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Seniority complex

Great advice for diet, nutrition and lifestyle as you grow older

There are ailments that we’re more prone to in our ‘golden years’ and equally a host of supplements to counteract their negative effects,” says Gerald Colfer of health store Only Natural in Wexford town. “Arthritis and joint problems, osteoporosis, cardiac impairment, vision-related issues and memory deterioration are all common. While some of these differences may be the result of genetic predisposition, the healthier aged are sometimes the ones who’ve taken care to eat an unrefined, natural diet, remain physically active and maintain a positive mental attitude and have fun. These are the attributes that should be embraced for a healthy old age before we think about supplements.”

The best senior diet

“Having a balanced diet of good carbohydrates like brown bread, rice, pasta and cereals, protein-rich foods like fish, beans and eggs, fruits and vegetables, foods rich in calcium such as milk, yogurt and cheese as well as leafy green veg and fortified cereals is even more important as we age,” says Dorothy Browne of health store Nice and Natural in Cootehill, Co Cavan. “Keep active, eat well, quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, drink lots of fluids, stay up to date with all medical appointments and take plenty of rest is all good advice.”

“I recommend good fats, be they from fish or vegetarian sources as they have multiple benefits for joints, heart, eyes and brain,” says Gerald Colfer. “They fight inflammation which is now thought to be the root cause of many ailments. Turmeric is one of nature’s great inflammation fighters. Ageing bodies process protein less efficiently and need more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health and other essential physiological functions.”

Senior bone support

“Omega-3, curcumin and ginger can reduce the pain and inflammation of stiff joints,” says Dorothy Browne. “Glucosamine chondroitin and MSM are important in the formation of collagen and vitamin D and help maintain healthy levels of calcium and magnesium, important minerals to support strong bones. Arnica gel helps reduce swelling and pain, which is great for sprains or strains and bruising.”

Also supporting joints and bones:

  • To prevent osteoporosis look for a calcium supplement taken in conjunction with vitamins D3 and K2 as vitamin D3 helps calcium absorption and K2 calcium to be deposited where it is needed.
  • Natural anti-inflammatory supplements that have clinically supported benefits, such as boswellia, hyalonuric acid, curcumin, MSM, glucosamine, rosehip extract and New Zealand green-lipped mussel oil.
  • Magnesium and zinc – both vital for bone health
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – essential nutrients for bone health and strength. Sometimes fortified with vitamin D for bone health.
  • Vitamin B12 – keeps homocysteine levels down, an amino acid linked to bone fracture.

Ask your local health store for a bone-friendly supplement.

Supporting your heart

According to the Irish Heart Foundation the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke are smoking, high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, physical Inactivity, overweight and obesity. We should all: eat less fatty foods; eat oily fish twice a week; eat more fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods; try to stop smoking; maintain a healthy weight; exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week; drink less alcohol; learn to relax and have a regular blood pressure and cholesterol check.

Also supporting the heart:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • CoQ10 – may be of benefit to heart health.

Ask in your local health store.

Probiotic support

“Probiotics support good digestion, better immunity and optimal brain health and mood,” says Gerald Colfer. “Choose a powder from the many sources available including pea, hemp, whey and pumpkin and use it in shakes and cooking. Taking a multivitamin is a good idea. I tend to favour versions in powder form which, as well as all the important nutrients, often contain a gamut of alkalising green foods too.”

Supporting your digestion

“For digestive problems, we always recommend a good probiotic, prune juice, extra fibre such as psyllium husks and for indigestion some digestive enzymes, aloe vera juice and apple cider vinegar,” says Dorothy Browne.

Also supporting your digestion:

  • Digestive enzymes – help the body to break down food and absorb more vitamins and minerals from food.
  • Garlic – for a cleansing and antibacterial action on the gut.
  • Yogurt – restores natural bacteria.
  • Magnesium – for the relaxation of intestinal muscles.
  • Centaurium bitter herb for acid reflux – available in tincture form.
  • Camomile tea – drink after a meal for heartburn and acid reflux.

Supporting your eyes

“Taking a blueberry supplement rich in lutein may help to keep the muscles of the eyes strong,” says Dorothy Browne. “Zinc and vitamin C are also beneficial. Eye drops containing euphrasia can help with dry, irritated and tired eyes. Plenty of sleep is also recommended and keeping regular appointments with your optician.”

Also supporting eyes:

  • Carrots – a rich source of beta-carotene which the body converts into vitamin A.
  • 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.
  • Selenium – benefits the eyes. In small amounts in brazil nuts, eggs, garlic, and brown rice, seafood and yeast or take a supplement.
  • Zeaxanthin and lutein – from leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and watercress.
  • Vitamin A – a vital nutrient for eyes. In dairy products, fish oils and egg yolks.

Omega-3 and seniors

“Omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks of every living cell in the human body,” says Olive Curran a Galway-based nutritional therapist who works with PPC. “The best source of omega-3 is oily fish (sardines, salmon, anchovies, fresh tuna and mackerel). Oily fish provides the most beneficial and active fatty acids, commonly referred to as EPA and DHA. A massive 89% of Irish people are not consuming sufficient oily fish in their diet, so often there is a need to take a good quality omega-3 fish oil. For vegans, algae oil is a vegan alternative rich in omega-3 DHA for brain function and vision. Look for a vegan algae oil that provides both EPA and DHA.

“Omega-3s have been found to improve numerous heart disease risk factors. They help to reduce blood pressure, reduce triglycerides and improve blood circulation. They have also been shown to increase HDL ‘good’ cholesterol, helping to reduce cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fatty acids are also crucial for the maintenance of the health of eyes and brain and essential for good brain health.

“One of the major risks faced by the elderly is impaired vision with age. Omega-3 for older adults leads to the improvement of vision. Omega-3 is an important structural component of the retina of the eyes.

“People who don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet can become demotivated, disinterested, forgetful and may experience low mood, while serious deficiency can lead to an increased risk of developing conditions such as ADD, dyslexia, depression and Alzheimer’s.”

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

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