Epigenetics: Change Your Destiny!

Did you know that your DNA doesn’t need to determine your destiny? That your diet and daily lifestyle influence how long you live, and whether you suffer from the same maladies that affected, or even killed, your parents? We’ve all heard people say ‘Well, my parents had diabetes/heart disease/a stroke….’, or ‘I don’t know if there’s much I can do to change things; it’s in my genetics.  

Epigenetics literally means ‘control over genetics’. A fairly new field of study, it exams  how environmental signals (lifestyle) impact gene expression, and suggests we can ALL change our destiny, that basically atrigger, from either diet, lifestyle, or our environment, is what signals gene expression.  More recently scientists have come to understand that our thoughts, emotions, nutrition, lifestyle choices, and stress management all send signals that determine whether genes become active or stay dormant.  

To put it quite succinctly:  Every day we make choices that determine if we’ll age gracefully or struggle with chronic disease.  Making changes in your diet and lifestyle can cause 500 genes to alter their expression!

Eat a colorful diet!  The colors (pigments) of plants contain anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, which translates into healing and strengthening your immune system and protecting against oxidative stress.  Take a look at your diet and ask yourself if you are eating a ‘Rainbow Diet’ each week.  Think of the colors of the rainbow, and what you can do to include every color. We can fall into a rut and become creatures of habit ~ and I’m just like everyone else in that regard!   I realized recently that I don’t have near enough purple or yellow in my diet.  This past weekend I made a gorgeous purple cabbage/tomato/mixed greens salad, which I dressed with homemade lemon vinaigrette! 

Oxidative Stress, which occurs with every breath you take, normal bodily functions, and our daily activities, can be counter-acted by eating a diet high in phytonutrients.

 Environmental factors that are difficult to control, such as pollution, radiation, pesticides in food, or chemicals in meat all contribute oxidative stress. This type of stress can harm your immune system and cause disease.  Think Rainbow Diet again for protection!  

Want to know the real problem with Oxidative Stress?  It produces something called excess free radicals’.  Free radicals promote inflammation and progression for all disease, across the board, not to mention pre-mature aging. That said, a key point to remember is that everything in the human body works together.  Each nutrient works in concert with other nutrients, efficiently and effectively, to promote great health.  

Fruits, Veggies  and spices that influence gene expression:  Arugula, watercress, kale, spinach, asparagus, beets, lentils, fish (yellow fin tuna), sardines, sunflower seeds, shitake or crimini mushrooms, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled beets, turmeric, star anise, fennel.  And this just the short list!  Experiment and try one or two new foods/spices each week and evaluate, as diversity of diet is important for our genes to function optimally. At the very least you’ll have expanded your horizons!

Chronic illness takes years  ~ sometimes decades, to surface.  Hundreds or thousands of genes come together to create a certain illness.  Because the human body is so complex, two people won’t have diabetes, heart disease or stroke for   

the same reason.  In its’ infinite wisdom, our bodies will try extremely hard to combat nutritional or lifestyle damage.  Some processes will overwork; others will not work up to par, and the damage will show up in the long run.

My personal experience with epigenetics has to do with Reynauds disease, an inflammatory condition that has affected my mother, sister, her son, and myself. It affects circulation to the extremities (fingers/toes/even limbs as a whole), and stress exacerbates it.  Exercise and good nutrition have been a part of my life for 34 years. In the winter some of my toes can swell and become uncomfortable.  I wear wool sox Per my ND, and I also take niacin daily.  For as many years as I can remember, my mothers’ legs were blue, from lack of circulation.  No exercise; too much alcohol; high stress.  My sister is freezing cold; even in the summer she wears sweaters. No exercise; horrible nutrition; extremely high stress level.  My nephew must take drugs as his Reynauds is so bad he stands to have his limbs amputated without them.  No exercise; horrible nutrition;  is being treated for ADHD, bi-polar and other disorders (with additional drugs). 

I feel pretty darn happy and grateful that I discovered exercise and nutrition, those many years ago!!

It’s important to remember that our genes are merely a roadmap or blueprint, waiting for us to pull that trigger. No matter what you are doing now, the fantastic thing is that it’s truly never too late to make changes!  How marvelous that every cell in the human body regenerates, making a brand new you, every 7 – 10 years!  Every day, one step at a time, you can choose to extend your life and be disease free. 

For more information on the nutrition and personal training programs that we offer in Kirkland and Bellevue, call us at 206-595-9516 or fill out the short form on the right side of the page!

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