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Better with age

Getting older does come with its own challenges but there are numerous ways in which your local health store can help you to live a healthier life. See what’s on offer for common older age health issues

A photo of an older couple

Tummy troubles

Kevin Connolly: “Constipation, absorption and acid reflux can all be big issues as we get older as the bowels tend to get a little more sluggish as we age. So we should look at good quality fibres such as chia seeds, flax seeds and a good variety of vegetables in the diet to help keep regular while not upsetting the system.”

Nancy Flexman: “Indigestion and reflux are often caused by low stomach acid, rather than too much. If symptoms occur about an hour after eating, low stomach acid is likely to be the problem. Try sipping an acid drink such as cider vinegar or lemon juice in water with meals containing protein. Digestive enzymes containing betaine hydrochloride (stomach acid) can be helpful. Acid-blocking medications also impair digestion and keep you from absorbing minerals and other nutrients properly.”

Kevin Connolly: “Digestive enzymes help the body to break down food, taking the pressure off the digestive system. This helps the body absorb more vitamins and minerals from the foods that you eat too.”

Help is also available from:

  • Garlic - for a cleansing and antibacterial action on the gut
  • Yoghurt - restores natural bacteria
  • Digestive aids - which combine aloe vera juice with herbs such as chamomile, slippery elm and papaya
  • Centaurium bitter herb for acid reflux - available in tincture form
  • Camomile tea – drink after a meal for heartburn and acid reflux
  • Magnesium - for the relaxation of intestinal muscles

Eyes have it

Kevin Connolly: “Anyone with eye health issues should go to a qualified optician. That said, we often have customers using eye supplements to help prevent Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Lutein and zeaxanthin in supplements help prevent oxidation around the eye.”

Nancy Flexman: “For macular degeneration combination supplements provide a variety of nutrients that have been found to be helpful for the eyes, including lutein, zinc, vitamin A and bilberry or blueberry extracts.”

Help is also available from:

  • Vitamin A – a vital nutrient for eyes. In dairy products, fish oils and egg yolks
  • Carrots - a rich source of beta-carotene which the body converts into vitamin A
  • Zeaxanthin and lutein – from leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and watercress
  • Bilberry – contains antioxidant vitamins A and C that help to prevent damage to the eyes. Available as tablets, sometimes with lutein and zeaxanthin
  • Flaxseed oil – good if you have dry or itchy eyes. Available as capsules and a liquid
  • Omega 3 fish oil – good for general eye health and clear eyesight. Available in capsules
  • Selenium - benefits the eyes. In small amounts in brazil nuts, eggs, garlic, and brown rice, seafood and yeast or take a supplement

Bones and joints

“As we age the destruction of cartilage within joint surpasses the body’s ability to repair it,” says Daniel Jones BSc PhD Director of R&D, Revive Active. “This leads to increased friction and bone rubbing which translate into pain, inflammation and reduced mobility. A multifaceted approach should be employed to focus on pain, mobility and cartilage loss. First, MSM acts as an inflammatory and antioxidant to help reduce the pain and inflammation within joint tissue. Second, hyaluronic acid acts as a lubricant and shock absorber to help reduce pressure and friction in the joint. Third, the body should be supplied with collagen, the building blocks for cartilage, especially in conjunction with nutrients like glucosamine.”

According to Kevin Connolly, Healthy Living Centre, Athy, Co Kildare, “You are what you eat. Staying away from the family of aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes and looking at alkalising your diet will help your arthritis a lot. Fresh fish will help reduce inflammation and keep the joints supple. We are selling a lot of turmeric capsules as it is anti inflammatory and pain relieving. Light exercise is very important.”

Nancy Flexman, owner of Eats of Eden in Limerick: “if you have joint pain, drink water. Dehydration contributes to inflammation and pain of many types. Reduce sugars and starches in your diet and increase vegetables. A supplement for bone health should include calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin K2 and boron and vitamin D. Take at least 2-3000iu of vitamin D per day. Get your vitamin D levels tested and supplement until you get your level in the high normal range. Glucosamine can be helpful for joints.”

Help is also available from:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids - essential nutrients for bone health and strength. Some high-quality omega-3 products are fortified with vitamin D for bone health. Available as liquids, soft gels, and gummy formulations
  • Vitamin B12 - keeps homocysteine levels down, an amino acid linked to bone fracture
  • Magnesium and zinc - both vital for bone health
  • Ask your local health store for a bone-friendly supplement as there are a variety on the market

Happy heart

The Irish Heart Foundation says that the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke are smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension), raised cholesterol, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity.

We should all: eat more fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods; eat less fatty foods; eat oily fish twice a week; if you smoke, try to stop; be a healthy weight, watch the portion sizes; be more physically active, at least 30 minutes five days a week; say ‘when’ sooner, drink less alcohol; learn to relax and have a regular blood pressure and cholesterol check.

Dr Keri Marshall: “Fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines, mackerel, and herring contain EPA which helps to relax muscles and can relieve menstrual cramps. If you don’t eat enough of these it’s a good idea to take a fish oil supplement with a high ratio of omega-3 (EPA & DHA) and omega-6 (GLA).”

Kevin Connolly: “A quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a little hot water, first thing in the morning helps clear the arteries and regulates blood pressure. Hawthorn tea is a good tea to drink for the heart muscle.”

Nancy Flexman: “Take a good medium-strength multivitamin and extra essential fatty acids in the form of a marine oil or plant oil supplement. Garlic is excellent as a food and a supplement can help to lower mildly elevated blood pressure. Beetroot and beetroot juice are also helpful with blood pressure.”

Help is also available from:

  • CoQ10 – may be of benefit to heart health. Ask in your local health store
  • Fish oils – if you don’t eat much fish, take a supplement of fish oil with omega 3 to cut down on unhealthy fats called triglycerides
  • Green tea – a relaxing drink thought to be helpful in controlling cholesterol
  • Garlic – cook with it, eat it raw or take a supplement to help arteries to stay clear
  • Sterols and stanols – found in nuts and grains, these compounds help control cholesterol levels. Also available as supplements
  • Fibre – if you don’t get enough fibre from fruit, vegetables and grains consider a supplement to ensure your body gets 25-30g per day

Prostate problems

Prostate issues become a problem for an increasing number of men in their 60s. Any man with frequent urination, painful urination, blood in urine, inability to urinate, pain in their back, hips, thighs or pelvis should see a doctor straight away.

According to Nancy Flexman: “Eat foods rich in beta-sitosterol such as pecans, avocados, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, rice bran, wheat germ, soybean products and dandelion coffee. Also eat tomatoes and other vegetables rich in lycopene. Exercise and avoidance of long periods of sitting are important. Remedies containing nettle root, zinc, lycopene, pumpkin seed and sea buckthorn can help.”

Help is also available from:

  • Dandelion herbal teas may help to support the urinary tract
  • Goldenrod – has important anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and antiseptic actions
  • Birch leaves and Horsetail –can help to strengthen the urinary system
  • Cantharis – very effective at easing the burning sensation when urinating
  • Magnesium – a mineral that can help muscles to completely empty the bladder
  • Acidophilus – a probiotic that helps to keep unfriendly bacteria at bay. Available in chewable tablets

Check with your professional healthcare practitioner before you take any new supplements or start a new diet.

Click here to read earlier Rude Health Magazine natural health articles.
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