The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
Aging is a complex interaction of many factors that act independently or synergistically. The aging process can be divided into 3 main categories; genetic, biochemical and physiological. These categories are further divided into two main classes.
- Programmed Factors rely on the principle of biology, that aging is a continuation of growth and development with gradual exhaustion of cellular functioning
- Error Factors occur due to environmental and psychological insults to the body causing the body to break down.
Genetic influences involves turning on and off specific genes that affect body functioning. It is not possible to alter our genetic blueprint however; many studies have shown that we can change how our genes are “read” thereby maximizing our genetic potential regardless of whatever blueprint we have been given. Maximizing one’s genetic potential is the key to healthy aging.
The endocrine system is a series of glands that produce hormone signals in the body. Much medical research has gone into the role of hormones and the aging process. Hormone synthesis and activity has an effect on the pace and rate of aging. Hormone fluctuation changes as the body ages however, hormone influence is largely affected by diet, lifestyle and stress.
The immune system is the integrated body system of organs, tissues, cells, and cell products such as antibodies. A decline in immune system strength with age leads to increased vulnerability to infections, pollutants and cancer and well as an impaired ability to heal and repair. Naturopathic medicine specializes in supporting immune function of the body through supporting organ function and removing toxicity.
Wear and Tear:
Over time cells and tissues loose their ability to replace themselves at a normal rate leading to decline in body function. Each time a cell divides the DNA shortens slightly. When it becomes too short the cell dies. (This is through a process known as telomere shortening)
As cells age there is an accumulation of abnormally formed cross-linked bonds between proteins. This cross-linking obstructs passage of nutrients across the cell wall and reacts with other proteins in the body causing further damage. This is a source of free radical oxidation in body tissues (see below).
Free Radical Damage:
As the body ages it is susceptible to increased free radical damage through the environment, poor food choices, pollution and stress. The accumulation of oxidative inflammation and cellular damage to the point of tissue mutation, disease or death.
Errors in Repair:
Like a house that is in need of repair over time the body must also repair or suffer. Errors in repair refers to the damage to the mechanisms that synthesize proteins, repair and destroy faulty cells and remove toxins from the body. This leads to metabolic problems, cell damage and premature aging.
Age related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and Alzheimers all relate to inflammatory processes. Inflammation increases the rate of cellular destruction and aging.