Special Diets/Keeping up appearances
QUESTION: I am a 61 year old male, for the most part a healthy specimen for my age. I try to maintain a healthy diet combined with daily vitamin supplements (C, D, E, Omega-3 fish oil, Zinc, etc.), and moderate exercise.
I recently heard a very notable nutritionist on the radio (Gary Null) mention how properties in certain food groups and vegetables can lessen the visible effects of aging, particularly in one's face. Unfortunately I tuned in at the end of the program, but heard him mention how red cabbage can stimulate the production of collagen... maintaining elasticity in the facial muscles (thus eliminating wrinkles, lines, and sagging jowls, etc.).
Would you happen to know what foods or vitamins would be able to help me in the following areas:
Dark circles and puffy bags under the eyes;
Stimulate collagen production (besides red cabbage); and that would inhibit hair loss and/or the effects of a receding hairline?
If you think you can be of any help in these areas, I would appreciate whatever suggestions you have to offer. Thanks.
ANSWER: Dear Bob,
I aplolgise for having kept you waiting; it's the season of chaos and flu!
Splendid to hear you are a fine specimen of a sextigenarian! In all seriousness, it is always good to hear from people who love to take good care of themselves, beginning from the inside out.
I cannot comment much on this Gary Null of yours. From what I understand he is somewhat of a controversial character, and some argue he has been careless with the exact science he uses. Not all his claims can be supported by conventional medicine, and he has not got a particularly spiritually-holistic approach. But if he inspires you, then so be it; it is my place to remind the Questioner that the only real expert to trust is yourself. So anything which encourages research and comparing different ideas is commendable. He who inspires to proactive healthy choices gets my vote. Just remember even a standard "miracle cure" needs to be ultra personalised to fit your specific life-path. This takes a lot of self-knowledge, some experimentation, and much probing into facts but also a increased sensitivity towards your inner resonance.
All I may hope to do is add to your research by presenting you with an Anthroposophical view point on the organ of the skin (to which hair pertains). We find here the premise that illness and ageing fall into the same category of growth and spiritual development.
I will spare you the details of the extensive medical fundament for this point of view (dating back to Steiner and his colleagues – notably classically trained doctors and scientists) but I will share with you some typical notions that may put your "complaints" into a different shade of light.
For indeed, let us not pour the cruel floodlight over this subject or stand under the fluorescent tube of stark science when topics pertaining to ageing ought to be treated in a mellow and deeply reverent manner. The passing of time is a miracle, once we set aside our subjective niggling issues with it (too short, too long). It marks the journey of our life.
Ageing is a necessary process. We may try to retard the detrimental sides of it, bu contrary to the hope the industry would like us to invest in, we cannot actually reverse or stop it. This is a multi-billion dollar illusion, and one may question what it ultimately serves. Plastic Barbie and Ken dolls do not really love and support eachother, after all, do they? It takes dedicated little souls to move them around their Barbie house, from their jacuzzi to their stables for a bit of a gallop across the carpet. The same goes for you: your soul and spirit move you into action and make things happen for you. Sure, looks reflect your inner health on many levels, to a certain degree, but what is unhealthy about lines which betray your age?
It is a different matter when it concerns clues to your inner health. For this you need to observe other sensory perceptible clues aswell: the colour of your tongue, your iris, your saliva (too much, too little, ropey, spumy), and body odour. Even auditory clues inform you: your voice and breathing, or intestinal rumbling (incl. flatulence).
If the body is a map, tracking your progress as you emanate the meaning of your life, then your facial features, above all, tell of the journey of the soul . If your face is too drawn or too stressed it betrays a life-style, we can all easily decode. Our emotions leave tracks, and so does substance abuse (incl. salt, sugar, caffeine, saturated fats etc). We can easily pick out a smoker, for example.
Your description of your face is a little too concise for me to say whether there is an issue beyond coming to terms with the irreversible changes belonging to your age or that you may have a mild imbalance or another resulting from a metabolic insufficiency. A very mild imbalance can already give early warning signs before anything akward has developed on an organic level. We then may speak of a cool liver or a mildly irritated gut. This could lead to a diminished water household (puffiness) or over-acidity, creating excessive dry conditions.
Thus, particularly dark circles around the eyes, dry hair, brittle finger nails can be an indication of an iron deficiency, but this in turn, as considered holistically, to have a deeper underlying cause and a farther reaching effect. A few iron tablets will not sort this out so simply. But a homeopathic prescription of Ferrum Phosphoricum (Schüssler Salt no. 3) can do a lot to stimulate the iron PROCESS. This involves the soul-body and spiritual self taking a better grip on the up-building forces of the life-body and the physical organism. One must provide the body with the necessary nutritional elements first, though: notably, asparagus, lettuce, beans, buckwheat, blackberries, nuts, lentils, nettle tea, fennel, dates, figs, barley, cabbage.
Where iron runs a "breathing process" takes place. This enables the soul to fit comfortably in her body. To stimulate this process we use exercise. It plays an important role but our robotic exercise schedules are fairly useless. Without fresh air and enjoyment it merely taxes the physical body, especially in our more senior years. One should rather consider it a privilige and an integral aspect to a balanced life to be mobile with the ability to exert will voluntarily over limbs. There is added value in being moved by moving about. Our vertical orientation, thanks to our up-righting spine, will become (inconspicuously) less until we die (naturally) supine (in bed preferably) of old age. This is part of the excarnation process age serves. The exercises of Tai Chi, also avidly practiced by old age pensioners in China, demonstrate how vitality is stimulated by reorientating oneself in the vertical-horizontal, cross-dimension of our three dimensional plane. Often these same people may be exceptionally wrinkly, which may be due to climatological or environmental stresses, but also one-sided diets. Still, this need not impair vitality or a fitness and a joy of life.
It is such an attitude and consciousness to the latter half of your life which keeps you young. Young at heart, but also young metabolically speaking. Notwithstanding, the metabolic (anabolic) forces must diminish in this period: the reason being that the catabolism now predominant leads to wisdom. A profound esoterical medical analysis underlies this process and it is not just a comforting (dopey) thought.
It is quite a harsh reality, in fact, and it is easier to deny the potential for such spiritual advance, which depends on renewed efforts and will power. Slapping on cream and injecting botox is a lot easier than this process of fully awakening to the eternal spirit you are (and will be even into death).
Another mineral we lose is calcium (fluoratum notably); with it goes our elasticity. We can monitor the signs of this process and prevent greater loss of form (weak spine, too much callous forming, weak tendons, varicose veins, haemorrhoids.) It gives us dry (flakey) skin and fungi.
If you have a lot of fine lines under your eyes you will be wanting to take a supportive homeopathic remedy of Calcium Fluroratum (D6, e.g. Schussler salt no. 1) over an extended period. We can find some foods will be rich in this mineral: spinach, onions, wheat, rice, lemons, plums. But there is no reason, from an Anthroposophical point of view, to go overboard on one foodstuff or substance. It is the very variety and freshness, as well as the way your food is grown and produced which introduces the elements of health into your body.
Take care to avoid addititives, preservatives, and overly processed foods (deep freeze, tin, packets): they tax the liver a lot. Make sure you understand what makes a warming food or a fluid stimulating one (not fried food! Drinking water to excess taxes the kidneys, so think herbal liver or digestive tea or relaxing teas, replacing too much coffee or fizzy pop, rather.) As an older, healthy person this will make logical sense to you, personally, but some people become slack later in age, as if there is some retirement age or dispensation for the wealthy for taking repsonsiblity over your health. Unfortunately the consumer industry is buying into our own lack of discipline and selling us superflous stuff we could otherwise just find in a normal diet and healthy relationships with our surroundings. The healthfood gurus make little exception to profit on this roller coaster trend.
The food we eat, thus, can matter and does contribute to our vitality - but the manner in which is complex. The minute we start to break apart these foods into elements and expect supplements to do the same for us, we step off the holistic path. Complaints will then become fragmentary and old age may become a downward spiral of stepping stones of disrepair. We want to avoid this!
The vitamins and minerals in a cabbage is not the same as those in an apple, although under a microscope we may find many correspondences. But the cabbage is such a totally different plant to the apple tree. Vitamins are actually packages of light-information. Minerals, too, are encoded processes. We "borrow" their information, as it were, on their individual "formative dynamics" of growth and maintenance.
These processes are which inspire us. The food we eat becomes a neutralised soup before it permeates the intestinal wall to travel on to do the real physical work in our body. But the digestive process has had to encounter a great number of "foreign bodies" – destroying all that has invaded us: not human stuff at all (even if you were a canibal, you would be eating something foreign to yourself (non-self). It is good for you to meet with this challenge. It fortifies your transformative powers and a well-oiled machine works better. (So a plant diet, which is more foreign to us than meat, can build up great immunity, but you have to have the constitution for it to begin with.)
Inside, you are not a fully formed human being, but energies combining and subtracting to give shape to your spirit. The "skin sack" around us helps to remember. It separates inner from outer, making a borderline along which our consciousness can patrol.
Digestion is a complex protein process, which still mystifies hard core science in part, which indicates there is no simple table which can tell you what you need outrightly to have youthful skin or to hold onto that hair - not genetically predisposed to fall out (food cannot alter genes). Our health is the very bridge between inner and outer worlds. Where our health is failing us we need to repair this bridge and build up a better relationship to our food, amongst other things. This is where the quality of our food comes into the picture.
If it is to paint an inspiring picture, it must be the epitome of life to inspire the regenerative capacity within us. This capacity will decrease with age, but we need not crumble entirely. Many very old people suddenly may look rejuvenated, even: it is as if the wisening up process takes its toll at first but then a new sense of harmony, and a new pace of life is found, which prevents any further decline. Especially with women, who naturally have a higher percentage of lipid tissue (some kind of filling for the sagging skin!), it can be tricky to tell the age difference between an octogenarian and somebody who has reached a century. But the 20 year difference between a 17 year old and somebody nearing 40 is, of course, massive. This goes to show natural processes and life phases rule over bio-chemical formulas.
The story with collagen as presented in the hype of today is somewhat vague. There are some 28 types of collagen: the body is entirely made up out of this protein and it takes a very varied diet to provide the necessary STIMULI for building this substance which can be found in every part of our body. I have never heard about red cabbage as being particularly the solution to ageing skin .
The things I could tell you about cabbage are wonderful and marvellous. As a member of the cruxifera family, it forms a fantastically vibrant group which can indeed inspire anabolic – sulphur – forces within our metabolism. They stimulate life and pushes it out in to action and being. It is illustrated very simply by the very botany of the cabbage plant itself, but also from experience we can know that too much of it ingested leads to flatulence or diahoerrea. It is more life than we can handle!
We need to tame this firey impulse and take on the challenge of digesting it to help us stand firm in life but take care not to build up purtified smoke (poorly digested protein) . This will rise up to the head-pole where clear, cool and calm thinking is required. We may prefer fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) for this reason (a pre-digestive process). Raw food diets advise you, even, to massage your cabbage before consuming it (breaking the proteins already).
A healthy belly is the seat of health for all our other organs, so if your digestion goes smoothly and anabolic processes tick as clockwork your liver will be in good health, and your skin should reflect this. These large metabolic organs (liver, bowels) are the main organs who communicate directly with the organ of the skin. Foods which stimulate the metabolism and keep the liver in optimal condition (rich in potassium sulfate) are cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, strawberries, apples, oranges, dates and horseradish. Carrot juice (with added lactid acid) could become a regular drink for a period of six weeks, a glass a day, if the liver is sluggish (yellowish tongue in the morning, fatigue or apathy).
For the rest, we can try to protect our skin from free-radicals which damage it. Plant oils (avocado, macadamia, argan, or shea butter, jojoba, cocoa butter, but also bees wax) replenish. Their light-bearing and warming properties cannot compare to synthetic moisturisers. And any claims of collagen "fillers" seem somewhat dubious, and definitely have no accumulative or lasting effect. Collagen is just stuff, or the conclusive stage of matter.
It is worth looking for sensory stimulants (natural fragrances) in your cosmetics (including bathing/showering products) which harmonise the nerves, allowing the metabolic stream to come into its proper play in the upper layers of the skin. To this we can add plants (essential oils or extracts) which firm the epidermis somewhat and raise your sense of well-being. This in turn activates your metabolic processes in a positive way. (Stressed nerves inhibit this and cause sundry bowel movement complaints, as we all know.) The skin makes for our great receiver of all the intangibles which really fuel a vital fire within.
I can be a bit more enthusiastic about the claims of silica. It is widely applied in skin and hair care. It is important to source this from silica rich foods: millet, oats, barley, strawberries, figsand several herbal teas work well: mullein, nettle, st. John's wort, limeblossom and dandelion leaves in spring make a light-bright salad.
The dandelion's root is particularly cleansing for the liver (but extremely bitter to taste), and it is important to keep the liver strong and active. Consider – when the time is right again - a light spring cleanse with birch elixer (add pear juice and water for a delightful drink). This brings the "salt"out (much like a peeling birch trunk) and leaves your inner world fresh and lively (like the tree's sprightly leaves).
In sum, then. I feel that if there are no other signs of a metabolic imbalance (tongue, facial colour, smells etc) there may be very little that can be effectively done for the way your face is changing with age and your receding hair line. But I am sure that if you remain this involved with your health (and no doubt happiness) ) you won't look any the less handsome for it! Always, always, a zest for life before looks!
Do not hesitate to run any further signs by me if you want to narrow down any mild imbalances: one can narrow down prescriptions for Schussler salts with more details. There is also a great website – but it is in German. These are not supplements but inform your body, as homeopathic remedies do, of the processes required to rebalance.
Take care, stay fit and joyous,
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Dear Evelyn,
Believe it or not, I haven't really gotten down to reading all of your reply to my question ("keeping up appearances") as I have been busy at work. I just wanted to give you a 'thanks' in advance and assure you that I will be giving you an official 'Thanks' and rating sometime after Christmas (when I finally have a chance to relax).
Because you mailed your thoughtful message to me as a Question, I must reply to you in this manner (or I will receive constant reminders to respond).
It was very sweet of you to let me know you still intend to read your answer.I hope it brings you some new angles to explore.
Have a wonderful Christmas and may you enjoy some lovingly prepared meals!
Joy, light and warmth to you,