How to Eat for Healthy Gene Expression
How the expression of our genes and the makeup of our micro biome are both fundamentally connected to the foods we choose to eat.
What we put into our bodies every day has a huge effect on many aspects of our health. With research telling us often contradictory things about the best way to eat for good health, it can be tricky to figure out how to fuel our bodies.
Dr Kenneth Pelletier, author of Change Your Genes, Change Your Life, shows how the expression of our genes and the makeup of our micro biome are both fundamentally connected to the foods we choose to eat. According to recent research, our micro biome governs specific gene expressions based on the population of different types of bacteria. To put it succinctly, we really are what we eat.
Since there has been so much interest in how different types of diets affect various aspects of our health, Pelletier encourages readers to pay close attention both to new research, but more specifically to how different ways of eating affects their own state of well-being. It really is about taking responsibility for your unique state of health, and making choices that will positively support it.
Over the years, diet trends have gone from low carb to low fat, from high protein intake to gluten free. Pelletier shows that the Mediterranean diet has consistently, and enduringly shown to benefit “aging, cardiovascular risk factors, mood, cognition, and longevity.” Based on one study, the standard Mediterranean diet resulted in longer telomeres, (the tips of chromosomes that are a marker for aging.)
In addition to the usual suggestions of eliminating junk foods and refined sugars, Pelletier offers guidance on reducing inflammatory foods as part of healthy diet. While choosing to avoid “factory-farmed meats, dairy and grains” is important, he advises including on a daily basis: nuts and seeds, berries, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, ginger, flaxseed oil, omega-3 fish oils, and monounsaturated fats. Included in the “eat every day” category are high fiber foods such as vegetables, beans, and certain fruits.
We each have our own genetically unique micro biome. “Among other tasks,” writes Pelletier, “these trillions of microbes in our gut determine how we digest and utilize everything we eat.” In addition, there is growing evidence that shows the makeup of our micro biome has a correlation with many common diseases such as depression, anxiety, heart disease and asthma.
Our immune and inflammatory pathways are also affected by our micro biome. When we eat too many refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, we change our micro biome so that it “leaks” substances known to cause inflammation into our bloodstream, where they travels throughout the body, causing systemic inflammation.
While it’s still not possible to know exactly how to eat for your best health, Pelletier contends, “our next step is to use what we know about epigenetics and the micro biome to remove most of the speculation about what diet and supplements are best for you as an individual. The challenge won’t be a matter of finding ‘the’ right diet for everyone, but rather one of discovering, through well-designed tests, the right combination of choices that are healthy for each person according to their specific epigenome.” While we are not there yet, Pelletier suggests the Mediterranean diet as a best bet for getting close.