We’ve all heard it many times, “Breast cancer runs in my family”, “It’s no surprise I have heart disease since my father and his father before him did,” or “Everyone in my family has high blood pressure, so I’m sure I will too.”
We accept the “diseases of old age” (cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, etc.) as inevitable based on our family history, believing that our genetics predetermines our health.
Thank goodness this belief has been scientifically proven false!
We actually have a significant amount of control over our health as we age – yes, even over our DNA. This news is very empowering!
Our genes do not cause disease. We’ve been taught that our DNA provides a predetermined script of who we are; hair and eye color, shape of our face, height, etc. Thanks to the findings from the Human Genome Experiment (2003), science has identified which genes are associated with specific diseases. From this data, scientists had theorized that if your DNA consisted of a certain gene, then you would develop the disease that gene represents.
Supporting the belief that chronic illness is hereditary and, in lieu of expensive DNA testing, your physician takes your family health history in order to deduce the likelihood of you experiencing the chronic diseases of aging. They reinforce the concept that our genes play a predetermined role in our health.
However, this is simply NOT the case! Our genes do not dictate our destiny, but how we “communicate” to our genes through diet and lifestyle does.
Although we are born with specific genes that create a baseline of potential strengths and weaknesses in our bodies, which genes are expressed are completely up to us. It turns out, the way we live our life has much more of an impact on our health then our actual DNA. Science has discovered that we can “turn on and off” the expression of specific genes that are associated with chronic illness (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.) through diet, exercise and positive thinking.
You may have been born with this or that troublesome gene, but it is the “bad” habits we have acquired from our upbringing that activates those genes.
This breakthrough in research has led to the field of Epigenetics, the study of the factors that determine whether or not specific genes are expressed in your body and how much.
Our genes do not control our destiny. Just because you were born with a gene that provides a predisposition for developing arthritis or even breast cancer, it doesn’t mean you will experience one of those diseases. In order to “turn on” those genes, you need to provide the information and environment that encourages the expression of that gene. Your genes rely on outside instructions to know what to do. They obtain this information through the nutrients we eat, the exercise we get, and our mental state. It is this information that plays a key role in which genes are activated and which remain dormant.
Because we eat so often, our food is one of the most important ways to maintain your genetic integrity or to destroy it. Through the study of nutrigenomics, scientists are discovering how different foods interact with specific genes.
There is so much more to food then just the identified nutrients we focus on. Science has proven that food holds the power to directly influence the metabolic programming of our cells, increasing or decreasing the risk of chronic diseases.
Plant-based foods are packed with a complex mixture of nutrients and enzymes – a dynamic relationship we have yet to fully understand – that provides the invaluable fuel our body needs to maintain perfect health. Processed foods, however, are full of altered micronutrients and unnatural chemicals that provide “bad messages” to your genes, making it difficult for your body to function properly. It can also make your body misread the “information” it carries. Your body responds by assuming the food is actually foreign bodies and creates an inflammatory response as it tries to protect itself. This creates the perfect environment for the expression of genes that relate to chronic disease.
We are so lucky to live in an era where science is making leaps and bounds in understanding how to live healthier lives. The first step towards optimum health is to be aware of the choices you make each day.
TIPS FOR SUPPORTING HEALTHY GENES
1) Eat whole plant-based food as close to nature as possible. In it’s natural form, food provides the necessary combination of nutrients, enzymes, and supports your body needs.
2) Eat a rainbow. Expand your diet to include a variety of foods in a variety of colors. Those varying colors provide different phytonutrients essential for a strong immune system and healthy genes.
3) Include exercise in your daily routine. Moving your body oxygenates your cells, improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, and protects your immune system against disease. Take a walk, go to the gym, ride a bike, dance. There are many healthy ways to move your body.
4) Practice positive thinking. The study of mind over body has shown the amazing influence our thoughts have over our health. Post positive affirmations on your fridge and/or bathroom mirror, rephrase your negative thoughts into positive statements, or meditate.
5) Take time out for yourself. Do at least one thing each day that brings you joy, laughter, and/or peace. Meditate, read a book, sit in nature, visit a friend, play.
CHECK OUT THESE INTERESTING ARTICLES:
Food and your genes
- What do specific foods do (University of Minnesota)
- Feed your genes: How our genes respond to the foods we eat (Science Daily)
- Nutrition and the human genome (European International Food Council)
How Exercise Influences Gene Expression
- Exercise changes chemical marks on DNA (European Research Council)
- Exercise changes your DNA (Huffington Post)
- Exercise programs affect gene expression: How a single workout can set off a chain reaction of health benefits (Medical Daily)
Your Mind over Genes