The human body is an extremely sophisticated system. We are equipped with an intricate immune defense system that protect us against dangerous pathogens (#immune). But… why is our natural immunity and advanced modern medicine both struggling to keep people alive from the novel coronavirus? (#coronavirus) This shouldn’t be happening in the 21st century, why?
This pandemic has alarmed us that today’s people are not as healthy as we think, despite extensive medical knowledge. We learned that people with chronic disorders such as heart problems, diabetes, and cancer are extremely vulnerable to viral infections. Unfortunately, people with these conditions are 5-10 times more likely to die from the coronavirus (#covid).
It doesn’t matter where you are or how much money you have, chronic diseases are not “diseases of affluence.” We see that even developed countries like the United States that 6 in 10 adults suffer from chronic disease. #health
If the best healthcare can’t make us healthy, what can?
There is no “one size fits all” solution. Each of us has unique genetic makeups, upbringings, cultures and living conditions. These differences mean that we all need different things to thrive.
Some people say that a ketogenic diet (#Keto) high in fats made them healthier, whereas others have found not eating at all (fasting) to be the “game-changer”. Who is right? The reality is that there is no magic pill that works for everyone. In the medical research community, personalized treatment is called “Precision Medicine”. It aims to figure out what treatment would work best for a patient based on genetics, biomarkers, psycho-social status and so on.
Although precision medicine is great, why do you want to wait until the body is already sick to figure out what it needs? According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases are largely preventable and most premature deaths did not need to happen. Instead of precision medicine, there is a more urgent need for precision health evaluation so that people can start incorporating beneficial preventative measures as soon as possible. Luckily, we do have the technology and knowledge to probe into the building blocks of you – DNA (#DNA).
Genetics and epigenetics – precision predictors of your health
Our body is made up of millions of cells, all of which are instructed to carry out different functions by our genetic code – the DNA (#DNA). Sequences of DNA make up between 20,000 to 25,000 genes that play various roles in the body. For examples, some make collagen proteins that give you tissue structure, whereas others control cell divisions.
Genetic tests sequence your DNA to identify changes in your genes and their functions. For example, cancer happens when you acquire DNA mutations in genes responsible for critical cellular functions like cell division and programmed cell death. Genetic tests can identify changes to these genes, whether they are mutated or even entirely deleted. Therefore, your genes are the precision tellers of your health.
But are DNA sequences all that determine our health? Not that simple. Although all of our cells in the body have the same DNA sequences, they perform completely different functions. Your skin cells offer physical protection against the outside world and have rapid turnovers every day. In contrast, the cells in your brain do the thinking tasks and they live up to 36 months. This is because different genes are turned on and off in different cell types and under different circumstances. Inside your cells, things are not statistic, but extremely dynamic.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that, this dynamic control of your genetics, is also incredibly important. Scientists refer to the study of changes to gene expressions as “Epigenetics” (#epigenetics), which literally means “on top of” genetics.
Some people may be at high risk of cancer due to genetic defects in known cancer genes, but others without these genes may also develop cancer. Why? This is mostly due to changes in the levels and patterns of gene expression, or epigenetic changes. Having epigenetic influence over our DNA is actually a good thing! It means that your health is not completely determined by the genetics that you are born with. You can understand your epigenetics through testing and use this precise information to optimize your health.
What determines epigenetics and how can you change it?
Epigenetics is affected by everything – your diet, you water, your sleep and many more. Epigenetics is the result of your environment and lifestyle. This is where nature meets nurture.
Extensive research has found that epigenetic changes could be induced by:
· Diet (#diet)
· Physical activity (#fitness)
· Tobacco smoking
· Alcohol consumption
· Environmental pollutants
· Psychological stress (#stress)
· Working on night shifts
Now, the question is how can you optimize each of these factors? What foods should you avoid based on cellular level intolerance's and sensitivities? What nutrients and supplements do you actually need? What foods or exercises would work for your weight loss journey?
There are many people who have had all sorts of tests before to figure out why they feel constantly tired. You may be one of them. Or have you tried different diets and just can’t seem to get better? It makes sense because cellular level information is not always caught in typical allergy or blood tests. The doctor may tell you based on the results that everything is fine, but epigenetic changes have been occurring silently.
Once you know what is going on deep inside the cells with precise genetic screenings, you may finally find the answers to your questions or perhaps something surprising!
As a 21-century citizen, we are truly blessed with precision technologies that can find clues to optimal health. Don’t wait until you are already sick to make changes, know your body and take actions for your future.
About the Author:Jon Dessel, Ph.D., is a holistic nutritionist and President of Luminary Wellness Group.A company dedicated to providing personalized, action-based, and science-driven information to help others live a healthy, revitalizing lifestyle.Jon's whole-person approach to optimal health continues to push the envelope towards how health is approached, bridging the gap between science and well-being.