“It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny.”
As children, many of us learn that we “get” certain attributes from the adults in our lives. People say that we have our father’s knees, grandpa’s eyes, and uncle’s overbite. Even personality traits and talents are attributed to others. We are told, “you’re creative like your aunt” or, “you have your mother’s voice.”
Pointing out similarities between family members is common, but it’s not always steeped in fact. Today’s guest post from Dr. Tom Sult examines how two other factors influence the way genes express themselves. When a close family member faces health issues, it might feel like you will meet the same fate one day. Yet, there are modifications you can make to your daily life to change your destiny.
Dr. Tom Sult is board-certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He practices functional medicine and strives to find the fundamental cause of health issues. Dr. Sult is also an inspirational speaker and the author of Just Be Well: A Book For Seekers of Vibrant Health. For more information about Tom and the Just Be Well Movement, click here.
And now, I’ll let Dr. Sult take over…
Your Genes Are Not Your Destiny
When you look at your family’s health history, what do you see? For most of us, when we look at the diseases that our grandparents, parents, and other family members have or had, we come up with a pattern.
Maybe it’s high blood pressure or heart disease or breast cancer. When several relatives are diagnosed with a specific illness, we may feel we’re more at risk of developing it. After all, if so many members of the family have it, it must be in our genes too.
As you may recall from 9th grade science, genes are found in chromosomes, inside cells in the body. Each cell contains 25,000 to 35,000 genes, and each gene has a particular job, and it passes on traits from each parent. Genes determine characteristics like eye color and skin color and yes, a proclivity to some types of illnesses.
Your Genes Are the Starting Point
Yet, as important as they are in determining what you and your health may look like, genes are not the end all and be all of your future. They are merely the starting point. Although genes may provide you with a disposition toward a certain risk, your environment plays an equal, if not more important role.
Genes are affected by our environment—the foods we eat, whether the air around and in our lungs is filled with smoke, whether we exercise or get enough sleep. By altering the environment, we can actually change the behavior of some genes.
In his article, “Health in Your Hands: Changing Your Genetic Cards,” functional medicine doctor, Frank Lipman, says research has determined that lifestyle and diet can determine 98% of how genes behave, even if the genes are predisposed to act in a certain way.
Your Choices Can Flip the Switch
Better lifestyle choices result in the genes flipping on health-sustaining switches, Lipman says, and turning off ones that increase disease. For example, smoking inhibits the ability of anti-cancer genes to fight cancer growth, while a healthy diet turns on genes that help fight disease.
In the Huffington Post’s “Do Not Fear Your Genes: Information is Power,” Dr. Jeffrey Bland suggests that knowing genetic tendencies for illness should empower people to be proactive in making the lifestyle changes that will help them be healthier. When it comes to genetics, few diseases are caused by one alteration, but instead by a barrage of lifestyle and environmental factors including diet, activity, smoking, alcohol, drug use, stress patterns, and radiation.
Bland says that knowing these factors affect genes gives us the chance to make better choices.
And that’s good news, because as individuals, we may not be able to swap out “bad” genes, but we can certainly change environmental factors to help our genes “behave” better.
To see this article as it appears on the Just Be Well movement website, click here.
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