Around Valentine’s Day, we express our love and caring for others in different ways. There is a type of expression that you may not think about or even know about: gene expression. This exciting area of study is called epigenetics. Epigenetics looks at our DNA, the genetic blueprint that we have inherited from our family. Our genes do not change but they can be expressed or read differently. This research gives me hope for all of us! When expressing self-love and self-respect by taking care of yourself, you have the power to “turn off” genes that may cause disease and depression. By incorporating healthy lifestyle habits and changes, we can “turn off” genes triggered by inflammation, stress and unhealthy habits such as being sedentary.
It is important to know that the leading causes of death in our country–Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer and Alzheimer’s– are not examples of normal aging. We can decrease our risks and at the very least the severity of these diagnoses.
There are many ways to “turn off” those disease genes but my goal is to make this achievable and take one step at a time. Remember, one small change can make a HUGE positive difference in the long term. It is an investment! With my clients and in workshops, I go into these areas in more detail, but today my goal is to keep it simple and practical.
Here are five ways you can “turn off” the undesirable genes and “turn on” the ones you want expressed :
- Prioritize sleep. Seven to nine hours is the recommended amount to support optimal brain function, memory, mood, healing, and problem-solving. When we don’t sleep enough, we demonstrate slower processing speed, brain fog, decreased efficiency and crave quick energy foods with more sugar.
- Eat less sugar. Decrease your added sugar intake to 25 grams or less a day and stop eating high fructose corn syrup (corn sugars). For example, you may drink one less sugary drink a day or have a treat a couple days a week instead of everyday (chocolate is my personal weakness and I work hard to eat less). Be aware that there are hidden sugars in bread/cereal products, condiments, juices, vitamin waters, sports drinks, yogurts and soft drinks. Awareness is the first step in making changes.
- Take a walk. Exercise– move that body! A brisk walk supports bone health, cardiovascular health. According to the American Heart Association, it can add up to 4 years to your life. As I was writing this, I realized I had not gone for my walk. So at 9 pm, I grabbed my headlamp, the leash, a poop bag and our dog, Sam, for a 20-minute walk. Each day we do our best to exercise for 20-30 minutes, but even 5 minutes counts. Here is a great link to learn more >>
- Replace one toiletry item. Change out your soap, lotion, shampoo, deodorant, lip balm or a make-up item. Harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances are absorbed by our largest organ–our skin. These cause a toxic overload. It’s sneaky and we can’t see it, but it contributes to the increased diagnoses of allergies and inflammation in the body and can certainly play a part in “turning on” the genes we don’t want to encourage. These two free phone apps from the Environmental Working Group are very helpful when picking out healthier items and foods. I will also keep posting ideas on Instagram and Facebook this week.
- Healthy Living supports consumers like us to make healthier choices that allow us to scan products and see a safety rating. It is a way to learn about ingredients concerns, processing methods and nutrition.
- Dirty Dozen is a list of the 12 cleanest foods with fewer pesticides and toxins but also keeps your budget in mind.
- Schedule a get-together with a friend or your partner. Plan at least one to two times a month. Some of us may need more connections. Fostering and maintaining meaningful connections will decrease the effects of stress. Ultimately, the goal is to schedule times for joy, friendship and happiness. Make time to laugh together. Laughter truly is a great medicine and healing power! It releases positive endorphins and neurotransmitters, plus it is fun! Get together with friends, play games, go for a walk, hike or watch a funny TV program/movie.
The Bottom-line: Be aware and consciously choose what you put ON and IN your body. You have the power of choice. You can choose to ignore warning signals from the body, but this will result in “turning on” genes you don’t want! OR you can choose to start taking care of your heart, brain and body like you care for your loved ones. Treat yourself as you do others; express your self-love with kindness, respect and compassion. You, your happiness and your brain are the most important investments.