Oh, to be just like a tiny gurgling, chuckling, pudgy baby. Just staring up at the world with all its newness, no thought of where we’re going, only what’s appearing in front of us at any given moment. That’s the ultimate goal in the traditional medicine systems of India, China and many other eastern, ancient healing modalities. Sounds counterintuitive to us in the west a bit. A) Babies are basically fat (and Insta mostly doesn’t endorse this aesthetic choice) B) they don’t seem to be able to make intelligent conversation C) they can’t ace a spin class, heft a kettlebell or perform any complex asana in yoga, they can barely if at all, stand on their own two - but actually that last bit’s an utter lie as they have the ultimate set of hips that sees them cheerily hang out in some of the poses most of us sweat and strain to come anywhere close to achieving.
So why are we talking about babies? Well because as some of you may have heard/noticed we are all ageing, and those little roly poly critters used to be us all once, but over time our systems have atrophied, worn down, stiffened and generally lost the joie de vivre of their youth. So looking at babies through the lens of easter medicine can be interesting as they espouse many of the characteristics of babies as the target for adult health goals. Check out the window of your local acupuncture clinic if you don’t believe us, there’s BOUND to be a little jolly buddha figurine in there somewhere resplendent with rolls of fat and rich garments hanging loosely, displaying his immense physique. His abundant size is seen as a reflection of good health in their culture and this crosses over to Ayurvedic (Indian) traditional medicine too.
In ayurveda there are 3 “doshas” or constitutions, each with their own characteristics and while their qualities aren’t seen as either “good” or “bad” the dosha known as Kapha is understood to be the ultimate dosha in terms of health. Kapha “types” as they are known, have a tremendous ability to retain nutrients and convert food to human tissue, and are the most settled, spiritually and emotionally. All babies are born as predominantly kapha and as they grow their diet, genetic heritage, lifestyle and environment all exert influence on them, enhancing some qualities and diminishing others, drawing out elements of the other doshas, which have wirier constitutions, but the aim is always to look to those kapha qualities and seek to enhance them.
This month as we set course for a new decade we’re gonna start thinking about rolling back the clock. In a Not-Quite-Benjamin-Button-esque fashion, we’re encouraging you to seek growth in regression. To look back to go forward. All the silly analogies, you get our drift?
First up its that liquid quality that we can always identify in babies - the juiciness that makes their poops actually smell good (according to some parents), that snottiness that seems a universal quality in children. “What? Those are NOT attractive qualities!!” I hear you proclaim with an air of mild disgust. But wait, my friends, suspend your disdain - this mucousyness performs a vital protective role to the delicate linings of our airways and digestive tracts. The mucosal layer - its thickness, its viscosity is a great indicator for and driver of our overall health. You’ve all heard of and probably suffered a phlegmy cough before, that heavy chestiness, and the little globs of phlegm (sorry this article is fully gross, feel free to skip this month if you have a delicate constitution :) that emit at frequent intervals. Well that mucous is not in a good state, we want it running thin and clear and slightly stringy. BTW I should mention that getting about 4 cups per day of our Carrageen moss hot tonic will bring you back to rights quicker than a New Year’s dunk in the Irish Ocean.
Why are we all getting so worked up over the stringy stuff a snail leaves across the patio? Well if you look at longevity studies, that stuff may be the secret to long and healthy life. Recent longevity research focusing on the microbiome has looked at one particular bacteria that you won’t find in the probiotic department in your local health store. Akkermansia Muciniphilia is a bacterial resident in our gut that has researchers rather giddy as its associative decline with ill health and converse health promoting properties when well fostered are showing up in more and more studies on the gut environment.
This is only one small part of the picture when it comes to the tapestry of health benefits we provide ourselves with when we focus on optimising our mucosal layer. Give me a day and I’ll keep you bored with stories of goblet cells, T helper cells, butyrate production...all these critical immune system regulatory processes are either enhanced or cut short by a mucosal lining that’s in a rude good health, or looking like a patchwork quilt that’s lived a few years on the couch in student accomodation.
Enhancing our mucosal layer can be addressed in SO many ways, but one sure fire way that most of us fall down is in the basic process of hydration. And how do we do that you ask? Well let me tell you that good old h2o is only the start of the story. Water is a delivery vessel for minerals, that are the actual goal when we put the bottle to our lips. Here’s a mineral solution for you - it’s new to us, and we LIKE the vibe. It’s a mineral blend in a wholefood form. Just the algae that provides the best nature can put forward in mineral form, density and absorption. Food for the cells. Minerals for your mucosa :)
Babies are such fast changers. You turn your back for a second and they’ve grown a new limb, or they’ve started differential calculus. And it’s the same story when they get sick. The fever elevates, the illness progresses FAST (scary for you young first time parents!), but before you know it they’re through the storm and leave you wondering what the fuss was all about. And though it seems kinda SUPERhuman, well listen we’re all one species...and you made the damn things! So what have they got over us? Well when they hoover up vitamin C from breast milk or formula their little systems are like weaponised defences, making antibodies like it’s going out of fashion, maximising the amount of first line defender immune cells, along with enhancing so many other immune supportive processes. And it’s not just the sore throats and other respiratory illnesses that they cope with better than their great big free roaming cousins, check out how quickly they heal from all the bumps and bruises they get as they learn to navigate the stairs. Vitamin C is such a big part of this story and we don’t stand a chance of healing without it. Our requirements go up as we age in direct opposition with our ability to absorb it in our gut. So from time to time, as it’s probably just about the most useful single vitamin, maybe supplements? And if you decide to, we’ve just listed this wicked new example from One Nutrition. In its esterified form (Ester C) it props us up from inside out, absorbing more effectively than traditional ascorbic acid forms of vitamin C and crucially not irritating a gut lining whose mucosal barrier may not be as thick as that of the tiny person sniffling away in the sick bed beside them!!
As you watch them roll about and you sit considering your ever stiffer limbs, consider their little connective tissues, all bouncy like a fresh set of springs, forgiving when they bend, and elastic in their return to form. This quality in their limbs and also their chubby cheeks, is a reflection of the quality of collagen under their skin. Brittle collagen fibres are like the anti anti ageing substance, and vitamin C is one of the primary building blocks of this vital longevity enhancing lattice of our dreams.
Those little guys are like an actual ball of lightning right? Either go or stop, on or off, their energy systems are just so well tuned, and when you dump an energy source in there - be it a carrot stick or pack of skittles, you see the difference immediately. Leptin, ghrelin, insulin - all these hormones and signalling molecules are so finely tuned that a young body is primed to burn fuel when it needs and store it when it’s got more than enough for the climbing frame. For those of us who’ve been on the earth a few years longer, however, these energy systems become a little less responsive, especially in relation to sugar consumption, and we have only ourselves to thank.
Which is liberating actually, because there’s also the ability to pretty quickly re-train said energy system, with an extension of our fasted time during the day and a narrowing of the feeding window. In short it’s less grazing, more square meals. And no in-betweens. Except for a couple of carefully selected potential tweaks. MCT oil forms part of a group of foods that can be included as what’s known as “fasting mimetics”. A group of fats usually sourced from coconut oil, MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides) when consumed in a fasted state, encourage your body to make its energy in a different way, instead of glycolisis (the conversion of sugar into energy in our cells) our body looks to make ketone esters. Very fussy science aside, these molecules provide a very stable energy source that could be your way back from the brink of blood sugar peaks and crashes. Our new One Nutrition MCT Oil is included as part of our New Year’s Supplement Bundle to give you the chance to experience this for yourself. Note - there ain’t no point in chewing this oil and still filling up on Fanta. To get the best from this exciting energy source, it’s good to go fasted for a few hours before and a couple of hours after consumption. Perhaps it could be something to try first thing after waking, and pushing breakfast out till lunch? You may not find it suits you, but for the tens of thousands of folk now practising “metabolic flexibility” or some version of a ketogenic diet on a cyclic basis, it’s become a cornerstone of their approach to health and longevity.
Energy efficiency is a vital part of any longevity routine, we want to be able to harvest energy, to store it for the time it will be needed and to expend it with an economy of effort. Babies can just stop and sleep. When the nap is needed, as parents the world over will tell you, heaven help you if you haven’t got yourself in a position to allow it. And the “Go Stop” nature of babies, and of well, nature, is just a beautiful rhythmic dance of electrons. A constant back and forth of reduction and oxidation.
That is life at its most elemental. In our cells reside our mitochondria, our wee power stations. When they breath in, they draw in electrons and when they breath out they burn them and make a fire that fuels our movement, our thoughts, our nervous system and lymbic reactions. But this fire has to be tempered, those electrons must be replaced and recycled.
This is the sharp end of energy production, and certain key nutrients play irreplaceable roles in this process. CoQ10 is a little superhero that has begun to get credit for its work in the last few years. Understood as a cardiac support after being flagged because of its depletion by statin drugs and the consequent issues with fatigue that many statin users face, Co-Enzyme Q10 is an electron donor in the electron transport chain that supports the energy production in every single cell in our body. And the cells that have the most mitochondria and do the hardest work reside in, you guessed it, the heart. It never misses and beat, and if it does, our longevity is confronted in ways we can’t ignore.
So into our longevity toolkit goes CoQ10 - our new line from One Nutrition packs a serious punch at 150mg, enough to feel it fuel your cells we hope!!
So back to the cradle for a little more learning. What those babies can’t teach us about life eh. Well for one thing their wee bods know how to absorb a nutrient. Without distraction or years of abuse their gut makes the most of whatever comes its way. And even fussy eaters usually pile on pounds and stretch and fill out into bigger tiny people by the moment. Sometimes it’s like Mr Wolf, you turn around for A SECOND...and look back and your tiny little man is growing a monstrous beard and has a full drivers licence.
With their relentless passion for growth, these little people’s gut environment and enzyme systems are just PRIMED for turning food into new cells. And yet again this story of decline perpetuates itself - as we grow up our digestive enzyme system degrades and its ability to chemically cleave apart the macro into the micronutrients declines; good bacteria begin to lose the war against the marauding invaders that break down our gut lining and limit the absorption of nutrients. So for us one of our primary goals in food intake becomes nutrient density and accessibility. There should be some Top Trumps chart that pits almonds against quinoa and all these things, but that aside we can still make some good assumptions to help us make decent food choices to maximise the uptake of nutrients from our intake of bulk food.
A primary rule in this regard is cellular density - those plants that grow above ground have far more dense cell structures and less “storage molecules”. Those starchy tubers contain weight for weight far less actually nutrients. If we’re training hard, struggling to maintain weight or eating less meals then those storage molecules become relevant but for most of us, and certainly in relation to longevity, it’s anything but “calories in calories out” - diets that focus on phases of caloric restriction have demonstrated what this can do for the lifespan of our cells. PLEASE do not mistake this for an endorsement of fad diets or crash dieting. We’re just looking at what research is starting to demonstrate about how to live a longer life. This is NOT about aesthetics.
So if we’re looking at nutrient density, you can’t go for long without mentioning the microalgae spirulina and chlorella. Their status as “hyperaccumulators” means that they (much like babies themselves) literally hoover up nutrients from their environment. So into each cell is wedged a delightful plethora of amino acids, essential fats, minerals and chlorophyll. More of each of these nutrients are found in spirulina than IN ANY OTHER FOOD. Except for its close cousin Chlorella, which pips spirulina at the post for chlorophyll content.
But spirulina has two secret weapons - firstly: it’s got no cell wall, which is the usual barrier to entry for our digestive system, so it unloads its store of goodies without even putting up a fight. Its second secret weapon is the phycocyanin that gives spirulina its blue green hue. The antioxidant properties of this little substances are only scantily studied, but research suggests it has a role to play in supporting our heart health, protecting the oxidation of cholesterol and influencing many of the processes that assist in energy production in the cell and protecting the fragile DNA from damage, extending the lifespan of our cells and affording us the opportunity to Ben’ Button our way through the 20’s.