The field of Epigenetics is exploring the impact of our genes on our health. Researchers are studying people who have a certain gene to understand why some people express the gene while others who also have it do not.
Robyn Johnson, a registered dietitian nutritionist, says “We’re all born with a set of DNA. Our genetics will never change, it’s what we were given. However, we can change the way that those genes express themselves.” Epigenetics researchers are finding that this is true. Genes are not the exact way our health will express, because we can have impact over whether they express or not.
Genetics Are Your Tendency
Robyn says, “I always tell people, genetics is not your destiny, it’s your tendency, and you can change that based on what you choose to do with your life.”
A person could be born with genes that set them up for difficulty breaking down stress hormones. As they grow, this genetic tendency could express as depression or anxiety. But if that person changes what they eat or their lifestyle habits, they could turn their depression or anxiety up or down.
Robyn shares her personal story of healing through changing her diet. When she was 20 years old, she suffered from psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin condition where skin cells build up and form a scaly rash, which is itchy, dry, and painful. There isn’t a cure for psoriasis, but there are treatments like topical ointments, light therapy, and medication.
Over the course of two years, Robyn tried all of those options, but nothing helped. She still looked like she had chicken pox all over.
She started studying nutrition, so she decided to experiment with food. After about 3 months of experimenting, her skin cleared, and she hasn’t had a spot of psoriasis since.
How to Turn Your Genes Down
Turning your genes down is not a precise science, yet. As Robyn says, she had to experiment for three months. But there are two ways that you can begin to explore turning your genes down.
First: Experimenting with Food
If you are experiencing specific symptoms, you can begin experimenting with food and lifestyle changes. The key is to take time to tune into your body.
If you decide to start with diet changes, one way to start is with an elimination diet. An elimination diet requires you to remove all of the top allergens from your diet. This includes gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, nuts, fish, and shellfish. Most allergic reactions are caused by these ingredients, and working to avoid them can show any underlying food intolerances. It also has the added benefit of helping you eliminate packaged foods which could be contributing to the symptoms.
Generally, elimination diets recommend that you eliminate all of these ingredients for two weeks as a way to reset your body and stop any reactions that you are having. During this time, pay special attention to your body and how your symptoms are changing.
After two weeks, you can begin to add these ingredients back in one at a time. You need to add them slowly so that you can pay attention to how your body reacts. Writing down what you have eaten and how you feel, especially with your symptoms in mind, can help you track how food is affecting you over time.
If you tune into your body, you may have a gut feeling that there is a certain food that is bothering you. You might blow off this idea usually, because there’s nothing concrete, and it seems like a perfectly healthy food. Listen to your body. Don’t blow off your intuition. Listen and stop eating that food.
Second: Experimenting with Lifestyle
Most of us experience a lot of stress in our daily lives. Changes in our lifestyle revolve around lowering and managing stress.
To lower your stress, the first step is to assess your life. Are there things that you can take off your to do list? Are there people that can help you with any of those tasks? If you decide the answer is yes, make those changes happen.
The other way to lower stress is to make time for relaxation and mindfulness. Many of the mindfulness techniques we have discussed have been studied and are effective at lowering the amount of stress hormones in the body. These include meditation, prayer, mindfulness, yoga, and tai chi.
You don’t have to do an hour of yoga to get the stress-lowering benefits; five to 10 minutes is enough. Likewise, just one minute of meditation can lower your stress!
Like your food changes, track your levels of stress and pay close attention to how your symptoms change as you work to lower and manage your stress levels.
Third: Genetic Testing
You can now have a simple genetic test performed. All it requires is spitting into a tube. This genetic test will sequence your genetic code and can give you a wealth of information about what your tendencies are. Working with a trained doctor can give you guidance on how to turn your tendencies up or down. A trained doctor may use diet, lifestyle changes, and supplements to help support your genes.
Learning about your genes does not have to be scary. It can open a wealth of information that can help you put the odds in your favor to live your healthiest life. Experiment with small changes and track how your body responds. Your genes are only your tendency, not your destiny, and you can have a big impact on your health.