A Partnership in Health
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The Pelton's Take On Health & Longevity
The Glue That Binds
It was a headstand that caught Taffy Clarke's eye. She was looking out the window of her sister's San Diego home one afternoon when she saw Ross Pelton, a neighbor she'd run into occasionally but hadn't paid too much attention to, practicing his yoga.
"I saw him standing upside down on his head and I thought 'Who is this man?'," she remembers of that encounter 13 years ago. "I went tromping downstairs to meet him, and he was fit and strong and had this aura about him, and that was the beginning."
What it began was an extraordinary relationship between Taffy, now a 51-year-old psychotherapist, certified yoga instructor, accomplished organic cook, author and educator and Ross, a 56-year-old pharmacist, nutritionist, Ph.D., author and educator. To think of it, it was a headstand that initiated their passion for healthy, youthful living that serves as a glue and foundation to both their personal and professional lives.
"His values are so strong and so solid," says Taffy. "In our relationship we don't fight about things like money, what to do, how to eat, how to live-we agree on all that."
Taffy's commitment to health was inherited-her father was an original "health nut" and she picked up organic eating and a passion for exercise early on. But Ross' interest in health was slower to develop. A former junk-food junkie, he traces his epiphany to a walk home from the 7-Eleven in 1977, a loaf of white bread under his arm, when the sounds of Indian music lured him to a nearby church. There he found a yoga class in session and was immediately struck by the level of energy and health emanating from the participants. He signed up on the spot.
But for both Peltons, integrating their holistic values into their professional lives proved trickier. Taffy's early work in product management in the electronic industry made her feel like a "square peg in a round hole." While, as a pharmacist, Ross was constantly wrestling with job-related disillusionment. "I realized I was giving people more and more drugs all the time," he says. "But most people weren't getting better." By the time the two met-and then married in 1987-they were on their way to integrating their values on health into their professional lives. Ross began to find that his scientific background gave him a deep level of insight into the new health alternatives his yoga classmates were getting him to read about. He continued his work as a part-time pharmacist, but returned to school for a doctorate in psychology with an emphasis on holistic health. Taffy soon gave up her job in sales to help Ross expand his dissertation-on preventing brain aging through cognitive enhancing drugs-into their first book Mind, Food and Smart Pills.
From there the two set their sights on other areas of health, this time in Mexico. Taffy began work at the Hospital Santa Monica, one of the top sites for alternative cancer therapies, where she counseled cancer patients and created a healthy, palatable diet for them. She later commuted to San Diego to work on her masters in counseling psychology and began her own private practice. Ross became hospital administrator and also conducted research on long-term cancer survivors who had not mixed traditional medical therapies with their alternative treatment regime. His work led to a second book, Alternatives in Cancer Therapy, in 1994. A year later, the husband and wife team-along with Vinton C.Vint, M.D.-came out with How to Prevent Cancer: A Lifestyle Guide for the Prevention of Breast Cancer and Its Recurrence.
In San Diego Ross set out to become a certified clinical nutritionist, again working part time as a pharmacist. But this time, ther than dwell on the frustrations of the job, he redefined it-using his position as a way to spread his message of nutrition and alternative treatments. Instead of simply filling prescriptions, he began dispensing advice along with medications, telling clients which supplements and vitamins would help avoid the nutritional deficiencies associated with long-term use of their particular medications.
"There are a lot of drugs that cause the depletion of nutrients and many of the side effects of drugs aren't due to the drugs themselves, but to these nutritional deficiencies," Ross explains. For instance, long-term use of birth control pills deprives women's bodies of folic acid-a deficiency that can lead to anemia, cardiovascular disease, cervical dysplasia and birth defects. "As a pharmacist I make it a point to educate the customer about these things," he says. To reach an even wider audience, he's about to release a new book-a guide to drug-induced nutritional deficiencies. And, through a company called Natural Health Resources, he and partner Jim LaValle tour the country giving educational lectures and seminars on diet, nutrition and natural therapies to independent pharmacists and various large drugstore chains. They also conduct training programs for pharmacists with Rite Aid. "I'm passionate about educating health professionals and the public," he says.
"Life is exciting at this age - you have such an accumulation of education and learning and wisdom, but can still have the lifestyle of a much younger person."
Taffy's mission is also public minded-she aims to inspire people to achieve their highest levels of health psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and physically. So far she's created a seminar on longevity and is striving to find new ways to encourage mental health workers to think more holistically. "Western medicine is beginning to acknowledge that physical illness has a mental component," she says. "But I think it's just as important for mental health workers to pay attention to the physical health status of their clients. People come into my office who aren't getting the nutrition they need and I can feel it in their energy."
Husband and wife especially enjoy combining forces professionally. They conduct speaking engagements on topics such as preventing breast cancer and run a two-day seminar on anti-aging and longevity, entitled "The Total Health Experience."
How does this powerhouse couple keep up its own energy? The list begins with Life Extension Mix. Taffy started taking it during a particularly demanding period in her life and soon noticed a dramatic change in her energy level. "Now, I make everyone I know take it," she says.
With this as a base, the list grows. Both the Peltons take eight to ten grams of Vitamin C and Life Extension Booster for their powerful antioxidant properties, 10,000 units of Vitamin A, 800 IUs of Vitamin E, 50,000 IUs of Beta-Carotene, 200 mcgs of Selenium, 800 mcgs of Folic Acid, 500 mgs of Magnesium Citrate, and 50 mgs each of Vitamin B-3 and B-6. These amounts, he points out, go well beyond the Recommended Dietary Allowance, (RDA)-or, what Ross refers to as, the Really Dumb Allowance. "The RDA is the 'minimal' way," he explains. "By following it we are limiting people's health outcomes."
Also on his daily list is extra Calcium, 30 mgs of CoQ10, two mgs of copper and Saw Palmetto and Africanum Pygeum to guard against prostate problems. Then there are daily doses of digestive enzymes, CLA as an important source of lipid nutrients, and 500 mgs of Glucosamine to help repair cartilage. Both Peltons use cognitive enhancers such as Ginkgo Biloba which also guards against depression LEF's Cognitex, phosphatidyl choline, phosphatidyl serine, acetyl-L-carnitine,Hydergine, Piracetam and Lucidril. "The way we live, we're really using our brains a lot," says Taffy. "So it's important to make sure there is plenty of oxygen going into all those little capillaries." She also takes super soy extract or LEF's Ecogen "religiously," and suggests all women do the same to avoid problems during menopause.
To promote intestinal health the Peltons take a product called ProGreens, which contains probiotics, plus greens products such as spirulina and chorella everyday. Green tea capsules are another must, and both are big proponents of flaxseed-source of the essential fatty acid Omega-3-taking one tablespoon of oil everyday and one tablespoon of freshly ground organic seed.
"I am a total advocate of prevention for health and long life," says Ross. "I believe that those of us who have learned to control our own immune systems and our own aging process will have healthy, active adulthoods that are twice as long as the healthy adult years our parents experienced. At age 56, I believe that I'm in the infancy of my second adulthood."
Diet plays a role too. Primarily vegetarians for the last 20 years, they've only loosened that regime recently by introducing a bit of fish and free range chicken as condiments-never as the main meal itself. They stick largely to legumes, whole grains, soy, plenty of tofu and lots of organically grown vegetables. The Peltons continue to practice yoga regularly, use the Universal gym set up in their garage, and never miss a chance to break out the roller blades.