Dr. Doni explains how 4 simple steps – get more sleep, eat cleaner, move more, manage stress – can improve your health and reverse the aging process.
Part 12 of Dr. Doni’s Series on Oxidative Stress
Every sign of aging—from brittle bones to grey hair, wrinkles, sore joints, and memory loss—all come back to how well we manage not just psychological stresses, but physical stresses—including oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is the sort of “rust” that occurs in our bodies simply by being human and living life. But there are things we can do about Oxidative Stress, and that is what I’m going to cover in this article.
I often hear from patients and others that “it is hard to put myself first” and make choices that benefit my health. There is so much to do and so much easier to take care of others instead of ourselves, that is until we start feeling not so good and noticing the negative effects of stress on our bodies. Then it becomes apparent that taking care of our bodies is worth it.
As an example, my optometrist recently gave me a new cleaning solution for my contacts and told me that it requires at least 6 hours to do its job adequately. If I leave them in the solution for any less than that before putting them in my eyes then I risk burning, bacterial infection, or even a corneal ulceration. That is such a deterrent that I immediately started calculating each night to make sure the contacts get at least 6 hours in the solution.
Can you imagine if we all felt that much incentive to keep our bodies clean? And by clean I mean getting toxins out and anti-oxidants in.
And if we felt as much urgency about caring for our cells as we do about caring for contacts or pets or plants, we would be able to slow aging exponentially.
How to Slow the Aging Process
Now if you were to ask me, Dr. Doni, what I can do to maintain optimal health for as long as possible, so that I have the highest quality of life until the day I die, my answer would come down to four areas: Sleep, Clean Eating, Movement, and Stress Optimization. All four of these activities help to decrease oxidative stress and the negative effects of stress overall. That’s why they are the focus of my Stress Remedy Programs.
One of the best things you can do to prevent aging is to get plenty of sleep.
While you sleep, the cells throughout your body complete a process called autophagy, which is like a self-cleaning oven—it clears out the stuff you don’t want and helps your cells get back to functioning at their best. Research indicates that autophagy helps prevent cancer, diabetes, neurodegeneration, autoimmunity, and infections.1
During sleep is also when your brain best clears out the damaged proteins (such as beta-amyloid associated with Alzheimer’s) and toxins that collect while you are awake. This is based on relatively recent research showing that the brain has a “glymphatic” system that “picks up the trash” so to speak while we sleep, two times faster than it does when we’re awake. Read more about preventing Alzheimer’s by address oxidative stress here.2
So, if you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be functioning with cells and a brain that is filled with waste products that only slows them down.
In fact, research shows that the best way to prevent the most common chronic health issues, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, is to sleep—and studies show that you really need at least 7.5 hours of sleep to do the trick.
I’m writing a book about sleep, which will be available very soon. You can sign up here to receive a notification when the book is out, and I’ll also send you free tips on how to get better sleep.
Aim to get antioxidants each time you put food in your mouth. I think of it as the “spot an antioxidant” game. Read more here.
Look to feed your body every 3 to 4 hours—and more often if you get low blood sugar.
Stay clear (as far as possible) from pesticides, processed foods (with preservatives), sugars, and artificial sweeteners and colors. Instead of a diet packed with easy carb and dairy-rich “stomach-fillers” (pasta and pizza, for example), choose a variety of colorful, nutrient-dense foods.
Figure: Why waste a bite on nutrient-less, stress-producing substances when you can feed your cells with wholesome, tasty, nutrient-rich, natural foods.
You can even find out exactly which foods are acting as a particular stress for your body, increasing inflammation and accelerating aging. Delayed food sensitivities cause damage over time, so it’s hard to tell which foods are causing trouble. Learn more here and find out how you can buy an IgG and IgA food panel to do at home here.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. However, exercise is not one size fits all.
The optimal amount and type of movement varies from person to person, so start with what works for you and build it into your day so that it becomes a ‘must-do’ activity.
Movement can mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible, or walking a few blocks on the way to work or during lunch, or taking a favorite yoga or pilates class once or twice a week, or walking your dog, or going to the gym for cardio and weights.
Whatever it is for you, simply choose a more active lifestyle—it will reverse aging, no matter when you start.
Research shows that, even if you start exercising later in life, it has the potential to add between 4 and 7 years to your life. Scientists think this has to do with how exercise increases telomerase activity (the enzymes that protect DNA from damage) and that it turns on pathways that help your body manage oxidative stress.3
Even 20 minutes a day, especially using your muscles, will have this effect.
This not only means psycho-emotional stress but also stress in terms of the toxins in the air you breathe and the water you drink.
Stress is anything that challenges your body to adapt and respond. We all need some stress in our lives, that’s for sure, so don’t aim for zero stress. Aim instead for the optimal amount of stress you need to thrive. Read about how to use your “stress radar” to identify stresses in your life.
Better to “spend” your daily stress on creativity, significant relationships, and emotional growth than on deadlines, drama, gluten, and sugar. Instead, you can integrate ways to help your body recover from stress, what I call “stress remedies,” into your daily routine.
And if you know you’ve been exposed to large amounts of stress over the years, then it’s time to assess your stress by checking your cortisol and adrenaline levels. These tell us how stress has affected your body and guide us on what to do about it.
If you’d like to assess your stress and receive my free ebook on how to recover from stress, you can click here to complete a short online quiz.
How to Add Years to Your Life
So, if I could give you an anti-aging prescription right now, it would be to sleep more than you have been, eat cleaner than you thought you could, move every chance you get, and de-stress more than you stress.
This is exactly the premise I used when creating the Stress Remedy 7-Day and 21-Day Programs to help you sleep, eat, move, and de-stress in a way that adds years to your life. Even in just 7 days, and with a pea-protein, sugar-free shake, you’ll get a head-start on turning back the hands of time and integrating habits and choices that give your body what it needs.
Ultimately, that’s what it is all about: Give your body what it needs and you’ll feel better.
And not only will you feel better, but you’ll feel better for more years, which means that you will have slowed down aging. Shall we do this together? Join me!
To stay in touch, be sure to sign up for my free weekly e-newsletter here. I will send you articles and tips I’ve learned for optimizing your wellness, naturally.
8th April 2016
- Danielle Glick, Sandra Barth, and Kay F. Macleod. Autophagy: cellular and molecular mechanisms. J Pathol. 2010 May; 221(1): 3–12.
- Lulu Xie, Hongyi Kang, Qiwu Xu, Michael J. Chen, Yonghong Liao, Meenakshisundaram Thiyagarajan, John O’Donnell, Daniel J. Christensen, Charles Nicholson, Jeffrey J. Iliff, Takahiro Takano, Rashid Deane, Maiken Nedergaard. Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain. Science.18 Oct 2013; 342 (6156): 373-377.
- Sallam N, Laher I. Exercise Modulates Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Aging and Cardiovascular Diseases. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:7239639.