Hidden away in a small village in Switzerland, overlooking pristine Lake Geneva, nestled against a backdrop of mountains, you’ll find the medical spa Clinique La Prairie, the modern-day equivalent to the mythical fountain of youth. The legendary health centre, set up almost 100 years ago by Paul Niehans, is famed for offering a cellular therapy treatment that claims to slow the aging process by injecting the human body with animal cells – particularly from lamb liver. Celebrities from across the world, heads of state and the exceedingly wealthy are clientele, for the treatments at this world-renowned centre do not come cheap.
Dr. Mounir Ziadé, the Swiss-Lebanese internist and head of rheumatology at the clinic, also certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, was in Dubai recently to share his expertise on reversing the daunting effects of aging. Here’s his take on the gold mine that can be found in your fat cells, why eating slowly can make all the difference and the importance of genetic testing.
Longevity is the new anti-aging
“These days, everyone wants to live healthier,” says Dr. Ziadé. “Anti-aging for me is fighting something that is inevitable; it will happen no matter what you do. Instead, you can have a healthier life, and rather than focus on the duration of life, it is the quality of life that becomes important. In this way, it is health and longevity that should be the focus and which will have the most effect, and not the temporary attempts at anti-aging.”
For someone who has everything, pursuing longevity makes a lot more sense than yet another car or property or designer watch. “Time. Vitality. Health. It is through longevity that you achieve this,” says Dr. Ziadé. Focus on the four pillars, he advises: medical needs, regular movement, correct nutrition and overall wellbeing. And don’t underestimate the importance of medical testing.
“Genetic tests, which we concentrate a lot on in our clinic, tell you about your body, about what is the probability you will contract certain illnesses, and if you should be careful of gluten, or lactose, or will acquire an intolerance to them. They are eye-opening and are a glimpse into your future self.
Stem cell therapy is powerful
As a pioneer in cellular therapy, Clinique La Prairie is one of the few places in the world that offers facial stem cell therapy. After an initial medical assessment, the client undergoes a procedure under anesthesia where stem cells are collected from fat deposits in the body. They are processed overnight and 24 hours later ready to be injected into the face.
“The effect is striking,” says Dr. Ziadé. “The stem cells stimulate the existing cells and skin becomes softer, with a younger texture. Fine lines are significantly lessened and skin is brighter. It is a safer and more natural alternative to Botox and lasts longer, from 18 to 24 months depending on how we take care of our health, avoiding smoking, pollution, stress exposure. It’s nothing new injected into you, no chemicals, just your own cells, rejuvenated.”
When harvested, these stem cells can be stored for up to 30 years, and a cell bank in Zurich will do exactly that, allowing clients to come back every year or two for a repeat injection.
“And these stem cells, they are always slowly developing and working, improving the skin day by day. It is really an amazing treatment,” says Dr. Ziadé.
Sleep and drink up
“If you don’t drink enough water, you will have all sorts of problems,” he says. “Concentrate on good hydration. People know this, but they don’t do it. Drink water. And move.”
If you can, walk 10,000 steps a day, says Dr. Ziadé. And don’t underestimate the harmful effects of stress. What you are under constant stress, your muscles tighten up and become stiff, as do your joints, so addressing that is the first step, he says.
“Lately, we are seeing an increase in sleep problems at the clinic, with patients coming to us complaining of insomnia or saying they sleep very badly and wake up very stiff,” says Dr. Ziadé. “All of us are in bed looking at the iPhone, the iPad, the blue light from the screen, and that changed totally our cerebral functioning. Plus modern life means people travel a lot, suffer from jet lag, have no clear routine for sleep and bad sleep rhythms. It affects everything. You don’t sleep properly, you don’t eat properly, you cannot live properly like this.”
Gut health is more than good bacteria
“Eat slowly, chew slowly,” says Dr. Ziadé. “This is so, so important for your digestive health.” Eating fast leads to swallowing air, which can cause stomach gas and abdominal bloating. Plus chewing for longer mixes more saliva with the food we are eating and saliva aids digestion, in that it starts the enzymatic breakdown of the food. Saliva also contains antibacterial agents and epidermal growth factor, which assists in the healing of inflammation in the intestinal tissues. When you start eating more slowly, you may actually be giving your digestive system a chance to heal and prevent future problems.”
Not to mention that eating slowly will help you to feel full earlier on in the meal, and subsequently eat less.
“Try to eat regularly, try to not skip meals, try to get your eating on schedule. And we don’t have to say the usual: avoiding cigarettes, junk food, alcohol, all that.”
But also, don’t restrict yourself, cautions Dr. Ziadé. Make healthy choices, but don’t be of the mindset that life “is not beautiful anymore if you’re only allowed to eat vegetables. Believe me, tabbouleh is beautiful”, he says.
Lastly, advises Dr. Ziadé: Eat with pleasure, eat without guilt and eat in an atmosphere of joy.
Featured photo: Clinique La Prairie
Hala Khalaf is a freelance journalist and mom of two living in Dubai, who has written extensively about health and diabetes.