By Nancy Smorch
I know I’ve posted Dr. Terry Wahls' work before, but she recently presented at the Revitalize event, which is MindBodyGreen’s first ever live-streamed summit on health, nutrition, exercise, and overall well-being, and I can't help but want to discuss it with you!
She did an excellent job of explaining the importance of the right nutrients, detoxing, exercise, and lifestyle choices on your health. I know you’ve all probably heard many times, how important all of these areas are to your health, but what was different about Dr. Wahls’ talk, for me, was how she explained how each of these areas can actually effect the expression of your DNA (by turning on and off certain genes), and also your overall phenotype (basically, the appearance and performance of the body).
To summarize, a healthy phenotype, referred to as the “wild type," is healthy, robust, and disease resistant. The environment, by turning some genes on and others off, without changing the DNA sequence, can convert a once-healthy, disease-resistant body into an inflamed, sickly, disease-prone body. How?
It does this by putting “marks” on the DNA without changing the DNA sequence. These marks are then passed on to your children and grandchildren and so on.
So, what are the environmental factors that can influence the expression of our genes, that are under our control?
Food is the first factor. The food we eat provides the vitamins, minerals, essential fats, and antioxidants that our cells use to “conduct the chemistry of life,” as Dr. Wahls puts it. If the food we eat doesn’t provide these key nutrients and building blocks, these chemical processes don’t occur as they should. Molecules don’t get made, or they are made with the wrong shape, which lays the foundation for chronic disease. When we shift from a healthy phenotype to a diseased phenotype, this increases our risk for all sorts of inflammation, chronic diseases, physical challenges, neurological problems, mental health problems, and auto-immune issues.
Environmental Toxins are another factor that influences the expression of our genes. Since World War II, there have been over 80,000 chemicals registered with the EPA because of toxic effects to our cells. Several studies have found over 200 different synthetic compounds in the blood of the umbilical chord as well as in the breast milk of new moms. These compounds include herbicides, pesticides, dioxins, plastics, solvents, and heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic. These compounds confuse the chemistry of our cells, disrupt our hormonal signaling, increase the inflammation, and speak to our DNA, shifting what genes are turned on and which are turned off, and again, transforming what was once a healthy phenotype into a disease prone phenotype.
Physical Activity is another factor influencing the expression of our genes. We all know the history behind how we used to be much more active - especially when our species were hunter gatherers. Now, many people sit around all day and night and their movement and physical activity is nowhere near the 2 -8 miles a day our ancestors used to travel. Nor is the movement we are doing today anywhere near the functional movement they used to perform. This lack of activity also speaks to our DNA and can change the expression of it.
Stress can also influence the expression of our genes. When faced with a stress, we are designed to secrete the hormones that will make us faster and stronger. Then, once the stress is gone, we are designed to dial back those hormones and return to the healing and regenerating functions of the body (digestion, regeneration, growth, etc.). Unfortunately, today, many get stuck in this stressed state (fight or flight or the sympathetic nervous system), and they are unable to shift into the parasympathetic nervous system (healing mode), which is needed to heal, digest food, reproduce and regenerate. This also creates a state where the phenotype becomes weaker and sets the stage for disease.
So, how do we get back into balance and back into a healthy “wild type” phenotype and out of a sickly, disease promoting phenotype? We need to develop a lifestyle that addresses food, toxins, physical activity, and stress levels.
Dr. Wahls explains the diet and process she used for herself to heal her progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and get back to biking 18 miles a day, and having clear focus and vital energy. Watch her video to get the specifics on what she changed in her own life as well as in the lives of many others she has worked with, in order to regain their health and vitality.
And, for an even more in-depth look at what she did and her research behind it, you can order her book.
I loved her talk and want to send it out to as many people as possible to serve as education, hope and inspiration, so please share this video with your family and friends and anyone you know that has some form of chronic disease.