Advanced Practice Physical Therapy October 2019

HOW TO MINIMIZE AGE-INDUCING ATOMS

THE FREE RADICAL 411 If you’ve ever picked up a health magazine while waiting at the doctor’s office, then you’re probably familiar with the term “free radicals” — at least enough to know that they get a bad rap from doctors and beauticians alike. But what are they, exactly? According to Live Science, free radicals are atoms with unpaired electrons that have split off from oxygen molecules in the body and started to “scavenge” for other electrons to pair with. That wouldn’t be problematic, except that these atoms tend to damage cells, lipids, proteins, and even DNA along the way, and that destruction has serious consequences. As Live Science puts it, “Free radicals are associated with human disease, including cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and many others. They also may have a link to aging, which has been defined as a gradual accumulation of free-radical damage.” Unfortunately, it’s impossible to entirely avoid free radicals and the havoc they wreak. The process that forms free radicals, called oxidative stress, can be kick-started by a variety of

different substances found in food, water, medicine, and even the air we breathe, according to the Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education at Stanford University. Unsurprisingly, these substances are things already considered unhealthy, like alcohol, exposure to X-rays, ozone, fried food, chemical pesticides, air pollutants, and tobacco smoke. That said, there is one molecule that is stable enough to stand up to and reduce free radicals: the antioxidant. According to a study published by Pharmacognosy Reviews, antioxidants can “donate an electron to a rampaging free radical and neutralize it, thus reducing its ability to damage.” Synthetic antioxidants exist but can sometimes have harmful side effects, so scientists advise protecting yourself by avoiding free radical triggers like alcohol, processed foods, and red meat, and ingesting natural antioxidants in the form of berries, stone fruits, olives, onions, garlic, and green and black teas. Herbs and spices like cinnamon, basil, turmeric, and fenugreek can ratchet up your antioxidant levels too. While it can’t guarantee immortality, the right diet can certainly help you stave off aging and disease, so why not start today?

THINKING WITH YOUR GUT THE AMAZING CONNECTION BETWEEN YOUR STOMACH AND YOUR BRAIN

While it may seem strange to think about, the human stomach is truly a thing of wonder. Most humans only acknowledge its digestive processes, but the gut plays a much more influential role in our day-to-day lives than simply breaking down food for nutrient production; it is closely connected to our emotional states, as well. Think about it. Have you ever felt butterflies before a date, intestinal pain during moments of stress, or nausea before an important presentation? Have

you ever told someone to “follow their gut” before making a big decision? These physical symptoms are not a coincidence; they are known in the scientific world as the gut-brain axis . Your gut is connected to the limbic system, the part of the brain that processes emotions. The brain sends messages to all other organs in your body, so it’s not surprising it communicates with your stomach, too. What is surprising, however, is that the connection goes both ways. Just as your brain can relay information to your gut about excitement and anxiety, your gut can have a direct impact on the way you feel. According to a recent study published by the National Library of Medicine, when a person’s microbiome — the

diverse population of good and bad bacteria living in the GI tract — becomes significantly altered or imbalanced, psychological or neurological issues can arise. In

response to these emerging findings, dietary approaches and probiotics are being explored to see how well they can modulate a person’s microbiome and address symptoms. While research is still being conducted to determine the extent of the stomach’s influence over emotional and mental states, plenty of evidence proves the connection is real. Your stomach “talks” to you all the time, and, if you didn’t have enough reasons to pay attention to the food you eat, now you have one more thing to keep in mind. If you start thinking a bit more with your gut, your health will thank you for it!

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