Category Archives: Longevity

How to Love Your Gut

The human body is a marvelous contraption, but it certainly is not a modern one. It developed ages ago before there were twinkies and McDonalds. The human gut is the passageway for us to give our cells the nutrients they require to survive, and if we are mindful, to thrive. This passageway was not meant to endure a constant flow of carbonated, highly sweetened, artificially colored phosphoric acid, otherwise known as cola.

Our gut is more than just our food superhighway. The health of our gut can impact our immune system and our mood. 70% of our immune system is located in the wall of our gut. When you think about the fact that we have to choose what foods to put inside our bodies, which will be digested into molecules and absorbed into our bloodstream, it makes sense that we would need a strong defense system in our gut lining.

Our gut, a 30-ft looping waterslide from our mouth to our anus, is controlled by a complex web of nerves. This enteric nervous system is also known as the Second Brain. The Second Brain does not rely on input from our conscious brain to do its job of digestion, but it does communicate with our brain via the vagus nerve. The enteric nervous system is interwoven with the autonomic nervous system, so that when we are in high-stress fight-or-flight mode, our guts do not propel food. We would not want to leave a trail of droppings if we were fleeing from a lion! When we are in parasympathetic mode, feeling relaxed, we digest and propel our food more optimally. The enteric nervous system uses the same neurotransmitters as in our brain, and 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in our bowels.

The microbiome of the gut plays a crucial role in our health. We have 10x more microbial cells in our bodies than human cells. To be in optimum health, we must behave symbiotically with our gut microbiome, nurturing it with a diet that allows the healthy bacteria to flourish. An anti-inflammatory diet full of a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and fermented foods not only makes our microbiome happy, but it also makes our human cells happy and healthy. Show your gut some love with a plant-laden diet, 8 glasses of water daily, and regular exercise, and your health and mood will reap the benefits.

Dr. Bren Boston, MD sees patients at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica. Call 310-451-8880 to make an appointment.

Forget about Setting New Year’s Intentions

Talk about setting yourself up for failure. Trying to make a decision about a behavioral change that you will stick with for 12 straight months is nonsense. What research shows is that it takes 3 weeks to form a new habit. So, this year, I encourage you to make separate monthly intentions starting with January 2019. Try it on, feel it out, see if it works for you or if it is even possible to mesh with the rest of your life. If you find it is not working, then, presto, you can make a new intention for February while either carrying forward January’s intention or scrapping it.

For example, last year I made an intention to make every recipe in my superfood snack cookbook. But the problem was that after 2+ hours of shopping, prepping, and cooking each recipe, I found that the person in my house who ate the most of it was me. If I am going to devote 2 hours to cooking something, I want my whole family to eat it. Making every recipe was not going to work for me and was not my best use of time, so I quit with that plan and just remake the recipes that my family likes. But, since I quit on my New Year’s intention, I have a niggling sense of failure that is ridiculous.

Setting monthly intentions sets you up for success. It is much easier to commit to 30 days of change than it is to commit to a year. Monthly intentions also allow you to try 12 different changes to see what works for you, and you can repeat the ones you like best.

Here are some examples of monthly intentions that you might want to try:

January: Anti-Inflammatory Cleanse. After the excess of food and drink over the holidays, it always feels good to tighten up the food rules in January. At the Akasha Center, we espouse an anti-inflammatory cleanse. A bare-bones version is to eliminate all sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy, and processed food.

February: Decluttering. After the excess of material items that enter your home during the holidays, it feels good to declutter. Reach into the recesses of your closets and pull out things that you would not miss if they went missing. Donate them to a charity that could put them to use. It’s amazing how good you feel after decluttering, with improved mental clarity.

March: Cardiovascular fitness. There are still several months until beach season, so it’s a great time to get in the habit of doing cardiovascular exercise. Try for at least 3 days/week of at least 45 minutes, exercising to the point of sweating. I think the best way to commit to a month of exercise is to sign up for a 30-day class-pass to a fitness center. You’ll see the same faces over and over giving you accountability, helping to incentivize you to keep coming.

April: Stretching. Our tendons really want to be stretched. They don’t like getting wound up so tightly. They get creaky and cranky when they are ignored. So, for a whole month concentrate on stretching all your major muscle groups every day, even if only for 5 minutes. If you can get to yoga once a week this month, you get extra gold stars.

May: Meditation. Mindfulness practices lead to improved mental health and peace of mind. It is so hard to carve time out of our busy day to just feel present. Try setting aside a special time, even if it is just for the first 5 minutes you are lying down in bed, to listen to a guided meditation and see how it feels. Once you get the idea, you can meditate without guidance.

June: Meal planning. Americans lead the world in food waste. Meal planning for the whole week on the weekend is time consuming at first, but then saves you time by eliminating all the extra grocery runs during the week. Planning each meal ahead also allows you to waste less food, and to ensure the correct ratio of veggies, proteins, and grains. This month, your family gets what it gets, and no getting upset allowed. You’re not going back to the grocery until the next weekend. Ahhhh.

July: Triceps. We use our arms every day, but primary only for activities right in front of us. Our poor triceps don’t get the action they deserve. So, this month, commit to 30 push-ups a day (3 sets of 10 push-ups). You can work your way up if 30 sounds impossible. By the end of the month, 30 push-ups will only take 1 minute out of your day.

August: Hydration. Most Americans are chronically dehydrated. We do silly things like interpret thirst as hunger, eating more instead of hydrating our cells. If we wait until we feel thirsty, our bodies are already in water debt. This month, get a 20-oz glass or stainless steel reusable water bottle and drink 3 of them a day filled with filtered water.

September: Health care maintenance. Preventative health care can make all the difference in early detection and keeping you well. The years can easily slip by without getting your heart listened to, your lipids checked, your abdomen palpated, and your routine cancer screenings done. This month, carve out time to see your doctor, dentist, eye doctor, dermatologist, and other health specialists.

October: Core. Our core muscles include everything around our torso. Keeping your core strong can help prevent back pain, improve balance, correct posture, and improve endurance. Dedicate 5 minutes each day this month to core exercises like sit ups, crunches, plank, side plank, leg lifts, and standing on 1 leg, like tree pose in yoga.

November: Decluttering, part 2. You know that the stuff has piled back up. Let’s declutter before the influx from the holidays arrives. You’ll be able to breathe deeply and will have more donations for worthy causes at a time when they need them.

December: Me time. December is all about family time. We bend over backwards to bring the magic of the holidays to our family. So, dedicate this month to self-care. Give yourself the gift of guilt-free me-time once a week: a facial (at home or spa), massage, hike with a friend, get a sitter and go see a daytime movie, whatever it is that makes you feel recharged and ready to continue with the holiday rush with an inner sense of peace.

Dr. Boston sees patients at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica, California. Call 310-451-8880 to make an appointment.

Longevity Depends on Your Liver

Your health depends on your liver. The liver is your largest solid organ other than your skin. It is located in the upper right corner of your abdominal cavity tucked under your rib cage. Your liver helps you digest and absorb fats and vitamins. It stores iron so that you can make red blood cells to circulate oxygen. It stores glucose for when you need a burst of energy. It makes proteins involved in blood clotting. The liver is the site of immune activity to protect from invading organisms that might enter your body through your gut. It detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. The liver helps filter your blood, removing unwanted chemicals from the bloodstream.

The cells of the liver are called hepatocytes. Hepatocytes release enzymes when they are inflamed or damaged. Detecting elevated liver enzymes on a routine blood test may be the only way you find out your liver is stressed. Early stress to your liver can be caused by excessive alcohol intake, obesity, diabetes, or viruses. Early damage causes a small bump in liver enzymes, and if the damage continues then triglyceride fat deposits within the hepatocytes causing fatty liver. At this point, the liver damage is completely reversible, and the liver cells are able to regenerate to a healthy state as long as the offending source is remediated.

If the damage continues, then fatty liver progresses to cirrhosis when functional liver cells are replaced with hardened scar tissue. Once a liver is cirrhotic, it usually cannot regenerate and a liver transplant is required. Signs and symptoms of liver failure include abdominal pain and swelling, nausea, jaundice, fatigue and internal bleeding.

Liver cancer is the fastest increasing cause of cancer death in the U.S. Unhealthy livers are more at risk for liver cancer. At least 50% of liver cancer diagnoses in the U.S. have preventable factors, including excessive alcohol intake, hepatitis viruses, cigarette smoking, obesity, and exposure to toxins like fungal aflatoxins in crops or arsenic in drinking water.

What can you do to reverse fatty liver? There is no magic pill, but committing to lifestyle changes can allow your liver cells to regenerate to healthy detoxifying machines. Along with lifestyle changes, and an herbal supplement called milk thistle can help your liver heal.

Glutathione, the most important antioxidant synthesized in cells, plays a key role in liver detoxification. Glutathione helps recover oxidative-stress induced liver damage. You can boost your glutathione production by eating sulforaphane-rich cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. Oral glutathione supplements are controversial because they get broken down by gastric juices, however, supplements like Antiox Restore by Akasha Naturals can help support your body’s own glutathione production. Glutathione can also be given via the intravenous route to deliver antioxidants directly to your bloodstream.

Lifestyle Changes for a Healthy Liver
• Avoid excessive alcohol intake
• Avoid tobacco products
• Avoid excessive sugar intake
• Avoid environmental toxins
• Protect against hepatitis viruses
• Eat more cruciferous veggies
• Lower your triglycerides
• Lose weight
• Exercise

Bren Boston, MD is a Sports Medicine, Pain and Women’s Care specialist at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica, California. Call (310)-451-8880 or email us at

The Anti-Aging Effect of Exercise

The slippery slope of lean muscle loss begins at a younger age than you would guess. The medical term for age-related loss of lean muscle is sarcopenia, and it starts in our 30’s. Sarcopenia occurs at a rate of 3-5% per decade. Less muscle means less strength, less stability, and less dense bones, which all increase the risk for falls and fractures.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can fight against the loss of lean muscle mass by actively exercising to maintain and gain back muscle mass. Resistance training 3x per week is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine, just to maintain muscle mass. If you need to add lean muscle, then you will need to do more. Progressive resistance training, when you add progressively more reps, more weight, or more sets, and isometric holds, when you hold a resisted position for a period of time, will help to hypertrophy your muscles. It is never too late to rebuild lean muscle.

You are what you eat. If you want to add lean muscle mass to your body, you need to eat amino acids, the building blocks of both protein and muscle. You can find amino acids and protein in both plant and animal foods. Good sources of amino acids include beans, wild salmon, organic, free-range poultry and eggs, and of course high-quality protein powders. The best time to eat protein for building muscle is within 30 minutes of workout. A smoothie with a carbohydrate-to-protein ratio of 3-to-1 will allow for optimal post-workout muscle recovery. If your body is deficient in the digestive enzymes that break protein down into amino acids, then you will not be able to benefit from the protein you are eating. Discuss with your doctor if you need to take digestive enzymes.

Supplements and hormone replacement therapies can also play a role in optimizing lean muscle mass in the aging population. Both testosterone and DHEA are associated with increased muscle mass in people who are concurrently participating in progressive resistance exercises. β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB), a metabolite of the amino acid leucine, can be taken as a supplement to reverse muscle wasting when combined with muscle-building exercises. Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and creatine have also been found to help build muscle strength. Discuss the risks and benefits of these options with your doctor before you decide to treat yourself. Supplements are just that: supplemental. You do not need supplements in order to build lean muscle mass, but they can be helpful for the right candidates.

The most important steps you can take to keep your lean muscle mass are:

1. Progressive resistance exercises to rebuild muscle
2. Eat clean sources of protein for the building blocks of muscle
3. Aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week to burn excess fat
4. Isometric hold exercises to hypertrophy muscle
5. Avoid processed foods, greasy foods, and sugar.

Dr. Bren Boston, MD is a physiatrist and certified personal trainer. She sees patients at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine at 520 Arizona Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Call (310)-451-8880 to make an appointment.

Natural Strategies for Blood Sugar Control

No one was more surprised than me when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my first pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes in which the hormones of pregnancy impair insulin’s ability to lower blood sugar. The diagnosis was a blessing in disguise because it led me to meet with a diabetic nutritionist to learn about how to keep a food log, introduced me to the glycemic index of foods, how to eat a Type 2 diabetic diet, and how to check my blood sugar after meals. The education I got about my body and about the hidden sugar content in foods was priceless and benefits me today.

I found out that a single piece of pizza would put my blood sugar over the limit. I had not thought of pizza as a sweet food, but pizza sauce has sugar in it and the crust becomes sugar in your body. I found out that if I walked for 10 minutes after a meal, the impact of the meal on my blood sugar was reduced. The flexing of muscles when walking helped to pump the sugar into the muscle cells where it was used to power my walk rather than raise my blood sugar. Walking after meals helped reduce my insulin resistance and improve my blood sugar.

I learned how to determine carbohydrate equivalents. One carb serving is 15g, and you can subtract a gram for each gram of fiber in the food. That is how the glycemic index works. All carbohydrates, including vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans, are ranked on the glycemic index. It is obvious that a bowl of beans will not spike your blood sugar the same way a muffin will, but I also learned some good tricks. I learned that I could eat a larger portion of apples or berries than of grapes or watermelon because apples and berries are lower on the glycemic index and have more fiber. The lower a food on the glycemic index, the less it will raise your blood sugar.

Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 7-fold increase in the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. I am in prevention mode and continue to be mindful of a diabetic diet when I choose my foods and my dedication to exercise.

If you have already been diagnosed with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, there are several natural strategies that you can employ to help control your blood sugar.

  1. Diet: Learn how to count your carb equivalents and limit them to 2-3 per meal or 1-2 per snack. Eat small, frequent meals to keep blood sugar levels more stable. Familiarize yourself with the glycemic index and choose low-glycemic carbs. Increase the fiber in your diet and drink more water. Avoid processed fats and eat plenty of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, wild salmon, nuts and seeds.
  1. Exercise: Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes per day of aerobic exercise. If you walk for 10 minutes after each meal, you will lower the blood sugar impact of the meal by improving the insulin sensitivity of muscle cells, helping the sugar go into muscle cells and out of the blood stream.
  1. Lose weight: Excess stored fat causes the body’s cells to become resistant to insulin.
  1. Supplements:
    1. Chromium – helps stabilize blood sugar and supports the job of insulin
    2. Cinnamon – reduces fasting blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity
    3. Alpha Lipoic Acid – antioxidant that can help lower blood sugar by enhancing the uptake of glucose into cells and help inhibit glycosylation (the abnormal sugar-coating of proteins). It helps promote eye and nerve health.
    4. Magnesium – promotes healthy insulin production
    5. CoQ10 – antioxidant that helps support a healthy heart
    6. Green Tea – antioxidant helps support insulin and glucose control, reduces hunger, and reduces inflammation
    7. Botanicals such as blueberry, prickly-pear cactus, ayurvedic gurmar, and Asian bitter melon may help lower blood glucose.

Work with your physician to help implement an individualized program for your blood sugar control and monitoring. You can make an appointment to see Dr. Boston at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine at 310-451-8880.

The Buzz about Intermittent Fasting

The truth is you probably already do some intermittent fasting (IF) and don’t even know it. If you don’t snack after an early dinner and eat a late breakfast, you have done a form of IF. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that sets aside a specific period of time during the day for eating while the rest of day is devoted to fasting.

There is not a one size fits all protocol for intermittent fasting. Each person responds differently to how many hours they fast and how often they practice IF during the week. It does take some experimenting in the beginning to see if IF is right for you and which protocol allows your body to thrive.

The most common schedules are:

  • The Leangains Protocol (also known as the 16/8 method – involves restricting your eating period to an 8-hour period, for example 11AM -7PM. For many people we recommend lengthening the eating period to 12-hours (7AM – 7PM). This can be done 2 or more times a week.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat – fasting for 24-hours once or twice a week. For example, no eating from dinner one day until dinner the following day.
  • The 5:2 Protocol – involves only eating 500-600 calories on 2 nonconsecutive days of the week, for example every Monday and Wednesday.

What are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

You might be underestimating the benefits of not caving in to the late night snack food cravings. The benefits of IF are far greater than just helping to maintain weight.

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting:

  • Improves brain health
  • Increases energy
  • Enhances tissue healing
  • Promotes longevity
  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Supports weight loss
  • Normalizes the hunger hormone ghrelin
  • Raises adiponectin which tells our body to burn fat
  • Reduces oxidative stress
  • Reduces inflammation

People who practice IF report feeling more energetic and wake with a feeling of alertness and excitement to start the day. Exercise can work in conjunction with intermittent fasting to improve your health and weight loss. Following an overnight fast, we encourage avoiding strenuous exercise and embracing more gentle forms of exercise such as restorative yoga and walking. Generally after 2-weeks most people will know if Intermittent Fasting is right for them and which schedule feels best.

The benefits of IF are increased when you choose a fiber-rich, anti-inflammatory Mediterranean-type diet with lots of multi-colored vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole non-processed grains during your non-fasting hours.

If you are interested in learning more about intermittent fasting and to discuss the best schedule for your body and your lifestyle, let us help you.

Dr. Bren Boston and Dr. Maggie Ney are practitioners at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. You can schedule an appointment by emailing us at, or calling 310-451-8880.

Just in time for Mother’s Day…How Exercise Can Help Your Motherhood

I’ve always had a bit of a Type A personality. Probably most doctors do, how else can you make it through medical school? Having a Type A personality means that my sympathetic nervous system, my fight or flight instinct, can make me a bit on edge sometimes. It also helps me get stuff done. But, too much of a good thing, is a bad thing. Exercising is the main way I balance my sympathetic nervous system, burning off the excess adrenaline, helping me to be less uptight and less irritable. And, any mom knows, you are a better mom when you are feeling more relaxed, less uptight, and happier.

Staying fit by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly is also my mood stabilizer. When I go running, I am flushed with a sense of optimism that comes out of nowhere. It just washes over me, and my mind is flooded with creative ideas and positive thoughts. Natural endorphins and improved blood flow are the biological causes of these uplifting brain waves. These happy feelings spill over into my interactions with my kids, helping me to enjoy the precious moments and to tolerate the gripes with aplomb.

Staying fit also gives me energy. One of the biggest complaints I hear from moms is that they feel tired. I can honestly say that I have great energy due to an endurance built up from regular exercise 5 days a week, and sleeping 8 hours a night. Having energy allows me to play joyfully with my kids.   I can tell they are in tune with my energy, and it brings us closer together. I also feel good about setting an example for them of how exercise can be a fun part of your weekly routine, something to look forward to, not to dread.

Being healthy is important for longevity. I want to be there to see my kids grow up into adults, and to be a grandparent to their children. In fact, I don’t just want to be there for my grandkids, I want to be running around with them, babysitting them, and keeping up with them. Exercising, specifically weight training, gives me noticeable muscle strength that I am aware of when toting heavy grocery bags without flinching or lifting my kids into a bear hug.

Being fit is an important aspect of my self-esteem. What you see on the outside is not nearly as important as what is on the inside, but the real you is stuck inside your body. Keeping your vessel healthy and fit is a way to honor the real you, the soul, that lives within. Being fit allows me to feel comfortable in my clothing, and to feel good about my body. I don’t have a perfect body, but I do have a strong, energetic, healthy body, and that helps me be the mom I want to be.

If you are a mom who is looking to jump-start her fitness and weight loss plan, I would love to see you at the Akasha Center of Integrative Medicine for a comprehensive wellness plan.   Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine, 520 Arizona Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401.   (310)-451-8880

New Year Post: Top Ten Tips to Improve Your Health

January is a wonderful time to reflect on the past year and make decisions about the upcoming year.  We can make choices about which behaviors to concentrate on changing to optimize our health and our happiness.

1.  Invest in a reusable 32oz cup.   Fill and drink it twice a day with filtered tap water.

Most Americans need to drink more water.  They are walking around dehydrated all the time.  Every cell in your body requires water.  When we are chronically dehydrated, our tissues (such as spinal discs and ligaments) dry out and become more brittle and prone to injury.  If we wait until we are thirsty before we drink, we are already in 1L water deficit.

2.  Walk for 10 minutes after every meal.

When you walk after eating, you improve the ability of insulin to lower your blood sugar by pumping fresh oxygenated blood to your muscles.  The delivery of glucose to the cells which use it for energy becomes possible when insulin allows the entry of glucose out of the blood stream and into the cells that need it.  A 10 minute walk after eating also helps your intestinal tract mobilize the food boluses which improves digestion.

3.  Eat more fresh, organic vegetables.

Vegetables are the most important source of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber in your diet.  Truthfully, we all need to eat more vegetables.  A diet high in vegetables has been linked to longevity and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Juicing is one way to get the antioxidants, but it eliminates the fiber you need for a smoothly working digestive tract.  In my own quest to eat more fresh vegetables, I have found it very useful to cut the veggies into sticks and dip them into dry spice blends.  My favorite spice blends right now are Penzey’s Murals of Flavor (a salt-free blend that includes shallots and lemon peel) and Penzey’s Pizza seasoning (a distinct fennel flavor I love).  I find it very satisfying to snack on veggies this way rather than crackers or chips.  Another trick I use to get more vegetables in my family’s diet is to add pureed fresh spinach to smoothies and in place of water in recipes.

4.  Eat less processed food.

When I see the professionally marketed boxes and bags of processed food in the grocery, it looks appetizing on the cover.  But, once you look at the ingredients of food that comes in a box or a bag, you see some very unappetizing, sometimes revolting truths.  The chemicals and preservatives and empty, possibly  toxic, calories that lie within are tasty due to their fat, sugar, and salt content.  But, they are terrible for your health.  Try to choose foods with the fewest ingredients possible and those that are closest to the natural state.  Choose whole grains where you can still identify the grain by looking at the product, rather than refined, bleached flours.  If you don’t keep junk food in your home, then you will be much less likely to eat it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  If you have a junk food that  you want to indulge in, then have one encounter with it away from home, and don’t bring the leftovers with you.

5.  Prioritize exercise.  Identify 3 priming songs.

The American College of Sports Medicine says that if you want to reap the cardiovascular and health benefits of exercise, you need to find the time to do moderate exercise 150 min/week.  Another way to put it would be to exercise for at least 30 min a day, five days a week.  The exercise you do should ideally be a mix of aerobic exercise, resistance training, balance training, and stretching.  Regular exercise has been proven to help treat anxiety, depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The best way to make sure you exercise enough is to make it fun so that you look forward to it.  If you are not currently exercising on a regular basis, then you need to look at your schedule and see where you can fit it in, and actually write it on your calendar.  Identify 3 priming songs.  Priming songs are songs that when you hear them, you just want to get up and dance or move your body.  Put these songs on your listening device, and use them to get your mind and body ready and geared up for exercise.  I find my priming songs to be incredibly powerful motivators, especially on cloudy days when I am less likely to want to exercise.

6.  Sit less.  Move more.

The human body was not designed to be as sedentary as the typical American regimen has become.  Our hip flexors are shortening from sitting all day, and our low back is straining from the slumped posture that prolonged sitting encourages.  We will feel better and more energized if we move more and sit less.

Build tiny bouts of increased joint range of motion and body-weight strengthening into your daily life.  For example, while you are filling your car with gas or waiting in line, you could use those few minutes to do heel raises, leg extensions (barely placing your straight leg behind you until you feel your buttock muscle engage in contraction), or stretching your arms over head.   For every hour that you spend sitting, you should get up and move for at least 10 minutes.  Take your large joints through their entire range of motion a few times a day.  Stretch your hamstrings.  Feel the improved blood flow and the release of tension that comes with regular movement of your muscles and skeleton.

7.  Eat smaller portions.

As we age, our caloric requirements go down.  This is because our lean body mass decreases and our metabolic rate slows down.  These natural effects of aging can be mitigated by decreasing our caloric intake to match the decreased caloric need.  Low calorie diets have been associated with longevity.  If you eat more calories than you burn, then you gain weight.  The American food portions are often grotesquely large.  There is no need to go around feeling hungry, since you can always eat more fresh vegetables.

8.  Protect your skin barrier.

Our skin is an important part of our immune system.  It is the barrier between our organs and the outside world.  Every part of our internal anatomy is connected to our skin by just a few degrees of separation because our skin involutes to our internal body at our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, urethra, and anus.  As we age, our skin becomes less hydrated and less elastic, making it easier to get micro fissures in the skin.  This can disrupt the natural, protective, healthy bacteria that live helpfully on our skin but should not contact our internal micro biome.  To protect your skin barrier, I recommend using a mild, dermatologist-recommended bar soap, like Dove, in your warm (not hot) shower.  Avoid harsh, anti-bacterial soaps unless you are cleansing your hands after contacting germs.  Women should avoid using soap on their vagina, as it disrupts the natural, healthy flora – just use water.  I also feel it is important to add moisture to your skin daily with a mild, dermatologist-recommended, unscented, daily moisturizer, preferably paraben-free.  Frequent hand-washing can help keep us healthy, but hands should be thoroughly dried afterwards, and a moisturizer applied.  As we age, our feet require more attention to keep the skin healthy and free of fungus, dry skin, and cracks.   Get a professional pedicure monthly or do it yourself to eradicate the thick, dry skin, and use a moisturizing ointment on the soles of your feet every night to prevent the re-accumulation of keratin.  Ointments I use daily on my hands include Un-petroleum by Alba Botanica and  Organic Healing Balm by Honest Company.  I use these products on my children as well.

9.  Improve your sleep habits.

While we are sleeping, our bodies and minds enjoy a restorative period during which our metabolic processes are able to recuperate.  Plenty of scientific literature has shown the benefits of getting 8 hours of sleep a night.  Sleep is not wasted time, but rather an investment in your health and well-being.  Make sure you have a comfortable sleep environment, an ergonomic sleep position (don’t sleep on your stomach), and a routine that helps your mind and body wind down for sleep.  Getting regular exercise and setting aside time to meditate during the day can help you achieve better sleep at night, readying your mind and body for their nightly reward, restful , rejuvenating sleep.

10.  Find gratitude.  Choose happiness.

We all live with some level of stress, yet we can identify others who are enduring much more stress than we.  When we remember there are other humans living in extreme poverty, or as prisoners of war, or as human slaves, or with a life cut short by disease, we should use these remembrances to help ourselves find gratitude amidst our own life stressors.  We are kindred to all the humans on Earth, and we are born into environments beyond our control.  What we can control is how we respond to our situation.  Finding gratitude and not taking our life for granted is key to choosing happiness.  Happiness is a choice, and we can all choose it anew every day.