What you eat dictates your genes and your health

 

 

Ben Goffen, Dr Chiropractic

Choose: Less pain or more pain? It could be as much about what we eat as what we do.. 

We've all heard that diet affects our health. Good or bad, the true extent of how diet affects gene expression, resulting in disease or health is only just coming to light.

If you were to know that the way you eat (as well as the stresses you experience)  affects not just how you feel but actually affects your DNA and the way the your very genes express themselves then would you choose to eat the foods that help your body to express health? Most people would, but most people don't know what you are about to learn through reading on. 

Your Genes, why are they even important? 

In 2003 over 93% of the entire human genome was decoded, giving the human race an almost complete map of human DNA - the control centre for normal development and health in the human body. Since then science has gained a greater understanding of how the genes which make up our DNA control our health. 

Your genes control everything in your body. From the colour of your eyes, to your energy levels, to your pain levels to the development of your brain and are (most importanlty) absolutely central to whether you are healthy or not. 

Many diseases, for example Cancer, Heart Disease and Diabetes occur when genes go wrong. Health then is dependent upon your body using healthy genes and keeping the genes that can cause ill-health under control. 

Here's the critical thing to understand: 

Whether your body expresses health or disease is in many ways down to what you do, how you think and what you eat. You're in charge, the research says so.

 

Your choices really can change molecules (the building blocks of life)!

We all know for example that smoking causes lung disease, but how does it do this? 

Well, the carcinogenic chemicals in cigarette smoke affect the molecules of our body, switching off anti-cancer genes and enabling the growth of cancer cells by mutating our anti-cancer genes! 

 So, don't smoke. 

But here's the good news, eating well, exercising and avoiding prolonged physical and emotional stress leads to positive gene expression, for example endurance exercise has been shown to alter our genes to enable our muscles to use insulin more effectively (so your body can control blood sugar), become more resistant to inflammation and also of course become stronger. This is the major way that exercise helps prevent diabetes. It's all about your genes and what your lifestyle is telling them to do.

Eating for less pain, better genes, more healing and better health.

Some foods really do seem to effect the way that our genes control inflammation within our bodies, in particular: 

 - Eating refined Carbohydrates (bread, pasta, white rice, sugary food etc) - leads to genes coding for more inflammation. 

- Eating too much omega 6 oil rich food (Sunflower oil, fried food, Crisps, Chips, Chicken (non-organic), grain / silage fed beef etc.

- Eating too few Omega 3 rich foods (Wild salmon, trout, omega 3 supplements, Walnuts, game meats, organic chicken, grassfed beef)

Eating as we often do in the western diet is now understood to lead to gene expression leading to increased inflammatory proteins (e.g. COX-2 - the inflammatory enzyme that Ibuprofen targets to stop inflammation). So here are our top 5 changes to make for healthy genes and therefore a healthy body.

 Our top 5 gene supporting, anti-inflammatory foods to help you heal well and stay healthy (for ever).

1. Curcumin

Curcumin is the active compound found in turmeric. If you haven't about it already then you've been missing out. This power compound is one that we've been recommending for the last couple of years to our patients in the clinic and their feedback has been that it seems to help with joint swelling and pain, leading to easier movement.  

Curcumin has been shown to have powerful anti-inflmmatory effects on your body (and remember  inflammation = pain, but also long standing inflammation is involved in many disease processes).  Curcumin has been shown to regulate the effects of powerful inflammation producing compounds in your body called "Inflammatory Cytokines". Given that cytokines are known to be responsible for increased inflammation, neuropathic pain and increased levels of pain amongst other things, you'd better think about taking Curcuin supplementation to help keep your inflammation levels down!

Research has shown that based on it's ability to affect multiple targets, Curcumin has the potential for the prevention and treatment of various diseases including Cancer, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and allergies. 

 

2. Omega 3

In a world where our diets tend to be 15:1 to 16:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids and our brain cells are made of Omega 3 rather than Omega 6 you could be forgiven for thinking that the average diet is far too high in Omega 6 rich foods and far too low in brain boosting Omega 3 rich foods. 

So you may also be interested to know that while Omega 3 fatty acids are very often too low in our western diet of grains and grain fed meats, recent reseach seems to show that a both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids may have the effect of reducing inflammation. 

So, for now our advice is to make sure that  (where you can) try to eat grass fed beef rather than grain fed, try to eat organic poultry and try to eat oily fish 2-3 times per week. These measures will help to ensure that your diet is higher in mono-unsturated fats (the same as is found in olive oil) and higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, while still containing some Omega 6 fatty acids for balance. 

Of course if you find oily fish too difficult to add to your diet, then there is always the option of supplementing with a good Omega 3 supplement. Make sure that if you choose this route your supplement is filtered for toxins that unfortunately are more present in the deep waters of our oceans (like Mercury, a toxic heavy metal). 

 

3 Vitamin K Rich Foods

While most people have heard of Vitamins C, D, E and very few people even know that Vitamin K exists! However, research shows that as well as having critical roles in healthy blood clotting, Vitamin K has important roles in reducing levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine called "Interleukin-6", this is produced by (you guessed it!) gene activity. 

Evidence suggests that Vitamin K provides a protecting role in chronic aging and conditions and diseases for example inflammation, cardiovascular diseases and osteoarthtritis. 

As we age, our inflammation levels increase and this is beleived to contribute to age related diseases. So  the message is clear. Make sure your diet has sufficient vitamin K in it! Foods such as Kale, Broccoli, spinach, chard, fish and eggs all contain vitamin K, so make sure they are on your plate if you'd like to live long, healthily and with less pain.

 

4. Mono-unsaturated fats (Olive Oil) 

Not a new one, but a good one! Olive oil rich diets seem to result in less heart disease, lower rates of diabetes largely due to it's ability to lower inflammation levels. 

Remember that pain is a present when inflammation is present. 

The mono-unsaturated fat in Olive oil has been shown to: 

  • Reduce Prostaglandins (pro-inflammatory molecules) 
  • Suppress inflammatory cytokines. 

So if you like a long, healthy life and would like to bring down your inflammation the natural way, then include plenty of olive oil, avocado and nuts (especially walnuts) in your diet. 

 

5. Berries! 

Rich in "Anthocyanins", berries have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. They have also been shown to boost immunity.  The prevention of chronic inflammatory diseases and chronic pain linked to inflammation is linked to reducing inflammation levels in our bodies. Berries have  a very rich source of this powerful compound and what's more, they taste good!

Research has suggested that supplementation with an anthocyanin supplement or eating plenty of blueberries, grapes, cherries etc daily may well have an important role in the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases including chronic pain, but also including ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases, artherosclerosis and heart disaese, diabetes and many more. 

 

Conclusions

Your genes dictate your health. Or more specifically they dictate whether you are healthy or unhealthy. They contain instructions for the manufacture of every compound in your body that either keeps you well or unwell. Your gene's instructions are not set in stone, they change depending upon the foods you eat, the exercise you take and the stresses you experience. 

Putting gene protective, healthy foods into your body has such wide ranging benefits to your health that it is a major area of research world-wide. But what is clear already is that higher  inflammation and oxidative stress are two majoy players in chronic pain, many age related illnesses, aging itself and ALL chronic health conditions that we know of.

So, as well as helping you heal and recover from long-stading pain, consuming our top 5 foods  will help you stay healthier for longer, reduce your inflammatory levels and help you heal faster. 

Go and buy your healthy 5 today!

 

 


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