An essential paradigm of health
Your genes are inherited from your parents and become the blueprint of who you are. The interpretation of these blueprints however is dependent on many things, some of which are in your control.
What goes in your body – nutrition, air, toxins; what goes on in your mind – thoughts, behaviors, motivation, love, self esteem, early childhood development; what goes out of your body through exercise (sweat, digestive function). All of these have consequences that shape and shift to some degree how you operate. See below for an illustration of these principles, from W. Elbjerirami DNA Methylation in The Inflammatory Response and Relevance to Kidney Disease.Epigenetics is the field of science that studies how the expression of genes are modified without having actually changed any of its blueprint, sometimes to the point where the change is heritable. Essentially how genes are controlled other then by solely their DNA sequence (2) -the “nurture” part of the “nature versus nurture question”.
This is important because realizing your truest health is often predicated on what your risk factors are, what your health choices are, what (if any) your poor health habits are. Understanding this may also help to empower you in making the right choices for you health.
Getting to know your genes
Understanding the genetic influence of who you are can involve assessing family history and your personal history. What’s the health status of your family – immediate and extended? Are there any conditions that are more predominate? Cardiovascular? Cancer? Diabetes? Mental Health? What’s your health history reveal about you? What are some health concerns you struggle with?
Assessments that investigate more directly your genetic composition may also help to delineate a more complete understanding of your current health status and help influence your complete treatment plan.
Nutrigenoimics looks to support your genetic profile through the use, in part of targeted nutraceuticals. This does not involve assessing a person’s entire genome but rather those parts related to processes such as methylation. Essentially components of genes that can be influenced by access to various vitamins / minerals.
Your genetic ability to methylate may impact:
- Your ability for cell replication especially rapidly dividing cells (ie. bone marrow, GI repair, and maintenance..)
- Neurotransmitter synthesis and degradation
Genes + Environment = Empowerment
As demonstrated visually in the above graph, various things can affect how your genes express themselves, due to environmental influences and or as a result of their code. Clearing up as much environmental “negative pressures” is an extremely important aspect in allowing optimal gene expression. For example, balancing hormones and managing inflammation are all integral to running efficient digestive, mood and energy systems and are often needed prior to any individualized nutrigenomic therapy.
We are more than our genes. They, like all aspects of each of us, interact with our environment. Being able to have control over those aspects we can (nutrition, thoughts, toxin exposure) and knowing this might even impact our genes is empowering. Knowing we can also support pathways in our body that might affect our health (digestion, immune, mental health) is also empowering. Gaining control and establishing ownership of our health is an essential part of taking the best care we can of each and every one of us.
As you create the time to address your health concerns, to care for yourself consider the power you are having over your health, at the molecular DNA level.
Dr. Sarah Kent is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor specializing in your health. She blends traditional knowledge with current scientific understanding to generate wellness within her patients. She has received specialized training in naturopathic sports medicine, applying the principles and tools of naturopathic care in treating athletes.
- Wafa M. Elbjeirami. DNA Methylation in the Inflammatory Response and Relevance to Chronic Kidney Disease Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine King Hussein Cancer Center, Amman, Jordan
- Simmons, D. (2008) Epigenetic influence and disease. Nature Education 1(1):6
- Guoqiang Zhang Sriharsa Pradhan Mammalian Epigenetic Mechanisms New England Biolabs, Inc., Ipswich, MA, USA . April 2014.