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The Ageing Debate and Health ambiguities by Moira Johnson

News July 2023 Issue 109

I love the summer season - the UK is in full bloom, there's an ease to dressing and eating, there may be a holiday to look forward to, and the warmth seems to reach into our bones and relax us.

It has been a whole year now since I moved on from hands-on working and from Agnes salon. The year has gone very quickly, and has been wondefully filled with other pursuits. Like most people in my position, I both miss elements of my previous life, including all of you, but embracing my new situation- and age!

This month's edition turns slightly philosophical with it's pondering on concepts of ambiguity and curiosity, Topical Story 1 discusses these, following a series of live talks I heard this month.

The Ayurvedic treatment this month also alludes to the balance of ambiguities (sweet and tart together.)

Topical Story 2 focuses on the subject of Anti-Ageing again. I note that in the March issue, I wrote about the levels of Ageism in our society as well as recent scientific research on the ageing process. Quote of the Month provides an interesting antedote! And if you're confused which bottled water to choose, look no futher than our guide in Expert's Tip of the Month, - assuming you cannot either bring, or bring enough, of your own. And a reminder: if you have any issues that you think I could help you with, please do ask me. Your concerns may be shared by others too.

Topical Story 1 Recent Talks

In June, I attended a series of talks both at a literary festival and on-line, which had remarkeably similar themes, despite their different time scales and genres.

  • A talk by Dr Gavin Francis on his new book about Sir Thomas Browne, physician, polymath, wordsmith, who lived in Norwich during the 17th century..

  • A talk by homeopath Dr Rudy Verspoor on What is Health? What is Illness? What is a Cure? (Apparently there is no agreed definition anywhere, either in traditional or alternative medical literature.)

  • A talk by author and podcaster Katherine May on her new book 'Enchantment in an Anxious Age'

What did these have in common? Curiosity about the natural world and how it works, an openness to new possibilities and to the yet unknown, a recognition of certain ambiguities which exist, and the importance of living well now. Dr Francis writes: 'Browne uses paradox as a way of getting closer to understanding rather than truth, because he believes logic and reason alone are not enough for humanity to achieve a broader knowledge that includes a living faith. Paradox and contradiction assist his faith, they don't detract from it: 'I believe because it is impossible.' And 'We contain within us, as part of the Universe, a potential for life.' Browne referred to the 'Optimal impact of Excitement of vital energy.' In other words, he recognised that health lay in the particular combination of factorspresent for that one individual. Far from the one drug fits all approach. Rudy Verspoor also spoke about exploring the right remedy for the right person, of balancing exercise with rest, or sunshine with overexposure, and a capacity to see the essence of issues beyond appearances. He suggested that we now need a new scientific revolution to look at things through a different paradigm. 'We are still stuck in a mechanistic mode of medicine.' The unity of opposites is embedded in Homeopathy, with its seemingly contradictory dilutions: the greater the dilution, the higher the potency, and the stronger the effect. For years, homeopathy has been discredited parly because this unconventional approach could not be rationally understood by rational scientists. A first consultation will often take between 60 to 90 minutes, so thorough are the questions into every aspect of your person and not just your medical history: eg whether you prefer the heat or the cold, a morning or a night person, easily upset or more resilient. Katherine May's talk acknowledged the 'Anxieties of our Age,' but suggested we try to find 'our elemental selves', i.e. to be enchanted with 'little things,' and at the same time 'to lower our expectations... Enchantment is near us, not at the end of an aeroplane!' Her recommendations?

  • train ourselves to notice e.g. a little plant in the garden

  • allow yourself to be patient

  • consider the wonder of lightening, stars, sunsets.

  • pay radical attention to the everyday

  • visit a museum to wonder at the dexterity and craftsmanship on display

  • embrace culture - a book a film, an exhibition.

  • follow 'the pull' and allow it to expand your passion

Sir Thomas Browne would have agreed: advocating that a good life is not to measured in gold or by the size of your tomb after your death, but in being a good companion, with humility. and curiosity. Interesting stuff!

_______________________________________________________________________________________ Topical Story 2 Anti- Ageing

What's your own position on getting older? Are you taking any measures to look younger? And if so, how far would you go? Natural methods only? or some intervention? The topic has arisen this month from several sources. 1. You may know that I often refer to Dr Marillyn Glenville, biochemist, nutritionist, author and presenter. She is thorough in everything she does, and believes in influencing our health by natural methods. You can imagine my surprise when I read that she was going to be using the clinical consulation rooms of the Bijoux Medi Spa Clinic. Here's what I wrote: 'Hello I must say that I am rather surprised that Marilyn is throwing in her lot with an Aesthetic Medicine centre. However good the business link up or the London location, I personally don't think that this relationship has much to do with her values or beliefs ie totally natural!!! Ageing from the inside out, not body sculpting or face lifts, or dealing with fat etc by diet, not machines. But, I may be missing something here. I did want to give you my opinion, as someone who has followed Marilyn for over 2 decades now.' You can read the full response here, which is worth doing. But briefly,

  • The medi spa owner is also a medical doctor and a big 'fan' of Marilyn.

  • The doctor has always been keen to introduce a more integrated and natural approach for her clients and to incorporate functional medicine tests and nutritional programmes specifically designed to help nourish the body from the inside out.

  • She was also offering many non-intrusive treatments.

  • Marilyn's patients would already by using aesthetic treatment out of necessity because of their personal situation. If so, then they could be introduced to a clinic with a more wholistic approach and get their nutritional advice from the same clinic. And vice versa.

  • Marilyn was offering their services to a wider audience in order to help more people naturally.

Personally, I think it's a fair response. The fact that clients might be seeking both natural and invasive solutions to keep well and healthy, or just wanting to look and feel younger, is a strong argument. 2. This combination of natural and more intrusive approaches was the basis of an articlein a recent 'Sunday Times' by journalist Polly Vernon. A decade ago, she was looking for someone 'to delve into her crow's feet'. An Acupuncturist came highly recommended who,specialised in anti-ageing facials. 'But first, I need to treat all of you, make sure it's all good, that way you get really good skin,' was his response, and suggested 5 more sessions. Polly thought she wouldn't have any more, as she 'only came for the face!' But after some devastating news, she did return and the acupuncturist could feel from her pulse, that a trauma had occured. From being deeply sceptical about alternative therapies,' I became a total believer and my skin looks insane.' 3. To hear two different attitudes to our Anti-ageing culure, check out these two podcasts: aired 6th and 13th June. and Fashion director Anna Murphy explains why she is against injections and surgery. She thinks society needs a correction to anti-ageing where older people are marginalised.''Its about who you are, not how young you look. It's an illusion.' Fashion can be an expression of your personality. She considers that the tide may be turning, with more women keeping their grey hair, and more women speaking out against intrusive procedures. In the other interview, doctor, turned cosmetic dermatologist, Dr Sam Bunting takes the view that she is helping clients feel better in themselves and to look better. Her treatments range from recommending a good skin care regime, to suggesting changing hair colour, to lasers, and injections mole and skin tag removals and more.. She claims that her treatments are not so much anti- ageing procedures, but more about acceptance and radiance, and clients looking their best and the positive psychological impact that has on their lives.

Ayuvedic Treatment of the Month

Anne Heigham has been a full time Ayurvedic Practitioner and Yoga teacher for the last 16 years. She is also an author and teacher. To contact Anne for treatment or training: mobile 0773 4051620

Seasonal Tip

Soft fruits are in abundance right now and making the most of all the antioxidants in them is a must. In the UK, we are blessed with many tart fruits such as gooseberries and blackcurrants. They support the microbiota - the collection of micro-organisms that includes bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses. Microbiota also balance stomach acid production.

The importance of gut/digestive health has been a cornerstone of Ayurveda for 2000 years. Many fruits are medicnally used in Ayurveda. Amalaki or Indian Gooseberry is different to English Gooseberries but some of the properties are similar, as they both help tone the digestive sustem and are hight in Vitamin C. Rather than dampening down their taste with sugar, it is good to wait until they are really ripe and savour their tartness.

In Ayurveda, it is in this combination of natural sweet and sour tastes that the heath benefits lie.

Expert's Advice

Bottled Water - which one to choose?

Spring water is taken from undeground sources, and undergone a range of treatment, including filtration and blending

Natural mineral water is untreated and bottled in its underground state

Naturally sparkling water is natural water from an undeground source with naturally occurring carbon dioxide to make it bubbly.

Sparkling (carbonated) water has had carbon dioxide added during bottling just as ordinaty fizzy drinks do.

Avoid flavoured waters as often contain sugar, sweetners or more

Avoid plastic bottles as plastic can contaminate water with xenoestrogens.

The best option to drink is still mineral water in glass bottles.

Dr Marilyn Glenville, nutritionist.

My Tip

If you want to feel better (and possibly younger!), try to incorporate some, or all, of the following into your daily routine.

- more movementandavoid long periods of sitting: walk up stairs instead of taking the lift, walk around the park, get off transport a stop or two earlier, join a Council health walk or jog.

- some stretching: eases areas of compression, good for muscles and joints, aids mobility.

- some strengthening: helps keep muscle tone and function, helps to avoid osteoporosis. Carry shopping, arm exercises using cans of food and squats while watching a screen, push ups and planks, using your knees to make it easier.

Quote of the Month

So much emphasis in our culture is on youth. When the media want to arouse our sympathy its all about children. The fashion and advertising media concentrates on young female beauty. The older woman is often overlooked, irrelevant, without currency. We live in an increasingly ageist soiceity and this affects women disproportionately. I see BIG WOMEN (exhibition) as both an endorsement and a celebration of women's acheivement in the creative field. It aspires to be thougth provoking, funny, serious, attractive and fun. God knows we need it in these times, dominated by male aggression, politicking, greed, war and pig-headedness.

Sarah Lucas, artist and curator of 'Big Women' exhibition, First Site Gallery, Colchester 2023.

Best Wishes and Take Care!


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