Your DNA is not Your Destiny!
How many times have you heard someone grumble about their health while laying most of the blame on their genes? Unfortunately, many people go through life resigning themselves to health problems that other family members have had, such as diabetes and cancer. I have had many patients in my office over the years telling me it is all their parents’ fault. But, wait a minute, research is showing that really isn’t true.
There is an emerging field in science called epigenetics. It is the study of how the environment impacts our genes. Here is the incredible thing…only about 2% of diseases are passed directly through families. Examples are cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s chorea. Most diseases, however, are controlled by multiple genes. Sometimes we get caught up in news stories telling us that researchers have found the gene for obesity or the gene for Alzheimer’s disease, but it really isn’t true. They have found genes that may contribute, but do not tell the whole story. The Human Genome Project mapped out around 30,000 individual genes. But what they found is that at any given time more than half of these genes are turned off. So it is the different combinations of which genes are turned on and which genes are turned off at any given time that determines what it going on in our bodies.
The incidence of diabetes has skyrocketed in the past couple of decades, but is takes centuries for genetic drift to occur in a population. This means that the increase of diabetes in Americans is not due to changes in the genes. Instead genes are being turned on and off all the time by the environment around them. The food we eat has the greatest impact on what is turned on and off and research is showing that exercise, toxins, and stress also have strong influence.
How amazing! We are no longer doomed to have the same diseases as our families! But here is the catch…many families pass down their lifestyle which will in turn impact susceptible genes. So if you parents are overweight, sugar-loving , couch potatoes who have ripe gene environments for diabetes and you also love sitting around eating doughnuts and Coke, then those genes will be turned on in you too. The nurture is more important than the nature.
So here is the reality, self care is the new primary care. The choices you make with your fork, how you handle your stress, and how active you are each day can have incredible impact on your health. Are you tired of paying so much for your health insurance? Are medications costing you a monthly fortune? Are you depressed from believing that since your mother or father died of something at a certain age that you will too? Take action! You have the power to activate the good genes in your body. Eat real food that does not come from a box or have a label (think plants!) Drink clean, filtered water. Walk outdoors in fresh air daily. Get your life stress in perspective. Start building a health community with your friends and neighbors to encourage each other to make positive change. We hold the key to our own health, we can’t blame our DNA.
Kristen Harding, M.D. has now opened her own functional medicine practice in the Cincinnati area, Whole Medicine, LLC. For more information about functional medicine or Dr. Harding’s practice please check out kristenhardingmd.com or call her office at 513-549-0494.
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