My great-grandmother Greig, her son (my grandfather), and my father all had diabetes. Both my father and his father were diagnosed with it in their 40s. Being the whole-hearted, fun-loving Texans that they were, they smoked for at least 20+ years, drank bourbon and beer, and ate barbecue brisket on a regular basis. My grandfather put 2 teaspoons of sugar in his coffee and my dad couldn’t pass up dessert.
I, on the other hand, quit smoking right after college, was a vegetarian for about 20 years, and my favorite drink was hot water with lemon with an occasional glass of wine. I’m two decades beyond 40 now and my blood sugar has never been even borderline high.
Is it my genes, just my luck, or is it my lifestyle?
Genetic Expression: Nature and Nurture
Most chronic human health conditions have multiple genes that contribute to the condition, so this often means there are a number of ways to intervene to change how that condition will show up in any particular individual. Lifestyle changes can have big effects on our genes as my family example shows. Change your lifestyle, change your genes! Or at least change your genetic expression.
How genes are expressed—in other words, how they show up in your biochemistry, which translates, ultimately, in how you look and feel—is affected by food, stress, meditation, toxins and other environmental factors. This change in gene expression can be temporary or permanent and, in some cases, can even be passed on to your children, not as a change to the gene, but as a change in gene expression.
What this means is that you can change your genetic destiny by changing your inner and outer environment.
Genetic Testing Is Here!
The exciting news: The future of medicine has arrived! You can find out what genes may be affecting your destiny through genetic testing. Genetic testing can help to direct you to the more significant changes you can make to have an effect on how your genes turn on or off.
Genetic testing, particularly online, direct-to-consumer testing, is on the rise, but the hype can also lead to confusion and misinformation. There are lots of benefits to genetic testing and some downsides, so it’s good to think it through before you leap in.
What Genetics Testing Tells You
The job or our most important and powerful genes is to code for making proteins in the body which then build body tissues and organs and control our chemistry. There are somewhere between 19,000 and 21,000 of these genes in humans. When you get genetic testing done, you may get an overwhelming amount of information, so it’s good to know what you’re looking for so you can be selective in what you get.
For instance, you may or may not want to know you have the gene that increases your risk for Alzheimer’s by 40% when it’s not yet clear what you can do to avoid developing Alzheimer’s. Some people like to know, though, so they can plan ahead or start doing all the fabulous things in life they were putting off until retirement. It depends on your personality and your approach to life.
To get your raw genetic data, you can do home genetic testing to get your full genome from companies like 23andMe.com. They will give also you an analysis of where your ancestors came from and for an additional fee they will tell you your risk for developing a variety of genetically linked illnesses and conditions.
How We Use Genetic Testing
Here at Blum Center, one of the ways we use genetic testing is to have you upload your raw genetic data into a website called Genetic Genie. They will then give you a genetic Detox Profile and Methylation Analysis — these are the genetic backbones of your ability to detoxify your inner environment, as well as create some of your brain neurotransmitters and the body’s most powerful antioxidant glutathione. These profiles can sometimes provide very useful insight into why you get sick when you are around chemicals smells or why you seem to be overly sensitive to medications. We have found these to be especially useful in people with a lot of environmental chemical and pesticide exposures (e.g., golf courses, soccer fields, horse barns, living next to I-95) who just can’t see any improvement with their chronic health condition.
Do you want to know more about your genes and changing their genetic expression? If you live in our area consider making an appointment at Blum Center with either me, Elizabeth Greig, or our Director of Nutrition, Mary Gocke. Both of us have experience making lifestyle recommendations after looking at the Genetic Genie profiles. Are you ready for a change? Call to set up your appointment today at 914-652-7800.
Meet Elizabeth: In her dual role as our Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner and a teacher in our Mind.Body.Spirit programs at Blum Center for Health, Elizabeth Greig, MSN, FNP, helps treat and heal patients with complex chronic health conditions. Whether she’s treating a medical condition or leading a class in meditation, Elizabeth helps people understand that when it comes to healing, it’s more about nourishing life, than it is about battling illness. Learn more about Elizabeth’s practice.