We have been working our way through a series on Frailty. Frailty is a recent concept found in the medical literature that, rather than describing a single health event, describes what happens when a number of systems start to have problems. The areas we are looking at are:
- Endocrine (hormonal)
Initially, frailty was looked at as an end of life issue. What has come out of the study of frailty is that, not only do these systems fail over time instead of all at once, but many times, their failure can be slowed, stopped and sometimes reversed. Not that you can live forever on this planet, but the time you do spend here can be a whole lot more comfortable and productive if you pay attention to how your body works!
Last week, we reviewed how inflammation in the body plays a role in its demise and what to do about it.
Hand-in-hand with inflammation is the change and breakdown of the hormonal system. We are going to look specifically at two areas:
IGF-1 and DHEA-S are two markers associated with the sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) and human growth hormones (HGH) that decrease with age. Unfortunately, these correlate with the following declines in health status:
- Deficits in Strength
- Deficits in Endurance
- Weight Loss
- Decrease in Walking Speed
- Decrease in Physical Activity
An increase in inflammation has also been associated with a decrease in IGF-1 and DHEA-S, and, as you now know, inflammation is bad news!
Since DHEA-S is related to the sex hormones in men and women, its decline has been associated with trouble in weight management, cognitive issues (brain function/dementia), blood sugar management (diabetes) and many other disease states.
Both IGF-1 and DHEA-S would be expected to decrease with age, but can you increase or maintain these levels naturally?
Supplements: Maybe. Resistance Training: Definitely!
When searching for ways to increase DHEA and IFG-1, you can find sites that recommend different types of supplements and, to tell you the truth, I think there is likely to be some times and places to utilize this approach. However, anytime you are looking at introducing hormones or hormone precursors, you need to be very careful, as a little bit goes a long way and that can have some very serious side effects! In keeping with our focus in this series on improving your health naturally, a safer, cheaper and, probably in the long run, more sustainable method would be resistance and/or endurance exercise. There was a really nice article in The Journals of Gerontology on raising DHEA and IFG-1 after either endurance exercise or resistance exercises. They checked both against a control group (that did nothing) and found the best increase was noted after the resistance exercise (three sets of ten of eight exercises). Another nice summary of improving these factors came from Life Extension Magazine. While Life Extension Magazine is produced by a supplement company, I think they did a good job in summarizing the effects of exercise and a healthy lifestyle:
"Safe methods for enhancing endogenous GH production include: losing excess body fat, particularly abdominal fat; avoiding high-glycemic load carbohydrates; optimizing sleep habits; eating a high-protein, low-carbohydrate snack before bedtime; and exercising regularly to your lactate threshold."
In conclusion, there are inevitable changes in our bodies with age, two of which are the decline in the hormones DHEA-S and IFG-1 that have direct impact on your sex hormones and growth hormone production. Low levels of these two substances have been related to a decrease in strength, endurance, walking speed, physical activity, cognitive function, bone density and an increase in weight and inflammation. While there are supplements available, they have potentially harmful side effects and need to be administered/monitored by a professional. A safer, more effective and more sustainable method to improve these two factors is resistance exercise and a healthy low inflammatory diet!
You were created to move and lift things, and live life! I will leave you this week with one of my favorite quotes:
Life has no remote... Get up and change it yourself!
Until Next Week,
Doug Williams, D.C. Care Chiropractic Lafayette, Indiana