Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine ● Longevity Nutrition

mineral absorption

When we think of ageing we assume that our body’s various tissues all age at the same rate.  In fact this is not so.  Various stresses over a lifetime will cause different tissues to age at different rates. 

  There are three inter-related factors that ultimately determine ageing of cells in a specific tissue.

  • Telomere length  the ultimate determining factor.  Very briefly, telomeres are like caps on the ends of chromosomes that protect them from deterioration.  Every time a cell divides, the telomere shortens.  When the telomeres are gone, the cell can no longer reproduce itself. Once this happens they age and eventually die. (Or become cancerous and become temporarily immortal)
  • Rate of cell turnover or replication.  Cell turnover is necessary for eliminating old cells which often contain both endogenous toxins (lipofuscin from cellular waste products) and exogenous toxins from the environment.  This accumulation of toxins makes older cells more susceptible to developing mutations in their DNA resulting in cancers.  Thus, their elimination is desirable.   However, if cell turnover is too frequent, telomere length shortens prematurely.
  • Metabolic rate and free radical activity.  These are the main driving forces of cell breakdown and turnover.  The food we eat and the activity we do or do not engage in has a profound effect on these factors.  For example, bursts of exercise temporarily create increased metabolism and free radicals.  In moderation, this leads to a healthy, cleansing turnover of cells.  Another scenario is caloric restriction. When the body thinks it’s starving, almost all physiological processes slow to a trickle.  The slowing of metabolism reduces the production of cellular waste products and free radicals posing less risk of cancer.  As the turnover of cells also slows telomere length is conserved.

Because bone health is strongly related to the health of so many other tissues in the body I’m going to look at bones as an example of how to manipulate aging factors with diet.  Simplistically, bones are made of a protein lattice with a bunch of minerals held in that lattice with vitamins D and K acting as the glue.  In addition to providing structural integrity for the body, bones act as a mineral reservoir for times of dietary scarcity.  A keystone function of our bone mineral reserve is to maintain the very sensitive and narrow pH range of the blood and intracellular fluids.  The body must keep these fluids at a slightly alkaline pH 7.35-7.45 or several physiological functions begin to fail including:

  • Increased consumption and reduced production of ATP,
  • Accelerated bone loss
  • Increased membrane free-radical production
  • Less efficient metabolism and protein synthesis
  • Suppression of growth hormone and other pituitary hormones. 

(*the above bullets were obtained from an article written by Susan Brown PhD.  See article link at bottom)

Every time we eat acidifying foods, like protein, the blood or cytoplasm pH falls toward a more acidic state.  In response, the body uses its bones to buffer the acid like a Tums™ tablet.  It does this by activating cells called osteoclasts that create inflammatory chemicals that break down bone to release buffering minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium into the blood and cytoplasm.  When we eat a meal of alkalizing foods, like kale or almonds, cells called osteoblasts are activated to rebuild the bone structure.  If the diet is relatively alkalizing, containing lots of minerals, these cells don’t need to be as active. Unfortunately, even what we consider healthy diets are quite acidifying.  This causes a constant flip flop of increased metabolism of these two types of cells.  Remember from above, increased metabolism will lead to faster cell turnover and speeds the shortening of telomeres.

From my 10+ year of practice I can say with certainty that if there is one thing people are lacking more than anything else in their diets its minerals.  By the way, guess what gives your hair its color.  Traditional Chinese Medicine states that the state of the hair reflects the state of the bones.  I don’t think this is scientifically proven but I would imagine a good study would show a correlation between the graying of hair and the deterioration of bone health.

SIMPLE CHANGES THAT CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE:

Include more alkalizing foods in with every meal: 

  • Green tea
  • Sea Salt (very alkalizing and high in minerals)
  • Drink mineral water throughout the day
  • Conclude your meal with an Umeboshi plum – one of the most alkalizing foods
  • Include lemon or lime in your water – yes they are acidic but have an alkalizing effect on the blood
  • Eat mineral-rich organ meats like kidney, heart and liver.  They taste like minerals and we aren’t used to these exotic tastes anymore
  • Eat fish like sardines and canned wild salmon which contain digestible bones
  • When you make soup, make it with the whole carcass
  • Eat more miso soup with extra seaweed

Combine alkalizing veggies with every meal.  This is especially important because all protein sources are somewhat acidic and you have to eat protein.  To balance out this acidity include foods like broccoli, cauliflower, onion, daikon, garlic, parsley, collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, watercress, ginger root, cabbage pumpkin, bell pepper, sea weeds and sea veggies. This is why if you do the Atkins diet, you MUST eat lots of veggies with it.  

After exercise  consume miso soup with seaweed which is loaded with potassium, magnesium and other trace minerals  OR take a potassium-magnesium supplement.  Even those E-Mergen-C packets are pretty good especially if combined with a greens mix.

Eliminate bone-dissolving “foods” like all sodas, coffee, sugar and high sodium foods.

Don’t be fooled by some “healthy foods”.  For example carrots, zucchini, spinach and chard contain calcium but are actually acidifying and can induce bone turnover.

Ensure your body is capable of absorbing minerals:  The ionization that occurs in stomach acid is the rate-limiting step for mineral absorption.  If you are on acid-blocking medications like Zantac™, Prilosec™, or Protonix™, your body is virtually rendered incapable of absorbing minerals (protein as well).  My suggestion, find a doctor, naturopath or Chinese Medicine doctor who practices functional medicine and get it fixed.  In the meantime, focus on avoiding acidifying foods and consume more alkalizing foods to minimize the damage.

Some Helpful Supplements that I know work:  You can take all the supplements you want but if your diet continues to induce and acid state, you cannot slow down the constant metabolism in bone tissue.

  • Kelp tablets especially the brand Katsu
  • Dalektro-N – this is a German biologic drainage remedy that seems to magically improve mineral absorption
  • Multi-mineral supplements – not advisable for people with weak digestion.  Kelp is better.
  • Osteoforce by Designs for Health
  • Greens mix such as barley greens or Paleogreens

For a complete list of foods see The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide by Susan Brown, PhD.

Susan also has a fantastically researched article expanding on the subject of acid-alkaline balance, bone health and its effects on the rest of the body.  http://www.ionizers.org/pdf/bjaffe.pdf

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