If you’re over 50 or close to it, and you’re looking for information on how to have optimal health and wellness, you are to be commended. Now’s the time to do it. Whether you’re in your early 50’s or well into your 60’s and 70’s, optimal health is something that can be achieved. But the longer you put off addressing the issue, the more difficult it can be. It takes focus and discipline, but it is so well worth it especially at our age. And don’t worry, we are going to share with you specifically how to have optimal health over 50.
Like most people, Shirley and I didn’t start learning about optimal wellness when we were younger. We weren’t even aware there was such a thing and had no obvious need beyond taking generally good care of ourselves. Certainly, no doctor ever shared what we eventually learned. It took some health challenges and seeking answers to overcoming those challenges to put us on a path to complete health and wellness.
Shortly after I turned 50, which was 12 years ago as I am writing this, I was having issues with my throat. Stubborn swollen lymph nodes made me fatigued and caused pain in my throat for weeks on end. One Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist suggested that I had lymphoma. I had a biopsy and it turned out that he was wrong.
Then the symptoms finally subsided after a few years. But it did send us down a path of learning more about diet, focusing on exercise, and trying to be as healthy as we could. But we later learned that we were just scratching the surface.
My Catastrophic Health Challenge – Kidney Cancer
In October of 2017, Shirley and I were watching TV one Thursday night. I went to the bathroom and looked down to see blood in the water. Lots of it. I wouldn’t say panic set in, but we were both obviously very concerned. I saw my primary physician that confirmed that I had blood in my urine. He sent me on to a urologist. She conducted another urine test and confirmed the same. She also checked my bladder and told me I needed a CT Scan so they could get a better look at what was going on. This process took about two weeks.
Shirley and I then went to see her to get the results of the CT Scan. She poked her head in the door and said, “we need to talk”. Not the words you want coming from your doctor after a test like that. She proceeded to share that I had a 13-centimeter mass (about 5 inches) around my left kidney. She suspected that the kidney hadn’t been functioning in quite some time. She wasn’t giving me a kidney cancer diagnosis just yet. But she was scheduling surgery immediately to remove both the mass and the kidney. And, then send everything to the lab to see what we were dealing with.
I went in about a week later for the surgery. It was a very difficult time of course. Thankfully they did remove the entire mass and damaged kidney, although they had to remove part of one of my ribs to get it out safely. After about a week the lab report confirmed that it was stage 2 cancer of the kidney. I would be getting scans every 3 months, then extending to 6 months, then a year for the next 5 years.
As I write this, I am cancer-free and healthier than I have been in many years. But it was the cancer that put us both on hyper-alert and made us look diligently for information on how to have complete health and wellness. If you have or have had cancer and you can read about my experience in How Surviving Kidney Cancer Made Me Better.
Let me share with you at this point that Shirley and I have always been conscious of our health. We were not overweight. We worked out for months at a time and then would lay off. Then get back at it again. When I was 55 and she was 45 we got into CrossFit training. We both looked the best we had since maybe in our 20’s. We watched our diet. We drank alcohol but not to excess. I would say we took better care of ourselves than the vast majority of people regardless of age. But obviously it wasn’t enough to stave off cancer.
The Pathway to Wellness – Restore Your Digestive Health
Once I was home and had started my long road to recovery we dug even deeper into our diet. Partly because I had to. When you only have one kidney left you should make some adjustments for sure. But Shirley was also having some issues with her digestive system. She felt fine in the morning before she ate. But even the smallest amount of food or a glass of water made her belly bloat. This would continue as she drank and ate though out the day giving her what she calls, a “hard pooch”. She also felt pain and fatigue at times, and her skin just didn’t look healthy.
This had been going on for as many as 10 years. But now she was becoming more deeply aware of the effects of diet on our health. She knew she needed to learn more but didn’t know exactly how. Then the answer came.
“All Disease Begins in the Gut” - Hippocrates
Around the same time, a friend of ours had told us that he had a PSA count of 10.6 but had reduced it to a 0.6 in about 6 weeks without any medication. PSA stands for ‘prostate-specific antigen’ and is a protein produced by the prostate gland. 0 to 2.5 is considered safe. 10.6 can be a sign of a serious problem. We, of course, asked him how he had gotten these great results in such a short time. He had done it all through diet. He simply radically changed what he was eating. Could it be that simple? How had he learned this? He then told us about a leading Health Coach and Holistic Healer, Derek Henry.
Derek's story is amazing. This man was extremely ill with 13 chronic conditions for which conventional medicine was not finding answers. For over 5 years he researched and came up with a completely natural and holistic approach of healing himself of all these chronic conditions. These conditions included candidiasis, rheumatoid arthritis, leaky gut, hypothyroid, swollen lymph nodes, prostatitis, liver issues, urinary and kidney issues, allergies, heartburn, chronic fatigue (no wonder), eczema, and pancreas problems.
Derek Henry is now the founder of Healing The Body and the THRIVE Online Health Program. He has written and published over 500 articles on natural health and helped dozens, perhaps hundreds of people overcome health challenges that conventional medicine couldn’t address.
If you are dealing with a malaise or condition for which your doctors don't have a specific diagnosis or solution, or if that solution is to take potentially harmful pharmaceutical drugs long-term, I urge you to reach out to Derek. He will do a free phone consultation with you. You will most likely learn more about your condition and a path to recovery during that call than you've learned from your doctors.
Our Thoughts on Conventional Western Medicine
Before I continue let me give you my take on conventional western medicine just so you don’t think we are anti-doctors. I believe that physicians trained in western medicine are great diagnosticians for the most part. They have excellent testing and scanning capabilities. I see my urologist once every 6 months to get a prescription for an MRI to make sure I am still cancer-free. He then gets the results from the radiologist and passes that on to me. I see my primary care doctor as needed for minor ailments, and annually for a check-up and preventative testing.
However, I also believe that doctors typically want to medicate symptoms versus determining and treating the root cause of disease. If something is seriously wrong with me, I’m going to seek out advice from both doctors and naturopaths. And, more than likely, opt for a natural path to restore optimal health and wellness. Shirley feels the same way.
And So, It Begins…
Shirley, of course, did reach out to Derek Henry. He gave her an initial consultation that resulted in her downloading a very long health assessment from his website. She thoroughly filled that out and had her first full phone consultation which I sat in on. We were blown away at how he matched up her symptoms with either food she was eating, or a lack of foods, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and more, of which she was not getting enough.
It is worth mentioning at this point that some of the foods that, according to him, were causing her symptoms were not what most would consider to be bad for you. Many of these can be found in the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans as good foods to eat daily.
Foods she had to eliminate for 60 days:
- Seafood except wild-caught salmon
- Red meat except grass-fed beef
- Chicken except organic and free-range
- Nuts and seeds (except chia, hemp, and limited quinoa)
- Nightshades, high oxalate, and starchy foods (i.e. tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, beets, sweet potatoes)
- Beans and legumes
- Mushrooms (except medicinal mushrooms like Reishi and Chaga)
- Vinegar (except apple cider vinegar)
- Peanut, corn, canola, soybean, and cottonseed oil
- Sugar – in any form, including high sugar fruits like bananas, oranges, pineapples, etc.
Shirley needed to eliminate these foods immediately from her diet. In addition, she needed to do something that made sense once it was explained to us, and that is to reset her digestive system and restore gut health.
The First Step to Wellness – Restore Gut Health
It’s very common when seeking optimal health to overlook the digestive system even though it contains 10 times more bacteria that determine the state of our health than any other part of the body.
However, even if you’re not a biologist when someone explains how important the condition of your gut or stomach is to restore health, it makes sense immediately. Healthy gut bacteria promote good digestion and elimination, support metabolism, and protect us from infection. In fact, there are the trillions of organisms that live in our gut makeup 75% of our immune system.
The problem is that the majority of us do not have enough healthy bacteria and far too much bad bacteria. This occurs mainly because of a poor diet. But also, other factors are involved such as antibiotics, other medications, chronic stress, and more. But what if we can get back to good gut health and repair conditions like leaky gut? We can once again have a smooth digestive system and build our immune system to what it once was and is supposed to be.
3 Days Doesn't Fix the Problem
If you search on Google using phrases like “reset digestive system” or “digestive reset” you’ll find 1-day diets, 3-day diets, and a small list of foods to eliminate to reset your digestive system. But it takes significantly longer than that to completely restore gut health. In fact, the diet recommended to Shirley for resetting your digestive system was 60 days!
Further, some of the foods suggested in articles on the web as good to eat to rest your digestive system are difficult to digest like beans. Part of the benefits of a digestive reset diet is to help the digestive system and stomach, or gut, heal. Other foods contain sugar even if natural sugar. Sugar is what parasites feed on. The goal of a longer-term digestive reset diet is to starve parasites of sugar and kill them off.
It takes serious motivation and discipline to go through the 60 days and adhere strictly to a diet like this. The type of foods you can eat are highly restricted. Traveling is an issue as it is hard to find the right foods in a hotel or restaurant. But it can be done with effort. And, it is so worth it.
No Pain No Gain
I say it was worth it but during the first to two weeks, we both felt pretty miserable. Yes, I went through this diet with Shirley because it seemed like a positive thing to do and I didn’t want her to have to cook separate meals every day. One of the reasons we didn’t feel well even though we were eating very healthy food is that our parasites were starving from no sugar and dying. All these parasites that had been living quite well inside us that were now struggling and dying, created a malaise. There were days when all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch TV. We were both extremely uncomfortable.
But after the first 2 weeks, we both felt much better. We eventually started to feel incredible. We lost some weight but mainly we lost our bellies. We felt lean and trim. We got our energy back better than before. The original issue for Shirley of bloating also went away.
View the Diet to Restore Gut Health
& Reset Your Digestive System
5 Tips to Keep Your Gut Microbiome Healthy
UCLA Health Newsroom
Eating Healthy is a Lifestyle Choice
Going through this digestive reset diet helped in the ways mentioned above but it also taught us a ton about how to eat healthily. We didn’t stay on this diet after the 60 days because it is too highly restrictive. But we do adhere more to a healthy diet today than ever before because of what we learned.
Our diet today is all plant-based. We had cut down on meat to the point that we were eating it just once a week or so anyway. Then we saw a documentary on Netflix called The Game Changers that convinced us that it was better for our health to cut out eating meat entirely. I don't believe that we can classify ourselves as vegans or possibly even vegetarians. We occasionally will have a piece of cheese. Or, if we're at a friend's house for dinner and they serve pasta with a meat sauce we're not going to not eat it. We're not fanatical. But I can tell you that we both feel a lot better without eating meat. Our systems just work better and we have less problems with gaining weight. If you need documentation, validation, or otherwise want to be pushed over the edge into going plant-based, read our article Plant-based Diet Pros and Cons.
Don't get me wrong. You can still eat very healthily while eating meat. Simply have either wild-caught salmon, free-range, organic chicken or grass-fed beef once a week or so. And, eat low sugar fruits for snacks. It is more difficult to maintain this type of diet when traveling so don't beat yourself up if you slip while on the road. But try to stick to salads. We drink alcohol occasionally but much less than in the past. When we go on vacation, or even when we just want to let loose a bit, we’ll enjoy a few cocktails and eat some things that we normally don’t. We are human after all! To see an example of our daily diet check out the 7 Day Healthy Meal Plan that Shirley put together.
Considering or Already on a Plant-based Diet?
If you choose to restore your gut health by going on a digestive reset diet you will experience a drastic improvement in the way you feel and the way you look. Your clothes will fit better, your system will work better, your skin will look better. It may occur to you to keep eating a similar diet moving forward. As I have mentioned, the diet to restore gut health is not something you'll want to, or perhaps even should continue for longer than 60 days. But because of the difference that you see and feel, you may even decide that it's time for you to be on a plant-based diet as we have. If so, or if you are already on one, you'll discover that critics will say there are two main problems with a plant-based diet. One, you don't get enough of the essential amino acids from plant protein. And two, you don't get enough of some important nutrients. It's true that unless you learn just a little about this, your diet may lack in both. But we've made it easy for you to avoid these issues. When you're done here go read Overcome the Downside to a Plant-based Diet. Or click on it now and save it to your desktop for later.
What About Exercise for Optimal Health?
I am firmly convinced that there are 2 pillars to optimal health. Diet and exercise. One without the other is better than not having either. But in order to have, gain and maintain optimal health, you need both. As I share this with you I realize that it's easy for me to recommend daily exercise because I love working out. I thrive on it and always have. I also realize that some have never thrived on it and would much rather not have to commit to any work out regime, much less on a daily basis.
You may think that because you are in your 50's, 60's or 70's that working out or exercise is for younger people. That you're past gaining benefit from cardio or strength training. And, that because you are less flexible, feel more joint pain, and have less energy than you did on your 30's, that we just aren't meant for heavy exercise as we age. That couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, the reason why you may be less flexible, have more joint pain, and less energy is because you aren't exercising, or exercising enough.
As we age many of the bodily functions that happened in quantity when we were younger basically just slow down. Neurotransmitters don't fire off messages to neurons and cells like thy used to. Hormones don't secrete throughout the body like they used to. And, much more. So, in order to have optimal health at our age, we have to do things to make this stuff happen. One of those things is exercise.
The next phase in our blog is to incorporate our daily work out routine. You'll see that we started out very slowly as you can, and then built up to a weekly work out schedule that most 35-year-olds would be proud of. We will provide all of it to you in the coming months. But for now, I want to share with you the genesis of our work out program and the source of the science behind my claim that daily exercise, even heavy exercise, is good for us older folks.
I read a book called Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, M.D. on a random recommendation I saw on ESPN.com by New England Patriot Head Coach, Bill Belichick. That book, which I read in 3 days, is the missing link for all of us that truly want to be strong, vibrant, and healthy as long as we possibly can be. Younger Next Year became the cornerstone of our personal workouts. You can read about how and why at How to Restore Vitality Over 50 and Beyond. I highly recommend that you purchase and read Younger Next Year so that you'll understand what I'm talking about. And, then come back to follow our workout program that doesn't require going out and buying a lot of weights and equipment.
Resetting your digestive system and then eating to maintain gut health is the first step on the path to discover health and wellness for your body. But what about health and wellness for your mind? What we’ve come to learn is that your mind controls every bodily function. So, if the brain isn’t operating properly, health issues of all kinds can occur.
Research in recent years has demonstrated what some have surmised for a long time. Our thoughts result in physical reactions by cells in the body. Research has shown that the mere thoughts that we have affect neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that allow the brain to communicate with different parts of itself and the nervous system.
Neurotransmitters control virtually all of the body’s functions, from feeling happy to regulation of hormones to dealing with stress. Therefore, our thoughts influence our bodies directly because the body interprets the messages coming from the brain and does what it is told to do.
People with a healthy attitude and positive outlook resist illness, cope with adversity, and recover quicker because their thoughts are affecting the neurotransmitters that are sending signals to various parts of the body.
Nootropics – Helping the Brain and Body Work Together for Total Health and Wellness
You may have not heard the term nootropics. Nootropics are becoming very popular, but they aren’t new. For a substance to be considered a nootropic, it must adhere to the following:
- Enhances memory
- Improves behavior
- Shields the brain from injury
- Improves control mechanisms
- Demonstrates a low toxicity and safe side-effect profile
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Nootropics are well-known compounds or natural supplements that enhance cognitive performance”. They work by increasing the mental functions such as memory, creativity, motivation, and attention. Nootropics were introduced to us in the 1970’s. In the medical community, nootropics are being used widely to treat a lot of different conditions such as ADHD and ADD. It is widely known that high school and college students use synthetic nootropic drugs to improve cognitive function for studying and test-taking. We are not proponents of synthetic drugs of any kind. Instead, we are big fans of natural nootropics.
To take the mystery out of it here’s a list of some well-known nootropics. You may realize that you’ve been taking nootropics for years or even your whole life.
- L-Theanine -an amino acid found in most green and black tea
- Gingko Biloba
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin B12 and other B vitamins
- Resveratrol -found in peanuts, berries and the skin of red grapes (also in red wine)
So, you see Nootropics themselves aren’t anything new. It’s just that the term or category is new. And so is the realization that our brain and body can benefit greatly by us making sure we have the proper amounts of some of these nootropics.
Read our Full Article on Natural Nootropics
To understand how nootropics work it is necessary to understand more about how the brain works and functions first. The human brain has a much larger cerebral cortex than any other mammal. In fact, the cerebral cortex makes up approximately 80% of the total mass of the human brain. The human brain has billions of neurons (nerve cells) as part of a network of cell-to-cell connections and communications through pathways (neurotransmitters).
When the brain has the proper nutrition and oxygen, and pathways are clear, neurons can communicate at an optimum level which leads to better cognition. When the brain is working well, we feel better. It is communicating through this complex system providing the body (cells, organs, etc.) with the necessary information to reach optimal health.
Neurotransmitters are the keys to communication of signals from one neuron (nerve cell) to another. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that act as messengers delivering signals between neurons and other cells in the body. The function level and number of neurotransmitters in the brain can affect not only psychological but also physical functions. This includes everything from learning, thinking, and mood which we associate with the brain. But it also includes organ and bodily functions, even our heartbeat.
Read our Full Article - Nootropics Source of Information
Nootropics are routinely used by people who want to have a high cognitive function at their jobs and by college students, especially during exam time. Nootropic stacking is the process of using certain nootropics in concert with each other to create the desired effect. It appears that certain nootropics influence others to perform even better than if taken alone.
Can natural nootropics taken as supplements positively affect neurotransmitters in our brain and help alleviate certain ailments and chronic conditions? We are certainly not scientists, but we do have experience with products that contain nootropics. We’ve seen results in countless others but have also experienced the results ourselves.