Understanding the ageing process
New Zealand’s favourite wellbeing expert, Dr Libby answers readers’ questions about living a healthier life. We can’t stop ageing, but it helps to understand how it affects our bodies.
Question: We read a lot about ageing but what is it exactly? I feel like it is supposed to happen (of course) but am curious what the actual processes are inside the body. Thanks, Melissa.
Two of the main processes of ageing are oxidation and inflammation.
Oxidative damage is carried out by free radicals, which are single oxygen molecules that can damage the tissues of the body.
Free radicals are produced by normal process like breathing and exercising, but are also produced by increased stress, cigarette smoke and environmental pollutants such as pesticides and heavy metals.
Inflammation is your immune system’s response to any problematic substance that has entered the body. The body responds by producing inflammatory compounds, which we experience as redness, heat and swelling.
Oxidative damage can be reduced by the consumption of a high plant-based diet. Plants are a rich source of antioxidants, which are molecules that neutralise oxidative damage. A simple way to reduce inflammation in the body is to limit the amount of problematic substances that enter the body.
This could mean reducing your alcohol intake, quitting smoking and decreasing or omitting the pro-inflammatory omega 6 fats found predominantly in processed foods. Question: Is there a difference between iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia? I have been told I have anaemia and that my 6-year-old son is iron deficient. Thanks, Gail.
Hi Gail, iron deficiency is a decrease in the total content of iron in the body, and anaemia is when this decrease in iron is sufficient enough to cause a decrease in red blood cells. A person will become iron deficient before they become anaemic.
Iron deficiency can be caused by poor absorption due to digestive complications, deficient intake, or excessive menstrual bleeding. If left untreated, it can develop into anaemia.
Iron-containing foods include beef, lamb, chicken, dates and eggs. When consuming these ironcontaining foods try to include sources of vitamin C. Often supplementation is needed to restore depleted iron levels.
There are several foods that inhibit iron absorption; these include tea, coffee and calcium rich foods like milk, cheese and almonds.
There are several foods that inhibit iron absorption; these include tea, coffee, milk, cheese and almonds. Secondly it is important to take note of any gut symptoms that may indicate a bigger problem, which may be reducing the absorption of iron. Things like bloating, cramps and diarrhoea or constipation can all be signs of gut issues and should be investigated by a health professional. Often supplementation is needed to restore depleted iron levels, however this is best managed by a health professional as blood tests are needed to assess the degree of deficiency beforehand.
Ageing is most obvious on the outside, but like beauty it is more than skin-deep.
WITH AUTHOR AND NUTRITIONAL BIOCHEMIST