Today I want to talk about your genes…no, not your Levi’s but the genetic material that affects your health. Don’t worry, I won’t dive too deep into this topic and put you to sleep! Let’s take what can become a very complicated topic and try to make it simple and useful. The reason I want to cover this subject is because it has a lot to do with your health and you need the cooperation of your genes if you ever hope to become or remain healthy.
Genes…What Are They???
Let’s break this down from larger to smaller pieces. In side your cells there is a nucleus and inside the nucleus is where your genetic material is located.
This genetic material looks like a twisted ladder. This twisted ladder is made up of chromosomes which are made up of genes which are made up of DNA. Your DNA does several things but the part we want to focus on is what it is responsible for producing…proteins. See the flow indicated below:
Cell > Nucleus > Chromosomes > Genes > DNA = Proteins
Your genes direct the production of proteins and these proteins are the building blocks of your body and the chemicals that permit you body to function properly. That wasn’t too complex, was it? The main thing you need to understand is that your genes will determine what proteins your body will make and the quality of these proteins has a significant impact on what you body looks like and how it functions.
Where Did They Come From?
Remember, when you think about genes, think protein production. Where did your “protein blueprints” come from? Your parents! Remember that twisted ladder? It is composed of chromosomes and you have 23 pairs of chromosomes. One chromosome from each of your 23 pairs came from each of your parents…you received a total of 46 chromosomes…23 from mom and 23 from dad. 22 of these pairs look the same in both men and women; the 23rd pair, the sex chromosomes, differ between men and women. All living organisms contain chromosomes; rice plants have 12 and your dog has 39…yes your dog has more chromosomes than you do!
Can I Change My Genes?
The quick answer is “No” but don’t despair, in most cases, you can change the way your genes work! Your genes are a blueprint for the proteins that regulate health and disease. You received these blueprints form your parents, but you can change the way these blueprints “express themselves.” Let’s say heart disease or autoimmune disease “runs in your family” …diseases that run in the family, do so because your genes are producing proteins that make that disease more likely to occur. We all have unwanted diseases that run in the family. In most cases however, just because you have the genes for a disease, it does not mean you will get that disease. Why you ask? Because your genes are only part of the story. We now know that what we expose our genes to will have a tremendous impact on how they “behave.”
What sorts of things will influence how your genes behave? Pretty much anything you expose you body to. Your diet, nutrient levels, stress, sleep, exercise, toxin exposure, etc. They all play a part in how your genes will function. This is where integrative medicine can really make a huge difference in your level of health and wellness. Functional medicine looks at the major factors that are going to influence how your genes work, which determine what kind of proteins they make and this has everything to do with your health or lack of it.
Let’s take autoimmune disease for example. If you have a family member that has Hashimoto’s disease, then you may be more likely to develop this disease than other people who don’t have it in their family. Do you want to play the wait and see game…cross your fingers and hope for the best? Or should you try to prevent that disease from taking hold of your body?
If you have a chronic illness, you can change what you are subjecting your genes to. You can change the factors listed above and help your genes tell a different story. Your health or lack of it is really a story that your genes are telling. You have the genes you were born with, you can’t change that. You can however change the language they speak and that is accomplished by changes in lifestyle…the things you choose to do or not do. That sounds a lot like a definition for personal responsibility, doesn’t it…the choices you make. The choices you make do have a significant impact not only on your health, but your quality of life as a whole.
No drug can do what lifestyle changes can do for your genes. In fact, medications are destructive to gene expression. Every side effect that a drug has the potential to create is just a new disease process. Side effects are potential diseases you are subjecting yourself to because of the medication. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not against the use of all medications. I am however against the use of medication that is not absolutely necessary. I believe that medications should be used AFTER health restoring efforts have been applied and failed. We have this all backwards today…health promoting actions should come first, not the drugs. Functional medicine addresses factors that lead to healthy gene expression. We are addressing the most fundamental factors in creating health and reversing disease.
I wish you success on your quest for better health!
If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton go to www.napervilleintegratedwellness.com
Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.
This approach to healthcare is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Why? The FDA enforces its position that these words can only be used with drugs. This approach does not use drugs.