Your genes have a big effect on your present and future health through ‘gene expression’. This refers to the protein messages (RNA) that the instructions within your genes create.
Genetic changes can affect which protein message is created. ‘Epigenetic’ changes are what our lifestyles, environment and diet determine and are reversible, these markers can switch genes ‘On’ or ‘Off’.
Diet and lifestyle behaviour can create epigenetic marks on DNA and change behaviour of a cell. Switching ‘On’ certain cells can create diseases like cancer and raise inflammation causing chronic health conditions and affect brain function, switching ‘Off’ can prevent or even cure disease. There are now many studies looking at how epigenetics can be used as a therapy to heal and prevent health issues.
Nutritional Therapists have understood how nutrition at cell level, can have a profound effect on health, even before the science of epigenetics was understood and 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, aging and reduce immune resilience. Nutrients in the form of supplements can be very helpful but 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. 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, 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.
My recipes and all food suggestions aim to increase your intake of Methylation supportive foods. Any food company I work with will be heavily influenced to use foods that contain as much health supporting methylators as possible. POW foods really take note of this and the ingredients list is impressive.
Originally written for POW Foods by Sam Bourne
A fantastic healthy food delievery service that I advise on their nutrition, recipes and snacks
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