What Are Epigenetics And How To Optimize It Through Nutrition?
In the early 90s, researchers expected humans to have around 120,000 genes given how complex our physiology is. To their surprise, the Human Genome Project found that we have between 20,000 - 25,000 genes—the same order of magnitude as roundworms (20,470).
Our physiology is hundreds of times more complicated than that of roundworms. 25,000 genes aren’t even enough to construct our brain! Given the few genes we have, there are two other key factors that make us humans:
- The human microbiome, which serves as your back pocket of ~3.3 million genes
- Our epigenetic is your genes expression. Your genes constantly “turn on” and “turn off” in real-time in response to your environment.
What Are Epigenetics?
Epigenetics refers to anything that adjusts levels of gene function without actually changing the genetic sequence.
Many people think epigenetics is methylation, but there are numerous other processes that can dial gene functions in your cells. Many of them remain to be discovered.
Your genome is like 46 scrolls of recipes. In total, it has about 25,000 recipes for producing something in your cells, such as protein or RNA. Each recipe is a gene encoded in a language that consists of 4 letters, A, G, C, and T. So, your genetic sequence refers to the recipe sequence of these 4 letters, which is unique for each person.
Most of your genes encode instructions for producing something within your cells, such as proteins or RNA. Adjusting the level of gene readouts means your genes can produce more or less proteins or RNA as needed.
Some epigenetic phenomena are short-lived, lasting only a few seconds to a few minutes. Others could last years or a lifetime. Learning to optimize your epigenetic activation is how you truly take control of your health.
If the epigenetic changes make their way into the egg or sperm, they can be inherited.
Signals that trigger the epigenetic phenomena can be external, such as nutrient status and traumas. Or they can be internal, such as your circadian rhythm. Many natural phenomena, such as growth and aging, occur through epigenetics. Your genes load the gun. Your environment pulls the trigger.
It also partly explains the rise of incidences of insulin resistance, diabetes, cancers, fertility problems, mental and cognitive problems, autoimmune diseases, and more.
Pregnant rats fed with high-fat and high-sugar diets give birth to offspring that have higher fasting blood glucose and lipids homeostasis. In humans, obese pregnant mothers increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, and kidney issues in their children.
The epigenetics of your parents, grandparents, great-grand-parents, great-great-grandparents up to numerous generations back are part of your body today.
Some of these you can change. The rest you have to live with. The great news is that once you’re empowered with the knowledge, you can still optimize your health using the right diet, exercise, supplements, and biohacking technologies.
5 Ways to Tip The Epigenetic Odds In Your Favor
The best way to account for epigenetics is to combine genetic data with biofeedback such as lab tests and symptoms. Our Kaizen process of BiOptimization takes into account epigenetic optimization.
The following can help you reverse or counteract many of the bad ones and play up the good ones based on the latest science.
1. Optimize Your Mindset And Nervous System
Your mindset and the state of your nervous system can strongly influence your epigenetics.
According to Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD, Loving, positive, and empowering thoughts can improve your epigenetics. Whereas negative thoughts, such as the fixed belief that you cannot achieve your health goals, can program unhealthy epigenetic marks.
Traumas and mental-emotional stress program the stress epigenetics that can keep you from achieving your best health. Most people, even those without PTSD, have at least 300 micro-traumas that can affect their health.
The good news is that you can address your traumas and overcome their negative epigenetic impacts. As coaches, we are trauma-informed, and are equipped with many tools and a network of professionals to help our clients address these traumas. Refer to see Chapter X for a list of resources to help you address your traumas.
2. Find And Follow The Diet That Works For You
A high-carb low-fat diet can be optimal for one person, and fattening for another. The same is true for keto or any other diet.
Keto feels very good for Matt. It keeps him full, maximizes his cognitive function, and makes it easier for him to stay lean, while high-carb diets make him ravenous. The opposite is true for Wade—he feels awful on keto, but amazing and even-keeled on high-carb plant-based diets.
In short, a diet that doesn’t work for your body can lead to bad epigenetics.
This is why one of our promises is individualization and iterations based on your personal biofeedback.
3. Optimize Your Gut Flora
It shouldn’t be a surprise that your gut microbes influence your epigenetics. The bacteria produce metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids, vitamins, amino acids, and more.
Caption: physiologically incompatible diets can influence both the gut flora and epigenetics, leading to obesity.
For example, short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate and propionate inhibit the removal of acetyl groups from histones. They also reduce DNA methylation, thereby increasing expression, of genes that prevent cancers (tumor suppressor genes).
Through epigenetic changes and supporting mitochondrial health, short-chain fatty acids can powerfully reverse many metabolic problems from the modern lifestyle. They can also reduce diet-related inflammation and help seal the leaky gut..
High-fiber diets and synbiotic supplements promote healthy gut bacteria composition and increase short-chain fatty acid productions. This is why we formulate our probiotic supplements as synbiotics.
4. Eat epigenetic and methylation adaptogens
Many promising studies found that these compounds and nutrients can reverse the harmful epigenetic marks from pollution and endocrine disruption. hese include:
- Sulforaphane and isothiocyanates in cruciferous vegetables
- EGCG from green tea
- Resveratrol in grapes, blueberries, and red wine
- Genistein found in soy
- Other plant polyphenols
- Vitamins B complex, C, D, folate, choline, and other methyl donors
However, the effects of these compounds can be dose-dependent. These substances have a balancing effect on your entire epigenome, so their effects may not be targeted—they can create healthy epigenetic marks on one spot, and unfavorable ones on another in your genome.
Therefore, it’s generally safest to consume these compounds from foods rather than as isolated nutrients in high doses, especially in the long term… which brings us to the next point.
5. Watch For Physiological Imbalances When Introducing Supplements And Biohacks
One of the reasons overall human health is declining is that we’ve introduced interventions using the myopic “one pill for one disease” model.
This model eventually fails because biology always works like an intricate network. Everything, even seemingly natural or healthy, has a ripple effect on your physiology, microbiome, and epigenome. These effects may also persist through your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren generations.
For example, as mentioned earlier, folic acid fortification may increase the overall risk of cancers and metabolic problems in future generations.
The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) enrolled over 35,000 middle-aged men. They tested the hypothesis of whether the vitamin E and selenium, which have antioxidant properties, could prevent cancers.
For ethical reasons, the trial terminated 3 years early because men in the supplement group were developing prostate cancers at a 17% higher rate than the placebo group.
Given how large the trial was, this is a statistically significant and medically-accepted finding. It’s a prime example of why you need to be mindful of your biology when introducing supplements and biohacks. This is a good example of the consequences of increasing the dosage past the optimal levels.
Many factors that contribute to poor health today come from humans unknowingly ruining our own epigenetics.
Even if you get them from your parents, YOU ARE IN CONTROL of your genetic expression. You control the foods you eat, the exercise you do, the sleep you get, your emotional health, the amount of sun exposure you get, the supplements you take, and many more habits. These habits are constantly turning your genes on and off.
The main goal is to form habits that will turn on positive gene expression and minimize the habits that turn on bad genes.
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