It is normal to dislike aging and to yearn for lost youthfulness. This is a part of our shared human experience, and has cut across numerous cultures through the ages.
Thankfully, there are practical steps you can take to slow, and even reverse, the aging of skin. And this process will rejuvenate much more than your skin. Aging is a whole body process. Its reversal is also a whole body process. But first of all, it is useful to understand what aging is.
What is aging?
Aging is basically damage to proteins. It is the gradual accumulation of irreversible damage to proteins. Proteins are the most dynamic molecules in the body. Proteins are the scaffold of the body, giving it form and structure. Proteins are also molecular machines, assembling themselves in numerous ways to enable life. In short, life is proteins acting on other relatively inert molecules (e.g. fat, cholesterol, DNA, carbohydrates, minerals, etc).
The aging of skin is caused by damage to the proteins that make it up. Namely structural proteins like collagen and elastin. As these proteins are irreversibly damaged, skin progressively falls apart. It becomes saggy, wrinkly, spotty, fragile and dull.
The damage that drives aging could come from various sources. Minor sources could range from noxious fumes from a petrol generator to weak radiation from your cell phone. However, these are largely peripheral. There are two main drivers of aging: oxidation and glycation. And the secret to rejuvenating skin is to take steps to manage these two processes. Let us examine each in turn.
What is oxidation?
Oxidation is the damage that results from energy generation in the body. Life requires energy. However, energy generation is not a clean process. There is a continuous, low-level of protein damage that is unavoidable. It is a part of being alive. That is, the very processes required for life creates damage that ultimately ends life. This is the circle of life. This is also why immortality in the human body is impossible. I find it all quite poetic.
A useful analogy is a diesel generator. It uses diesel and oxygen to generate useful electrical energy. But this process also generates harmful waste gases that pollute the air. The cells in your body use food and oxygen to generate chemical energy. But this process also generates harmful oxidants that damage the body.
How to slow oxidation
I suppose you have heard of antioxidants. A group of compounds found in fruits and vegetables. And that they are very good for you. Have you ever wondered why? As the name suggests, antioxidants neutralize oxidants. They mop up any excess of harmful oxidants in the body. They are essential for life and health. They minimize the damage associated with simply being alive.
In the same vein, antioxidants protect the proteins in your skin. When you shield these proteins from damage for long enough, some of them can be repaired. This is skin rejuvenation.
Raw vegetable juice is the best source of antioxidants. You can mix and match a wide array to find out what is most palatable to you. I like carrots, beet root, spinach, and some pineapple to sweeten. Vegetable juicing is without question the most important intervention in reversing the effects of skin aging. And your whole body will thank you for it.
Another useful thing is lime and ginger tea. You add a teaspoon of freshly chopped ginger to a cup of hot water. Then add the juice of two freshly squeezed limes. This combination is an antioxidant powerhouse.
…refined sugar is not so sweet after all. It is the nutrient equivalent of battery acid.
What is glycation?
Glycation is damage caused by sugar in the body. Sugar has two lives. On the one hand, it is a critical source of energy and an important raw material in the body. On the other hand, sugar tends to break down into highly toxic compounds that react with proteins throughout the body. A glycated protein cannot be repaired.
The body understands the two-faced nature of sugar and tightly regulates it. There is only one teaspoon of sugar freely circulating in your blood at any given time. And that one teaspoon is also rapidly turned over. That is, as the body produces sugar it rapidly uses it up. This is to ensure that no one molecule of sugar spends much time circulating freely in the body. If a molecule of sugar circulates for too long, it breaks down into a highly reactive product. One such toxin is called methylglyoxal.
So imagine what happens when you drink a soft drink? Over ten teaspoons of sugar surge into the bloodstream. This overwhelms the sugar regulating systems in the body. Some of this sugar breaks down and reacts with proteins all over the body, including collagen and elastin. In short, sugar ages the skin like none other.
How to slow glycation
The body is able to deal with the low levels of glycation that occur with a whole foods diet. However, it cannot cope with the surge of sugar that follows consumption of refined carbohydrates. This is why it is important to minimize consumption of processed foods. These foods are loaded with refined carbohydrates like table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and white flour.
Some of the worst offenders are:
- Sodas, packaged fruit juice, malt drinks
- Donut, cake, instant noodles, biscuit
- Flavored milk drinks, yogurt, ice cream
To cut a long story short, refined sugar is not so sweet after all. It is the nutrient equivalent of battery acid.
Jacob, Kimberly, Nicole Hooten, Andrzej Trzeciak, and Michele Evans. “Markers of Oxidant Stress that are Clinically Relevant in Aging and Age-Related Disease.” Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. 134 (2013): 139-157. Print
Gkogkolou, Paraskevi, and Markus Bohm. “Advanced glycation end products: key players in skin aging?” Dermatoendocrinology. 3 (2012): 259-270. Print
- Ezenwa Onwugbenu is a nutritional healer and public speaker on natural health matters. You can find out more about him and his passion for natural health and living on Creative Juices.