Why are some people calm and other on the edge all the time? Why do some people seem to eat whatever they want and never ever gain a kilo? Is there maybe a bigger force dictating who we are and to an extend our destiny? In today's post I want us to take a first look into the magical world of genes and how they really affect our daily lives.
Genes and epigenetics
We have about twenty-five thousand genes in our body. Genes are made-up of DNA and can be thought of a little instruction books of how proteins are created in our body which eventually alter the way we look, feel and behave.
However every gene can be expressed differently as there are variations of it. For example there are variations known as SNP and so far around 10 million of such variations have been identified. And some of them can play a huge role in our health.
What is even more important is that there are so many factors that can influence how our geners are expressed. Diet, sleep, stress, exposure to toxins all affect how genes behave and in the process they turn on or off!
Welcome to magic world of epigenetics, where all health is created.
How are genes expressed
If someone has a variation of a gene, certain behaviours will be expressed differently. Which is what makes us all unique. Maybe you are they type of person that is super focused and when you get going, nothing can stop you, or maybe you are calm and relaxed. All these behaviours are different expressions/variations of your genes. Other genes might also have an affect on your health or increase the risk to certain deceases.
For example the MTHFR gene which we will discuss further down is implicated in many major health issues, such as anxiety, heart attacks, depression, Alzheimer's and cancer.
At this point of the arcticle, you may be thinking that you maybe want to run one of the genetic tests that are so popular these days. And you will probobly find that a number of your genes may have some variations (SNPs) which may make you more prone to certain deceases (and/or behaviours). This to certain extend is true but what I didnt tell you so far is that these little gene instruction books are re-written every second based on everything little thing you do. These instructions can be written in a way you like or a way you dont like, but they are always being revised.
The goal of all health protocols, diets, and lifestyles is that our genes write instructions like "Keep this person calm and full of energy during the day and relaxed at night". The ways genes are expressed is under our control and influenced by our actions. So best aim for a lifestyle that maximizes the positives of your genes and minimizes the drawbacks.
MTHFR and methylation
Certain genes play a more crucial role, both in behaviour and health than others. MTHFR is one of them. MTHFR is a gene that initiates your ability to methylate, a key process that affects your stress response, inflammation, energy, detoxification, antioxidant production, cell repair and around 200 more critical body functions.
If we treat our MTHFR gene well, we will have alertness, productivity, focus and decreased risk of cancer. On the other hand we might feel depression, anxiety, migraines and if we dont take care of ourselves, we increase our risk for a stroke or autoimmune deceases.
Methylation determines whether a particular gene will be turned off or on. Every single gene and every cell is regulated by methylation. When this process does not work, there can be chaos.
Let me demonstrate this through a simple example. There were two identical-twin-mice one of which was overweight and vulnerable and the other was lean and energetic. They both ate the same things and had the same activities. What was different? Methylation... The unhealthy mice had his MTHFR gene turned off. The power of epigenetics!
Methylation occurs contstantly in every cell in our body and it turns off many of the genes that can lead to many chronic conditions, such as obesity for poor mice in our example. If methylation works properly you produce carnitine which enables your body to burn fat for fuel. This will stabilize your blood sugar and burn fat instead of storing it.
What is your MTHFR genetic profile
As we discussed, genes express behaviours and many times there can be a direct relation of behaviours to a gene or a variation of it. An MTFHR behaviour profile might look like this
Some days I have the blues and I am depressed, while other days I am anxious. On my good days, I am super focused and get many things done. On bad days, I have anxiety and a very short-temper and am grumpy. On days I have a salad, I tend to feel great, but I never really paid attention to that.
Is that maybe you? Not to worry. Every person is different and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. But we need to support our bodies to be the best version of ourselves.
Lifestyle to the rescue
When you don't eat the food that your body needs, your MTHFR gene instructions will affect the methylation cycle. Poor sleep will also affect methylation as well as so many other things. Just take a note of the below
- You need the full profile of B vitamins on a daily basis.
- You need Folate which is the natural and active form of B9 which reduces folic acid which is the artificial form mostly found in packaged foods and a lot of wheat products. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, beet greens etc.
- When you dont sleep properly you don't methylate which blocks melatonin.
- When you are stressed you use up methyl much faster. If this situation is a daily situation you will empty your reserves which lead to disasterous effects.
- Chemical exposure can be a huge burden to your methylation process. Avoid alcohol, heavy metals and over-use of medicines.
Addressing the above will give your genes what they need on a daily basis to come with their best behaviour when it comes MTHFR. This can result to being happier, lively and less distant! The best expression of your MTHFR.
Based on Dr. Lynch's work you can find a short quesonnaire to relate your profile and symptons to some of the key genes that may be not functioning so well.
- Genes and variations define an extend who we are and how we behave.
- If we don't give our best attention to our lifestyle genes expressions, it can cause severe health problems and sub-optimal behaviours.
- Nutrition, sleep, stress, fitness and connecting with environment, all play a critical role in gene expression! Take care of every aspect of yourself to control your destiny!
- Dirty Genes, Dr. Ben Lynch (Highly suggested)