ES, Eberding A, Xie S, Vimalanathan S, Towers GH. Bioactive compounds from Rhodiola rosea (Crassulaceae). Phytother Res 2005;19:740-743.
5. Mishra KP, Ganju L, Chanda S, Karan D, Sawhney RC. Aqueous extract of Rhodiola imbricata rhizome stimulates Toll-like receptor 4, granzyme-B and Th1 cytokines in vitro.Immunobiology. 2009;214(1):27-31.
6. Li HX, Sze SC, Tong Y, Ng TB. Production of Th1- and Th2-dependent cytokines induced by the Chinese medicine herb, Rhodiola algida, on human peripheral blood monocytes. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;22;123(2):257-66.

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Adaptogens – Normalizing the Body’s Stress Response

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Adaptogens – Normalizing the Body’s Stress Response

Several herbal remedies can be extremely useful for normalizing the body’s stress response. These herbs fall into the category known as adaptogens. Adaptogens increase the ability of the human body to respond (“adapt”) to a variety of chemical, biological and physical stressors. A common theme among these rejuvenating tonic herbs is that they are rich in naturally-occurring antioxidants. However, they have properties beyond their antioxidant capabilities that make them restorative of the body’s stress-handling ability. Some of the more well-known herbs falling into this category include the various ginsengs, licorice root, eleuthero and ashwagandha. All of these herbs are somewhat similar in nature in that they support the body’s natural response to stress. However, they are each somewhat different in terms of the type of situations they are indicated in. They are all superb adaptogens.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Rhodiola rosea – The “Gold-Standard” Adaptogen

 

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Dietary Habits to Reduce the Effects of Stress

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Dietary Habits to Reduce the Effects of Stress

Certain dietary habits can interfere with our ability to deal with stress and even increase the effects of stress on the body. Some of these factors are the obvious ones and include excessive alcohol consumption, smoking tobacco products, eating sugar-rich foods and high amounts of simple carbohydrates, skipping meals so the body does not receive adequate nutrition at regular intervals, failing to eat sufficient amounts of high-quality protein to support immune health and blood sugar regulation, and taking in large amounts of stimulants such as caffeine.

On the contrary, a diet high in essential fatty acids, rich in fruits and vegetables that contain important antioxidants, whole grains, and nutrient-rich foods (as opposed to eating empty calories) that contain essential vitamins and minerals all are supportive of the body’s stress response. Adding a high-quality, nutritionally complete multivitamin that contains the essential B vitamins, vitamin C and other antioxidant nutrients, such as CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, and polyphenols, strengthens the foundation of nutritional support necessary for achieving the ability to cope with stressful situations.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Adaptogens – Help You to Adapt

 

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Lifestyle Activities that Enhance the Body’s Stress Response

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Lifestyle Activities that Enhance the Body’s Stress Response

Feeling Tired?

Chronic elevations in cortisol and related stress hormones from the body being under constant stress can lead to the third and final phase of the stress response: exhaustion. This is characterized by an inability of the body to deal with the effects of stress and results from the depletion of electrolytes such as potassium. It also results from an inability of the adrenal glands to produce the hormones required to be in this constant state of hypervigilance. This manifests in weakened organ function and depleted immune function. It also manifests as cellular dysfunction and problems with blood sugar regulation.

The shift of metabolic resources away from daily activities in response to stress predisposes us to a reduced ability to perform “cognitive mental processes” (learning and remembering) and impaired immune defenses. Thus, in order to maintain the body’s ability to cope with normal levels of stress, the body requires fundamental support to avoid the consequences of the exhaustion phase of the stress response.

Fundamentals for managing stress include relaxation exercises. These techniques are geared to producing a state of relaxation in the body, which is the opposite of the stress response. While under stress, the sympathetic nervous system is dominant, during relaxation, the parasympathetic nervous system dominates. This is characterized by shunting of blood back from the periphery to the core organs.

Relaxation can be induced through a variety of activities. Meditation and deep breathing exercises are excellent for inducing a state of relaxation of the mind and body. Surprisingly, exercise is also an important component of a stress management program. Acutely, exercise itself induces physical stress on tissues of the body. However, the long-term effects of exercise are to relax the body by strengthening its ability to deal with stress and enhance mood function.

Another important aspect of dealing with stress is mitochondrial health. The mitochondria in cells are the energy factories where cellular energy production occurs. The production of energy also leads to the production of free radicals. Hence, damage to the mitochondria and to the cells that contain them can occur at a rapid rate. Mitochondrial function has been shown to decrease with age as a result of oxidative stress, predisposing aged individuals to decreased ability to cope with stressful situations and increasing the chances of poor cellular health. Research has shown that resistance exercise restores mitochondrial function in the skeletal muscle of aging individuals, allowing their bodies to better withstand the physical aspects of stress.1

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Dietary Habits to Reduce the Effects of Stress

References:
1. Tarnopolsky MA. Mitochondrial DNA shifting in older adults following resistance exercise training. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009;34(3):348-54.

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About Stress

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Stress

The body has a high capacity to adapt to stressful situations that can take various forms. Regardless of the stressors we throw its way, the body has an amazing capacity to react to them and recover normal functionality. However, without the support it needs on a constant basis to overcome stressful situations, even the body can show signs of breakdown, and wear and tear. The effects of chronic stress are well-documented. High levels of constant stress are bad for the body and diminish health. The nature of stressors can be in the form of physical stress or mental and emotional stress. Any of these types of stressors can trigger the body’s stress response. The ability of the body to cope with stress determines the level of health in any individual.

The body’s stress response can be divided into three general phases in accordance with the work of the stress researcher Hans Selye. These three phases of the stress response include the alarm phase, the resistance phase, and the exhaustion phase. The alarm reaction involves what we know as the fight or flight response.

In this acute phase, which is a normal component of the body’s stress response, signals from the pituitary gland cause the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and other stress hormones. This allows the body to maintain a high state of vigilance to quickly react to the stressor it is facing. Heart rate increases as blood is circulated to the peripheral tissues in preparation for quick action. The rate of breathing increases and the supply of oxygen to the brain is increased. Blood sugar also increases in response to perceived need by the muscles.

While this initial phase arms the body for the short haul, the second phase of the stress response prepares the body to cope with extended periods of stress, and is known as the resistance phase. Cortisol and related hormones of the adrenal cortex are responsible for the physiological effects of this phase. The effects of the cortisol response include the conversion of protein into energy so the body has enough energy stores to cope with the depletion of its glucose supply. Other short-term effects of the resistance phase include providing the body with the emotional strength it needs to cope with stress and enhance its ability to perform strenuous work, while promoting a strong immune reaction. Cortisol is quite necessary when the body is faced with acute stressors; yet prolonged elevations in cortisol levels, and hence prolonging the resistance phase, can lead to detrimental health effects.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Feeling Tired? Rejuvenate Your Mind and Body with Adaptogens

 

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