The Thinking Person's Guide to Perfect Health
Slowing and Reversing the Effects of Aging
We live in an age of expansion in all areas of human knowledge. The total amount of information which is available doubles every five years. Medicine is no exception. The average doctor completed training fifteen years ago. That means the amount of information a person needs to know to be a top-flight medical expert has doubled three times since then. Let us do some math: 1 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 8. The amount of medical information available to the practice of medicine is now eight times what it was in 1981!
Needless to say, most doctors are far out of date in their knowledge of medicine. Those of us who try to keep up, realize how far behind we really are. Those who do not try to keep up, do not realize how far behind they are, because they usually are too preoccupied with the business aspect of the practice of medicine.
With doctors this busy, and hopelessly far behind, many people are shifting responsibility for learning about the latest developments in matters of health to themselves. I am in philosophical agreement with this transformation, and I see progressive, holistic doctors in the role of facilitators of this change. My job is to provide you with the latest information in matters affecting your health.
Prevention of Abnormal (Premature) Aging
The advice for a person under 35 is fundamentally different than advice for an older person. Eat right, exercise, avoid toxic substances (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, etc.), drink lots of filtered or distilled water and get plenty of sleep. Of course, this all applies to the over 35 group as well, but there is more to the task of staying young after you are no longer young. I divide aging up into minimal aging, normal aging and abnormal aging.
Minimal aging is what occurs when you take the best possible care of your body, including utilizing modern nutritional science. People who do this typically look ten to twenty years younger than their chronological age.
Normal aging happens when you are taking the best care of your body, but you are not taking advantage of what is offered by modern nutritional and medical science to maintain your youth: vitamins, minerals, hormonal therapy, etc.
Abnormal aging comes from abuse of the body: smoking, drinking, subjecting yourself to stress, etc. If slowing the aging process is what you want, and if you are going to choose a doctor to help you, I suggest that you ask that doctor’s age, then step back and take a long look at that person. If this person is not looking a lot younger than the stated age, look elsewhere for someone who knows and practices the information of anti-aging.
Slowing the Effects of Normal Aging
Here is the sad fact of the matter: nature designed you to be healthy long enough to have children and care for them until they reach an age old enough to survive on their own. From a species survival standpoint, that is what your body is for. After age forty, nature doesn’t give a rip about you, because you have lived long enough to have fulfilled your reproductive purposes.
This is true throughout the animal kingdom. Many species die immediately after having laid the egg, fertilized the eggs, given birth, etc. From an evolutionary standpoint, it is no surprise we grow old. Nature wants us out of the way, so there will be room for the next generations. So, after age forty, you are on your own: nature is not going to protect you, and you will have to do it for yourself, if you want to grow old and wise.
The body doesn’t have the courtesy to break down all at once, it goes down the drain system by system. This gives us the opportunity to deal with it and repair each breakdown as it happens or, better yet, prevent it before it happens.
After accounting for the ill effects of a poor diet and lack of exercise, the manner in which the body deteriorates can be traced to the failure of the endocrine and exocrine glands. “Glands” are structures in the body which secrete something vital for life.
The Endocrine Glands
“Endocrine” glands secrete directly into the blood and circulate immediately throughout the body. “Endo” means inside, thus denoting that these glands place their secretions inside the body, namely into the blood stream. Such a secretion is a “hormone” (derived from a Greek word meaning “to stimulate”). Hormones are the language the body speaks between its various parts, letting the various organs know if they need to speed up or slow down, make more of this or less of that. It is an exquisite biochemical symphony.
Blood circulates throughout the body in sixty seconds. Therefore, it takes approximately sixty seconds for a hormone to reach any other part of the body.
The endocrine glands are the following:
The pituitary is listed on top and in capital letters, because it is the so-called “master” endocrine gland. It serves to regulate the other endocrine glands. It produces a variety of “trophic hormones” which tell the other endocrine glands to speed up, work harder.
As we age, and the endocrine glands decrease their function, the pituitary begins to whip them like tired horses. This contributes to the development of a state of exhaustion. It is plain and clear to me that normal aging (as distinguished from abnormal aging from poor diet and lack of exercise) is caused by the gradual decline of the endocrine glands with a resulting decrease in circulating hormones. What causes this gradual decline in the endocrine glands probably is the effect of free radical pathology. (See discussion on antioxidants in The Thinking Person’s Guide to Perfect Health.) This, in itself, is something which can be slowed down by proper diet and supplements.
Aging cells become more and more resistant to the effects of hormones, and therefore just at that time in life when the body needs a boost in hormone levels, it gets a decrease instead.
The hormone secretions of the endocrine glands not only effect the health and well-being of the rest of the body, but they also are dependent on each other to maintain health. Thus, when the thyroid gland takes a nosedive, and the basal metabolic rate is slowed down, this, in turn, slows down the functioning of all the other endocrine glands. When the parathyroids age, they no longer hold calcium metabolism within the boundaries required for maximal health. When the thymus partially degenerates (which it does by age twenty) the immune system is no longer the lion it once was. When the pancreas puts out less insulin, all the other endocrine glands are denied easy access to glucose, because insulin helps drive glucose into cells. Glucose is an important energy source for the functioning of all the cells of the body.
The adrenal glands are responsible for regulating the body’s response to stress through regulation of protein, carbohydrate and mineral metabolism, as well as powering up the immune system in conditions of stress. When the adrenals are exhausted, the other glands are unable to cooperate in reducing the effects of stress, and the body is more susceptible to infections. The adrenals become exhausted through constant exposure to stress from any source. This is an extremely common condition in our society.
The testes and adrenals in men and the adrenals alone in women make testosterone (or TNAS, the natural anabolic steroid as I like to call it), and this hormone is responsible for maintaining aerobic metabolism and preventing the body from resorting to the far less efficient anaerobic metabolism.
The ovaries and adrenals in women and the adrenals alone in men make estrogen, which lends softness and pliability to tissues without sacrificing strength. When estrogen production wanes, the connective tissue component of all organs (including the endocrine glands) suffer. The point is: all the endocrine glands work together and depend upon each other, and the failure of one of them affects the rest as well.
Endocrine gland failure is inevitable, and it is part of what I call “normal” aging. Warding off abnormal aging is done by proper diet, exercise and sleep. Slowing down normal aging is possible through timely recognition and correction of endocrine failure – and there is the rub.
Traditionally, doctors have relied on laboratory tests to diagnose deficiencies. That works well for the under 35 age group. However, after 35 or 40, the amount of hormone needed to maintain a youthful condition goes up progressively. Therefore, if you have a set of symptoms which could be attributed to hormone deficiency, you may go to the doctor, be sent for lab tests and then be told there is nothing wrong with you – you are just getting old.
Well, that is true, you are getting old, except it is not true that nothing is wrong with you. What is wrong with you is: you are getting old. Doctors say you are just getting old when they cannot correct a problem. Does it make sense to keep saying that when the means are at hand to correct the problem?
While it may be true that the endocrine glands are getting old and will not put out as much hormone as needed to keep the rest of the body young, that does not mean we should lie down and learn to live with it. If we can rejuvenate or supplement the endocrine glands, and if that rejuvenation or supplementation is safe and creates an enhanced experience of health and well being, as well as increased longevity, why shouldn’t we do it? While it is true that our ancestors had to live with degeneration of the endocrine system, it does not necessarily follow that we should retrace their footsteps.
We can now go to the health food store and buy “glandulars,” preparations made from animal endocrine organs containing the precursor molecules necessary to power up the various endocrine organs. (See the chapter on “micronutrients” for a discussion of glandulars.) This works, up to a point, and is especially effective to prevent aging of the endocrine organs and, to some degree, reverse it. When it no longer works, it is now possible to supplement with the actual hormones themselves. See the chapters on the individual endocrine organs for details in The Thinking Person’s Guide to Perfect Health.
Where the Doctor Fits In
The contribution the doctor can make is the correct diagnosis, based on clinical symptoms and physical examination, of which endocrine organs are weak. Your doc should also know the correct replacement dose(s) of hormone(s) which are required and have the courage to prescribe them whether or not the lab tests reveal a hormone level consistent with low endocrine function for a 35-year-old (or younger) person.
If you want to roll back the clock and completely rejuvenate your body, it is necessary to become familiar with, consider closely the health of, and then fully support the function of each and every endocrine (and exocrine – see below) gland. This is known as a “glandular workup” – in which we test and examine each gland in your body and then bring each gland up to youthful function.
The Exocrine Glands
The “exocrine” glands secrete outside the body. The inside of the gut (stomach, small and large intestines) is considered to be outside the body. If you drink a glass of water that water is not on the “inside” of you until it is absorbed through the walls of your stomach and intestines into the blood stream. The same goes for food.
Here is a list of the digestive exocrine glands:
- salivary glands
- cells in the wall of the small intestine
The function of most of the exocrine glands has to do with digestion of food. Sweat glands help regulate the balance of salts within the body and keep the body cool, as well, during times of heat stress.
Immediately upon ingestion of food, your exocrine glands go to work to digest that food. The salivary glands of the mouth secrete amylase to begin the breakdown of starches (complex carbohydrates). When the food reaches the stomach the parietal cells pour forth hydrochloric acid at a pH of 2! This is stronger than battery acid, and it is combined with pepsin, which begins to break down protein.
After about two hours, the food is moved on to the duodenum where the acid nature of this chyme (as it is called) stimulates the secretion of an enzyme from the duodenum called “secretin.” Secretin is then absorbed and carried by the blood stream throughout the body. When it reaches the pancreas, it stimulates the secretion of lipase, proteinase and more amylase to digest fat, protein and complex carbohydrates respectively.
The presence of fat in the chyme stimulates liver production of bile containing emulsifying agents. These act like a kind of soap to separate the molecules of fat, so that they can be worked on and digested by lipase.
When chyme is broken down to individual molecules, it is absorbed directly into the blood stream through the wall of the gut. From there it is taken directly through the liver by the portal venous system, so that anything requiring immediate detoxification and/or excretion can be dealt with. The chyme progresses through the small intestine and, as the pH returns to neutral, bacteria take over to help in further digestion. If conditions are normal most of these bacteria are aerobic and friendly.
When the food reaches the colon it begins the conversion to fecal matter through dehydration. The colon absorbs water from the chyme, and bacteria finish the digestive process and produce vitamin E in the process. If all goes optimally, defecation occurs within 24 hours of ingestion and this defines the “transit time.” This is the normal situation. Unfortunately, few people are normal. Here are some of the things which can go wrong.
The most common thing which goes wrong is hypochlorhydria. It is impossible to overemphasize the subtle yet devastating results of hypochlorhydria, or underproduction of stomach acid. The entire digestive process depends on a healthy load of acid being dumped on the food when it arrives in the stomach. If this does not happen, protein digestion is incomplete. Remember that acid is necessary to trigger secretin release from the duodenum, which, in turn, provokes the pancreas to produce lipase, proteinase and amylase. If acid is deficient, this response is muted, and digestion of not only protein, but also fat and carbohydrate is compromised.
The presence of undigested food causes an overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria in the lower small intestine and in the colon. The toxins produced by these bacteria are absorbed, and the liver works overtime trying to straighten the situation out. The final result is poor digestion and inadequate absorption of nutrients (even in the face of a healthy diet) and also a toxic condition caused by overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria (a condition called “dysbiosis”). Many symptoms result from this toxicity: headaches, fatigue, hypertension, gas, muscle aches and pain, insomnia, personality changes, irritation and more.
The frequency of hypochlorhydria in the population is fifteen percent. Among people who feel ill enough to show up at a doctor’s office, fully fifty percent are affected. By age forty, forty percent of all people are affected, and by age sixty, fifty percent have hypochlorhydria. A person over age forty who comes to a doctor’s office has about a ninety percent probability of having hypochlorhydria. It is easily the most underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed condition in medicine. (See page 200 in The Thinking Person’s Guide to Perfect Health for more details.)
The pancreas is, as the acid producing parietal cells of the stomach also are, especially sensitive to toxins. One of the toxins to which the pancreas is especially sensitive is alcohol. Many people are unable to fully digest their food, because the pancreas is not producing sufficient amylase, lipase and proteinase. This is diagnosed by measuring circulating levels of these enzymes and also by stool analysis for completeness of digestion.
When the liver is damaged, it ceases to put out a healthy complement of bile salts, and this causes a failure of emulsification of fats leading to poor digestion of fats.
The frequently overlooked colon is equally important to health as any of the other organs of digestion. With age, a low fiber diet and low intake of water, it may slow down and stasis of food occurs, thereby allowing unfriendly bacteria to multiply, producing toxic material which leads to fatigue, headache, anxiety, insomnia, etc.
Butyric acid is a substance which serves as the energy source for the cells of the colon, so ingestion of this substance tends to regenerate a tired colon. Also, colon therapy is valuable to help the colon; but unless more fiber and water is presented to the colon, colon therapy will be of only temporary benefit. There is a variety of plant derived colon stimulants, such as aloe vera leaves, which serve to power up the colon. Psyllium husks (not powder) are an excellent source of supplementary fiber.
There is a variety of other, much more uncommon conditions, which can affect digestion, but I will omit them here and stick to those conditions which are so common as to be accepted by the medical establishment as normal, or at least not worthy of attention.
I believe that poor digestion is behind most of the diseases of aging – including cancer and vascular disease. Genetics may play a role, but something like a five percent role compared to a 95% role played by food selection and life style emphasizing exercise, rest, nutritional supplementation, and perfect digestion. I also believe that much of the degeneration of the endocrine glands is related to poor digestion. Nothing could be more important to the prevention of abnormal and normal aging than attention to the efficiency of digestion.
If the endocrine and exocrine organs are managed appropriately this leaves us with the last type of aging: inevitable aging. This is a kind of change in the genes apparently regulated by a genetic “clock” of some kind, which ticks inexorably to a final conclusion. If it is true that what I am calling inevitable aging is a function of some kind of genetic clock, we will have to wait until our knowledge of genetics is sufficient to devise a prevention of inevitable aging.
Of course, when that time comes, we will have to rename this kind of aging, since it will no longer be inevitable. Presumably at that time, we also will have the ability to reverse the genetic clock, so that a person has the choice to grow younger instead of older.
In that utopian world, one would be able to choose his favorite age and progress or regress to that age and then remain there. Once this can be done, it will bring up an enormous philosophical debate. Should it be done? Who will have access to this technology and on what criteria? We may find that people do not want to live forever, and then we will be confronted with the Kevorkian Enigma with a new twist: should healthy people who could live forever be allowed to choose to die? And should doctors assist them?