WHAT IS EPIGENETICS AND WHY DOES IT MATTER
Epigenetics has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and rightfully so.
Coming from a science background, I remember learning about epigenetics in high school and more extensively in my college courses at Baylor University. I had never really given it too much attention until recently when we started talking about it more in my nutrition classes.
With the help of my friend Mr. Webster, here is the definition of epigenetics:
“the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence”
Seeing the definition alone doesn’t really cause too much excitement until you dig deep into the power of epigenetics and the implications it has your life, as well as the lives of your future generations.
Buckle up, it’s time to dive in!
Why does epigenetics matter?
Before we really get into the nitty gritty of epigenetics and some take home messages, we should first ask ourselves why epigenetics even matters.
The most beautiful thing about epigenetics to me it that after I understood the concept a little bit, I realized that I have some control over my genetics!
A few years ago my family and I went through a pretty challenging time.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Thankfully, she beat cancer’s ass and has been cancer free for a few years now. It was one of the harder things I have ever experienced and my heart goes out to all of the families that have to go through the same pain.
Most people know that many, if not all diseases are genetic, meaning our DNA carries a gene that could possibly lead to an unwanted disease. Thanks to recent research, we now know that our environment plays a HUGE role in whether or not those genes are expressed.
It may be because I’m an enormous nerd, but understanding that concept makes me giddy.
Because of my mom’s battle with cancer, I decided to use blunt force and take action myself. I completely cleaned up her diet and removed all of the items I felt she shouldn’t be eating. We introduced healthy, nutritious foods that I knew would be low in toxins and high in nutrients. We also took out processed grains, sugars, and dairy products.
Based on everything I know about human physiology and nutrition, this was one of the critical factors, if not the most critical factor, in helping her stay cancer free.
Low and behold, she also lost a significant amount of body fat and had friends, family, and coworkers all asking her what she was doing to look so good! 😉
Our fate is not set in stone.
You see, just because we carry a gene that causes a disease doesn’t mean our fate is set in stone. For that gene to become active, there needs to be a trigger. Those triggers come in the form of toxins, inflammation, poor environments, and stress.
The lack of certain things such as proper nutrition, healthy bacteria, emotional/social well being, sleep, etc. can also turn on a gene that causes a disease.
The field of nutrigenomics studies the way our nutrition affects genetic pathways.
Not only do we have a level of control over our gene expression, we have a level of control over the genes that are passed on to our children!
Ok, I know it’s starting to sound too good to be true.
Our gene expression is passed onto our children. By living a healthy lifestyle and doing everything we can to avoid bad genes from being expressed, we decrease the chance of that particular gene getting passed onto our children.
Eating healthy and living a clean lifestyle doesn’t mean you won’t get sick, but it sure as hell gives you a better chance at avoiding diseases.
What does the future hold?
I believe the biggest hurdle our society faces is not knowing about epigenetics.
Thankfully, there is a growing trend among societies and mindful consumers that nutrition plays a greater role in our overall health and longevity than body composition.
There also seems to be a growing movement of health conscious people
The large global powerhouses are starting to take notice of the consumer trends and you see them rolling out their lines of “healthy” products or even worse, buying small health companies.
This should go to show you the power we the consumers have.
It’s no secret, companies want our money. Every time you buy a product you are casting a vote.
Hopefully by now, this blog post has inspired you to vote for a brighter future!
So, what can you do?
Below are a few of my recommendations to immediately start positively influencing your epigenetics. By no means is this list a means to and end. This is just what I believe will have the greatest impact.
1. Get better sleep
Another trendy topic right now besides epigenetics is sleep health.
Unfortunately, lack of sleep is seen by many people as a badge of honor, especially in the business world.
Our bodies use sleep as a time to reset and repair.
When we sleep, our DNA is even expressed differently. Certain genes that promote certain enzymes and biological processes are expressed.
When we don’t sleep long enough or well enough, these genes aren’t expressed and can lead to some unwanted gene expressions such as disease.
2. Clean up your diet
Removing known foods that are high in toxins or foods we know show the same responses in most people is a good place to start.
Removing refined sugars, highly processed foods, and chemical ladened foods are a good place to start.
3. Take the test
Each and every one of us is unique.
I highly recommend you get test for food allergies and sensitivities.
These tests can be slightly on the more expensive side for most people. Another way around this is to try and elimination diet.
An elimination diet removes certain foods like nuts, eggs, and dairy and slowly reintroduces them over time. Pay attention to how your body reacts every time you introduce a new food group back in.
If you’re sensitive to a food group you should definitely stay away from it to reduce inflammation.
Let’s wrap things up
So there you have it, my little speech on epigenetics.
I hope you learned something by reading this post and will start implementing some of the things I talked about.
Also, if you know someone this post might help, please don’t hesitate to share it on social media! The more people learn about epigenetics, the brighter our future will be!
Until next time,