Dr. Mao: Aging Gracefully:

Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Dr. Mao Shing Ni

Mother’s Day is around the corner and it is a great time for you or your mother to focus on her and her health. “Aging gracefully” is a euphemism for getting old naturally: Gray hair, sagging skin, lost muscle tone, and sinking energy levels are what usually come to mind. Here are some tips for all our moms to help make aging naturally defy the usual expectations!

1. Revitalize Growth Hormones with Squats

The term ‘human growth hormone’ may bring to mind images of athletes and bodybuilders. In reality, HGH, which is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, maintains healthy cell growth for everyone. When we’re young, we secrete a lot of this hormone to build bones and develop muscles. After age 25, HGH production wanes, and our bodies tend to have less lean tissue, more fat, and thinner skin; hair begins to fall out and mental function declines — all this happens because our cells don’t replace themselves as efficiently as they did when we were younger. I do not recommend using artificial HGH supplementation, as it has several potential side effects, including joint discomfort and blood sugar imbalance.

Instead, you can stimulate your body to produce more HGH on its own by doing squats to exercise the large muscles. In one study, squatting exercises caused an eightfold increase in HGH levels. You can also do leg presses at the gym. At home, simply grasp a heavy object, bend your knees while keeping your spine straight, squat down and hold the position, count to 10, then come back up. Of course, be mindful of your knees and don’t do this if you have knee issues.

2. Restore Your Youthful Hair

You can use natural methods to help remedy hair issues. A Chinese herb used for treating graying hair is “Shou wu” (also called “fo-ti” or polygonum root). Found in a hair nurture supplement available in Asian herb stores, it’s used to restore hair growth and reverse graying. Eating black sesame seeds, black beans, and walnuts are also thought to reverse graying hair.

You can also cover up the gray by using natural colorants to dye your hair. Chamomile and lemon juice can color light hair. Henna works well for shades of light brown and red. Coffee or black tea can be used by brunettes. Here’s how: Brew two to four cups of strong coffee (or tea), then allow them to cool. Pour over dry, tangle-free hair. Thoroughly saturate your hair, and use your fingers to work through. Leave on for ten to twenty minutes and then rinse out. Be careful not to drip on your clothes or carpets, as the coffee will stain. This method is a way to naturally dye your hair over time, but it is temporary, and must be repeated regularly. For a dark black hair coloring, try making the coffee mixture and adding squid ink.

If hair loss is your concern, you can replenish hair growth with the Chinese herb arbovita (also called Platycladus orientalis and Semen Platycladi). Apply arborvita to stimulate follicles, improve blood flow, and strip away root-clogging oils. I have used this herb for my patients over the last twenty years with very good success. You can try my natural herbal blend, Hair Nurture, which combines herbs to nourish hair follicles and promote healthy hair.

3. Tone your skin with a do-it-yourself facelift

We have been successfully treating patients with facial-toning acupuncture in our office for 25 years. If you decide to seek out this treatment, be sure to work with practitioners who are specially trained in acupuncture for the face. In the meantime, bring the benefits home by learning to do acupressure on yourself. Using your fingers, you can tone your facial muscles and stimulate the natural production of collagen in the skin. Press firmly with your fingers, working your way methodically along the following points:

Point 1: GB 14 to relax the forehead

Point 2: Yintang to ease furrow between the brows

Point 3: Taiyang to get rid of crows’ feet around the eyes

Point 4 and 5: LI 20 and ST 3 for minimizing smile lines

Stimulate these points in the morning and again at night.

4. Increase your energy with magnesium, vitamin B, tea, and tai chi

I have many patients who complain about one of the hallmarks of aging: waning energy. Here are some energy-enhancing strategies:

• Magnesium is an essential mineral that mitochrondria, the tiny power generators in your cells, require to help your body produce energy. Many people don’t get enough of this essential mineral, because two common dietary habits leach magnesium from our bodies: using too much salt and eating too much dairy. You can get your fill of magnesium from eating whole grains (such as brown rice, oats, millet, and whole wheat products, like bread and pasta) and a variety of nuts and seeds. Have a daily handful of pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews. If you prefer capsule form, try taking 500 mg of magnesium daily.

• Fatigue can also come from a deficiency of B vitamins. Get your B’s from eggs, fish (especially shellfish), orange juice, leafy green vegetables like spinach and collard greens, and sunflower, sesame, and other seeds. Or take B vitamins as a daily supplement — just be sure the product includes the whole complex and is formulated to avoid imbalance.

• Start practicing Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or Dao-In yoga, all of which are gaining popularity in the US. These gentle movement exercises promote energy, balance, and a calm mind. Many recent studies have confirmed their balancing action and benefits for blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, equilibrium, and other organ functions. Though these exercises will make you feel younger than your years, they can be practiced at nearly any age — my own Tai Chi teacher was 90 years old.

May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!