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Genetics and Our Health - What You Can do About It!

 

Your genes are responsible for your individuality, but they also are responsible for your susceptibility to disease. There is a common misconception that our inherited genes determine our fate in life. Researchers have found that this is not true. You can't change your inherited genes but you can compensate for their influence. Through genetic profiling, it is possible to maximise your genetic potential and change your health through smart exercise, nutritional and lifestyle modifications.


The role of genetics in influencing our health is a passion of mine. I must say that I have always had an interest in genetics,stating with my first degree at university. However it was not until the last few years that I have been able to combine the genetics with naturopathy. Now we have the means and information to test specific genes to determine how these genes affect our health.

 

Let’s start from the beginning. We are all born with a unique genetic code. These genes code for our height, eye colour, and hair colour, to our susceptibility to disease. It is the expression of genes that gives us these traits. It used to be thought that we are born with a certain gene sequence and that was that. If our parents had high blood pressure then we would too. However, with newer research it has been found that we can influence the expression of the genes. You might ask what does that mean?



It has been discovered that there are factors that sit on top of the genes and turn them on or off. These factors are called epigenes. They influence the genes and can prevent proteins being made by the gene (effectively turning the gene off) or they can promote the gene to create proteins (efeectively turning the gene on). The protein produced by the gene is used to communicate to the cells.

 

Think of this concept in terms of listening to a radio. A song comes on and you use the volume switch to turn the volume up. You can hear the song loud and clear, you feel happy and may even sing some of the tune. When a song comes on that you don’t like you turn the volume knob down so that you don’t hear the song. You have no physical reaction – no happy feeling or singing. So just the same the epigenes influence the gene by turning up or down their effect upon the body.

 
The epigenes influence the genetic expression. The great news is that at Gold Coast Integrative Wellness, we are able to help influence the epigenes through nutrition, lifestyle and exercise. By understanding the factors that influence the epigenes we are able to control these factors and therefore control the resultant gene expression. Researches have correlated certain nutrients or lifestyle activities that influence the epigenes, effectively turning the genes on or off.

 

Let’s put this into real terms that relates to you.


It is estimated that 75% of health and life expectancy after the age of 40 is modifiable, meaning that it can be corrected. The length of our lives is increasing but the health during these years is declining. On average the last 18.6 years for men and the last 20.7 years for women are lived with disabilities. What can we do about this?


 
Well let's look at the factors that contribute to health expectancy:
 


1.       The amount of exercise we get or don’t get.

2.       The Quality and quantity of our food.

3.       Smoking.

4.       Alcohol and drug consumption.

5.       Stress.

6.       Environmental factors such as quality of air and water.

 

From this list you can see that we can do something about all of these factors and therefore promote our health to live a great quality of life.


We are in an obesity epidemic. In Australia 68% of men and 55% of women are obese or overweight. A recent Federal Government report stated that environment and lifestyle factors (such as food and lack of exercise)  contibute to an individual's body weight but Genetics contribute the other 70%. The amazing thing is that we can influence the genetics. We have the tools!

 
Once we know what genes are present in an individual we can take steps to influence these genes. For instance we know that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower activate the genes to promote detoxification, which decreases the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Omega 3 foods help to turn down genes associated with inflammation. This can help with heart disease, diabetes and weight gain. Green leafy vegetables contain folate and this can influence blood flow and the brain health. This aids the cardiovascular health as well as anxiety and depression.

 
If you are looking for ways to improve your health, consider a genetic profile at Gold Coast Integrative Wellness. This profile will help you to make decisions in your life concerning your eating program, your lifestyle and your exercise plan. Not all health programs are the same. A genetic profile helps to personalise a naturopathic program based upon your uniqueness.

14 January 2012

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