There’s a thousand and one opinions out there about the best way to eat and live for health. I like to think of that as a testament to our individual variance. Indeed, one person’s food can be another’s poison. How we each learn what is best for us, though, is usually an arduous process, rarely completed and usually frustrating and confusing—a grab-bag/guinea pig experience.
A valuable key to unlocking the treasury of what’s best for each of us can be found within the knowledge of our ancestral and genetic nature—the aspect of our biology that determines genetic expression. The degree to which we can appreciate this we can diminish the ambiguity of how best to care for ourselves—learn the optimal foods and stress coping choices and how best to exercise our body.
Our biological nature is the summary of thousands and thousands of years living on planet Earth. Each of us belong to a rich ancestry that patterned our genomic nature . . . and continues to do so. We each live downstream from a long watershed of environmental variance—foods, places, weather, disease, struggles, triumphs—all encoded into our current body and life. That tapestry of history is banked in our chromosomes, on genes. The mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003. Research on the links between genes, our biological function and the environment we live within has flourished. Here’s two of the many major enlightenments born from such research:
- At least 70% of our genes adapt to the choices we make everyday, for better or worse. We are not stuck with a destiny determined solely by our genetic blueprint.
- Foods require enzymes in order to be appropriately unzipped and nutrients assimilated. Those enzymes are provided by the proteins generated by our individual genome, which varies from person to person. The best foods are the ones for which we possess the required enzymes.
We can now, with significant confidence, connect which foods correspond with the protein/enzyme products expressed by our personal genome. The angst and time spent learning what foods are complimentary to us individually can be greatly reduced, including expense.
We call this science of how our genes respond and adapt to our way of living Epigenetics. Unless equipped with enough wisdom and self knowledge, it can be a gamble what genetic expressions will prevail. The outcomes can be negative or positive. Epigenetics is powerful knowledge for people interested in their health because it dissolves the long established belief that we are inextricably tied to our genetic nature. It enables us to talk back to our genes and, in particular, use food as medicine, as Hippocrates once prescribed.
Think of epigenetics as the software you insert into your computer. The computer is designed to respond to input (software). Or, think of it like this: a paragraph of sentences where all the letters are arranged in a certain order. That’s your genome, your genes. These remain in a certain and constant order. However, if you change the punctuation of the words, it will fundamentally change the understanding and expression of what is written, again—for better or worse. Epigenetics is the study of how we ‘punctuate’ our daily lives—the collective of conditions and agents that give the genome ‘marching orders’, i.e. inform the genes how and what to express. The genome does the work. Epigenetics tells it what to do. The myth here is that genes are a blueprint for the destiny of your life, that there’s nothing you can do to redirect genetic expression.
Consider our personal genome and epigenetics as a reflection of the principal of reciprocity. Our deepest nature is governed by an equation of give and take—an exchange that has a significant contribution to our destiny. We talk with each other, we love and hate, we create relationship and community, we breath in and breath out, we exchange O2, C02 and H20 with the planet. There is nothing we do alone.
The growing knowledge around epigenetics, cellular signaling, oxidative stress, etc. tells us that understanding the individual, not merely the symptoms, is the key to health and prevention. That would mean shifting from reductionist thinking (as the standard model of health care) to what’s known as complexity science, where individual variance is not considered abnormal or pathological. It means taking into account that each of us are not the same—that there is a natural variance to our biology and function. Instead of ‘medicine for the masses’, we would practice and provide medicine for the individual. Fortunately, there is health care founded upon that rock of expertise and wisdom, one that embraces and teaches us about the precious significance of our individual nature.
Each patient I see wants to be free of suffering. A pathway to their health and freedom is a personal map constructed from an exquisite inventory of their history, life experience, biological function and genotypical nature. Once endowed with the tools and personal knowledge of their intrinsic and personal nature, they become the captain of their journey through the landscape of their life . . . and are more likely to reach a distant shore in a higher state of health than when they were born.
When we synchronize the science of our individual biology with our lifestyle and the forces of nature, health and prevention prevail.
A fundamental starting place is to learn 2 of the most knowable genes found on chromosome #9, your blood group and type. That knowledge alone can help clarify certain gut dynamics unique to one’s individual nature. Which proteins, fruits, vegetables, beans, fats are best for me? For you? The more we learn about an individual's genetic nature and variance, the more personal and precise the map becomes.
The research is vast and the science is deep for what meaning this individual genetic variance has upon health. Of course, it’s critical to reckoning an accurate blood transfusion, but it’s importance far surpasses that single use since these genes are everywhere within us, not just in the blood.
The intricacy and complexity of the interplay between our genes and our living conditions is profoundly informative, empowering us to play a more determinate role in the choices we make and thereby opening the door to the reversal of disease, prevention and good health.