What if you could actually change your genes with food and lifestyle?
Well, maybe you can.
The field of epigenetics suggests that we can influence which of our genes are expressed by our behavior. Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. David Perlmutter are leading advocates of the idea that genetics are not fixed, and they want to empower people to make choices that turn on healthy genes and suppress the genetic expression of disease.
Internal and external factors activate and deactivate genes, influencing which proteins get expressed, which in turn influences your health.
What’s more, the genetic results of these internal and external factors become inheritable. That’s right: if you haven’t already had kids, the choices you make today could affect the DNA of your future kids!
For instance, if your grandfather was exposed to toxic pesticides, you may inherit the attendant genetic modifications. And the genetic modifications resulting from you consuming too much-refined sugar might impact your children’s DNA.
Thus, each generation is at higher risk for disease than the last.
But the key phrase here is “at risk.” While you may have a genetic disposition for disease, you’re not doomed to that fate. By modifying your behavior, you can influence your genes to promote optimal health and minimize disease. Here’s how.
How To Influence Your Genes For A Healthier You
1. Eat real, whole food.
The best food available is that without nutrition labels. Fresh fruits and vegetables and sustainable protein sources are nature’s finest.
Eat fresh and local, while avoiding pesticides, GMOs, and additives. Remove the complexity of health by going back to basics with your food. Your DNA responds well to simplicity!
Related Article: 37 Superfoods To Start Eating Today
2. Watch your “oil” consumption
Most Americans consume an overabundance of omega-6 fats, leaving their brains asking for omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s compose 60% of your brain and fight against inflammation, heart disease, and diabetes.
Make the switch from processed omega-6 laden foods such as soybean oil, canola oil, and poultry to nature’s omega-3 cornucopia of wild sardines, salmon, nuts (walnuts are best), and seeds (try sacha inchi seeds!).
Strive to achieve anywhere from 1:1 to 5:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, which assists genetic soundness, and notice your improved cognition and reduced inflammation.
Related Article: Top 5 Brain-Boosting Foods
3. Eat to balance blood sugar
Consume an equal amount of protein and starch (think beyond grains to fruits and veggies), and complement with healthy fats, like those from grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, or nuts and seeds.
The protein and fats help slow the rise in insulin from carbohydrates. This not only gives you even energy throughout the day, it also protects you against obesity, diabetes, and cancer, which can be caused by chronically high insulin levels.
Food, not drugs, is critical in suppressing disease and prolonging life.
Related Article: Is Sugar the Next Controlled Substance?
4. Redefine your dairy products
Dairy is a common cause of digestive conditions, eczema, acne, sinus trouble, asthma, and allergies.
Try going dairy-free for at least four weeks and see how your body responds. Ditching dairy doesn’t mean deprivation: there is a bounty of delicious dairy alternatives such as coconut milk, almond milk, and cashew milk.
Watch out for additives such as sugar in store-bought varieties, or make your own. When you feed your body what supports it best, genetic expression is optimized for well-being.
Related Article: What Not To Eat: 15 Unhealthiest Foods On The Planet
5. Avoid wheat
Our ancestors ate much less wheat than we consume, and the wheat they did eat had much lower starch and gluten content.
While they included wheat is perhaps one meal a day, we consume it all day long: a bagel for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner, and cake for dessert.
Eating this quantity of what contributes to inflammation and obesity, and causes your blood sugar to surge and then crash, leaves you hungry for more.
Try limiting wheat products to one meal per day or go completely grain-free for a few weeks, and record any changes in how you feel. Biology responds to whole foods quickly; Dr. Hyman affirms changes may be noticed in only days or weeks.
Related Article: How to Eat Paleo Like a Caveman
6. Eat…living microorganisms?
Fun fact: Your body is made up of more microorganisms than human cells (your intestinal microbiome outnumbers the organisms of the human body by roughly 10-100 times!).
These microorganisms’ DNA manufactures molecules that shift our bodies into a state of health or disease.
When you consume probiotic-rich cultured foods such as kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut, you support a gut microbiome that prevents cancer, minimizes inflammation, optimizes metabolism, and maintains healthy gene expression. Healthy gut microbiota DNA correlates with healthy human DNA.
Related Article: 7 Healing Foods That Boost Metabolism
7. Work on your stress levels
Your body responds to stress by activating biochemical pathways that alter your DNA. This weakens your genetic stability and increases your risk for psychological conditions, including depression.
Additionally, stress-induced changes in your DNA can be passed down to future generations, putting them at risk for disease as well.
Reduce the stress factors in your life and learn to cope with the stress you can’t avoid to achieve healthy gene expression.
Related Article: How to Beat Stress and Boost Happiness
There is a strong interplay between diet and lifestyle and our genetic expression. How we live our lives and the choices we make have profound implications for our genetic code.
What you put on your fork, how you move your body, and the quality of your sleep can all move you towards optimal health. May this new discovery empower you to think about how your daily habits are influencing your gene expression, and make the necessary changes to shift to a healthier you.
What’s one change you’ll make this week to start turning on “healthy” genes and turning off “disease” genes? Share in the comments below!
Christine Cherpak is a health coach and yoga teacher who nourishes the human spirit and celebrates the rhythms of life. Freeing herself of food allergy restraints and claiming her true self, Christine empowers others to achieve a balanced state while learning to live, play, and love food again. Learn more about Christine by visiting Kalena Spire and Pinterest.
Photo by mattias tyllander