Fountain of Youth

By Gretchen Eichenberg

It may be closer than you think

Our minds are our control panels to our entire well-being,” said Kimberly Damm, local yoga instructor and owner of Yoga8 in Waco.

But there’s no doubt that time takes its toll on the body and mind, leaving even the most successful, most beautiful and most captivating people searching for ways to slow the aging process — or at least the outward signs.

“When patients first come to us, we hand them a mirror and ask them what they see,” said Amy Peper, owner of NuGenesis Medical Spa & Vein Care. “It is not about what we see. It’s about making our patients feel good about themselves and treating what they see.”

Dr. Daniel Smith, co-owner of Skin & Body Refinery Medical Spa in Waco, explained what happens to one of the most visible indicators of age over time: the skin.

“Several changes occur affecting the skin’s appearance,” Smith said. “Beginning around the age of 30, we lose a teaspoon of soft tissue in the face every year. We lose the fat pads under our eyes and in our temples, leading to a hollowed-out appearance and a loss of structure, which leads to sagging skin. Hormones decrease as we age, leading to thinner skin, a decrease in collagen and oil production resulting in wrinkles and thinning skin. Additionally, sun damage and environmental toxins result in discoloration and possible skin cancers.”

For these reasons and more, people around the world have searched for thousands of years for the mythical Fountain of Youth where they could drink or bathe in life-giving waters that restore youth and vitality with just a single drop.

While you can travel the globe to find spas and clinics that offer anti-aging treatments and regimens, local yoga instructors, aestheticians, physicians and holistic healers offer some of their ideas about how to maintain — or regain — a youthful appearance and mindset, right in your own community.

Hydrate to health

Water — the regular drinking kind — certainly is one proven component to good health. This month, the National Institutes of Health released a study in the journal eBioMedicine that finds drinking enough water is linked to more favorable biological aging and less risk of chronic disease and even early death.

“Water has a significant effect on your overall health and youthful skin,” Smith said. “Adequate water intake hydrates and plumps the skin along with helping to maintain the skin’s elasticity. Dehydrated skin appears duller, with wrinkles and blemishes.”

Smith explained that, both internally and externally, water serves to flush our bodies of harmful toxins, which can lead to premature aging.

“A well-hydrated body will not only appear healthier but will also lead to an increased sense of well-being,” Smith said.

While no single amount of water intake fits every person, the Mayo Clinic recommends eight glasses a day as a good starting point to get rid of waste, regulate temperature, lubricate and cushion joints and protect sensitive tissues.

Take your vitamins

During the aging process, the body naturally can become depleted of certain vitamins that are essential to good health and wellness. Skin & Body Refinery specializes in customized drip IVs that target an individual’s needs and goals.

“Vitamin therapy has become very popular, either IV or via intramuscular shots,” Smith said. “Vitamins, along with amino acids and other naturally occurring compounds, are involved in energy production, especially B vitamins.”

Smith also explained that vitamin therapy supports a strong immune system with ingredients such as vitamin C, astaxanthin, vitamin D and glutathione.

“These same ingredients make excellent antioxidants involved in overall health, anti-inflammation and anti-aging,” Smith said. “We customize every IV bag and stock over 65 ingredients to ensure freshness and optimal treatment for patients’ individual needs.”

There’s an IV “cocktail” for everyone — to improve age defiance, focus, athletic performance, weight loss and more — all administered in a relaxing spa setting.

Meditate the years away

The mind, spirit and emotions thrive with routine maintenance, just like the physical body, according to Cassie Robertson, a local holistic healer, former EMT and owner of The Jaunty Jungle, a holistic healing practice in Waco. Meditation, she believes, is a key component to that maintenance throughout the aging process.

“When we neglect these areas of ourselves, we can begin to experience a wide range of symptoms, sometimes as simple as increased irritation throughout the day or inability to navigate conflict and stressful situations,” Robertson said. “Some people begin to isolate themselves in an attempt to minimize these situations, which furthers the problem. Because we are very intrinsically connected beings, over time, our neglected mental and emotional health begins to adversely affect our physical bodies.”

Robertson said hormonal and chemical changes in the brain, such as headaches, tension, inflammation throughout the body, autoimmune disorders, elevated heart pressure and anxiety can result.

“Just like our physical health, our mental and emotional health will rapidly deteriorate when neglected,” she said, “and since everything is connected, we eventually fall into overall general unwellness.”

Meditation is a type of mind-body medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years, according to the Mayo Clinic. During meditation, a person develops an intentional focus and minimizes random thoughts about the past or future.

“Meditation is a very individual practice, and each person should enter into this practice with an intention and goal in mind that feels right and beneficial to their journey,” Robertson said. “My current, personal goals of meditation as a trauma survivor are to bring my central nervous system to a state of regulation.”

Robertson said she has followed several studies conducted on the physical effects of meditation, a few particularly on meditation and aging.

“Our chromosomes have little protein ‘tails’ called telomeres that shorten as we age and trigger cell death,” she said. “A study on meditation [‘Meditation and telomere length: a meta-analysis,’ NIH 2020] showed that individuals who practice meditation had longer telomeres than those who do not, and the more they meditate, the longer the telomeres. So essentially, meditation can quite literally increase your lifespan in addition to significantly reducing stress, which lowers cortisol production, which helps us to feel more vital and alive each day.”

For anyone who finds it difficult to sit down and be still, Robertson said she recommends adopting some affirmations to first get the body and mind believing that they deserve to feel better and have peace of mind.

“Our bodies have muscle memory, and they grow accustomed to staying busy as a means of distraction and purging anxiety,” Robertson said. “I started by listening to mindfulness meditation while doing tasks that did not require my full attention like folding laundry or dishes.

I would just listen to the prompts, breathe and not allow my mind to think about all the millions of things.”

Robertson recommends starting with active meditation while listening to a guided meditation or listening to a meditation right before bedtime while already lying down.
“It’s OK if you fall asleep at first,” she said. “We are gently introducing our minds and bodies to new concepts without adding any shame or guilt or judgment if the process is difficult.

Robertson added that guided meditations are available on many streaming platforms, like YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music and that bedtime meditation is “probably the easiest place to begin.”

Shield your skin

“Trust me on the sunscreen.” It’s the famous line from a 1997 article by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune. The article was written as a hypothetical graduation speech and offered advice for how to live a happy life and avoid disappointment.

Although sun exposure is essential for the synthesis of vitamin D, exposure to harmful UV rays results in premature aging and the degradation of collagen and elastin, according to the NIH. Sunscreen creates a layer that blocks or absorbs UVA and UVB rays to help prevent that breakdown of collagen, which causes wrinkles. SPF 30 or higher is recommended by the American Cancer Association to best protect skin.

“We always recommend sunscreen for everyone who comes into our clinic,” Peper said. “It’s probably the number one thing we sample out because it is so important.” Peper said she recommends a broad spectrum mineral-based sunscreen with antioxidant properties. NuGenesis offers two brands: Image Skincare and SkinMedica. “That’s just going to help shield people’s skin from the sun and anything else in the environment that may stress and age our skin,” Peper said.

Connect your body and mind

It is important to move the body to maintain a youthful and healthy body, according to Damm. “To live a vibrant, youthful life as we age, we must nurture and love the one and only body we have,” Damm said. “As we age, our bone density starts to shrink, our muscles can become weak and our flexibility deteriorates if we do not have a consistent exercise routine.” Muscle weakness and inflexibility can lead to broken bones, restricted movement and limited physical activity, Damm said. Yoga is an all-encompassing practice that can catapult a body into strength, flexibility, mobility and youthfulness, she added.

“Yoga focuses on physical postures that require holding body weight. This is how we increase our bone density and muscular strength,” Damm said. “It also is focused on deep stretching with breath work. This helps our flexibility, mobility and respiratory system.”

Damm said a bonus of yoga is that it offers a chance to take time out and calm the mind.

“This helps us find peace and relaxation,” Damm said. “Living a life of less stress can limit chronic illnesses, keeping the body and mind youthful.”

Chronic stress contributes to premature aging, for the brain and the immune system.

“We hold tension and stress in our bodies. The more we live in that state of stress, the more our mental health and bodies deteriorate,” Damm said. “This causes us to age more rapidly and have more physical restrictions.”

Yoga connects the mind, body and breath.

“The focus of the practice is to be mindful and be in the present moment,” Damm said. “When we live in the present moment, we do not stress about the future or stay hung up on the past. We are being present.”

This, Damm explained, helps calm the mind and helps ignite the parasympathetic nervous system.

“Our systems require rest,” Damm said. “Yoga allows us to tap into the PNS while strengthening the body, stretching our muscles and increasing our bone density. It is the all-encompassing practice that will keep the mind refreshed and the physical body strong and mobile.”

A simple search of yoga videos on YouTube can be a good place to start exploring.

“There is also something very valuable about being part of a community that keeps us youthful,” Damm said. “Connection, fellowship and yoga in a yoga studio, gym or church can be the cherry on top.”

Smooth things over

Fine lines and wrinkles, due to aging, are a number one concern of Amy Peper’s patients at NuGenesis, she said.

“Unfortunately, as we age, our skin starts to break down,” Peper said. “We lose the elasticity and also get lines and wrinkles.”

And Botox is still the number one cosmetic procedure Peper’s clinic administers. Smith also puts a lot of faith in the product for patients who want to address fine lines and moderate wrinkles, he said.

“Neurotoxins such as Dysport and Botox are an amazing way to address fine to moderate wrinkles,” Smith said. “They weakly paralyze the muscles that cause wrinkles. Neurotoxins are traditionally used to treat the upper face including the forehead, the ‘elevens’ and crow’s feet.” Peper agreed.

“The way that I explain it when patients ask me about Botox is that you make these [facial] lines over the years by being expressive,” Peper said. “But I call them trenches. When you start making a line, which I call a trench, [it is because] you’re making the same face over and over again. The whole idea behind Botox is to smooth out the muscle contractions so that you are not making that frown face or that squinting face — and then making that trench line.”

Smith explained that patients can expect to begin seeing results around five days post injection and last around 3 to 3.5 months.

While getting a Botox injection may feel like an artificial solution to some, Peper explained that it also stimulates a natural response.

“Once you smooth that out and you’re not making that line anymore, then your own collagen will go in to repair that line,” Peper said. “It’s basically stimulating your own healing and regenerative properties. It’s stimulating your body’s natural ability to rejuvenate.”

Peper said Botox maintenance involves a treatment every three to four months, but likened the cost and commitment to other aesthetic procedures. “Some people get their hair colored or get massages for their own well-being,” Peper said. “It’s definitely along the lines of that. It’s a commitment to yourself.”

Relax with sound healing

Once considered woo-woo, the ancient practice of sound healing — the experience of being “bathed” in the vibration of sound — is gaining popularity, even in Waco.

“Sound healing works by sending specific, gentle energetic frequencies, in the form of sound, into the energetic and physical body, which induces a state of relaxation,” Robertson said. “Once the nervous system has relaxed, our bodies can naturally begin to make necessary repairs and adjustments, or healing, that wasn’t possible when the body was in a stressed state. This is similar to the type of healing work that our bodies do at night when we are sleeping and safe.”

During a sound healing session, a person may lie on a mat or on a massage table while a practitioner plays a variety of instruments, like tuning forks and crystal bowls, at frequencies thought to bring the body into a balanced and restorative state.

“Every sound healing session is designed with intention for the individual coming in,” Robertson said. “Each session for sure will experience the tuning forks, which are specific frequencies designed to soothe specific areas of the body. This is a very gentle and harmonic ringing somewhat similar to a singing bowl, which we also use. Some sessions are all singing bowls with different frequencies that are played simultaneously almost like a symphony. We also utilize shakers, rain sticks and bells.”

The length of the sound healing varies depending on the individual’s comfort level, Robertson said.

“Most people report a feeling of peace and relaxation after their sessions,” Robertson said. “Many have emotional release and feel uplifted and relieved after. Sound healing does an excellent job of increasing vitality for all the same reasons meditation does because we are inducing a state of relaxation.”

Improve tone and texture

Smooth, glowing skin is a sign of youth — but the same qualities are also possible for not-so-young skin through treatments like microneedling and DiamondGlow, which target the skin’s tone and texture but in different ways.

“Microneedling is [a procedure] that stimulates your skin’s own natural healing properties [so it can] rejuvenate on its own,” Peper said.

Microneedling is a technique that uses tiny needles to make microscopic holes in the skin. “You’re basically roughing up the surface of the skin with these needles, and your body’s healing properties will rush to that area and start pumping,” Peper said. “It stimulates collagen and elastin and just makes you glow.”

At Skin & Body Refinery, Smith said he uses a technique called radio frequency microneedling, which goes a step further and releases radio frequencies into the channels made by the needles. This additional “damage” only enhances the effects of standard microneedling.

Another similar procedure, DiamondGlow, is a skin resurfacing treatment that is like a super exfoliator.

“DiamondGlow helps with things like pigment, hyperpigmentation and age spots on the skin,” Peper said. “The results are more immediate, and you just kind of walk out radiant. People will just come up to you and go, ‘Oh, what did you do?’”

One thing is clear: there is no mythical Fountain of Youth that will wash away the years that your body has experienced, but you can utilize aesthetic procedures and holistic techniques to care for your body and your mind. From laser treatments to steam facials to vitamin IV therapy to sound healing, there are ways to rejuvenate and nourish your body and your mind to keep aging at bay without traveling the globe.