One of the human body’s most masterful tricks is its ability to give us clues about what’s going on inside. These biological breadcrumbs can alert us to potential health concerns before they become serious—and in many cases—give us a chance to reverse damage.
Premature wrinkles, skin tone, the condition of your hair, and the way you look and move can indicate whether your biological age is higher than your chronological age. Your biological age refers to how well your body is functioning and can be much higher or lower than your actual age.You’ve probably met an “old” young person or someone who is 80, but seems decades younger.
Here are some signs of aging and what to do about it:
Red eyes can come from more than just seasonal allergies or staring at the computer screen for too long. Chronic red eyes can be a sign of chronic inflammation, which is associated with several age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis.
How to stop it: An alkaline diet rich in antioxidants can reduce inflammation, cut down on joint pain and stiffness, and fight aging. When you follow The Beauty Detox plan, you eat a diet of about 80 percent alkaline-forming foods and 20 percent acid-forming foods. That means 80 percent of your diet should be fruits, greens, and vegetables, while the other 20 percent is for protein, carbohydrates, starches, and fats. Alkaline foods include ripe fruits, sprouts, greens, and other non-starchy vegetables. When you trade in fast food and refined sugars for whole, real foods, you may begin to see (and feel) less evidence of chronic inflammation.
Some of the best inflammation-fighting foods are:
Walnuts (try my Sweet Walnut Chutney recipe)
Droopy Eyelids or Fatty Deposits Around the Eyes
The eyes are not only the windows to your soul, they provide a peek at the overall health of your body. Droopy eyelids can be an indication of fatigue, allergies, thyroid dysfunction, or fluid retention. In most cases, droopy lids are connected to oxidative stress, which allows free radicals to accumulate and cause cell damage in your body.
The good news is that oxidative stress is greatly attributed to eating a poor diet full of processed foods. Put down that potato chip and pick up some blueberries or crunchy carrots and jicama dipped in hummus. Free radicals can also come from the environment in the air or water; a diet high in antioxidants can negate their effects.
How to stop it: Switching to a diet with whole, rather than processed, foods will help. Celery (an ingredient in my Glowing Green Smoothie) can help the skin around the eyes look healthier and reduce puffiness thanks to an anti-inflammatory compound inside called polyacetylene. It also helps your liver and kidneys get rid of toxins in the body.
Aging around the eyes can be indicative of a more serious health problem. A study completed over the course of 35 years by Danish scientists and shared with the American Heart Association in Los Angeles found that fatty deposits around your eyes could indicate heart disease.
While the scientists don’t claim that there’s a direct cause-and-effect link between the two, the study does suggest that premature aging on the outside is indicative of heart trouble on the inside. By noticing that something’s not quite right around your eyes, you might be able to stop heart disease from progressing with a change in diet.
Wrinkles and Sagging Skin
Wrinkles and sagging skin may feel like an inevitable part of aging, but some people see wrinkles and fine lines as early as their 20s. There are creams, makeup products, and procedures to minimize their visibility. However, the ability to mask them doesn’t mean you’ve solved what’s causing the wrinkles in the first place.
If you aren’t feeding your body “beauty” foods, especially those for beautiful skin, like pears, cabbage, and turmeric, you may be seeing deep nasio-labial lines and wrinkles much earlier than you should. Deep nasio-labial lines can be a sign that you have a congested digestive tract (which leads to congestion in the body overall), an overloaded liver, or might mean you’re not getting enough oxygen. Part of my Beauty Detox plan involves cleansing the body and all of its organs to increase energy and vitality.
How to stop it: Add a few components from The Beauty Detox plan such as water and lemon and the Glowing Green Smoothies, and incorporate “beauty” foods for the skin into your diet.
One of the first steps to cleansing the liver involves drinking hot water with lemon each morning.
Pears are high in fiber that helps cleanse the colon while simultaneously delivering vitamins E, B, and A, plus minerals. Pears are also part of the Glowing Green Smoothie, which I recommend drinking every day.
Cabbage works to cleanse the blood thanks to the vitamin C and sulfur. Just like pears, cabbage is high in fiber and helps clear out waste, too.
Turmeric contains the powerful antioxidant, curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory. Turmeric also improves circulation, which in turn, can improve your complexion.
Changes in Skin Tone or Texture
We typically experience changes in our skin tone and texture as we age. The condition of your skin also signals problems inside the body.
If overly dry, flaky skin suddenly crops up you might want to check out your thyroid. The thyroid’s ability to function depends on several factors; a weak thyroid indicates that your adrenals may not be making some of the hormones you need to stay energized and feel young. Both the thyroid and the adrenals depend on the small and large intestines to efficiently remove waste from the body.
How quickly your body ages all boils down to how clean or toxic it is. Work to clear out the sludge on a consistent basis and you’ll notice that your skin glows and feels softer than it did before.
How to stop it: Give your thyroid and adrenals a break by skipping the soy and caffeine. Soy can depress your thyroid function and damage the enzymes that synthesize thyroid hormones. You don't have to add tofu for "protein” either; whole plant foods naturally contain it. One dense plant source of protein is millet, which contains manganese, a mineral that helps strengthen your thyroid gland. Manganese may also help you maintain your hair color. Try my Millet "Couscous" Salad.
Over an extended period of time, drinking coffee to combat chronic fatigue can lead to problems with your renal system in some cases. Then there are the highs and lows experienced when you drink coffee. The endless cycle of crashing and then being jolted awake can be pretty stressful on your body. The Glowing Green Smoothie will get your day started with a burst of energy without causing a crash later or taxing your organs.
When you stop relying on caffeine and artificial sugars to power through your day and instead depend on whole foods, your energy level will stay more constant and your organs can begin to recover. If you need a boost and you’re about to reach for the coffee, try bee pollen instead. If you have a pollen or other allergy, or are new to bee pollen, check with your doctor first or try a very small amount. Not only do you get a dose of beauty-inducing minerals, you’ll increase your energy, stamina, and immunity. Here are other ways to get energy without relying on caffeine.
In addition, some of the best foods for detoxifying the liver and kidneys are:
Probiotic & Enzyme Salad
You Constantly Feel Stressed Out
This has to do with how you feel more than what you see when you look in the mirror, although stress does show up on your face and in the way you move. Remember, all that stress you’re experiencing is aging your body.
The telomeres, or outermost parts of chromosomes in your cells, shorten when exposed to stress over time. It doesn’t matter if the stress comes from a phobia or long-term emotional stress, like the stress involved when taking care of a sick child. Stress still has the same effect.
Stress is linked to chronic fatigue syndrome (which will make you feel much older than you are), and it can eventually result in adrenal fatigue and heart disease. Your body releases cortisol from the adrenal cortex when you’re stressed, which is good for short-term fight-or-flight situations. However, it’s can wreak havoc on your body over sustained periods of time.
If your job or home life is stressful and you aren’t taking care of yourself in a way that will help you alleviate and manage that stress, cortisol is probably running wild in your blood stream, damaging your circulatory system, and contributing to weight gain. You could also be experiencing insomnia, panic attacks, and high blood pressure.
How to stop it: You aren’t doomed to a lifetime of stress even if there are some parts of your life that are challenging. Take control of your life with a healthy diet and regular exercise—an action recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—connecting with other people, and sticking to a routine. Once you’ve started eating better foods and moving around a little, the stress won’t seem as unmanageable.
Now for the Good News
The good news is this: you are powerful. You have a tremendous amount of control over how quickly your body ages by the lifestyle you lead. You can change your course and stop inflammation in the body if you notice premature signs of aging. When you begin to take care of your body, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll look better too. Isn't that a nice bonus?
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.