With age comes decreased capacity to repair cellular damage, to digest foods completely, to produce energy in our mitochondria, to recover from exercise, to take in and use oxygen, to circulate blood, repair cartilage, etc. Supplements are a primary strategy for getting around these limitations. (If you are young, before you know it this will all apply to you, so pay attention).

The primary issue is using the right supplements. If you think they are generally a waste of money, you need to understand the amazing difference the right supplements can make for our aging bodies. Today's foods are stripped of many critical nutrients and loaded with other elements that speed aging, depress the immune system and impede cellular activity.

There is a huge array of supplements on the market - some wonderful, some dangerous, some useless. My goal is to show you what works to overcome the limitations of aging; what you should be using, and what you should never put in your body. This will take a series of articles, so settle in for the long haul. Supplements I promote fall in the following areas:

• Enzymes & Hydrochloric acid - to completely digest food, eliminate gastric distress.
• Probiotics - to keep the digestive system in high gear, control blood lipids and boost the immune system, it is important to maintain proper balance of our intestinal bacterial flora.
• Anti-oxidants - to retard aging, stop inflammation, fight cellular and DNA damage and promote healing.
• Essential Fatty Acids - to replace those lost in food processing, needed for the proper function of every cell in our body.
• Vitamins and minerals - to provide optimum nutrition for our hopefully more active bodies, not just the barely minimal RDA (recommended daily allowance).
• Bodybuilding aids - that promote lean muscle growth, fat reduction, strength enhancement, endurance, energy production, exercise recovery, improved blood flow and blood pressure.
• Products that improve hormone production and balance - to recover capabilities you thought were gone forever.
• Much, much more.

The best place to start is with supplements that aid in the process of digesting food. The first problem we commonly experience is reduced production of hydrochloric acid (HCl) with age. Older stomachs don’t make as much, and it gets worse with age. So we can’t digest/absorb proteins or minerals as well as the young. Most people notice the problem as heartburn or reflux – the stomach doesn’t empty, a full feeling stays forever, and our stomach contents start leaking back past the lower esophageal sphincter valve. This valve requires a strong acid level in the stomach to get the ‘stay closed’ signal; when it leaks we get heartburn. The real answer is to take Betaine HCl with meals to make sure we quickly digest what we eat and then the stomach empties as it should – end of problem. Taking antacids or acid blocking drugs may reduce heartburn symptoms, but they only make the absorption problem worse. In essence, they guarantee malnutrition in the long run. That’s why we see an increase of broken bones, crippled immune systems and other diseases associated with aging in long-term users. Buy a big bottle of Betaine HCl with Pepsin (I use “Nature’s Concept” brand) and take them with every meal; start with one and increase as needed. It is important to take these with the meal, so the acid gets buried in the meal, not well before, not well after. This strategy works with about 95% of seniors.
Along with HCl with pepsin, you will find enzyme complexes designed to aid digestion. They contain combinations of enzymes involved in digestion – for taking apart foods, breaking them down into molecules which can be absorbed along the length of the intestines. Look for products with proteases, including pancreatin, bromelain and papain (these break down proteins), amylase (digests starches), lactase (breaks down milk sugar), lipase (digests fats) and cellulase (breaks down vegetable cellulose fiber). Using these will normally eliminate gas formation, speed digestion and improve bowl motility and regularity. Heartburn will almost always be a thing of the past, as long as you mind the important rule of never eating within three hours of going to bed.

The next important supplement group for optimum digestive function is the use of Probiotics. Inflammatory bowl diseases are increasingly common these days, and most of the problems stem from imbalance of the natural flora (bacterial and fungal populations) that makes their home in our intestines. There are over 400 bacterial and fungal species that symbiotically function within our digestive tract, and they are an important part of our immune function as well as performing many digestive functions. They normally outnumber our own body’s cell count by a factor of 10, and their chemical signaling is a major part of our own gene expression. In other words, the bacteria in our gut are capable of directing which of our genes are turned on or off, including genes that promote inflammation throughout the body.

Several factors impact these bacterial/fungal populations. Sugar, for example will feed an over-bloom of Candida Albicans, causing bowel inflammation and vaginal yeast infections in women. Antibiotics drastically alter these populations and kill off most bacterial species while letting yeasts and other fugal types become dominant. Excessive alcohol has a similar effect. We can restore optimal population balance by taking probiotic supplements, eliminating a plethora of negative conditions caused by the wrong germs getting out of control.

Of primary importance are the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, which are both introduced to us by our nursing mother, so are with us from birth. These set the tone for others that follow as soon as we encounter the world around us. Most of these various cultures have some positive function in our system, but when any imbalance occurs, there can be a negative impact on health. My favorite product for restoring sanity to my gut is Flora Source by Nutri-Health: (http://www.nutri-health.com/probiotics/pc/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=2&idpro...). I have used this to stop food poisoning in its tracks on more than one occasion. You can find many products on the market, but I like the wide variety of bacterial strains in this one.

Some of our natural bacteria are called Gram-Negative bacteria (they include bacteria like E-coli, Salmonella, Pseudomonas, Helicobacter, Legionella, etc - potential bad guys). If these get out of control they become highly toxic to us. They constantly shed part of their cell walls, releasing lypopolysaccharide (LPS). High levels of LPS in the blood put us into septic shock and can kill us in hours, but lower levels from overpopulation of these bacteria just poison us slowly, causing inflammation (our immune system’s response to invaders) and promoting a broad array of disease state, including heart disease, organ failures and cancer. It is important to manage our bacteria by feeding the good guys and keeping them happy, so they restrain the potential bad guys. More to come next time!
Good Living - Frank

Author's Bio: 

Frank Wilhelmi of http://www.seniorfitness.com chronicles strategies for staying healthy and fit into advanced age. He is an electronic engineer by trade, but his passion is teaching others to lead healthy, vibrant, pain-free, activity-filled lives.