Do you know anyone, or do you yourself, say “Oh it’s in my genes, so it’s out of my control.” But what if your genes don’t actually have to determine your destiny, and you could control the way they are expressed through healthy diet and lifestyle choices? In this article I lay out the mind-blowing research on epigenetics. This is yet another way for you to take control your health.
What is epigenetics?
When we are born we inherit certain genes from our parents which are made up of DNA. Many believe that our genes control what health issues we experience and we have to live with that outcome forever. Certainly, we cannot change our genetic code, but we can change the way they are expressed, by switching them on or off. This is called gene expression or epigenetics. The term epigenetics was invented by the biologist Conrad H. Waddington in the 1900’s. Epigenetics is an emerging field of science that studies alterations in gene expression caused by factors other than changes in the DNA sequence. (Epigenetics: The Death of the Genetic Theory of Disease Transmission)
In his research, Cellular Biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD proves that environment determines the fate of the cells, not the genetic blue print.
“I placed one stem cell into a culture dish, and it divided every ten hours. After two weeks, there were thousands of cells in the dish, and they were all genetically identical, having been derived from the same parent cell. I divided the cell population and inoculated them in three different culture dishes.
Next, I manipulated the culture medium—the cell’s equivalent of the environment—in each dish. In one dish, the cells became bone, in another, muscle, and in the last dish, fat. This demonstrated that the genes didn’t determine the fate of the cells because they all had the exact same genes. The environment determined the fate of the cells, not the genetic pattern. So if cells are in a healthy environment, they are healthy. If they’re in an unhealthy environment, they get sick.”
A cell membrane is covered with thousands of receptor proteins which interpret different signals from the environment, and then relay that information back to the cell. This process controls how genes are read and expressed. The genes chosen to be activated are the direct result of signals from the environment.
“Our genetics hold the gun, our environment pulls the trigger”.
– Dr. Michael McGregor, Founder of nutritionfacts.org
You can have a genetic predisposition to a condition. For example you may have a family history of diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc. This means you are at a higher risk for these health issues, but it doesn’t mean it is your fate.
Which environmental factors effect gene expression & how you can tilt the scale in your favour
Diet plays an obvious role in influencing epigenetic changes in the body. Numerous studies in humans, animals, and cell cultures have demonstrated that macronutrients, micronutrients and phytochemicals such as flavonoids and carotenoids, regulate gene expression in a variety of ways. These chemicals in food directly impact metabolic reactions that determine everything from hormonal balances and immune competence to detoxification processes and the utilisation of macronutrients.
Only 5-10% of all cancers are due to genetics, whereas the remaining 90-95% are caused by environmental and lifestyle factors.
In his book, The China Study, Dr. T Collin Campbell proves that in experimental animal studies, animal-based protein (casein) turns on tumour development when fed above a total dietary protein level that supports optimum health (above 10-12% of calories). What we eat every day has been shown to have a major influence on both the development and prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Your gut microbiome plays a role in activating gene expression. What you eat very quickly effects the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. A diet rich in fibre from plants regulates bowel movements thereby reducing the exposure of microbiome to toxins. The gut microbiome metabolise the phytochemicals found in high fibre foods which positively effect gene expression.
So which foods should you focus on for optimal health? Consuming a variety of antioxidant-rich foods like berries, citrus fruits, herbs, tomatoes, vegetables, leafy greens, and nuts help us to maintain optimal health. Garlic, onion and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain anti-carcinogenic compounds which may help prevent disease.
By eating a whole food diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables you are creating a healthy gut microbiome and naturally supporting your body’s ability to prevent disease. As Dr. T Collin states in his book “The China Study”, eating a whole food plant based diet will also provide you with an adequate amount of protein which doesn’t work to turn on cancer genes.
Beyond regulating the immune system, assisting proper bone development, and preventing disease, Vitamin D seems to have an underlying role in gene expression. Vitamin D effects gene expression through genetic and epigenetic processes, and contributes to the suppression of tumour growth in various cancers.
Adequate exposure to ultra violet rays from the sun is the best and most natural source of Vitamin D. I recommend baring as much of your skin as possible to sunlight every day for 15-20 minutes. If you live in a place where the sun doesn’t shine very often, I suggest supplementing with a high quality, plant based Vitamin D supplement to be on the safe side.
Thoughts and emotions
In his book “The Biology of Belief”, Dr. Bruce Lipton talks about how the chemicals produced from your brain effect the blood’s chemistry. This in turn determines the cell’s environment. In simple terms, your thoughts and emotions have a direct and significant impact on your cells.
A study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology revealed that meditation has an effect on gene expression. Particularly, it reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes. Inflammation in the body creates an acidic environment and lays the foundation for disease to thrive. Therefore practicing meditation (e.g. time alone, going for a walk etc.) every day is a great way to cultivate peace and mindfulness. This helps you live in the present moment and respond well to stressors which come up in your life which helps prevent inflammatory disorders.
Remember, you have control of your health – you are not a victim to your genes. By leading a healthy lifestyle you are programming your genes to express in a way that may prevent disease and support you in being the healthiest version of yourself.
The body has an excretory system which is working around the clock to eliminate unwanted toxins. We are exposed to toxins every day from the food we eat, water we drink and the air we breathe.
Why do we need to support our body then?
Lynn R. Goldman, Dean of the George Washington University School of Public Health compared the amount of environmental chemicals today to 500 years ago:
“They lived in a world where most human needs, material needs, were met by the natural world through wood, metals, and other resources that were extracted from the natural environment. Today, we live in a very different world, where nearly everything in this room is in some way derived from industrial chemicals. In just the 25 years between 1970 and 1995, the volume of synthetic organic chemicals produced tripled, from about 50 million tons to approximately 150 million tons. And today it is much more, she noted.”
The Natural Resources Defence Council says “Of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the United States, most haven’t been adequately tested for their effects on human health.” It is estimated that 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals pour into the environment every year, and approximately 2000 new chemicals are introduced each year. Many of these toxins are fat soluble are stored in fatty tissues and are not easily eliminated. A build up of these contaminants have been associated with disruption of the endocrine, reproductive, and immune systems, impaired neurobehavioral development, and cancer.
It’s obvious our body’s are under more pressure than ever to effectively eliminate unwanted toxins. There is increasing awareness of the fact that we can naturally support the detoxification pathways to positively alter our state of health and wellbeing. I believe this is crucial to understand and implement in this day and age.
The kidneys are part of the body’s excretory systems, and have been called the body’s natural filter. They eliminate around 1.5 litres of urine per day. Urine consists of many by-products of metabolism, like ureas, ammonia, hydrogen ions, creatinine, chemical toxins, medications, synthetic vitamins, and minerals, etc. If these wastes aren’t being removed, they are being reabsorbed, which can cause a whole lot of issues down the track.
There are two key indicators which will let you know if your kidneys are functioning and filtering properly:
- Pee in a glass jar. Put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours. There should be sediment which has accumulated at the bottom of the jar. This shows that your kidneys are filtering waste out of the body. If there is minimal or no sediment, it means your kidneys aren’t filtering optimally.
- Test your blood pressure. The bottom number represents the function of your kidneys. It should be between 60-70.
Here is a fantastic, short and easy to understand video on the importance of kidney filtration and how to achieve it:
The Western-style diet is a major risk factor for impaired kidney function. Kidneys are sensitive to acidosis which is contributed to by foods like animal products, processed sugar and salt, and refined foods.
Dr. Michael Greger states:
“Acidosis causes impairment of kidney blood flow, inflammation, subsequent leakage of protein in the urine, and a rapid decrease in kidney function”.
Swap some animal protein for plant protein such as legumes and soy foods, including tofu, tempeh and soybeans. Research suggests that high intakes of animal protein increase the workload on the kidneys, while soy protein has a lesser effect.
A whole food plant-based diet high in vitamins and minerals is anti-inflammatory and can help reduce strain on the kidneys. Alkaline foods like fruits and vegetables have been shown to protect and maintain the health of the kidneys, whereas animal fat can actually negatively alter the structure of the kidneys.
When the body gets too hot, the skin releases a fluid called sweat to help regulate body temperature. This process is vital for the maintenance of homeostasis (a healthy internal environment) and is part of the excretory function of the skin. The Archives of Environmental and Contamination Toxicology published a study which found many toxic elements appeared to be excreted through sweat. Sweat is made up of 99% water, salts, and urea. These components are also found in the urine produced by the kidneys, showing both of these organs are responsible for waste removal.
Saunas are a great way to raise the temperature of the skin to help sweating occur. Far Infrared heat stimulates the detoxification process by raising your core temperature and heating your tissues several inches deep. This enhances your natural metabolic processes by assisting with the excretions of toxins via the pores through increased sweating. The present data also suggests a protective effect of regular sauna on skin physiology, especially its ability to maintain proper hydration and surface pH.
It’s important to note these effects are related to regular, multiple sessions of sauna usage as opposed to single sauna sessions. This means it’s best to make sauna bathing a regular part of your lifestyle.
Moderate use of saunas are safe for most people. The biggest risk of saunas is dehydration. Reduce your risk by drinking plenty of clean water before, during and after a sauna, avoiding alcohol consumption and spending no more than 20 minutes in there at a time. People should also take precautions if they have heart conditions, high blood pressure, or unstable angina.
Another great way to sweat is through physical activity. If you haven’t already, cultivate a regular movement practice that you enjoy, and incorporate exercise that makes you sweat. You don’t need to exercise in a way that makes you sweat every day, but 2-3 times per week will be beneficial.
Dry Body Brushing
Dry skin brushing increases lymphatic drainage and stimulates circulation, helping your body remove toxins. It also exfoliates your skin and achieves a toned and smooth appearance.
Buy body brush in Australia here.
Buy body brush in other countries here.
The colon is called the “sewer system” of the body and eliminates wastes from digestion. I believe wellness begins in the digestive tract and a healthy colon lays a strong foundation for an overall healthy body.
Physiologically speaking, when we eat there is peristaltic action in the bowel which moves the food down to the large colon. If you’re eating three times a day, you should be pooping three times a day. If you aren’t, you are constipated, and waste from the un-eliminated meals start backing up in the colon. This creates petrification and a breeding ground for unhealthy bacterial to thrive.
What can we do to avoid constipation and create tip top digestion? First, achieve proper cleansing of the colon. Accumulation in the bowel has to be taken care of in order to get the colon back into working order. Second, rebuild and restrengthen the colon to create proper bowel tone.
Note: Even if you do poop after you eat, that doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t accumulated waste in your bowel. Dr. Bernard Jenson mentioned that he had patients who had three and four movements a day and yet the bowel was quite encrusted and very constipated. Most people don’t know the condition of their bowel. Unfortunately those who are not aware of their bowel function or condition are sometimes the ones who are developing the worst cases of bowel troubles. Therefore it’s important to go through phases of cleansing and strengthening the bowel just in case.
Dr. Bernard Jenson: “Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management” says:
“Faulty nutrition is a major underlying factor in constipation. Processed, devitalised foods low in fibre or bulk are not suitable substances to promote health and well-being. Here again, food is very, very important to recognise because this is the one thing that brings back a chemical reserve and gives the power and chemical structure to have good healthy tissue.”
The average human colon is six feet long. Transit time is critical in creating a healthy digestive system. If food moves through the colon relatively fast, wastes are less likely to degrade and putrefy. The same study states: ”You can help food pass through the colon by eating a diet rich in fibre and drinking plenty of water. It may also be worth trying to limit the intake of meat, which slows down the transit time and provides the gut bacteria with lots of protein to digest.”
Make the bulk of your diet raw plant whole foods. The high energetic content of raw foods works to rebuild and clean the physical body, including the colon. They are also high in fibre which increases stool bulk and accelerates colon transit time. Eat foods like berries, apples, ripe spotted bananas, romaine lettuce, spinach, broccoli, kale, parsley, cilantro, papaya, avocado, garlic, etc. Drink plenty of clean, filtered or spring water to keep the bowel hydrated and help prevent constipation.
Avoid “foods” that are processed like bread, cakes, pastries, chocolate, cheese, tinned and packaged foods. These have no life-force energy and lack fibre, therefore slow down transit time and contribute to constipation. Alcohol, dairy and medications have also been shown to increase constipation.
The microbiome plays a crucial role in the health of our digestion. Probiotics have been used to prevent and treat a wide range of gastrointestinal problems, including irregular bowel movements. Certain strains of probiotics (Lactobacillus reuteri, Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus) stimulate peristalsis of the colon. Lactobacillus plantarum is a particular species which has the special ability to tolerate low pH. This makes it the most suitable species to survive the high acid levels through the gastrointestinal tract. Here are two high quality probiotic supplements which contain this particular species.
Floratrex by Global Healing Centre
Liyfbiotic by Puradyme
Modern western-style food contains several thousand times less bacteria than prehistoric food. A whole food plant based diet positively effects gut microbiome compared to a diet based on animal products. Plants are high in dietary fibre and prebiotics which are a non-digestible fibre that is used for energy by beneficial bacteria that live in your intestines. Regularly eat foods like wild blueberries, fermented foods, apples, kiwi fruit, prunes, persimmon, and bananas.
Regular physical activity helps improve muscle tone in the bowel, prevent constipation, and also increases food transit time. Studies have shown low-intensity physical activity, rather than intense physical activity, is more ideal for constipation. Examples include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, rowing, and lifting weights.
Enemas and Colonics
These practices are one of the quickest ways to remove toxic waste from the colon. Colonics are done by a professional colon hydrotherapist and flushes your entire colon with pure water. Enemas are like a miniature colonic which you can do yourself at home. According to Dr. Bernard Jensen, enemas and colonics are the gentlest and most effective form of cleansing your colon and therefore, all of the tissues in your body. He says not only will these tools cleanse the bowel, but they will also restore bowel regularity. This is because they hydrate the colon and gently exercise the muscle which encourages natural peristaltic action in the long term. Used alongside a healthy lifestyle of nutritious foods, exercise, sunlight, etc. enemas and colonics are a great addition to creating a well functioning colon.
Here is a colon cleanse kit created by Dr. Group. He states that the power of oxygen will flush and neutralise toxins in your digestive tract and restore your gut’s colonies of beneficial probiotics to support healthy digestion.
“Ingestion of the body’s main source of energy—”oxygen.” Oxygen allows for oxidation to take place within the body. The respiratory system removes carbon dioxide; helps regulate the acid-base balance of the body; and brings hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, etc., into the body. These elements are life’s most basic foods.”
– Dr. Robert Morse “Miracle Detox Book”
Unfortunately most people unconsciously practice shallow breathing due to the stress in their lives. This causes reduced oxygen uptake to the blood leading to fatigue, which subsequently makes us feel more stressed. Without sufficient oxygen we aren’t releasing enough carbon dioxide and toxins begin to accumulate in the body, including the lungs.
Practicing conscious deep breathing will allow more oxygen to flow into your lungs. It helps clear airways by breaking up and removing accumulated toxins in the lungs. Try taking time each day to focus on inhaling deeply through the nose, allowing the chest to rise and the belly expand. Then exhale slowly while the belly contracts.
Peppermint, tea tree and thyme oil contain antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties and have all been proven to have positive effects on respiratory disorders. The antioxidant properties in eucalyptus oil decreases lung airway inflammation, while oregano oil has also been shown to clear lungs and bronchial passages by boiling it with hot water or adding it to a vaporiser to inhale the steam.
Try adding a few drops of oil to a pot with boiling water. Cover your head with a towel, close your eyes, and put your face over the pot. Inhale the steam. Repeat several times to clear your throat and nasal passages.
Note: Look for a trusted producer that makes pure oils with no additives. If you are taking prescription medications, do not start oil of oregano without consulting with your doctor or an integrative physician first.
Allertrex is an all natural and organic product which contains a combination of 12 herbs (including the ones already mentioned) to help cleanse and strengthen the lungs.
It has been confirmed that a minimally processed diet based around plant foods is important when it comes to the health and function of the lungs. Antioxidants have been shown to help keep the lungs working effectively. They counteract oxidative stress in the body which plays a role in a decrease in lung function. Foods high in antioxidants include tomatoes, apples, bananas, berries, prunes, raisins, red grapes, cherries, kale, spinach, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beetroot, and red bell pepper.
A diet rich in carotenoid-rich foods have been associated with better lung function. Foods high in carotenoids include apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato, pink grapefruit, tomatoes and watermelon, mango, papaya, peaches, prunes, squash and oranges, green beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, kiwi, lettuce, peas and spinach.
Lung function decline is associated with systemic inflammation Therefore anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, blueberries, apples, leafy greens, tomatoes, along with a whole food plant based diet in general is great to reduce inflammation.
It’s essential to get your body’s detoxification pathways working effectively and in synergy to ensure you’re removing accumulation of waste and achieving homeostasis of the body.