“THIS EXCITING NEW FIELD OF EPIGENETICS – MEANING LITERALLY “AROUND” THE GENE,ALLOWS US TO SEE HOW ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS ALTER OUR GENE EXPRESSION IN A SPECIFIC PLACE WITHIN EACH CELL. AS A RESULT , WE NOW KNOW THAT WHEN WE TAKE ACTIVE CONTROL OF THESE FACTORS, WE CAN LITERALLY HELP CONTROL OUR HEALTH AND GENETIC DESTINY.”
By Sam Bourne DipNT mBANT CNHC NTC Registered Nutritional Therapist
Our genes have a huge impact on both our present and future health through ‘gene expression’, which refers to the protein messages (RNA) that your genes create.
What we now know is that genetic changes can affect which protein message is created.
‘Epigenetic’ changes can essentially switch genes “on” or “off” – and these changes are determined by our our lifestyles, environment and diets.
Diet and lifestyle behaviour can create epigenetic marks on DNA that change the behaviour of a cell.
So, switching ‘on’ certain cells can encourage diseases like cancer and cause inflammation that triggers chronic health conditions, while switching ‘off’ certain cells can prevent or even cure disease!
There are now many studies looking at how Epigenetics can be used as a therapy to help prevent and even heal health issues across different age groups.
Nutritional therapists have understood how nutrition at cell level can have a profound effect on health, even before the science of Epigenetics was so well understood. We have studied how deficiencies and toxins in the diet can allow disease genes to be triggered – or ‘switched on’. DNA Methylation (switching ‘off’) is one of the main epigenetic systems that supports health, ‘DNA De-Methylation’ (Switching ‘on’) can create disease, ageing and reduce immune resilience.
The good news is that nutrients in the form of supplements can be very helpful, and changing our diet and lifestyles to specifically support the methylation pathway is by far the best way to improve vital methylation – and therefore change our Epigenetics, and what I like to think of as our ‘health potential’.
Our Epigenetics change as we age and are profoundly influenced by our diet and lifestyle habits. The internal and external toxins we encounter, like smoking and alcohol, pollution, poor dietary fats, sugar and junk foods can all affect change. Additionally, nutrient deficiencies can be a big cause of epigenetic changes as the body lacks the tools to “switch off’ dangerous gene expression. This is when certain nutrients that are needed for the Methylation are missing or inadequate.
Methylation is a dynamic process and is constantly changing, if we eat the right foods and live a healthier life this process will become stronger and will affect our Epigenetics to allow us to be healthier, happier and live a better life for longer.
Think of Methylation as creating ‘Optimal gene expression’ and the foods you eat as the body’s tools for Methylation.
The nutrients that support Methylation
- Choline, Betaine, Methionine, Folate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B1
- Dark leafy greens: Kale, Carvolo Nero, spinach, bok choi, spring greens, watercress, chard, sorrel, radish greens, turnip greens
- Cruciferous veg: Broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower
- Pulses: Lentils, pinto beans, peas
- Other veg: Beetroot, Potatoes, okra, shiitake mushrooms
- Other foods: Pumpkin seeds, berries, green tea, Turmeric and Rosemary are influencers on healthy epigenetic changes
- Animal products: Egg yolk, Organic Chicken, organic lean meats are vital sources of B12, B6 and choline, without which Methylation and detoxification is impaired leading to health issues. Therefore, being vegan or even vegetarian, particular attention must be given to the diet or supplements may be needed.
Having healthy epigenetics is a little like saying you have healthy genes, the difference is we have much more control over our epigenetics, but having the dietary knowledge is key.
Once you understand how it all works then you can make better food choices.
Working with POW, we aim to include as many Super Methylation foods as possible in the carefully curated dishes and menus. Choosing a POW dish, soup, snack or salad means that you can trust that you are consuming the foods that help to make your epigenetics healthy.
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