Making Your Genes FitWritten By: Meredith Watkins, MFT Date: October 16th, 2012. Topic: Health & Wellbeing.
By Meredith Watkins, MFT, HHC
In both physical and mental health, we know we can control a good deal. We can choose which foods we will eat or avoid; we can choose to exercise or keep the couch company; and we can learn how to manage or avoid certain life stressors. However, at some point, many of us still believe other factors are well outside our control: namely, genes.
This is both true and false. And knowing the difference between the two can literally save your life.
It is true that all of us are born with a certain amount of traits, propensities and characteristics programmed into our genetic code. We received this aggregate of gifts from all of our ancestors, not just mom and dad. What’s interesting is that these genes have morphed over time, so the genes that your five-times great-grandparents passed on to your four-times great-grandparents aren’t exactly the ones that ended up in your precious body.
Why not? If genes are genes and cannot be modified (as many of us believe, though we may not be sure how we arrived at that conclusion), then they should be exactly the same ones from 400 years ago. However, the behaviors and adaptations of our ancestors subtly but indelibly altered these genes to the ones you now possess.
This is a fascinating concept to ponder. It would then follow that the choices we make today will alter (for good or for bad) the genes we pass down to our children and later descendants. Which is all well and good because we only want the best for our children, but how does this help us today?
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, suggests that the food that we eat will either turn on or turn off certain genes predisposed to disease (and ultimately alter the ones our children receive). His research focused primarily on cancer genes, and his repeated research on the matter confirmed again and again that this was so.
Dr. Campbell was raised on a dairy farm in the 1940s and 50s, and so grew with a firm belief in the power of dairy in growing strong and healthy bodies. So it came as a great shock to him that his research seemed to point to the casein found in dairy as the key that literally locked or unlocked cancer genes. Not wanting to believe it, Dr. Campbell confirms that he tested and retested every which way to see if the connection was causal or simply correlated. At the end of his exhaustive research, he had to concede that it was, in fact, casein that primarily held the key to the expression of cancer genes (The China Study).
In The China Study, Dr. Campbell elaborates:
“I propose to do nothing less than redefine what we think of as good nutrition. The provocative results of my four decades of biomedical research, including the findings from a twenty-seven-year laboratory program (funded by the most reputable funding agencies) prove that eating right can save your life.
I will not ask you to believe conclusions based on my personal observations, as some popular authors do. There are over 750 references in this book, and the vast majority of them are primary sources of information, including hundreds of scientific publications from other researchers that point the way to less cancer, less heart disease, fewer strokes, less obesity, less diabetes, less autoimmune disease, less osteoporosis, less Alzheimer’s, less kidney stones and less blindness.
Some of the findings, published in the most reputable scientific journals, show that:
• Dietary change can enable diabetic patients to go off their medication.
• Heart disease can be reversed with diet alone.
• Breast cancer is related to levels of female hormones in the blood, which are determined by the food we eat.
• Consuming dairy foods can increase the risk of prostate cancer.
• Antioxidants, found in fruits and vegetables, are linked to better mental performance in old age.
• Kidney stones can be prevented by a healthy diet.
•Type 1 diabetes, one of the most devastating diseases that can befall a child, is convincingly linked to infant feeding practices.
These findings demonstrate that a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness.”
This discovery is both ground-breaking and controversial – it has been said that it is easier to change a person’s religion that to change his diet. On the flip side, this information can be very empowering and life-changing.
And it is not only the physical food we consume, but also the emotional and mental nourishment we choose to take in. Dr. Alejandro Junger describes the many processes involved in turning genes on or off in his book, Clean:
“Genes are located in the nuclei of cells. The cytoplasm of the cell surrounds the nucleus, from where genes direct the symphony of life. The microclimate in the cytoplasm affects the genes. And what influences the cytoplasm of the cell? The blood surrounding the cell. What influences the composition of the blood? The food you eat, the emotions you’re having, the thoughts you are thinking [emphasis added], and the toxins you are accumulating. All these different influences have the potential to turn genes on and off. Mental and emotional states[emphasis added], environmental influences such as heat, humidity, light, sound, and others, radiation, even the perception of a loving nurturing environment as opposed to a threatening one [emphasis added] have been shown to influence which genes get activated, resulting in different molecular processes…
Using what we know about our genes, we can make diet and lifestyle choices that will maximize the expression of our full potential and minimize the expression of genes that make us vulnerable or sick.”
Powerful declarations. But the new science continually points us in this direction. As Dr. Junger says, “In addition to saying, ‘We are what we eat,” it seems as though we have to add, ‘Our cells behave the way our foods direct them to behave’… [this] gives hope to people with the ‘genes equals destiny perception’”.
So what can you do today to begin this change in your genetic expression surrounding physical illness, addiction, mental illness and mood, clarity of mind and energy levels? A lot, as it turns out. Here’s a partial list to get you started.
- Eat a wide variety of vegetables (load up on the dark, leafy ones!) and fruits.
- Eat organic produce as much as possible (and consult the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list when deciding where to allocate your organic dollars on a tight budget).
- Eat locally grown food as much as possible (the shorter distance it travels, the fewer toxins it has time to accumulate and the more nutrients it maintains).
- Minimize animal protein consumption and source humanely raised and slaughtered options, as well as those with no antibiotics and hormones.
- Upgrade your household cleaners and bath and body products to non-toxic versions (available everywhere from Walmart to Target and Amazon.com).
- Cultivate meaningful relationships: you’ll live longer and feel more fulfilled in your life.
- Identify stress management techniques appropriate to your life stressors and practice them daily.
- Move your body every day (and not just from the couch to the fridge).
- Meditate and/or pray daily.
- Breathe deeply (from your belly) as often as you can remember to do so.
- Prioritize your commitments: Put those that coincide with your main beliefs and values first, and eliminate those that are in direct opposition to your main beliefs and values – everything else falls in the middle.
- Cultivate a positive outlook. This can literally add years to your life – and make it more fun!
- Schedule fun. It may sound odd, but for most of us, if it’s not on the schedule, it doesn’t happen.
- Incorporate regular self-care practices into your routine: massage, dry brushing, tongue scraping, acupuncture, and the like.
- Enlist support in your wellness journey, via a therapist, health counselor or close friends.
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