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|In geeky words, methylation is the process of adding a ‘methyl group’ (carbon molecules) to another substance inside the body, which in turn changes that substance. It is involved in almost every reaction in our body and occurs billions of times every second. If methylation is inadequate ‘ageing’ happens – and with ageing we mean not only excessive wrinkles on your face or premature grey hair, but also degenerative conditions such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, autoimmune conditions such as Lyme and multiple sclerosis, mood disturbances, loss of libido and mental edge.
One of the many very important steps methylation is involved in, is which genes we turn on or off. Basically, methylation is the on and off switch for good and/or bad genes.
The pancreas is an organ located behind the lower part of the stomach, in front of the spine and plays an important part in diabetes. The pancreas is the organ which produces insulin, one of the main hormones that helps to regulate blood glucose levels.
Type 2 diabetes is a form of diabetes that is characterized by high blood sugar and insulin resistance, a situation where your body stops responding to the insulin produced by your pancreas as a result of excess sugar, obesity and lack of exercise throughout life. Formerly known as ‘adult-onset diabetes’, it is now increasingly diagnosed in young children and adolescent already, due to the modern diet and lifestyle.
A condition called ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ is becoming increasingly common. It occurs when a range of metabolic risk factors such as obesity and insulin resistance come together. Metabolic syndrome increases one’s risk of developing cardiovascular (such as stroke, heart attack) and neurodegenerative conditions (such as Alzheimer’s).
Your genes suggest if you may be able to ‘get away’ with a bad diet for longer, or if you are likely to be affecting your pancreas and insulin sensitivity much faster.
We are continuously exposed to free radicals through our environment of emotional and work stress, food additives, plastics, perfumes, dyes, excess sunlight, and our own cell’s burning of energy, which creates free radicals. Our body can quench some of these free radicals, however these reactions depend upon certain enzymes which are coded for by genes, and antioxidant intake. If the body’s ability to get rid of the free radicals is reduced in relation to how much ‘exhaust’ there is, oxidative damage occurs. Excess oxidative stress damages our genes, with the potential of causing mutations (which is thought to contribute long term to the creation of cancer).
Inflammation in its acute form is a localized response to an injury or infection, needed to fight off the invader and stimulate healing. However, if instead of a short-term inflammatory reaction it turns into a long-term, low grade inflammation due to constant small irritations, infections and injuries from through diet and lifestyle, it slowly degrades the body.
Excessive free radical damage and chronic low grade inflammation are among the lead players in developing degenerative and chronic disease. Diabetes, heart and vascular disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, chronic fatigue, macular degeneration, and kidney disease are among the most prominent consequences of long-term oxidative stress and inflammation. Low grade inflammation, in combination with high blood sugar levels, can be looked at like the slow ‘rusting’ of all our pipes and system. Our genes can tell us which factors may lead to free radical damage and inflammation faster for us than others.
|In the 21st century, as society is increasingly becoming exposed to toxic compounds in the air, water and food, it has become apparent that an individual’s ability to detoxify substances to which he or she is exposed, both from the outside (xenobiotics: i.e. plastics, dyes, pesticides, cosmetics) and from the inside (products of metabolism) is of critical importance to overall health. Despite most of the external toxins having little resemblance to anything the body ever had encountered during evolution, we are capable of managing these environmental exposures through complex systems of detoxification enzymes. Your genes tell you which substances are more likely to cause faster problems for you individually.|
‘All disease begins in the gut.’ – Hippocrates.
It is only in the last decade or so that science has rediscovered the truth behind this old statement, but these days most of us know that a healthy gut is imperative to overall health and wellbeing. An unhealthy gut and gut bacterial profile has been linked to autoimmune disease, neurological conditions such as depression, autism, and much more. New studies linking gut health with obesity, hormone health, cancer risk are being released constantly. As most of our immune system lies in the gut, it is no surprise that a strong intestinal ecosystem is linked to how our immune system responds to day to day stressors. As with every portion of our bodies, epigenetic factors such as diet and lifestyle play a big role, but again, genetics can help us direct our attention and aid us in bypassing certain weak links.
Hormones play an important role in regulation all major processes of the body. They are our own messenger chemicals (together with neurotransmitters which we will dive into in the Brain, Mental Health & Behaviour section). There are many different hormones, but some of the most widely known ones are the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) that regulate our reproductive system, libido and fertility, but are also majorly important to many other processes in the body,
Not only the quantity of the hormones is important, but also our ability to metabolize (break them down). Of major concern for our health and longevity is our estrogen metabolism (for both men and women). Estrogen can be broken down into a ‘protective version’, or into two dangerous breakdown products. Your genetics play a role which breakdown route the body will favour if exposed to certain derailments.
When family history suggests a genetic pattern of estrogen related disease, such as endometriosis, PMS, fibroids or cysts, breast or ovarian cancer, genetic testing, but especially also biomarker testing to assess how the body is currently metabolizing its hormones, can be both explanatory and helpful in creating therapeutic and preventative interventions.
|When your thyroid is out of balance, so are you. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found inside your neck, right under your larynx or voice box. It is responsible for producing the master metabolism hormones that influence almost every pathway in your body. It regulates your metabolism and weight by controlling the fat-burning process, but its thyroid hormone is also required for the growth and development in children and many more. Too much or too little hormone secretion, as well as not enough conversion from the inactive (T4) into the active form (T3) of thyroid hormone, or conversion into the non-active (reverse T3) form can create trouble for your overall health and wellbeing.|
There is constant signaling from the brain to the rest of the body, via messenger chemicals such as hormones and neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are crucial for our mood, but also digestion and many other processes. If there is an imbalance of neurotransmitters we can develop anxiety, depression, aggression, turn suicidal, prone to addictions, autism, ADHD and many more. Hormone imbalances perpetuate these further.
Long term, inflammation and blood sugar imbalances in the brain degrade protective proteins, and cause the brain to ‘rust from the inside’. As a countermeasure to this rusting, our body tries to fix the damage, and starts creating plaque (same principle as in the blood vessels), which, if enough builds up, destructs signaling in the brain and can lead to Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and such. Alzheimer’s has now been termed ‘type 3 diabetes’ by scientists, due to its strong link to blood sugar imbalances and inflammation.
Historically, cardiovascular disease has been described as predominantly a cholesterol problem. However, the origins of cardiovascular disease are now seen predominantly as a result of inflammation, imbalanced insulin levels, oxidative stress, methylation problems and fat imbalances.
Cardiovascular risk is strongly correlated with inflammation and glycation (=’rusting’ of blood vessels and cells, induced by the attachment of sugar). Inflamed and ‘rusty’ blood vessel walls attract cholesterol, which acts as the body’s inherent plaster to try reduce the ‘wound’. Over time, if this layer of ‘plaster’ (cholesterol) keeps accumulating, blood vessels get stiff, atherosclerosis develops, and the risk of one of the plasters bursting open and creating a blood clot rises. This blood clot, depending on its location, can cause strokes and heart attacks.
Connective Tissue is the stuff that supports and connects everything inside our body. Ligaments, tendons, fascia, skin, but also joint cartilage, bone and adipose are made out of connective tissue. It is made up of protein fibers (mainly collagen and elastin), cells producing these, and a gel-like ground substance which holds water to keep the tissue hydrated.
Connective tissue health and with it supple joints, strong bones and wrinkle free skin depends on the integrity of these substances. Excess damage from sun burns, free radical damage, inflammation, glycation and lack of nutrients needed to rebuild lead to faster age-related decline.
Only 3% of your weight is directly controlled by genes. This means that 97% is due to lifestyle choices and other factors: the foods you eat, the beverages you choose to drink, the stress you encounter, your hormonal balance, your gut health, your mind-set, toxic load, sleep quality and how you exercise. All of those factors however have genetic components, as discussed in the other sections, and as such are indirectly influenced by genes. The ones noted here appear the ones with the strongest correlation.
Please note that that our brain chemicals (neurotransmitter) plays a big role in cravings and as such our eating behavior. Low levels of dopamine may predispose us to trying to find food to ‘reward’ ourselves. Having a heightened stress response may lead us to self-nourish and calm with food. Please consult your Brain Health & Personality Profile for your detailed genetic predispositions in that respect.
|We all need adequate intake of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for a well functioning body and mind. Excess processed and sugary foods are detrimental to all of us. However, our genes determine just how important each of them are for us individually, and which areas you may be able be slightly more lenient. This includes carbohydrate and fat intake, the best strategies to get into ketosis, but also whether a vegan diet may be easier or more difficult for you to maintain optimal health with.|
We all know that certain lifestyle factors such as sleep, sunshine, exercise are important for health and longevity. We also know that exposure to pollution, smoking and chemicals is detrimental. However, our genes determine just how important they are, and which areas you may be able to ‘get away with’ a bit more and can be slightly more lenient.