Altering genes with diet

Role of food and nutrition in modifying your genetic makeup-

 By Aditi Raman Shridhar
You are not simply the sum total of the genes you were born with. You are the user and controller of your genes, the author of your biological story”, Deepak Chopra, global leader of mind-body medicine.

It is a beautiful feeling when you are grateful and content for the genes you are born with. A healthy physical body and mind are treasures that cannot be taken for granted. Ask the people who face challenges of living life with a physical defect or a mental problem. Taking your good health for granted, whether physical or emotional, is undoubtedly the biggest mistake you could be making in life. And maintaining your good health is a habit essential for a good life.

Good health first comes from genes, the basic biological units of heredity, and second from maintenance with good diet and exercise. Diet is not only related to food and drink but also the mental food you consume. However, if you feel that your genes are not that great and that there is no scope for improvement, then I have good news for you. Diet cannot change our genes but it can alter our gene expression. Let me elaborate.

The human body is an amazing piece of machinery. Especially when we think about our DNA and genes, we all know that we get them from our parents. Our genes decide whether we are better suited to become a powerlifter or an athlete and they impact how healthy we are. But most people believe that our genes are absolute and we can’t do anything to change it. This is correct. But there is another factor at play, called gene expression, which we can easily alter with diet.

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Only a portion of our genes actually do stuff at any point in time. A recent study in the Nutrition Journal posed the question: “How much can we ourselves impact the genes we have?” It said that depending on the things we do, our genes get activated or deactivated. For example, when we exercise, we can activate the genes that are necessary to develop strength, size and endurance.

Nutrition Journal posted a research of two diets and how they affected gene expression. They compared two diets in a study – one called ‘prudent’ dietary pattern and the other ‘western’. The diets were characterized by high intakes of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for the former, and high intakes of refined grains, sugars, and processed meats for the latter. When they compared the people in the two diets to each other, and they found huge differences in the gene expression in all comparisons.

The maximum alteration in gene expression was found amongst the people who took the ‘prudent’ diet. The difference in gene expression in ‘western’ diet was much smaller.

Gene expressions relate to the change in the texture of the skin, quality of hair, youthfulness of skin, body shape, fitness and also mental happiness. Gene expressions can also minimise diseases you might have been prone to earlier. The diet may not be universally helpful to all, but there is a high evidence of improvement in health with fruits, dairy, vegetables and wholesome meals providing multivitamins and minerals and proteins.

Besides diet, the level of exercise, exposure to toxic ingredients, level of stress, and environment all contribute to the change in the genetic makeup.

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A new branch of genetics called Epigenetics has become the most important biological discovery since DNA. Till now, we believed that we were stuck with the genes we are born with, however, scientific evidence proves that we can turn on and off our genes and alter the expression of our genes. ‘Epi’ in Epigenetics refers to ‘above’. While DNA is regarded as the code that body uses to build itself, genes need instructions to do something and where and when. Epigenetics provide the instructions.

Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Deepak Chopra, a global leader in mind-body medicine, have co-authored a book called Super Genes: Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health and Well-Being. The book quotes, “Only 5% of disease-related gene mutations are fully deterministic, while 95% can be influenced by diet, behaviour, and other environmental conditions. You are not simply the sum total of the genes you were born with. You are the user and controller of your genes, the author of your biological story. No prospect in self-care is more exciting.”

This is validation enough that we are not at the mercy of the genes we are born with. You actually have a great deal of control over your health and your future no matter what genetic hand you have been dealt. The field of epigenetics is in its infancy and there is still much to learn, but so far the evidence shows that there are many fundamental lifestyle factors that can alter gene expression.

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Genes and meditation

Meditation is a powerful tool for manifestation. There is so much evidence that mental visualisations coupled with a feeling of blessing and contentment can help you achieve your pure desires. And altering gene expression is a huge manifestation.

Meditation involves concentrating on energy source and purifying your energy field. It encompasses visualising your desire and sending happy energy to it. Whether it is to fight cancer or other life threatening diseases or even improving your physical and mental health, meditation has shown incredible results

Genes and cosmetics

Cosmetics are not all fake and expensive without a value for money. A good diet of food and supplements of vitamins and minerals along with cosmetics and creams change the gene expression as well.

Plenty of home remedies whether it be honey and ginger for curing sore throat or eating curd daily promotes a very healthy body n longevity over the years. Hair oil concoctions made at home are also proven to help regrow your hair and make it beautiful and healthy.

Believe in your self and that you are the creator of your life and you will be able to manifest anything. Even change the genes we all think we are stuck with. Try something simple and see.

Aditi Raman Shridhar is an Indian journalist, therapist and health instructor.

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