By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Based on the people in our lives, and our observational experience, we often have ideas of what aging looks and feels like. I hear people saying that changes in their body, energy and health are due to aging as young as 30 years old. Yes with advanced age, the body does begin to break down gradually, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t investigate changes in energy, hair, pain, digestion and memory. I believe that these symptoms are clues to imbalance in the body, and that addressing the underlying causes is essential for overall health.
Here are 8 common symptoms people attribute to aging, and what they really could mean.
Fatigue is probably the most common thing people believe decreases with age. Although I agree at a certain point that energy will decline, this does not generally apply to turning 30, 40 or 50 even.
Common causes of fatigue to investigate:
- iron, B12, thyroid, HPA axis dysfunction, food sensitivities, gut issues, stealth infections, insulin resistance, high stress, poor sleep quality, sleep apnea, over-exercise, inactivity, mitochondria dysfunction.
(read more about common causes of fatigue here: https://drshawnadarou.com/2021/11/01/why-am-i-so-tired/
Issues with sleep are common with anxiety, post-partum and around menopause, but otherwise can point to underlying imbalances that can be addressed.
Common causes of sleeplessness to investigate:
- menopause, high night-time cortisol, poor sleep habits, alcohol intake, anxiety, iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, sleep apnea.
3) Memory changes
Memory changes always warrant investigation, and can be the most rewarding to address. In earlier years, memory changes are usually associated with sleep problems, and next to menopause hormone changes.
This is a very short summary of areas to investigate with change in memory:
- First is poor sleep quality: sleeping insufficient hours, or not getting into deep sleep cycles is the most common cause of early memory changes.
- Next is change in hormones, especially in the initial years post-menopause. Addressing hormone balance and sleep can reverse these changes.
- Beyond that, there are many factors and systems associated with memory changes, Alzheimer’s and dementia. Here is a brief list: inflammation, vascular changes, nutrient deficiencies, hormone deficiencies, insulin resistance, toxin exposure (especially mold), heavy metal exposure.
(learn more about addressing and assessing Alzheimer’s risk here: https://drshawnadarou.com/2019/08/12/how-to-reduce-alzheimers-risk-factors-before-it-starts/)
If you think that your expanding belly is simply a consequence of aging, you may be missing something. Yes, the body shape changes post-menopause with a minor shift in where you carry fat, but bloating and gassiness are not the same thing.
Here are some other causes of bloating that you may be missing:
- intestinal dysbiosis, gluten-intolerance, dairy intolerance, SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth), insulin resistance, hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), eating too quickly, constipation. And of course a dramatic change in bloating that is not resolving with dietary changes should be investigated with a pelvic ultrasound for ovarian cancer (this is rare!).
(read more about common cause of bloating and how to address them here: https://drshawnadarou.com/2019/11/04/why-am-i-so-bloated-2/)
5) Body aches and pains
Do you associate body aches and pains with aging? Yes, this may be occurring with the development of osteoarthritis, but even in these cases foods can modulate the expression of pain.
If you’re waking up with achy, or noticing more body pains, here are some things to check out:
- systemic inflammation, osteoarthritis, autoimmunity, food sensitivities, intestinal dysbiosis (production of LPS – lipopolysaccharides) by imbalanced but bacteria can promote inflammation, inactivity, over-exercising, alignment issues creating imbalance in muscle use, dehydration.
6) Hair loss
In some families, female hair loss with appears to occur with age, where all of the women have thinning hair as they get older. Instead of blaming genetics, there are many things to investigate with the most common causes being low iron levels and insulin resistance.
Here are some of the factors to investigate with thinning hair:
- insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, low iron, other nutrient deficiencies (vitamin A, zinc), low protein intake, chronic stress stress, high androgens.
(Read more about female hair loss here: https://drshawnadarou.com/2019/04/19/getting-to-the-root-of-female-hair-loss/)
7) Acid reflux
Interestingly many people associated acid reflux as a condition that is inevitable with age, and hence acid-reducing drugs being the most highly prescribed medications.
Common causes of acid reflux that can be addressed:
- poor diet, hiatal hernia, small intestine bacteria overgrowth, high alcohol or caffeine intake, stress, constipation, hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), gallbladder dysfunction.
8) Weight gain
Yes, a small amount of weight gain at menopause is normal, but gaining 10 pounds each decade is not.
Causes of weight gain are sometimes very simple, like adjusting nutrition and caloric intake, but other time can be more complex.
Here are some areas to investigate:
- insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, high cortisol levels, genetic sensitivity to weight gain with high saturated fats, hypothyroidism, inactivity, intestinal dysbiosis (including SIBO), high alcohol intake, poor sleep quality, sleep apnea.
If you identify with some of these common symptoms that you have been associating with normal aging, we can investigate some of the more common causes to improve your vitality and quality of life. Just because something is common in your family, it doesn’t make it inevitable for you too.