Targeting support for veteran’s bodies through proper diet and quality nutritional supplements, supports the critical systems essential to keeping them healthy. Hormonal balance is key, as is a healthy nervous system, which supports healthy brain function. Optimal body composition is also important, possible only when glandular levels and other metabolic processes are balanced and working correctly. Last, but not least, is the digestive system. Fewer digestive enzymes as we age make healthy digestion and full nutrient extraction from food more challenging than some realize. Supplementing with nutrients that are specifically designed to support the body in each of these areas offers a solution.
After we build foundational nutrition, it’s important to address what their bodies’ needs are based on their age, daily stress load, the environmental toxins they are exposed to, and the demands that athletic training and exercise place on their bodies. By doing so, we bolster their immune system and they have a better chance of staying healthy.
Hormonal balance has been a key component during my experiences working in the field of anti-aging, or functional, medicine.
What are hormones? These are the body’s primary signaling molecules that active our cells, tissues, and organs. Typically in my field, when we refer to hormones, we are talking about adrenal hormones like cortisol and DHEA, sex hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, and the thyroid hormones levothyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Each individual hormone has hundreds of different functions it is responsible for. You may easily gather that if one or more hormones are not at their optimal level, there are many processes in the body that will not function well which means that we will not function well.
Without our hormones we lose energy, mental alertness and memory, sleep, we lose muscle but gain fat, our mood becomes depressed, we lose interest in sex, and our bodies just don’t bounce back like they used to from exercise, illness, or an active day of fun. Simply put, less hormones means less life.
As a compounding pharmacist who makes hormone replacement prescriptions, customized for each patient’s needs, I noticed quickly that nearly all of us in the field, medical practitioners and pharmacists, made a critical mistake when getting patients on hormones.
We forget about the importance of adding vitamins and minerals. Supporting hormone balance with nutrients is critical, and to do so, we must add the vitamin and mineral cofactors that allow the hormones to do their jobs. These support nutrients allow hormones to follow the beautiful, almost symphonic pathways of human biochemistry.
Once we add hormones, or other prescription drugs for that matter, we start to deplete the body of these key micronutrients. The chemistry breaks down and the hormones simply stop working. The old way of thinking was to add more hormones, increase the dose. This is not always the best answer.
All of the tools must be considered if we are to enhance our body’s ability to take advantage of the benefits of these wonderful hormones that excite our bodies into action. Life in the industrialized world exposes us to tens of thousands environmental pollutants. Key nutrient cofactors are required to detoxify our bodies of these dangerous compounds, many of them very similar to hormones in their chemical structure.
These are collectively known as endocrine disruptor chemicals. After attending lectures on the prevalence the negative health impact of environmental toxins, I was actually quite disconcerted and shocked. Since then, I have taken the attitude that we can only reduce or exposure as much as possible and put our bodies in the nutritional position to clear out these toxins faster than we take them in. Noting that nutritional cofactors are required for detoxification are taxed and rapidly depleted, the importance of a nutrient-dense diet with added supplementation becomes a primary solution.
Another hindrance to hormonal balance is the heavy stress load we experience every day or our work load – which could be nothing more than managing a work life, a home life, and a personal life or the compounded life of a warrior.
These all take a toll on our hormonal system as well as our immune system. Add to these factors a catastrophic event such as the loss of a job or a loved one and the impact of stress lingers for years, disrupting optimal hormonal balance for extended periods.
A third challenge to achieving and maintaining hormonal balance is the depletion of nutrients that often occurs after heavy workouts and ongoing athletic training especially work ups prior to deployments.
We want to keep our bodies fit and physically functioning as well as possible and exercise is very important in that regard and some training processes in field work exceed normal stress loads. Just remember that the increased metabolic demand induced by exercise increase our needs for nutrients.
In fact, signs and symptoms of over-reaching and over-training syndrome are often due to the sometimes-extreme nutritional deficiencies induced by heavy training.
If you are an endurance athlete or combat ready warrior and have experienced insomnia, increased frequency of upper respiratory infections, muscle cramps, restless legs, and that annoying eye twich, you are surely suffering from numerous vitamin and mineral deficiencies which may unfortunately lead to underperformance and even injury.
Even if we don’t engage in heavy exercise, nutritionally supporting the immune system is critically important to maintaining our health. Protecting our bodies with the proper nutrients reduces the incidence of infection, helps balance our hormones, and helps determine how our bodies respond to environmental toxins and inflammation.
As we age, inflammation and oxidative stress also become critical factors in our health. Building a foundation of antioxidant nutrients and anti-inflammatory components helps us modulate the stress response and environmental toxins that imbalance our bodies and aggravate it toward an inflamed state which can lead to the development of various chronic diseases.
When it comes to balancing our nervous system, supporting optimal cognitive function is one of the first steps many physicians take in their approach to anti-aging medicine. They call it “starting with the CEO of the body.”
Supporting the nervous system by giving it the nutrients required to make neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that govern our mood, memory, and cognitive function) is critical because the brain uses various glands like the hypothalamus and the pituitary to regulate our hormonal production and the rest of the endocrine system of hormone producing organs in our bodies.
Maintaining optimal body composition (a healthy balance of fat and muscle) is also an important factor. Diet is the primary factor here, but there are important nutritional co-factors that can help. For example, magnesium helps to improve blood sugar control. African Mango helps modulate leptin and ghrelin levels which regulate production of new fat cells and the sensation of hunger.
We also need to support our digestive system which is not always an option for combat deployed personnel. In order to maximize our nutrient extraction from healthy foods in balanced diet, we must have an optimally functional digestive system. Part of that requires supporting our “gut,” which contains 100 trillion microorganisms that help us with digestion. There are actually ten times more healthy microorganisms than our bodies do cells.
As we age, our bodies produce less digestive enzymes, which means we are more susceptible to imbalances of these microorganisms and the natural bacterial flora living in the gut. This may lead to various nutrient deficiencies, weakened immune defense, a tendency to develop food allergies, and inflammation in the gut, which may contribute to the development of various autoimmune diseases.
One easy way to support the digestive system is with products that contain probiotics. If needed, some patients can also supplement with digestive enzymes. Finally, a fair amount of fiber is required to maintain a healthy gut and digestive system.
Fiber, particularly from vegetables, helps maintain our gut’s healthy microflora, supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria while lessening the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Finally, fiber simply acts as a potent binding agent for toxins and environmental pollutants. We cannot rid our bodies of these dangerous, disruptive chemicals without it.
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