Epigenetics: Five Ways to Optimize Your Genes
What if I told you that the choices you make on a daily basis could either take you closer, or further away, from your best health. Contrary to popular belief, our health destiny is not necessarily predetermined by our genes. The term “epigenetics” is the study of our genetic expression and how it is modified by our environment. Genes are segments of DNA, which communicate with our cells about how to function and what traits to express. And our daily behaviors and choices essentially “turn on” or “turn off” gene regulation activity.
We inherit codes of DNA from our parents that can affect things like hair and eye color, and even our propensity to inherit certain diseases. And while our hair and eye color are pretty much hardwired, we have a lot more control over our genetic expression than previously thought. Simply by making better choices more often, we can make meaningful modifications to our biology, and thereby improve our health and well-being, and even enhance our ability to prevent disease. Want to learn how? Here are five reasonably simple ways:
1) Nutrition: There is a whole branch of science called nutrigenomics that is entirely devoted to the study of food and how it affects our genetic expression. Kristy Hall, a Functional Epigenetic Nutritionist at the Living Well Center for Epigenetic Testing, says that everyone can benefit from eating a whole foods diet. And while everyone has different nutritional needs, minimizing one’s intake of processed foods (like refined sugar, white flour and corn syrup-based packaged foods), while favoring a variety of fresh, whole foods (including plenty of vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs) can create favorable conditions for our genes.
2) Exercise: Research suggests that exercise is extremely supportive to positive gene expression. One study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that exercise changes the fat storage levels of cells, which in turn affects epigenetic gene expression for the better. And while there’s no one “prescribed” amount of exercise that fits everyone’s needs, the study showed that even a small amount of regular daily activity could be an effective way to promote positive gene expression.
3) Sleep: Did you know that even one missed night’s sleep can effect your genes? A study at Uppsala University found that even one night without sleep could alter the human epigenome, contribute to adverse weight gain, and the loss of lean muscle mass. The research also indicated that chronic sleep loss contributed to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. You see, during deep sleep, your body releases accumulated toxins and stress while repairing and self-regulating the cells. So next time you have the inkling to pull an all nighter, it might be prudent to opt for some extra rest instead.
4) Stress Management: Chronic stress can speed up cellular aging and wreak havoc on your genes. So finding ways to minimize stress can be a powerful anti-aging agent. Laughter and meditation are both science-backed methods of de-stressing that can have powerful physiology-changing benefits. Even just a few minutes of meditation per day has been shown to dissolve fatigue and decelerate the aging process. But whatever you can do to relax, (no, drinking an extra glass of wine and scrolling through social media DON’T count…) will be reflected favorably by your genetic expression.
5) Talk to yourself: No seriously. Changing your internal dialogue about what you believe about your health can have an impact your genes. In his book, The Biology of Belief, Dr. Bruce Lipton states that our genes are the blueprints of our health, but that they have no more power than an actual blueprint. He contends that we give our genes power, for better or for worse, through our thoughts and perceptions about our health. So if you can replace an old negative thought pattern in your unconscious mind, and replace it with the belief that you are young and vibrant (at any age), then this new belief can help flip the switch of your longevity genes.
So, the age old question remains: does nature or nurture have a stronger impact on our health? The answer is both. But if you make an effort to nurture your nature, you will likely experience vast benefits over the course of your lifetime.
Celestia is a holistic wellness and beauty consultant specializing in vitality optimization. She draws upon her experience as a certified yoga therapist and wellness coach, lifestyle model and stylist to help people look and feel their best. She believes that beauty and wellness are an “inside job” and helps her clients create simple strategies to optimize their health while looking amazing too. Check out her podcast, The Vitality Sessions, or her website www.labellauna.com for simple tricks and tips to help you experience your most vibrant life. Photo Credit: Chowen Photography