Staying healthy, active and energetic as you age is possible. While many adults accept changes in body composition, energy, sexual function and mobility as natural parts of aging, there are many factors within our control that help protect against the visible signs of aging. There are countless ways to support a healthy, vibrant aging process including a diet rich in whole foods, limiting processed foods, reducing exposure to environmental toxins, staying active, getting enough sleep and avoiding stress. What many people don’t realize is that all of those factors have something in common: they support the optimal production of hormones that are critical in the aging process.
Hormones are at the center of the aging process. There are two camps of hormones – the hormones that help keep us young and the hormones that age us. Here is a critical fact to understand: we age because hormone production declines – hormone production doesn’t decline because we age. So – if we are able to leverage natural means of supporting crucial hormone levels, we can effectively maintain energy, youthfulness, metabolism, sexual function and much more.
The trend seen in many aging adults is an increase in hormones which can negatively impact our health such as cortisol and insulin, with a simultaneous decrease in hormones that help maintain youthfulness – estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, growth hormone and many others. These changes often result in decreases in muscle mass, aerobic capacity, bone mineral density, quality sleep and sexual desire with concurrent increases in fat mass, stress, blood pressure and inflammation.
Fortunately, employing a few simple strategies, at any age, can help you get on the right track towards staying healthy, active and well as you age. Identifying the factors which support normal hormone production and utilization is the first step in achieving your anti-aging goals.
Getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night is critical. Sleep is an active process during which your body restores and repairs itself. By skimping on your sleep and not giving body the necessary time to rest and repair, you support your body’s natural ability to product hormones.
Chronic stress accelerates the aging process – there is no way around it. Excess stress increases cortisol levels. By minimizing stress you help moderate your cortisol levels and support a healthy hormonal foundation.
Processed, chemical-laden foods interrupt healthy hormone production. By the same token, organic, whole foods help support optimal hormone production. Make an effort to choose whole foods and reserve processed foods for occasional treats.
There are a variety of nutrients that can help support optimal hormone production and support your journey towards healthy aging:
- L-Arginine is an amino acid found naturally in dairy, poultry, meat, nuts and fish. L-arginine is an essential component of healthy aging because of its role in supporting the natural production of several hormones, most notably human growth hormone. Human growth hormone is the master hormone which controls the growth of the body from infancy to adulthood. HGH stimulates the synthesis and release of Insulin-Like Growth Factors (IGF-1), which carry out the instructions of HGH, including effects on strength, energy, muscle health and endurance, sexual vitality, metabolic effects and many more.
- Glutamine is another amino acid which has been heavily researched and is used widely in supplementation. One of its many roles includes its function to significantly increase plasma human growth hormone levels. One study showed as much as a 70% increase in growth hormone levels compared to placebo after oral supplementation for 3 weeks. These effects were seen when glutamine was combined with glycine and niacin.
- Glycine is a lesser-known but very important amino acid; primary sources are protein-rich foods including meat, fish and dairy. In addition to its known benefits for muscular and nervous system health, studies have shown glycine plays a role in increasing the body’s release of HGH as well as controlling the hypothalamic-pituitary function involved in the synthesis of HGH.
- Melatonin is a hormone synthesized in the brain and is known for its effects as a sleep aid. Its primary role involves the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythm, endocrine secretions and sleep patterns, but it also plays a role in stimulating the release of human growth hormone. It is important to also note that human growth hormone is released during the first 45-90 minutes of sleep so if sleep patterns are good, this process works more effectively. Melatonin has also been shown to inhibit somatostatin—a hormone that works against the release of human growth hormone—and to compliment the effects of other HGH stimulating nutrients such as arginine, glutamine and glycine.
A popular misconception is that the aging process is simply a fate to accept. The reality is that what we refer to as “aging” is an interrelated series of biological process that, to a considerable extent, can be effectively managed. Most manifestations of aging—compromised mobility, depleted energy, decrease in muscle tone and inhibited libido—all relate back to changes in the production and maintenance of various hormones.
Thanks to extensive research and clinical trials, these hormones, their precursors and the factors that prompt and sustain their release have all been identified, and these nutrients, properly incorporated into regular supplement regimens, can exert a profound effect. As these discoveries progress, the day may well arrive when aging gracefully is not an aspiration for later life, but the natural norm to be comfortably anticipated.