Epigenetics: the influence you have on your genes!
EPIGENETICS: THE INFLUENCE YOU HAVE ON YOUR GENES!
You may have heard some of the scary statistics about disease trends in family history and you may have been told that there is nothing you can do about it as it is “genetic”. What if I told you your genes are NOT your destiny, instead your genes lay out a possible path. The double helix of your DNA, those 23 paired chromosomes from mom and dad, create a road map and pathway of possibility, like a choose your own adventure story with tendencies towards certain expressions but not absolutes.
It is true that your genetic code can create roadblocks via genetic mutations also known as SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) such as the well known MTHFR gene which influences the metabolism of folate and process of methylation, biochemical building or excretion pathways. However, the SNP in this case can be influenced directly by diet and nutrients, specifically those that methylation as methyl donors such as methylfolate. Although an individual may have a SNP or genetic mutation, research and functional medicine is starting to understand how to use the information of genetic code and discover the significant role environment and lifestyle choices play beyond that of genetics. Epigenetics is the study of the environmental impact on our expression of our genes including toxicity, emotions, stress, diet, support network, etc. The epigenetics concept looks at our genes as laying out possibilities rather than a definitive road map and dictates that our lifestyle drives which genes are activated or expressed and which ones are repressed or silenced.
This concept is very empowering as it puts YOU in control of your DESTINY! It removes the “I just have bad genes” excuse and puts you in the driver seat of your body.
Your choices on where you live, what you do for work, your social interactions, physical activity, your mental state, practice of mindfulness, spirituality or connectivity in the universe, exposure to toxins, nutritional state, and most importantly the foods you consume have a dynamic impact on your overall wellness! We make over 300-food related choices per day, aim to choose those that are health supporting rather than health depleting!
Up-to-date research defines the epigenome (literally meaning “above the gene”) as a series of chemical changes that has been made on the DNA of an individual. These changes create structural protein shifts, which affect the function of the individual’s genes. The epigenome can turn on or off our genes playing a key role on chronic illness and disease. So although the underlying genetic code is largely static or unchanging within an individual, the epigenome can be dynamically altered by environmental conditions. The recognition of our lifestyle choices to influence genetic predisposition is a fundamental principle in the way I practice functional medicine serving as a way to tie lifestyle to the underlying or root causes of illness.
The successful results from therapeutic lifestyle changes can be extremely empowering to the individual yet threatening to the trillion dollar health care industry. What if you weren’t a victim of your body or genes and you were in more control of your health than your doctor? I often hear patients say, “I just have high cholesterol…it’s genetic” or “I have a slow metabolism, my whole family is over weight, it’s bad genes”. This all needs to stop and we need to step up to the plate with knowledge on how to work with our bodies. I love empowering my clients, showing them the lifestyle impact on their wellness through diet, stress levels, exercise, emotional support, nutritional supplementation, self empowerment, and spiritual connectivity. Rather than just surviving through your life….you can learn how to REVIVE yourself with food-as-medicine and integrative approaches to wellness!
One way to work with your genes and support healthy genetic expression, is to reduce your exposure to toxins in the environment and support your body with Detoxifying nutrients!
A study in Sweden using a cancer database of over 10 million people determined environment to be the strongest predictor of cancer. Even research with identical twins sharing exact genes demonstrate varied disease pathology based on their environment including exposure to toxins, stress, and dietary intake. Below are my top simple steps to start supporting healthy genetic expression and using the concept of epigenetics to optimize your health.
Eat REAL food!
Eating a diet comprised of whole non-processed foods is a great way to start and prioritizing organic or locally grown small-scale produce and hormone-free, antibiotic-free pasture-raised proteins.
Avoid exposure to plastics!
Drink out of glass and stainless steel, invest in a water filtration system, stop buying plastic water bottles! Plastics have hormone disrupting compounds such as xenoestrogens, which are estrogen mimicking compounds that can drive estrogen dominance.
Use chemical-free and fragrance-free products!
From cosmetics to household cleansers, choose products that are free of harsh chemicals and toxins and ideally plant and mineral based. A safe effective line that I use is Branch Basics.
Participate in a 10-day detox!
Beyond pesticides, plastics, and perfumes, we are exposed to toxins on a regular basis, in fact over 6 billion pounds of toxins are released into our environment annually. The liver and kidneys play a great role in supporting the biochemical processes of detoxification, however, often the nutrients required to drive the enzymatic processes of detox are inadequate or less than optimized. I recommend focusing on a quarterly detox with nutrients that support both phase 1 and phase 2 detox biochemical pathways and a therapeutic diet to support optimized digestion and liver, gallbladder, and kidney function. Learn more about my 10-day Detox Program and Reset, Restore, Renew Detox supplement packs here!
Ensure optimal nutrient status and support methylation pathways!
Take a quality multivitamin that provides antioxidants, active forms of minerals, and methylated B-vitamins including 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), methylcobalamin. The methylated Bs aid in the above referenced MTHFR genetic SNP which is estimated as 40% of the population. Methylation can influence mood stability as it plays a role in building neurotransmitters and regulating epinephrine stress response, as well as influencing sleep and melatonin levels, hormonal balance and risk of infertility and miscarriage, as well as detoxification and trends of autoimmune disease and cancer. I recommend moderate dosages of methyl donors as is seen in my Multidefense without iron which provides 800 and 200 mcg of each as too high of a dosage can drive anxiety if metabolized incorrectly or paired with another genetic mutation such as COMT (catechol-O-methyl transferase) which drives excess stress chemicals in the presence of high dose methyl-donors. It really is quite a symphony in the body but understanding that each gene mutation can be influenced by a nutritional compound is quite empowering! You may consider learning more about your micronutrient status with a micronutrient test to further develop a customized plan.
My experiences with patients promote the significance of the epigenome as my integrative individualized plans have served as a solution to various autoimmune, digestive, cardiovascular, diabetic, and chronic conditions. For more support and a preliminary strategy, focus on starting with Optimal Eating as a way to begin to witness the dynamic impact that you can have on your health with a foundational anti-inflammatory diet approach to eating whole, real, foods. Clients following my Optimal Eating Virtual class or following the 12-week meal plan in my Naturally Nourished cookbook, experience an improvement in symptoms and positive changes in lab values. When you pull out inflammatory foods that cause oxidation and drive excessive glycemic response void of nutritional density and replace with whole nourishing foods that balance blood sugar, provide antioxidants, and reduce inflammation you are able to truly make the most of your genetic code with optimized expression!
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