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Harmonia by Francesc Miralles
Charly the Sage
“Hi Charly, why do you look so young?” asked the first person.
“Because I never quarrel with anyone,” replied Charly.
“Come on, Charly, it can’t just be because of that,” said the other person.
“Probably not,” replied Charly.
Old Catalan joke (alyhough the cornerstone of my personal phylosophy is avoiding rubble with my trouble and strife)
Even a modern AI can tell you the main 10 aspects to live a long life in good health. Besides a good genetic and epigenetic inheritance, and living in a healthy environment, there are many things you can do to invest in your health. As the first post revealing the Secrets from the Golden Cabinet, I would like to share with you my decalogue, my top-10 factors to achieve the precious goal (the order is irrelevant):
- Follow a balanced diet adapted to your needs.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay always hydrated.
- Control your mental stress, relax, practice mindfulness or engage in a creative hobby, cultivate inspiring and positive friendships. Keep curiosity and an open mind.
- Sleep enough.
- Moderate alcohol consumption. Do not smoke. Do not use drugs.
- Do not let diseases go too far or stay for too long. Do the necessary medical check-ups.
- Practice a detox cure twice a year. Harmonia retreats are a great option since you learn how to improve your daily life.
- Nurture your life daily, be aware of your weaknesses, and protect yourself.
However, this article was originally meant to explain somatic redundancies as a possible marker for organic burn-out. Ok, I have just said it. In fact, this concept implies the presence of extra or duplicate cells within the body’s tissues, which can play both protective and detrimental roles in the context of aging and disease. Too much protection can be detrimental, but the point here is that too much protection happened because of too much stress. Since too much protection leaves a scar in the cells, these biological marks can be seen as the activity of somatic redundancies and, therefore, a marker for long-term stress sustained by a particular individual.
And what are those scars? Boonekamp et al. (1) showed that telomere length could be related to accumulated organic stress. Furthermore, the progressive shortening of telomeres and the endurance of high cellular stress lead to the formation of senescent cells.
For many years, and still now, there has been a belief that the length of telomeres, which are the end caps of chromosomes (see picture below), were indicators of biological aging. When the telomeres shrank to a certain length, the cell was unable to divide anymore, so the cell had two options: either die honorably or become a zombie cell.
Digging deeper into the subject, scientists found that the molecule responsible for maintaining the telomeres’ length was an enzyme called telomerase. The presence of this enzyme decreases progressively with age, but it decays dramatically under the aggressions of toxic products and metabolic stress (2, 3), caused by excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, and eating an unhealthy diet, which I call the Five Horsemen (of the Metabolic Apocalypse).
You can read more about telomerase and telomere shortening here (4), However, bear in mind that the interpretation of telomere length has changed and nowadays is not regarded as a marker of biological age but as cellular burn-out.
When a cell is damaged and becomes a liability for the body, it has several options. But before exploring how the body sends the cells on a “one-way ride,” I must tell you why cells are pushed to die. When cellular burn-out goes too far and the telomeres are too short, or there are too many DNA mutations caused by toxicity, radioactivity, or the sustained action of any stressor in excess, the cell becomes a danger to the body. A danger of what? A danger of becoming cancerous due to accumulated DNA damage. Therefore, living beings have evolved mechanisms to prevent cancer and other forms of degradation by inviting the cells to die or become zombies. For instance, excess and sustained sun exposure (radioactivity) on the delicate skin cells of our face affects their DNA and causes mutations, leading to acute senescence and premature aging. (And there is nothing to do to prevent it other than protecting your face from direct exposure).
In case the cells are beyond repair or the mutations developed are too dangerous, there is an internal mechanism that induces programmed death by implosion, using the cellular membrane as a “garbage bag.” This is called apoptosis, and it is a clean and orderly way to die. The other way is called necrosis, consisting of the explosion of the cell, which is not as clean as apoptosis since the toxic content of the cells are spilled into the intercellular milieu, causing inflammation in the environment which, furthermore, leads to stress in the neighborhood. Another chance is for the cell to become senescent, meaning zombie.
Senescent cells are basically non-functional, hence the metaphor for “zombie,” and secrete a trail of proinflammatory factors, called SASP. Senescent cells are key to preventing cancer since they integrate into clusters of potentially dangerous cells, called oncogenes, and their secreted SASP attracts immune system cells capable of attacking and engulfing the whole cluster. On the other hand, senescent cells form scars as an active part of the tissue repairing function, otherwise, we would have holes, like Gruyère cheese.
A number of chronic zombie cells, secreting low levels of SASP, are part of the aging process and present in most of the tissues. However, a high number of acute zombie cells, secreting highly inflammatory SASP, create a lot of biological stress and, acting as a kind of contagion, spread senescence to healthy cells in the vicinity. It is needless to say that acute senescence is caused by toxicity, metabolic and environmental inflammation, metabolic malfunction, and other stressors happening because of diseases, infections, wrong lifestyle (The Five Horsemen), overweight, excess radiation, and many other factors.
What to do to prevent excess of zombie cells and not losing your caps (telomeres)?
I’m proud to announce that a whole book written by me, under a pen name, is coming, with a lot of information about this subject. However, in the meantime, let’s give a few hints as a do and do not list.
We have already mentioned: do not smoke, do not overeat, do not be overweight, do not over-consume alcohol, do not binge-watch Netflix, do not sleep less than 6 hours, do not eat monotonous, industrial, or fast food, do not be lazy to walk, at least, 10k steps per day, and do not over-expose your skin to sunshine….
Here we go, another decalogue:
- Consume plenty of seasonal and locally produced cruciferous and green leaf vegetables, farmed in the most natural way as possible.
- Eat berries and drink green or wulong tea, which contain a lot of antioxidants and polyphenols, such as resveratrol or EGCG. Some Asian herbal remedies contain resveratrol, such as Idatori tea (containing rhizoma of Polygonum cuspidatum), Morus alba L. (bark of mulberry tree), Magnolia officinalis Rehd. et Wils. (magnolia bark), Belamcanda chinensis (L.) Redouté (rhizome, also known as Iris domestica or blackberry lily) and Panax notoginseng (Burkill) F. H. Chen ex C. H. (root). Resveratrol light poison that acts as multifunctional booster. Keep in mind that including those products in the diet is far preferable to the use of supplements (for more, read this) (5).
- Consume plenty of Omega-3 oils, present in oily fish, such as sardines (my #1 choice), mackerel, herring, and salmon (good luck finding the wild product not smoked). Also found in flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.
- Cut the consumption of excessive fruits, especially oranges (out of season), watermelon, mango, lychees, and fruits with a high content of fructose. Reduce the consumption of sugar in any form. Do not take artificial sweeteners, as they are microbiota killers. Stay away from industrial sweets. Rather, consume whole cereals and at least 25g of fiber per day.
- Sleep enough.
- Breathe! A very important part of our retreats. We really pay attention to sharing with our guests how to breathe.
- Include plenty of pre- and probiotics in your diet. This is the backbone of our Rejuvenation retreat. Stay connected for more about this.
- Practice plenty of low-impact exercises: Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, hiking, walk the stairs, walk for groceries… In our retreats, we have developed postural and low-impact exercises to keep you fit. Exercise promotes the activity of telomerase.
- Practice meditation, mindfulness, engage in creative activities. If you have already been in our workshops, use the Five Steps to Ride Your Mind.
- Adapt to the seasons by eating accordingly and staying hydrated with a variety of herbal teas, such as ginger, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary, verbena, boldo, chrysanthemum, jasmine, mint, and peppermint.
In future newsletters, I will deepen and add more bullet points to the list.
© Francesc Miralles, 2023
- Boonekamp JJ, Simons MJP, Hemerik L, Verhulst S. Telomere length behaves as biomarker of somatic redundancy rather than biological age. Aging Cell. 2013 Apr;12(2):330–2.
- Bhattacharyya J, Mihara K, Bhattacharjee D, Mukherjee M. Telomere length as a potential biomarker of coronary artery disease. Indian J Med Res. 2017 Jun;145(6):730–7.
- Harley CB, Futcher AB, Greider CW. Telomeres shorten during ageing of human fibroblasts. Nature. 1990 May 31;345(6274):458–60.
- Shammas MA. Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging: Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2011 Jan;14(1):28–34.
- Ma B ning, Li X jiaoyang. Resveratrol extracted from Chinese herbal medicines: A novel therapeutic strategy for lung diseases. Chin Herb Med. 2020 Sep 18;12(4):349–58.