How Much Impact can Nutrition Have on Your Body?
It is not uncommon to blame a nightmare or a bad stomach ache with something you ate. In fact, you are probably preached at every day by either commercials or family members that you need to eat your vegetables if you want to live a long healthy life. If you have kids, you probably tell them the exact same thing, whether you follow it or not. But is it just an empty platitude, or is there more beneath the surface? Can nutrition and exercise make that much of an outcome? Can eating healthy, whether you enjoy it or not actually make you feel better?
Proper nutrition has a much bigger impact than most people let on. In fact, it is understated in today’s Western culture. It has a lot of impacts alright, down to the production of our genetic code.
I will explain.
Genetics – Our Basic Structure
We are all born with a set of code that creates the very foundation of our beings. A code that is in every cell of our bodies and that we get from each of our parents, DNA.
Through observation, we have learned since the invention of the microscope that our DNA coils tightly into ladder-like genetic strings that can make up chromosomes. The average human being inherits both sets of genes from their parents with enough slight variations to make us visually and genetically distinct.
Each human carries a total of 20,000 to 25,000 genes, with countless possible DNA combinations.
It is only from scientists studying the subject thoroughly that we are able to find and name sequences that are responsible for things like our preference in what we would like to smell or taste to our predisposition to things like cancer or obesity.
However, there is one thing that we have learned that most people haven’t caught on yet. Our genes don’t lie dormant. They are all constantly reacting to the cell’s environment and adapt accordingly.
Epigenetics – Activating and Deactivating Genes
Genes can turn on or off depending on the production needs of the cell. And we need our genes self-regulating, mainly for the sake of our physical makeup for cellular structure.
When a cell is perfectly suited into its environment, it is more likely to keep your body functioning properly. For instance, you don’t want your muscle cells to indiscriminately produce bone and nerves. Without the give of your muscles, how are you able to move around?
However, this process isn’t error free. Things like cancer, metabolic disorders, and degenerative disorders are all a byproduct of an epigenetic failure.
All it takes is for one little error, to leave you suffering from a genetic disorder of some kind.
So, what can throw off the epigenetic process of your body?
Sometimes, it is an inherited issue. A faulty code translation passed from generation to generation. Most of the time, however, it is all environmental. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, ” Environmental influences, such as a person’s diet and exposure to pollutants, can also impact the epigenome.”
This is further proven by twin studies, “For example, although identical twins share a common genotype and are genetically identical and epigenetically similar when they are young, as they age they become more dissimilar in their epigenetic patterns and often display behavioral, personality, or even physical differences, and have different risk levels for serious illness.
So, how can you pollute your DNA? What sort of environment can damage it so badly and turn on the wrong genes?
Nutrition and Cellular Structure
To recap, our environment can not only change our behavior or personalities, but it can also change our very DNA. This means that your cells, which carry your DNA, need to be in an optimal environment to function correctly.
And this isn’t just a leap, in conclusion, I am making. According to Ian Weaver, an Assistant Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience, “Nutrients can reverse or change DNA methylation and histone modifications, thereby modifying the expression of critical genes associated with physiologic and pathologic processes, including embryonic development, aging, and carcinogenesis.”
Granted, you still need a genetic predisposition for an environmental factor to take over. If you have no family history of arthritis, chances are if you don’t put your joints through too much torture, you will probably never get it when you are older.
However, if you even have the slightest chance of something in your family genetic history, like a predisposition to diabetes and obesity, all you need is a poor diet and a toxic environment to “switch on” that gene.
“Current research is focused on identifying genetic changes that have a small effect on disease risk but are common in the general population. Although each of these variations only slightly increases a person’s risk, having changes in several different genes may combine to increase disease risk significantly. Changes in many genes, each with a small effect, may underlie susceptibility to many common diseases, including cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness.”
Good nutrition does not keep your body healthy, it can actually improve the health of your DNA.
So, if you want to avoid increasing your chances of activating a genetic mutation that can lead to severe health problems, you want to optimize your cellular environment through a healthy diet, regular exercise to increase oxygen intake, and avoiding polluted areas in general.