I’ve had the amazing good fortune of being a client of naturopath Elizabeth Peyton Jones for a number of years. Her holistic approach to wellness includes nutrition, kinesiology, and vast experience in the power of the mind-body connection. Elizabeth is now focusing her energy on making her wisdom available for all – her first book ‘Eat Yourself Young’ will need to be wrestled from my cold, dead hands… although that’ll take an eternity because if I keep up with her program I’m going to be sticking around for a long time!
Taking the old adage ‘Beauty Comes From Within’ as a starting point, can you give an overview of how nutrition is key to the healthy, youthful glow that we associate with beauty?
The great thing about this question is that it starts with the premise that health and a youthful ‘glow’ is within our control – which it most definitely is!
We’ll all experience aging, but how we age is a product of what we put into our bodies and how much we value ourselves (and those two are, of course, interlinked). To me, youthfulness does not stare from an unwrinkled face but from that glow within, and it is expressed through fluidity of gesture (muscle strength and flexibility), awakened by newness and excitement (from a positive attitude to life), is not dulled by the day (because stamina and resilience are key features of youthfulness) and finds new experiences in every corner (enthusiasm and vitality). All of those qualities come from feeding your body in the right way.
Nutrition is the fuel that keeps our organs and bodily systems functioning and enables us to carry out all the ‘bodywork’ – the repair and maintenance that’s constantly going on at a cellular level – efficiently and effectively. With the right nutrients, the immune system is robust and our recovery and repair time is quick; with the right vitamins and minerals we detox properly and also provide the collagen and elastin we need to ensure that our skin remains plump and youthful-looking, and our bodies flexible and strong.
What would be the top five beauty inducing foods?
The top five beauty foods are those which help the five most important processes in the body.
Firstly, alkalinity: the body functions better when our intracellular pH is in a slightly alkaline state, so eating foods that contribute to this is helpful. Lemon is my favorite – although acidic on the tongue, it metabolizes to an alkaline state in the body and is very easy to incorporate into your daily diet.
Antioxidants are vital for the body and brightly colored natural foods pack the biggest antioxidative punch. The best happens to be a small red bean, the aduki bean. Its highly pigmented skin contains plant compounds which the US Dept of Agriculture found contain twice as many antioxidants as wild blueberries (widely regarded as a ‘superfood’). Beans are high in protein so good for a low GI diet too.
Next, I’d say minimize chronic inflammation in the body, as it is closely related to aging conditions from Alzheimer’s too premature wrinkles. Scientists have coined the phrase ‘inflame-aging’ to describe its accelerating effect on aging. Anything with an ‘itis’ in it – colitis, diverticulitis, arthritis, etc – indicates inflammation, and psoriasis, asthma, and chronic low-grade allergens are indicators of it. Try and remove anything from your diet (or life) that causes inflammation in your body, and then make sure you eat a wide range of delicious anti-inflammatories like oily fish, ginger and, my favourite, turmeric.
Garlic helps balance your hormones which gives the youthing process a huge boost – even helping to minimize the symptoms of declining estrogen and testosterone which are inevitable as we age.
The digestive system is the most intelligent of all the body organs: it has its own ‘brain’ and nervous system which largely helps determine your mood. My favorite gut rejuvenating food is beetroot – it’s high in fiber, great as a detoxifier, feeds the blood, and builds stamina, plus it contains a dazzling range of nutrients which help with healthy, youthful cell reproduction.
Are there short-cuts ie. multivitamins and tinctures?
If your body is very compromised, it can be good to supplement especially with probiotics and any vitamins which you might not be getting from your diet. If you do supplement it is important to get good nutritional advice as vitamin and mineral supplementation is an art and the balance in the body is everything.
Tinctures are my favorite. Again, given the right herb in the right dosage, they work fantastically well for anything from a hormonal disturbance to constipation. They are also more natural than pharmaceutical products. The liver can always do with a bit of help and many herbs help detoxify and support the liver (milk thistle, dandelion, boldo…). But overall I would say aim to get most of your vitamins, minerals, and detoxifiers from your diet.
Beauty and mood are keenly linked, if we feel ‘low’ and weighed down, that comes out in our mood and expression. Positive energy is influenced by what we eat, isn’t it? Is there an easy way to test for allergies that might be responsible for dampening our spark?
The way you feel about yourself is definitely linked to mood. You can feel beautiful or terrible in a few minutes as your mood changes. This can be related to low self-esteem but also, importantly, to diet.
There are some obvious allergens like sugar, dairy, ‘bad’ fats, wheat, soy, gluten, processed meats, preservatives/additives, E numbers, and alcohol. Symptoms could be anything from muscle aches to intense cravings for the food – often a big indicator that the body is hypersensitive.
The best way to test yourself for allergies is to go on an elimination diet for one week. Avoid the suspect food completely and see how you feel. Afterward re-introduce it back into your diet and notice if your mood changes. If so, you’ll know to avoid it completely from now on.
Healthy skin, nails, and hair are signs of health, how can we achieve the optimum?
Make sure you are eating an anti-inflammatory and alkaline diet which is full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as zinc, calcium, Vit E, C and B (see Eat Yourself Young for more details). And also ensure you catch the sun on your skin to boost Vitamin D.
The truth about caffeine – what is the short term damage, and how can we limit the effects?
Caffeine is a drug like any other, but it’s not all bad. In Ayurvedic medicine, a bit of caffeine is thought to be good for Kapha types as it encourages the adrenal glands which can otherwise be a bit lazy.
However, a triple shot of espresso is going to put your body into flight and fight mode, pumping an enormous amount of glucose into the bloodstream. If there is no immediate physical danger (ie the need to run away) to use up all that energy/sugar, it remains in your system. You’ll feel pepped for an hour or so and then as the insulin kicks in and removes the toxic sugar overload, you’ll feel a slump.
The short-term damage is the slump. The long-term damage is more serious and causes blood sugar imbalance (which causes shakiness, irritability, fatigue and elevated insulin levels), muscle wasting (as cortisol consumes muscle tissue), sleep disruption, and weight gain, especially around the abdomen and back.
Limit the effects by drinking pure coffee (avoid processed/instant) very occasionally, and not too strong. Remember to alkalize and hydrate as coffee is also very dehydrating and acidic.
So sugar really does strip us of our beauty benefits?
Yes, there is no easy way of saying it. But not all sugar is equal and what you would consider being overconsumption varies and therein lies the problem.
There is nothing good about refined sugar, over-consumption of sugary substances, or even naturally occurring sugars – unless you are going to expend massive amounts of energy, for example, by walking to the South Pole!
The most difficult thing about sugar is that you don’t know where it is. A small bottle of (not so!) innocent smoothie contains as much sugar as 8 Hobnobs (a sweet British cookie for those in the U.S.) or 3-5 Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts. How could you possibly have worked that out when we’re always told that fruit is good for us?
The reason is that processed fruit juices contain liquid sugars in the form of glucose and fructose which – when eaten without the fiber contained in fruit that slows down glucose absorption – give our systems an almighty sugar shock that overloads the liver. It’s worrying that sugar is now routinely added to foods we traditionally think of as healthy – eg caramelized hummus, honey-roasted nuts, and of course the tomatoes, apples, grapes, and other produce bred specially to be ‘supersweet’.
Whenever excess glucose or fructose is metabolized in the liver it creates age – and I don’t just mean that it ages you. In this case, ‘age’ stands for ‘Advanced Glycation End’ products, which create destruction in the body at a cellular level.
AGE damage collagen, the protein that helps keep skin firm and muscles toned. The result is sagging skin, weak muscles, stiff joints. AGE is something you want your children to avoid, as youth is affected by AGE too, and if you are of advanced years you definitely do not want AGE!
To help navigate through this sugar-coated minefield, here are a few simple rules. Foods to avoid are anything white and refined, and anything that looks a long way from its original source (eg rice cakes, white bread, processed fruit juices). Instead, eat food that is as close to its original state as possible, with grains that are whole or sprouted.
Your mantra needs to be NO refined sugars, carbs, cakes, breads, sweets, grains, etc … otherwise you will age more quickly!
Hormones and nutrition are inextricably linked. For women, hormones are key in their effect on aging, mood, wellness. Would you say hormone balancing would be the ultimate beauty makeover? And how would you go about it in terms of nutrition?
Hormone balance is crucial for women and aging, and of course, there are many nutritional habits that can disrupt your hormones and cause weight gain, cravings, and accelerated aging (inside and out). For ‘youthing’, the most important hormones are insulin, adrenalin, cortisol, and the thyroid hormones which control metabolism. Diet can have an effect on these. I’d say avoid refined sugar, bad fats, processed meats, and fast or processed food of any kind.
Following a healthy, well-balanced diet (see Eat Yourself Young) will help you take control of your hormones. Your insulin levels will stabilize, hormonally induced mood swings, anxiety and depression will ease. Lowering your stress levels with good food and sleep will affect mood, libido and sex hormones. Once these are balanced they in turn regulate the thyroid hormones.
But having said that, life stresses, wake-sleep patterns, smoking, bodily dysfunctions, and of course the physical cycles we face as we grow older all bring hormonal changes that we have to deal with almost on a decade by decade basis. The endocrine system is hugely complex and still little understood by scientists, so every day in every way it is even more important to remember life’s ‘balance’ in everything that we do.