I’ve just had my sixty-ninth birthday, and although I’m in fairly good health, I’ve been feeling a little…vulnerable…compared to when I was younger. My hair is thinner, my eyes aren’t quite as good as they used to be, my gums have been receding (You know that old phrase “long in tooth”? It really means short in gum!). I could go on but you get the idea.
But just in the nick of time, I ran across two books that came up on Thrift Books (my new favorite place to shop) The first one was entitled Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye. Don’t worry, it’s not anti-dentist, as evidenced by the fact that it was written by a dentist! But this book was just what I needed for my teeth, and really for my overall health (I’ll explain that comment momentarily). The author, Ellie Phillips, does such a great job of explaining how teeth and gums work. And the thing that she emphasizes is that gum and tooth repair are quite possible with our own care of our own mouth. I won’t go into the whole thing here, but just having that confidence helped me to be proactive about my own mouth, and guess what! My gums have begun to go back where they belong, the area where some of my teeth were getting brownish along the edge by the gum are now almost completely white, and my teeth in general, if I’m not mistaken, seem whiter. And all this without a dentist cleaning or working on them at all. The author is a dentist, but she is really not big on the every-six-months cleaning routine. She says if our teeth were rocks, it would make sense to scrape, polish, and bleach them. But they are not rocks. They consist of soft things inside: dentin, which is softer than enamel, pulp and roots, which are soft and easily damaged, and the enamel that protects them should be nurtured, not broken down. And in a very short time, I have seen the results of believing that and acting upon it.
Then the other book I ran across is entitled Healing the Eye The Natural Way by Edward Kondrot, who has been an ophthalmologist for over 20 years. The book was written for those who have gotten a diagnosis of Macular Degeneration. Because my mom and as well as my aunt (her sister) both had ARMD (age related macular degeneration), I am very interested in the subject. As the book points out, the regular situation is that a person is given this horrible diagnosis, and then told that there is no treatment for it, and that it likely will result in some degree of blindness. Yikes! I don’t know that the author is a Christian, but he believes just as I do that the food of this earth, or as I call it “God’s food.” is powerful for the health of eyes and for general health. In fact, everything that is good for the body in general is healing for the eyes. These healing elements are things we have all heard of repeatedly but when we are older especially, we must take it all seriously: wholesome food, regular exercise, a peaceful mind and heart, staying away from toxins as much as possible. Dr Kondrot’s patients sometimes accuse him of being “blaming” when he tells them that their diagnosis could likely be, at least partially, a result of their lifestyle. But he puts them more at ease when he points out that if their eye condition truly is a result of lifestyle, the good news is that it can likely be reversed or at least arrested.
The word that is key in understanding older age is degeneration. When we are young, our bodies generate life and health to us, somewhat effortlessly on our parts. When we are old, everything starts to break down, or degenerate. Of course, this is inevitable and ends in death, ultimately. But seniors should have a goal of being vigorous, healthy, very alive individuals. Dr. Kondrot mentions that Science is very proud of the statistics showing that people live longer than they used to. Yes, they live longer, but do they live better, or is the end of life a life of perpetual illness?
What I’m saying is that our bodies need our help! Take my feet, for example. A while ago, I told my husband that my feet felt as though rigamortis had set in! My toes were stiff, my feet felt numb and inflexible. It seemed like I may have some awful disease. But I began letting my feet know that they are indeed still alive. I used cream with strong peppermint oil in it, I used a vibrating brush on my toes, I began doing some simple foot exercises. And my feet have responded and feel a lot more alive now.
So I have begun to let every part of my aging body know that it is still alive. I vigorously brush my hair and scalp each night with a stiff brush to remind my hair follicles that they should still produce hair, I use a soft brush on my face, I take deep, long breaths many times a day to remind my lungs that they are still alive, especially since we live at almost 9000 feet above sea level! And so on.
Following are some of the most helpful things I have done that keep my body feeling alive (these are not in order of importance):
Essential oils are good for every part of the body (diluted appropriately) For example, I make a mouthwash of these essential oils: clove, peppermint, frankincense (one drop each in a glass of water). My husband adds some xylitol to that mouthwash. I see essential oils as something that God has provided for us. They are mentioned often in the Bible.
Massage: I massage my gums using coconut oil, I massage my skin and my varicose veins, I massage my head, I massage my feet, I massage my ears! (Did you know that our ears and nose dont really grow with age they just droop and sag and need to be told by way of massage they are still alive!)
Mind Control: From the time I wake up, I seek to not let my mind wander onto negative or destructive thoughts. Unfortunately, the negative is where my mind tends to go automatically, if I don’t call it back. But I do some proactive thought exercises such as memorizing Scripture and trying very hard to concentrate on it. This comes with varying degrees of success, but I know that a lazy mind will be more prone to result in a mind that is not in my control as I get older.
In the book of Philippians it says: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, let your mind dwell on these things.
That is advice straight from God’s Word!
Exercise everything!!! I do eye exercises, I do face exercises (a big thank you to the late Jack La Lanne who taught me how to do this years ago), I do a short exercise routine before I ever leave the bathroom in the morning (by the way, don’t get bogged down. Ten minutes of exercise is hugely better than no exercise at all)
Posture: I have scoliosis so good posture is an extra effort for me. It’s not only for looks, but our insides function better when we have good posture. And don’t forget the posture of your face. A downcast, frowning face makes us ugly really fast. Have you noticed that a thirty-year-old who has a sour countenance can look old and ugly, and an eighty-year-old who has a lifted, joyful countenance can look beautiful?
Stress Control: As Dr. Kondrot points out, we can’t always control the stress makers in our lives, but we can always control our response to the stress makers. I am working hard on this one! Uncontrolled stress can make us sick, make our eyes vulnerable to disease, make us clench our teeth, make us think on the wrong thoughts, make our sleep poor. I’ve begun talking to myself…outloud if I have to…to remind myself to remain calm in spite of the stressful situation. I have a long way to go in mastering stress control!! But I won’t give up, because it is important for every aspect of physical, spiritual, and mental health.
Nature: There is nothing that brings about health in every area more than being outdoors in the fresh air and among the many wonders that God has made for us to enjoy. As I watch the growing number of children diagnosed with ADHD, I feel for them, because in many cases, I believe, all they need is more opportunity to go outside and play! And as adults, when we sit indoors and look at a screen all day, we may not realize it, but much of the stress related illness we may have is the same. We need to be outdoors, feeling the breezes, noticing the colors and sounds of nature, moving around to blow off a little steam!
These are things that I am committed to, yet I know that the next decade will be interesting. There is a lot of difference between a 70 year-old and an 80 year-old. And I may get sick and infirm in body or mind. But if I do, I want to know that this is something that God has allowed in my life, and not something that came upon me because I didn’t take good care of myself. Life has much to offer us older people. We can be a blessing to others in special ways and I believe we can enjoy our lives more than ever before. That’s why I’m doing all I can to keep my body and mind as healthy as possible. Yet, the specifics of my life are in God’s hands, ultimately. And I rest in that.
To end, here’s a fun exercise that can contribute to your health. I got this idea from the Eye book mentioned above: Each time you go to the grocery store for a while, try a new item of produce that you have either never tried or haven’t had for a long time. This will enhance the variety of nutrients that your body will love getting. Mike and I did this for the first time today. We came home with turnip greens, which we had never tried, and butternut squash, which we may have had once but can’t remember it. I had fun making an omelet with all the vegies we brought home, including the new ones. Next time at the store, we will try chard and acron squash! And tomorrow I plan to make chicken potato soup using every veggie in the house!