Here are 5 things you do everyday that ‘switch on’ the genes that cause
Dr. Terry Wahls
Your DNA from your parents is
not your destiny – 70% to 95% of the risk of developing high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmunity, mental health problems, and dementia is linked to just three
things: smoking status, diet quality, and physical activity. You do not have to get the same diabetes, obesity, or dementiathat you see in your family tree.
When I went to medical school in the early 1980s, medical students were taught that chronic disease was a consequence of altered
biochemistry, driven mostly by a person’s genes. Because of the number of proteins our bodies manufacture, scientists expected humans to have 100,000 or more genes, though we now know we have
approximately 23,000 genes.
With the advent of the Human Genome project, the medical community expected that sequencing our DNA would allow us to cure
chronic disease, though that has not exactly turned out to be the case.
Is Your Health All Genetics?
While it’s true that the genes you receive from your parents have a significant influence on your health, scientists have learned
that it’s not genes alone that determine health. Aspects of your environment play a powerful role in “turning on” and “turning off” your genetic inheritance, creating disease or health without
changing DNA sequence. Our genes, it turns out, are not the main driver of the epidemic of chronic disease that is afflicting both developed and developing societies—our environment
Every aspect of our lives
continuously speaks to our genes, turning some genes off and other genes on, and research in this field (known as epigenetics) is exploding. Specific actions that will turn on more disease-promoting
1. Eating sugar and sweetened beverages. Americans eat 150 pounds of sugar each year. The more sugar consumed, the greater the risk for obesity, heart disease, and early memory loss.
2. Sitting several hours each day. The amount of time spent sitting is an independent risk factor for developing heart
3. Sleeping less than 6 hours a night. Less than 6 hours of sleep each night increases the level of stress hormones, which increases the risk of obesity, diabetes,
heart disease, mental health problems, and early memory loss.
4. Smoking. Smoking increases inflammation and the risk of heart disease and early memory
5. Toxin exposure. Exposure to toxins including pesticides, heavy metals, and plastics increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and
mental health problems.
How to Turn On Health-Promoting Genes
You can shift your diet and lifestyle choices to turn on health-promoting genes by
doing the following:
o Replace sugar and sweeteners with vegetables. Many studies have shown that the more vegetables you consume, the lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental
health problems, and mortality from all causes.
o Set a timer to remind yourself to move every hour. You could do a short walk, deep squats, push ups, or some other movement that fits into your day. Short movements every hour can
be an important way to undo the damage of prolonged inactivity.
o Sleep at night. Go to sleep and wake up at a consistent time. Get some daylight every day which will increase the body’s ability to make melatonin, the sleep
o Reduce your exposure to toxins. Stop
smoking. Eat more vegetables to help your body eliminate toxins more effectively. Use the Environmental Working Group consumer guides to prioritize which vegetables and fruits to
purchase as organic produce.
To learn more about additional
actions that you can take to have more of your health-promoting genes activated while silencing disease-promoting genes, visit www.terrywahls.com and pick up The Wahls Protocol Cooking for
Life. Click here to
order your book and then go here to pick up some free tools to support you in your journey back to health.
Follow me on Twitter @TerryWahls and on Facebook at Terry Wahls MD.
We are recruiting patients for
a new clinical trial, Dietary Approaches to Treating MS-Related Fatigue. To learn more about this opportunity, email MSDietStudy@healthcare.uiowa.edu. If you want to learn more about the diet and
lifestyle approaches I use to treat autoimmune, neurological, psychiatric, and other health conditions and the clinical trials that we conduct, visit www.terrywahls.com. If you want to dive deeply into the protocol, that I use, consider attending
the Wahls Protocol Seminar that I teach every August.