October 4, 2021 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition
Health is a gift. A blessing. Until it declines, it is easy to take your health for granted. Whether it is bounding up the stairs without joint pain, easily reading fine print, having the energy to participate in athletics, walking gracefully without falling, or any other scenario that you can think of, these activities require a healthy body. Aging and recovering from a health challenge requires you to focus on restoration in ways you may not have had to previously support.
Getting over an illness isn’t just the day you stop running a fever, can take a full breath without coughing, or get out of bed without significant effort. It can take days, weeks, or longer to restore strength and vitality after a significant challenge. A recent JAMA Network Open study showed just how long it can take for some basic health stability to occur after an illness.
On average, it took participants 24 days for sleep patterns to get back on track, 32 days to be able to walk the same number of steps as pre-infection, and 79 days for a return to normal resting heart rate. Recovery can take even longer for some people.
Your ability to bounce back and recover is affected by several things. Inflammaging, gut and respiratory mucosal barrier integrity, brain BDNF levels, cellular senescence levels, mitochondria dynamics, antioxidant status, and sleep quality are strong factors that affect your resilience and comeback energy.
Getting up and around, back to daily activities, and gaining strength and endurance are signs of recovery. When these things leave you drenched in sweat, weak, shaky, and thoroughly exhausted, your body is sending you a clear message. You are still recovering, and extra support is warranted. Rest, a whole foods diet, avoidance of sugar and processed foods, and targeted nutritional support powerfully influence your health. Here are some things to focus on.
Inflammaging, i.e. inflammation and age, is a recipe for decreased tissue repair and risk factor for loss of health. Excess weight, blood sugar, blood pressure challenges, fat build-up in the liver, stressed kidneys, and cognitive decline are linked with inflammaging. Acute challenges on top of chronic, low-grade inflammation adds gasoline to the fire.
Anything you can do now to get yourself as healthy as possible will help your body manage future acute challenges and provide antiaging effects. Check out our online Health Topics or perform a search on our website to start learning more about what you can do to empower yourself and take charge of health.
Gut and Respiratory Mucosal Barriers
The mucosal linings in your respiratory and digestive tract are more than a warm, moist barrier. These tissues are highly sophisticated, complex barriers designed to stop germs from sticking and protect against toxins from entering into circulation. The barriers also selectively allow nourishment into the rest of your body and support desirable actions between immune cells and gut and respiratory flora for essential cross-talk and systems management.
Mucosal barriers get worn down from oxidative stress, illness, toxins, and medications like NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc) steroids, etc. Mucosal barrier breakdown causes increased intestinal permeability. As toxins from the environment and those internally produced gain passage through these leaky barriers, more oxidative stress and immune battles occur throughout your body. These primary barriers must be supported and repaired.
The Standard Western Diet does little to help supply the necessary fiber and nutrients required for gut mucosal barrier integrity. Strive towards at least 30-40 grams of fiber per day. This helps feed your gut flora, supports immune system function, and aids your liver with detoxification. Nutrients like glutamine,omega-3 DHA/EPA,fiber,turmeric/curcumin,vitamin A and vitamin D are required for gut and respiratory mucosal barrier integrity.
Blood Brain Barrier and BDNF
Your gut mucosal barrier integrity also impacts what your blood brain barrier must manage. Toxins and unwanted metabolic materials from the gut that are not cleared by the liver travel throughout your circulatory system. The blood brain barrier helps protect against these substances entering into the brain, but allows nutrients and other necessary metabolic compounds to move in and out.
The blood brain barrier is made up of a large network of capillaries that surround your brain and provide vital mechanisms to maintain homeostasis in your brain. Disruption of this barrier increases brain stress and free radicals. Fatigue, brain fog, difficulty processing information, word finding and memory challenges, sleep rhythm and quality changes, aging faster, and other brain symptoms may occur.
Your brain uses many different things to help naturally repair. One very important repair compound is brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
BDNF is activated by physical exercise. This may be the last thing that you want to do when you are exhausted and recovering, but you need to engage in motion somehow. Work within your energy envelope, but don’t overdo it. That may mean you do some isometric exercises in the recliner when you are down and out. Or it may be going out for a walk around the block. Do little things until you get back to your physical activity level from before illness.
It is important to note that individuals with increased blood sugar levels have been found to have decreased BDNF levels in their blood stream. Strive to improve your blood sugar management and support intermittent fasting with the Leptin Diet which enhances BDNF production.
Worn Out Cells and Cellular Senescence
Clean up of used, worn out, dysfunctional cells, or senescent cells, is also important for recovery. Senescent cells upregulate pathways so they can survive but this taxes other healthy cells with free radicals and delays recovery. Increased levels of senescent cells related with immune insults impairs the gut mucosal barrier and blood brain barrier.
Worn out senescent cells create increased amounts of free radicals and oxidative stress that impair mitochondrial activity and shorten your telomeres. This can cause fatigue, exhaustion, muscle weakness, frailty, cognitive difficulty, immune dysfunction and result in mitochondria stress.
You can learn more about telomeres in the article: Nutrition Makes Anti-Aging Possible: Secrets of Your Telomeres.
Removal of senescent cells and injured mitochondria (mitophagy) is a normal process, but this repair process can be overwhelmed and sluggish. Diverse types and optimal levels of antioxidants are essential to protect telomeres and mitochondria.
Supportive nutrients that aid in clean-up of worn out cells (autophagy), and protection of cells, mitochondria, and telomeres include glutathione, melatonin, PQQ, coenzyme Q10 ubiquinol,N-acetyl cysteine,astaxanthin,zinc,B vitamins, selenium, and grape seed extract. Anti-aging sirtuin compounds like resveratrol,pterostilbene, and niacin also support these cellular housekeeping tasks.
Calorie restriction and exercise are also helpful for these processes just like BDNF. Avoid high calorie, nutrient poor foods, and feed your body with whole foods rich in nutrients. Allow ample time between meals and 10 -12 hours of fasting overnight as this helps activate cell repair and enzymes necessary for energy production.
Quality sleep and adequate amounts of sleep are at the core of recovery. Here are some sleep resources:
If you are exhausted, overwhelmed, and need comprehensive nutritional support, consider foundational care with the Daily Super Pack with additional support of Brain Protector,Repair Plus,Super Coenzyme Q10 Ubiquinol and Cardio Helper. If you need substantial support, also include Glutathione Ultra and PQQ.
Sleep nutrients like melatonin,magnesium and theanine, and calcium may be helpful. Increase your dietary fiber intake or supplement with fiber. Do all that you can do with diet, lifestyle, and restoration of nutrient reserves to reduce chronic cell stress. This helps you better manage your total body load when a challenge occurs.
Recovery is more than waiting. Empower your body. Cool off the fires. Replenish your nutrients and engage in physical activity to your tolerance. Rebuild, repair, and restore barriers, mitochondria, cell clean-up processes, and BDNF. The more fire damage that is in your “house,” the greater the repair needs. It is an investment that pays off.