“In every human being genomes tell the story of our evolution, written in the language of DNA. The narrative is unmistakable and ever-changing.” ~ Michael Corthell
With advances in DNA technology came the sexy idea that we can ‘change our genes’ and ‘reprogram’ our genetic hardware, so to speak, to create newer, better versions of ourselves.
And while it’s true that we can modify our cellular health and work preventatively towards better outcomes, generally, our genetic markers remain the same.
We’re born with specific genes, and we die with those genes.
So What is All This Talk About ‘Epigenetics’?
Well, even though the genes themselves don’t change, what can and does change is their expression of them.
We may have the genes for heart disease, depression, or Alzheimer’s. However, the outcome can radically change with the proper lifestyle and environment.
Those genes can essentially be ‘turned on’ or ‘off’ depending on lifestyle factors.
The Difference is the ‘Environment’
Akin to the ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate in sociology, with genetics, we talk about genotype vs. phenotype.
The genotype refers to genetic information, and the phenotype refers to observable characteristics of a person’s genotype with their environment.
Because most of your long-term health is related to lifestyle over genes, you can stack the odds in your favor.
Below are some main ways to modify your physiological environment to maximize your genetic potential and achieve better genetic expression and overall health.
Keys to Modify Your Physiological Environment
Regarding the development of chronic disease, nutrition may play a more significant role than genes.
While ‘eating right’ is sure to cover your bases, due to soil depletion, modern lifestyles, and environmental factors, supplementation with high-quality sourced ingredients, targeted to your physiology can be critical.
With access to advanced functional genetic testing, insights can be gained into which supplements are right for you and which can best modify your gene expression.
When changing your lifestyle and mindset, movement is often the tried and trustworthy place to start. Because many types of exercise can make you feel better immediately, it’s easy to see the mental and stress-reducing benefits before you gain the physical ones.
Movement can upregulate some biochemical pathways (like those leading to endogenous feel-good endorphins) and downregulate others, such as those leading to diabetes and insulin resistance.
3. Stress Management
Both physical and emotional stress can lead to physiological changes, such as elevated heart rate, reduced heart rate variability, and increased inflammation.
While a certain amount of cortisol or mild stressors can be helpful to our bodies, ongoing chronic stress can lead to epigenetic and cellular changes which are not in our best interest.
Stress management is essential in every preventive health protocol, and the changes that can occur in genetic expression when we manage our stress and cortisol levels affect every body system.
Breathing exercises, meditation, saying ‘no’, regular walks and movement, and limiting work in the evenings are some places to start.
Stress management, however, can look different for everyone at different times in our lives.
Lifestyle and Environmental Factors
While some individuals may have worse genes than others for circadian rhythms, such as variations in the CLOCK gene, and others may have genes affecting sleep and neuroplasticity, such as BDNF, there’s a lot you can do to stack the odds in your favor.
Sleep quality and duration are highly responsive to lifestyle, and the expression of our so-called ‘sleep genes’ can be changed over time with lifestyle protocols.
Focusing on sleep hygiene can create significant changes over time.
A great place to start is with the 3-2-1 rule:
- 3 hours before bed, no food
- 2 hours before bed, no work
- 1 hour before bed, no screens
While you may think you’re simply ‘not a great sleeper’, most people can generally train themselves towards better sleep with the right tools.
2. Lowering Your Toxic Burden
Particularly for those who may have more ‘sluggish’ detoxification genes, such as slow COMT, or no copies of GSTM1 or GSTP1, we can all move the needle in lowering our toxic burden.
Think of a toxic burden like a sink - some of us have a clear drain with a better ability to process added toxins (although with enough, the sink can still overflow). Others may have a clogged and smaller sink, where we must be extra careful about our body’s burden of toxins.
Some places to start, regardless of detox genes, are using cleaner products in your home and beauty regime, avoiding the highest pesticide foods (aka the ‘dirty dozen’), and working in environments free of toxicants like mold and lead.
3. Sunlight Exposure
Sunlight exposure is a powerful influencer of our hormones and neurochemicals.
Some may have poor genetic variants for vitamin D transport and absorption, while others may be more prone to seasonal depression or circadian rhythm issues.
Light exposure has often been underestimated in its broad-reaching cellular effects. Getting enough of it through the sun or a SAD lamp in the morning and limiting exposure at night can create positive changes in our cellular health and genetic expression.
We are all direct products of our evolution. Getting the amount of light we’re designed for at the right time (and avoiding light at the wrong time) is yet another critical way to hack our physiology and gene expression.
Your Genes Won’t Change, But You Can
When it comes to new developments in science (and pseudoscience), we often get seduced by the alluring concept of ‘changing our genes’. The truth is, our actual genetic markers generally don’t change, but the expression them can, radically.
This means that we may have specific genes that encode enzymes that make us more prone to anxiety. We may have genes predisposing us to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or chronic illnesses. However, depending on the life we lead, we may have no expression of those genes.
80% of Our Long-Term Health is Related to Lifestyle vs. Genetics
Although we generally can’t change our genes per se, the fact that our cellular health and genetic expression can change is excellent news.
Your Health is In Your Hands
This also means that knowing as much as possible about your genetic makeup as early as possible can arm you with the knowledge and tools to make the right choices for your health and your unique physiology.
For further reading, view the following articles on our learning center:
- Is Alzheimer’s Genetic or Hereditary?
- What to Do if I Can’t Lose Weight? How Genetics Plays a Role
- Nine Considerations When Choosing a Personalized Medical Program
You have what it takes inside you to make a definite choice that will change the future trajectory of your health.
Our team at Tiger Medical has the experience, clinical skills, and coaching acumen to help you understand your genes and tailor a plan specific to your makeup.
To talk to one of our professionals, click here to schedule your call!