I was talking with an 80-year-old gentleman this morning. He said his grandparents had a huge garden, cows, chickens, goats, pigs, sheep, you-name-it they had it and they ate it. They never went to a grocery store. His grandmother made biscuits every single morning. When someone brought in a loaf of bread one day, his grandfather picked it up and threw it out to the pigs and said, “We eat biscuits in this house!” When his mother grew up, she didn’t want to make biscuits every morning, so she bought bread.

We can imagine the rest of the story. His mother made more trips to the grocery store and less trips to the garden. To make gardening easier, the store began to carry chemical fertilizers. People began to think it was too much work to do the smelly job of getting manure from the barn and spreading it on the garden every fall. And as the story goes, we see the progression of agriculture from family farms to massive commercial crops, tons of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, genetically modified plants and seeds, and very high tech machinery. And we see the people beginning to rely on the grocery store more and more.

Inside the house, we see another scenario. When the kids got sick, grandmothers made and feed them bone broth or chicken soup and put the kid to bed until they got well. When the kids grew up, they found bottles of aspirin in the store that made the fevers go away. They didn’t have to slave over a hot stove or mess with bones or cooking chicken carcasses. The stores and doctors were able to get more and more kinds of pills. We see the progression of family medicine going from cures in the farmer’s kitchen to pharmacies full of antibiotics and medicines with all kinds of side effects. Now, we have multitudes of diseases with no-known-cause and no-known-cure.

Today, our diet is far from the farm. We make more trips to the pharmacy than the garden. We watch our loved ones go to drug stores with prescriptions for more and more medicine; we watch too many of our children becoming “chunky monkeys” then obese adults; we buy gym memberships and never get in shape; we watch loved ones go through battles with diseases of modern living while aging.

If we’re going to find the answer to today’s “sick and tiredness” we’re going to have to go to the cellular level; to the DNA, the genes and even deeper to the protector of DNA; the telomere. Let’s remember that the telomere sits on the end of the DNA strand like the plastic end of a shoelace. The telomere protects the DNA strand from unraveling. When the DNA unravels, the cell dies.

The longer the telomere, the younger the cell. At conception, the length of our telomeres is 15,000 bases long. Each time the cell divides, a piece of telomere is lost. By the time we’re born, our telomeres are 10,000 bases long. We’ve used up one third of them just getting here. When the telomere gets down to 5,000 bases long, the cell dies. That’s why we need to keep them growing longer as much as possible.

There are two types of things we need to know about taking charge of our telomeres. First, is how to get them to grow? Eating fresh cruciferous, sulfur-containing vegetables, like asparagus, bok choy, arugula, collards, kale, mustard, radishes, turnips, and broccoli give many vitamins and minerals that are not in our favorite vitamin pill. Good sleep and moderate exercise join in. Water drinking makes it all flow together and work nicely. Prayer and meditation add the spiritual component to healthy telomeres in a dynamic way.

On the other hand, pesticides, smoking, processed and artificial nutrients, and lack of sleep take a hatchet to our telomeres.

Many labs in the world are researching the science of telomere lengthening. There is a way of eating that is growing in popularity. We are presenting and teaching these here at Family HELM Health Center. As we learn what we can do to affect the length of our telomeres, we will be getting back closer to the farm staying younger longer and heal faster.

On July 15 and 28, I’m presenting “DNA and Telomeres” from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., $20. Tuesdays 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in July is the “Keto Kitchen Workshop” for ultimate weight loss and healing, $97.

Until then … take charge.

(Sylvia J. Harral is a digestive health specialist and Michele Stewart-Buller is a pilates master trainer. They each have more than 15 years experience. Send your questions by e-mail to familyhelm@hotmail.com; by mail to Family HELM Health Center, 379 N. Hockett St., Porterville, CA, 93257; or by phone at 202-9105.)

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