Looking and feeling young over 50
I turned 53 a few weeks ago and I'm sometimes told I look young for my age. Occasionally I even get questions about how I achieve that, so I'm going to document here some of the unusual products and systems I use to maintain my health and appearance.
Now, I'm not suggesting that anyone else employ these systems or products. I don't want to give anyone medical, nutritional, or physiological advice of any kind because we're all so different. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. I feel very strongly about this and a big pet peeve of mine is when people demand that others eat, drink, or treat conditions the same way they eat, drink, or treat conditions. For example, I have an adrenal condition and if I were to follow the advice that humans should drink 64 ounces of water per day I would dilute my salts and end up in the ER (that happened). Cabbage tends to give me UTIs, raw broccoli adversely affects my thyroid, and most citrus fruits upset my stomach. I'm not a vegetarian and don't care how good vegan eating makes you feel; going meatless makes me feel weak and over-carbed. I rarely follow the medical, nutritional, or beauty advice of others and I don't expect you to do what I do. The following is simply a protocol that seems to be working for me.
For about 15 years I've taken a whole-food supplement called Juice Plus. If I had to make a guess, I'd say my youthful appearance is probably most due to this, as it allows me to eat a spectrum of fruits and vegetables like oranges and kale (in a pill) that I wouldn't otherwise consume. Below is our dining table sporting the green and red bottles (all photos in this post were taken by me or my family).
A whole-food supplement means it's the entire food, dehydrated. Whole-food supplements are in contrast to fractionated supplements that contain only vitamins or minerals in isolation, and often synthetic. I believe you need all of a food's accompanying enzymes and phytochemicals to properly absorb the nutrients it contains.
I also believe that taking isolated nutrients can actually be harmful and may be the cause of some food allergies. For this reason I try not to consume “partial” foods like 2% milk or decaffeinated tea, etc. Instead, I try to consume foods in as natural a state as possible. I'm also a big fan of real butter and we buy the expensive eggs with bright orange or amber-colored yolks. I eat meats and cheeses, even sugar in small amounts; when I'm writing all afternoon on the couch, I might have 3 or 4 M&Ms with a big glass of unsweet iced tea. Because of my adrenal issues with “salt wasting,” I'm a huge tea drinker as it provides me more sodium than water alone. My cocktail of choice is a Citadelle gin & tonic: the quinine in tonic water is healthful (it kills malaria, for one thing... candida for another) and gin is made from juniper berries and all their accompanying anti-inflammatory flavanoids. And if I come down with a cold, pineapple is my main cough medicine; if I can't find that I'll take bromelain, a pineapple enzyme that will clear your lungs as an expectorant.
I live in Colorado with its oppressive, moisture-sucking air. I also have silver/grey hair that's naturally wavy but fine (non-coarse) so it lacks the strength to hold those waves in adverse conditions. In a dry environment, this type of hair can quickly resemble straw and the waves near the bottom will straighten out arthritically.
So here's the straw-free shower routine: to wettened hair, I apply conditioner first to the bottom six inches (everything below the neck) and comb it through. Once the conditioner is lightly rinsed off I apply grapeseed oil to the same bottom six inches. Leaving that to soak in for a bit I do all the other parts of my shower routine and at the very last I'll wash the hair on top of my head (skull only) with shampoo while the oil is still on the ends. Rinsing the shampoo from the top of my head is enough to also rinse off the oil without fully stripping it and the ends of my hair can retain softness. The take-away here is that I never wash or shampoo the ends of my hair.
Will this shower routine make hair grow long and strong? Sadly, no, but I do have a trick for extending the length.
When I was younger, my hair never grew longer than my shoulders... and then I moved to Florida. Almost immediately my hair (by now quite silver) grew to unheard-of lengths! A few years later, I moved back to Colorado and watched my hair fall back out in fistfuls.
I concluded that, here in landlocked Colorado, my hair was missing the sea air and all its minerals. So I started applying nascent iodine to my gums, something I'd done earlier for a tooth infection. (Not all iodine can be ingested, obviously, so I'm careful to use only dietary grade.) Within days, my hair stopped fleeing my scalp and it all thickened back up. Plus, as a side effect, the iodine keeps my gums healthy.
The only makeup I wear is eyeliner (some days) so there's never anything that needs to be washed off my face. In the shower, I don't use soap, especially here in Colorado because it's so drying. Instead, I wash my face with grapeseed oil using the oil-cleansing method: after opening my pores with warm shower water, I apply the oil and rinse for a bit letting the shower pour down across my face. I also apply grapeseed oil to my shoulders and upper arms, chest, knees... anywhere my skin tends to dry out. I've tried other oils like coconut and almond, but grapeseed works the best for me. And if my skin ever gets too oily from this (though at my age, it's less and less likely) I'll do a brief mask of bentonite clay, also from the health food store. Usually I rinse it off after 15 minutes, but I have been known to leave clay on my skin all night long; the only problem with that is the clay can flake off in the night and be a bit messy.
The Nether Regions
At 53, I'm right in the middle of what seems to be a years-long process of menopause. I'm so happy to be done with fertility (yay!) but will be even happier when this whole process concludes. Anyway, to keep my hot flashes at a minimum, I use a swipe of tea tree oil in the nether regions. Tea tree oil contains phytoestrogens and it's also refreshing and antibacterial so it's a great preemptive for various infections to which we women are somewhat prone.
However, if I ever do come down with a UTI, for example, I have a three-pronged treatment approach: swigs of Just Cranberry (the tart R.W. Knudsen juice with no added sugar), a swipe of nascent iodine, and internally I take pills of berberine extract from the health food store. Berberine is the potent ingredient of natural antibacterials like goldenseal, Oregon grape root, and barberry and works like man-made antibiotics but without the reduction of good gut flora. (We just used berberine recently to successfully clear up a suspected case of strep throat in our family.) But because berberine is a natural antibiotic, I only use it when needed and not as a regular supplement.
I do use regular perfumes but also like to apply scents that are a little more unusual like juniper berry... so I can smell like my cocktails! Provence Beauty makes this coconut and hazelnut oil that also smells heavenly.
So in a nutshell, these are the items I keep in my bathroom and kitchen for good health and appearance: nascent iodine, tea tree oil, grapeseed oil, bentonite clay, tonic water, Citadelle or Boodles gin, cranberry juice, Royal Cup tea, berberine/goldenseal, bromelain, hazelnut oil, juniper berry essential oil, and Juice Plus. It's cheap, simple, and it works for me. I'd love to know what systems work for you in the comments!