Did you know that the surface of your lungs renews itself completely every eight days? It’s all thanks to your body’s amazing ability to regenerate…
Click on each body part label to find out how it regenerates
Your body goes through lots of stages during its lifetime. Regardless of how old you are, every organ, every muscle and every blood vessel is constantly regenerating to repair and renew itself. And it’s this constant regeneration that keeps you healthy.
Every day, your body encounters a number of stressors which can harm or disrupt its day-to-day balance. Poor diet choices, injury, stress, environmental toxins, viruses and bacteria can all have an impact - but nevertheless it carries on. In the minute or so it takes you to read this, your heart will have taken more than 70 beats, pumping more than five litres of blood through your veins. Your eyes will blink around 15 times to help keep them fluid. Your stomach lining is renewing right now. Millions of your cells are dying, but at the same time, trillions more are being made every second.
But as we age, things start to change. Take our bones, for example. Throughout our lives, our bodies work continuously to replace old bone tissue with new bone tissue in a process known as ‘remodelling’. This happens every day, until the age of about 40, when the process starts to slow down. But that doesn’t mean we should slow down, it just means we should drink more skimmed milk to boost our calcium intake, and up our intake of the micronutrients vitamin D3 and vitamin K.
These so-called ‘micronutrients’ are the fuels that allow our amazing bodies to undergo this process of renewal. Without them, our bodies wouldn’t be able to function.
The very definition of ‘small yet mighty’, micronutrients are the vitamins found in your fruit and veg, the trace minerals in your leafy greens, and the reason why all those ‘good for you’ foods are so good for you. Find out more about the incredible regeneration journey your body embarks on every day, and how to maximise your nutrient intake to help you live longer…
in the body
Our baby teeth form six weeks after conception, but don’t begin to break through the surface of the gums until we are two to three months old. They last for around eight years before they are replaced by 32 stronger, larger adult teeth. These teeth must last for the rest of your life: even if you live to 100 years or more.
Calcium and phosphate are vital to maintain strong teeth, maintain the protective benefits of saliva and protect against acid erosion, but if your diet is deficient your body will prioritise maintaining blood levels and leech nutrients away from your teeth.
The eyes are one of the few body parts that don’t really change during our lifetime. In fact, the only part that is renewed is the cornea - the transparent top layer that helps us to focus. If damaged, it can recover in as little as 24 hours.
Unfortunately, the central cells in the eyes cannot regenerate and must last a lifetime. To help protect your eyes, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, which are high in vitamin C, carotenoids and other antioxidants. Lutein and zeaxanthin – pigments referred to as ‘Nature’s sunglasses’ and protect eyes from damage.
We are born with all of the brain cells we will ever have. And, of the approximately 100 billion, most cannot regenerate. In fact, we actually lose cells, which is the underlying reason for conditions such as dementia.
To protect your noggin’ all life-long, be sure to exercise regularly – a single workout boosts blood flow and oxygen to your grey matter. Plus, stay hydrated and eat regularly to help your brain to function and avoid mental slumps. Nutrient-wise, the omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish help to boost the cognitive effects of B vitamins and offset depression, while ginkgo biloba helps to improve blood flow and improve short-term memory.
We each have between 100,000 and 150,000 hair follicles on our head, and good news blondes: you’ve got more than brunettes! The rate at which new hair cells are produced is among the fastest in the body, growing at a rate of about 1cm in length per month. Each follicle goes through around 25 cycles of growth during its lifetime, during which a hair grows in length for up to six years, then loosens and falls out.
The heart will contract more than 2.76 BILLION times during our lifespan: more than 100,000 times per day and around 70 times per minute. It works constantly, pumping the equivalent of 13,640 litres of blood through your circulatory system per day.
Despite this enormous expenditure of energy, your body still finds time to replace more than half of your heart cells in a lifetime. But with great strength comes a great need for energy – without which, the heart can’t function as it should.
To protect your heart, it’s important to help make sure your arteries are kept clear and strong, and that you minimise the amount of LDL cholesterol flowing through your blood stream. After all, they are the body's vital transport system, carrying oxygen to every living tissue and carrying waste away.
Omega 3 fish oils help to lower blood pressure and reduce abnormal heart beat rhythms, while folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 help to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can hasten narrowing of the arteries. Plant sterols have been proven to lower raised cholesterol levels, and co-enzyme Q10 increases oxygen in cells.
More than 20,000 litres of air passes through the lungs each day, providing us with the oxygen, on which we depend for life, and helping to remove the body of the toxins and pollutants that we inhale. Thankfully, the airsacs in the lung are replaced every eight days to keep their function strong.
To help keep lungs in tip top condition as you age, a healthy balanced diet is vital. Foods rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and E help to reduce inflammation, while foods that contain caffeine – such as coffee – help to open up our airways. Those who eat oily fish at least twice a week are half as likely to experience wheezing or chest tightness than those who eat little oily fish. And of course, smoking is the ultimate no-no!
The human liver is truly remarkable. Capable of regenerating back to full size from as little as 25 per cent of original matter, the adult human liver replaces itself about once every year to year and a half.
Thought to have more than 500 functions, including storing fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), vitamin B12 and minerals (iron, zinc and copper), long term, over-indulgence of fatty food and alcohol is the liver’s greatest downfall.
But milk thistle extracts help to boost levels of the antioxidant glutathione, which protects liver cells from toxic damage and can even boost its levels by over a third. B vitamins are also vital for liver metabolism.
Our intestinal cells have a very high turnover rate and can be replaced every two to three days. Because they are constantly exposed to chemicals like stomach acid, the intestines have a very high turnover rate and can be replaced every two to three days.
The rest of the intestine protects itself with a layer of mucus, although this barrier cannot withstand the stomach acid for long - so the cells here renew themselves every three to five days. This rapid shedding of intestinal lining cells helps to regulate absorption of iron, which is taken up from the diet and stored in intestinal lining cells until needed by the body.
The large bowel contains around 11 trillion bacteria, weighing a whopping 1.5kg!
The ideal balance of good and bad bacteria should tally-up at least 70:30, but in practice the balance is usually the other way around. To help keep your bowels happy, make sure you eat foods high in magnesium, which aids bowel contraction and reduces constipation, while Psyllium (fibre) helps keep bowels moving too. And when it comes to your gut? Probiotics and prebiotics are vital to help replenish levels of beneficial bacteria.
The bladder has enormous regenerative capacity and can repair itself within days if damaged.
Able to stretch to hold over half a litre of fluid, the muscle fibres in the bladder can weaken as we age, which, in conjunction with weakened pelvic floor muscles, may cause urinary incontinence or an over-active bladder.
Skin cells live for about two weeks before they are replaced with new ones. This rapid turnover occurs because skin is exposed to injury as well as pollution. Despite this constant renewal, we still get wrinkles as we get older. That’s because the skin loses collagen - and elasticity - with age.
A lack of essential nutrients, including fatty acids can quickly cause problems such as dryness, spots and dullness, to name a few. To prevent them, up your intake of omega 3 fatty acids, plus evening primrose and borage oils, which are high in GLA to help prevent dryness. Vitamin E is essential for protecting against free radical damage, and vitamin C helps boost collagen production.
BONES & JOINTS
Although bones are pound-for-pound stronger than concrete, they’re not solid. In fact, each of the 206 bones that make up the skeletal system has a spongy composition beneath its robust exterior. This spongy interior is made up of a network of collagen fibres filled with minerals such as calcium phosphate, bone building cells (osteoblasts) and remodelling cells (osteoclasts).
Osteoblasts are renewed every three months while osteoclasts (which absorb bone) are renewed every two weeks. During the first year of life, our skeleton is 100 per cent regenerated. This process slows down during adulthood however, and it takes about 10 years to completely renew our skeleton.
You can help your bones to keep remodelling by making sure you get enough of the right nutrients. Low levels of vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus reduce bone regeneration, leaving them brittle and prone to fractures. Calcium and phosphate are essential for keeping bones strong, and vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium.
Our joints also undergo significant changes with age. Synovial fluid (which ‘oils’ cartilage to protect bones) becomes thinner and less cushioning, and joints become stiffer and less able to withstand force. In around half of people over the age of 60, these changes can lead to osteoarthritis.
Fruit and vegetables are the main dietary source of vitamin C, which is needed for collagen synthesis in cartilage, as well as for its anti-inflammatory antioxidant effects. Glucosamine and chondroitin also help to protect and replenish cartilage.