DIY health hacks for healthy aging

The internet abounds with what people are calling ‘Bio-hacks’, meaning Do-It-Yourself ways of improving health and wellbeing. Here are three of my favourite health boosts – cheap and easy; in my opinion, these are the perfect DIY health hacks for a healthy and graceful middle age. 

1. Flaxseeds

Flax seeds (Linum usitatissimum) — also known as common flax or linseeds — are small oil seeds that originated in the Middle East thousands of years ago. They are high in fibre, contain good amounts of protein, and are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, lignans, and many other beneficial nutrients. 

The benefits of golden flax include cardiovascular benefits (omega 3 fatty acids are great for the heart), skin benefits (omega 3 is very moisturising) digestive benefits (flax seeds contain soluble and insoluble fibre, and are especially beneficial when you soak them) hormone balancing benefits (both the lignans and fatty acids are hormone balancing) brain health benefits (omega 3 again) and anti-inflammatory benefits (ditto). And if you need more convincing, I read recently that Lignans are fermented by bacteria in your digestive system and research indicates they may reduce the growth of several cancers — especially hormone-sensitive types, such as breast, uterus, and prostate cancer. 

Flaxseeds are cheap and easy to eat; you can make flax crackers (there are lots of recipes online and they can be delicious), you can add them to porridge or overnight oats (but if you choose porridge, it’s actually best if you soak them overnight first). My preferred way of eating flaxseed is to soak a tablespoon of organic golden flaxseeds in a little water overnight. This makes a jelly, which is an oil and water emulsion and is incredibly soothing internally (and is amazing if you suffer from constipation). I add this to my vitamix along with milk kefir or plain unsweetened yoghurt, some strawberries if I have them or if not some prunes and blend it all up. I don’t buy the pre-ground seeds – like any ground nut or seed, these start to oxidise as soon as they are ground – but rather use the whole (golden, organic) flax seeds, which store well, and are incredibly good value considering the nutritional powerhouses that they are. 

2. Diatomaceous Earth 

You may never have heard of Diatomaceous Earth (DE) before, but chances are you’ve consumed or used plenty of products that contained it. I’ve started taking it recently, having heard about it for a long time. It’s also cheap and has a wide range of health benefits – again the perfect Health Hack!

DE is a natural powder made up of fossilised remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. It’s made up predominantly of silica, but also of magnesium and calcium. For a little background, silica is one of the most important trace elements in our body; the human body typically holds seven grams of silica, which is much more than any other mineral, even iron or magnesium. For this reason, it’s crucial that we consume enough silica to help our bodies function and absorb minerals properly. Also collagen, essential for healthy skin, is mostly made up of silica.

DE comes in two forms – industrial and food grade. The industrial Diatomaceous Earth is used for many farming, pet care and manufacturing purposes, and the food grade for many products from face masks to toothpastes to food supplements.

As a food supplement, DE has the ability to improve the body’s use of calcium, improve bone mineralization, protect joints and fight the effects of aging. And that’s not all. People all over the world take DE to improve their digestion, eliminate parasites, and strengthen their skin. 

It’s very simple to take DE – just mix with water and drink, morning and night. It’s a good idea to start with a teaspoon, though the dosage is often up to a tablespoon morning and night. But make sure you drink plenty of water that day – with plenty of water, DE is good for regularising bowel movements but if you don’t drink enough, well lets just say it has a ‘setting’ quality. Not something you want to happen inside you!!

Externally, DE is useful too – recently I have used it for my scalp – I have been using a new shampoo bar and the transition from liquid shampoo has been tricky (itchy flakey scalp). So to relieve this I mixed a tablespoon of DE with another tablespoon of Black Seed oil to make a scalp mask and left it on overnight. My scalp felt so tingly clean the next morning, it was incredible. It’s also widely used as a face mask (again mix with a nice quality oil). 

3. Prunes

Yes prunes! Only organic prunes though. Usually people tell us to eat blueberries and broccoli, but in fact the humble prune has incredibly high antioxidant levels, and is much easier on the pocket than blueberries. If you google ‘prunes and nutritional benefits’, you will see references to prunes being beneficial for heart health (they seem to lower both cholesterol and blood pressure) bone health (they seem to prevent and maybe even reverse bone loss, possibly reducing the risk of osteoporosis) and blood sugar (even though they are high in carbs, they seem not to raise blood sugar as would be expected, possibly due to the fibre content, as well as other factors). Prunes are incredibly high in polyphenol antioxidants, which contribute to a reduced risk of many diseases, and of course they help to relieve constipation. Dosage is three to six (organic) prunes a day.

References: for references please see this article on our Blog at If you have a health condition, please consult your health practitioner before taking any foods in medicinal quantities. 

Have a great summer folks! 

Hannah Dare

Hannah Dare co-runs Organico, the café, bakery and health shop in Bantry, West Cork.

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