Nutrients Can Help Your Genes
Did you know that the foods you eat can affect the way your genes behave? Many people attribute their health problems to bad genes. Perhaps your mother or father suffered with a particular health problem, or maybe you inherited your aunt’s constitution.
Genetics certainly do play an important role in the type of health problems you’re prone to developing. However, genes are only one part of the equation. Your environment is a big determinant, and sometimes an even greater one than your genes. Knowing this can provide a sense of relief. You have far more power over your current and future health than you probably realize.
Ever since scientists have been able to isolate some of the genes associated with inherited diseases, including some types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and autoimmune disease, this has led many of us to become very concerned, or even fearful, believing we are totally at the mercy of our genes. In other words, these dangerous genes could “go off” at any given time, just like a loaded gun.
Those who suspect or know for certain they are carrying one of the genes known to be associated with an increased risk of cancer, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2, often live in this constant fearful state of not just the ‘what ifs’, but ‘when will my cancer show up’.
Genes and autoimmunity
A number of genes have been found to be associated with specific autoimmune diseases. Most autoimmune diseases are the result of several faulty genes; not just one gene. Here are some examples:
- HLA DQ2 and DQ8 (celiac disease genes)
HLA stands for Human Leukocyte Antigen. Leukocytes are also known as white blood cells. Antigen refers to any substance that elicits your immune cells to produce antibodies; infectious agents like bacteria and allergens such as dust mites are common examples. HLA describes the process whereby your immune cells recognize and respond to any potential threat.
More than 90 percent of people with celiac disease have one or both of these genes. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease triggered by the consumption of gluten. Having these genes also predisposes a person to developing other autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, dermatitis herpetiformis, Sjogren’s syndrome, autoimmune hepatitis and systemic lupus erythematosus, among others.
- HLA-B gene mutations
A specific variant in the HLA-B gene called HLA-B27 is strongly linked with a number of different autoimmune diseases, including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), iritis and acute anterior uveitis (eye diseases), and Reiter’s syndrome (a type of arthritis).
This gene is found in approximately 8 percent of Caucasians, 4 percent of North Africans, 2 to 9 percent of Chinese, and 0.1 to 0.5 percent of Japanese people. Interestingly, people with this gene who are infected with HIV have a significantly greater chance of survival. They are less likely to develop AIDS and die from the infection.
Even if you know you’ve got faulty genes, because there’s a strong history of autoimmune disease in your family, it is not inevitable that you’ll also develop one. Research shows that 70 to 95 percent of the risk of developing autoimmune disease comes from your environment, not your genes. By environment I mean your diet, your lifestyle, the chemicals you are exposed to, and the emotions you experience.
This is wonderful news because it means your genes are not your destiny. You have so much power and control over what you eat and how you live your life, and this will determine whether dodgy genes you’ve inherited will become activated or not. Even if you already have one or more autoimmune conditions, at the very least you can reduce their severity, arrest their progression and, at best, you can reverse the disease.
Whilst the Human Genome Project was being publicized worldwide, another group of researchers began working in a new field called epigenetics. Genetics refers to the actual genes and their sequence or DNA code. However, epigenetics refers to all the other factors around and outside of our genes that control how, when and if that gene is expressed.
Environmental influences, including nutrition, stress, radiation, sleep, toxins and emotions can modify those genes without changing their basic blueprint. These modifications can be passed on to future generations, as surely as DNA blueprints are passed on via the double helix. That’s why it’s so important to take good care of your health if you are planning to have children. You will be passing on your genes and also epigenetic factors to your future children.
What can you do to improve the health of your genes?
A healthy diet, maximizing natural whole foods while minimizing junk food is important. Here are some more specific recommendations:
- Increase the amount of plants in your diet. Fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds are all very high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients. These nutrients act as co-factors in many enzyme reactions throughout your body. They are required for the phase 1 and 2 detoxification enzymes found in your liver. You may have heard that you don’t need a detox because your liver is quite capable of detoxifying your body for you. That assumes everyone’s liver is in optimal health! The majority of our patients have a fatty liver, inflamed liver or sluggish liver. They are also suffering from nutrient deficiencies that inhibit the liver from functioning optimally. I have designed Livatone Plus to provide your liver with the nutrients it needs to be a more efficient detoxifier, and ingredients designed to heal damaged and inflamed liver cells. N-acetyl cysteine is also extremely helpful because it is the precursor to glutathione in your body. Glutathione reduces inflammation and is required for liver detoxification.
- Don’t smoke cigarettes and limit alcohol consumption. Cigarettes and alcohol can inflict immense harm on your body and increase your susceptibility to whatever diseases you are prone to. Smokers are more likely to develop the autoimmune diseases rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Graves’ disease. Smoking increases the risk of breast cancer in women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
- Look after your gut health. The number of bugs you have in your body outnumbers the amount of cells in your body. Therefore, you also have an enormous amount of bacterial, fungal and other microbes’ DNA in your body. The type of bugs you have plays a key role in the health of your immune system, detoxification and hormone production. Sugar has an extremely destructive effect on gut health because it promotes small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This can destroy the gut lining, causing leaky gut and raised inflammation. BactoClear capsules and Ultimate Gut Health powder are both very beneficial for intestinal health.
- Selenium can modify how genes behave. Selenium is a mineral that acts as a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger. It is a great protector and detoxifier; this is because it is required for the production of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme necessary for detoxification and protection of the body against free radical damage. Selenium has been shown to stimulate apoptosis (cell death) in tumor cells, and a low selenium status predicts a poorer outcome in those with certain cancers. Research has shown that when women with the BRCA1 gene were given supplemental selenium for three months, their number of chromosome breaks were reduced to normal. Obtaining adequate selenium from diet alone is very difficult, because very few foods are a rich source of selenium. Brazil nuts, crab and salmon provide some selenium; however, using a selenium supplement will ensure you receive optimal levels of this vital mineral. I have formulated Selenomune Designer Energy capsules to contain 3 forms of selenium for optimal absorption, and combined it with potent vitamins and minerals to reduce inflammation in the body.
- Minimize stress and try to get enough sleep. Healthy food, nutrients and exercise are important, but the benefits are limited if you don’t get enough rest. It’s important to find healthy, relaxing ways to unwind, and have fun hobbies or activities to look forward to. If you are unhappy with your sleep quality or quantity, magnesium and melatonin may help.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.