You Are What You Eat: Lifestyle Alters Your Genes!

When many people gain weight or develop health conditions, they often believe they inherited the problem from their parents. I bet you've heard, "My relatives have it too." Although there are some fixed genetic traits, such as eye or hair color, and some genetic aberrations, up to 80% of our genes are influenced by our environment, including our lifestyle choices.

Many experts now agree that chronic conditions and diseases are strongly driven by lifestyle habits (eating, activity levels, stress, etc.). For example, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood sugar/diabetes, overweight, arthritis, chronic inflammation, and cancer are significantly driven by our choices. A lack of healthy nutrition, too little activity, and heavy stress disrupt our metabolic systems. Over time, the damage can become more pronounced as our genes and health decline. Put simply, every bite you take matters!

Disease Model Counter Productive?

Many people follow the disease-based model of our medical system (rather than an optimal-health/lifestyle one). So when people develop symptoms or have negative test results, they enter a system that provides a "disease" diagnosis along with drugs or other treatments. Many of those treatments mask symptoms but don't fix or heal the underlying cause. So when people take their pills or get a stent implanted without improving their lifestyle, they are unlikely to heal. The system is both costly and counter productive, because underlying health is not improved by treating symptoms, and health will get worse again.

When I've had health issues, the first place I look is my lifestyle! And in every case, an adjustment to improve my nutrition, supplements, better activity or sleep have all resolved the problem. Even more serious injuries from a car accident all healed, without using drugs or surgeries (they were strongly recommended). It's becoming more widely known that a healthy lifestyle can turn off disease genes and turn on healthy ones!

The Lifestyle-Gene Connection

There is a growing body of evidence to support a direct lifestyle-gene connection (called epigenetics). It refers to the way the environment (and lifestyle) affects your gene function. What you eat and how you live can activate or suppress many genes, and your lifestyle can make you healthy or sick, depending on the daily choices you make!

Some research shows a direct link between a less-active lifestyle and turning off genes needed for healthy blood fats and glucose. That increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic inflammation, etc. And these problems can turn up in a matter of days of inactivity!

It's also known that a healthy diet with good quantities of veggies, fruits, fish, nuts, healthy oils, and appropriate activity are helpful for preventing those same diseases and conditions. One study showed that a healthy lifestyle affected hundreds of genes in men with cancer!

In addition, studies have shown that cancer development is strongly influenced by lifestyle, especially excess fat and sugar intake, weight gain, lack of good nutrition and inactivity. Some experts estimate that 55% to 65% of cancer deaths are linked to poor lifestyle (smoking, overweight, unhealthy diet, etc.). Other estimates indicate that only about 5-10% of cancer is due to genetics. In fact, experts will tell you that we get cell mutations all the time. It's our health and immune system that either keeps them in check or is compromised by an unhealthy lifestyle, allowing the cancer to spread and grow. Most experts agree, cancer is largely preventable!

A more healthy lifestyle is more critical with age, because our hormonal systems tend to be less efficient. We also tend to lose muscle tone and mass. What we ate in our 20s or 30s (often not healthy), is no longer workable into the 40s, 50s or beyond.

Yet, if people made more healthy choices over time, they could head off most conditions/diseases. And remaining active (20-30 minutes most days, even in 2 smaller parts) also brings big rewards. Let your weight be your guide. If you gain weight and fat over time, your lifestyle is out of balance. A more stable, healthy weight and body fat indicates a better balance of lifestyle habits.

Genes Are Not Stone

To say it another way, many genes are more like a word processing document than the case around your computer. Many genes are pliable; they change and adapt to conditions they are exposed to. Like changing the fonts in your document, genes can be modified or changed based on how you live, for better or worse. This should be a breakthrough discovery for most people!

Have you known people who were overweight and had other health issues, such as diabetes? If they lost weight, did their diabetes and triglyceride problems fade away? It happens! How about someone who loses 10 or 20 pounds and their high blood pressure and energy return to normal? It happens! These are a few examples of how changing your lifestyle can help to resolve health conditions we associate with "disease."

So for everyone who is living with chronic health conditions (or has a family history of them), I hope this article give you hope and insight. You are what you eat! I urge you to get a consultation with a qualified health/nutrition/fitness coach. You can discuss your specific conditions and map out a lifestyle makeover, making small changes and substitutions over time.

Why not get your genes working for you, supporting optimum health and vitality? The research says you can, and have a life largely free of health problems and disease. It's literally a life and death choice... a choice you can make today!

I am certified nutrition/health/fitness coach. My approach is to make health and activity easy and fun for those interested in improving their current health and overcoming conditions/disease issues.

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