We’ve all been there, searching for that perfect fruit or vegetable. Searching for that Superfood that will maximize our nutrition and help us meet our goals. We follow the rules, choke down more vegetation than a grazing cow, and avoid bread and sugar like they were contaminated with the Ebola virus. But still we are unsatisfied with the results. We all know the expression, “You are what you eat!” But still we yearn to be so much more, or less, in most cases. So what’s going wrong? Why are our bodies not responding as we think they should? Your healthy eating habits can actually be a major contributing factor when it comes to acne and breakouts, bloating, and bad sleep.
Maybe the answer is simply because they are responding exactly as they are coded to do so. Perhaps Steve from the gym can choke back a loaf of bread a day and still sport an amazing six-pack, while if you so much as look at a blueberry muffin your little pot belly expands to the size of a cauldron. Maybe you can blame it on your DNA, and now is the time to educate yourself about how you can adjust your diet by adding Superfoods that will better meet your fitness and nutrition goals. Let me give you an example. We all know that protein and nuts are keywords, and that nuts are an amazing Superfood, but, what some may not know is that nuts are also high in protein and fat content. This makes nuts difficult for your body to fully digest and if the fats and protein do not break down in the correct way, your immune system can be triggered to create antibodies that work to inflame the body’s sebaceous glands and cause pimples! That’s right, in this case, your own body chemistry may be working against that expensive acne medication you just bought! One tried and true tip for dealing with nuts and your body chemistry is to soak the nuts ahead of time to aid in digestion. .
We all know that the DNA encoded in our genes is responsible for the color of our eyes and the shape of our nose. But this is only a small part. We are only now coming to fully realize how our DNA and individual body chemistry can intimately affect virtually every aspect of our body’s health and welfare. Ever since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2004, scientists have become more and more knowledgeable about the intimate connections involved between our DNA, genes, and our overall health and welfare. They are now able to make personalized recommendations about our eating habits based on DNA genetic testing. We’ve all seen those DNA tests advertised on television, telling us how we can trace our ancestry back generations. But how much more helpful would it be if we could use that genetic information to influence how we deal with current health concerns? Diabetics know that foods with a high glycemic index can cause peaks and valleys in their blood sugar levels, but recent studies have suggested that the glycemic index of any food is not set at a specific value, instead, it depends on the individual and their body chemistry. One person may experience the joys of weight loss from eating the same foods that make another diabetic have a super charged A1C.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how genes and nutrients interact, because, make no mistake about it, they do interact in many ways, both big and small, affecting our metabolic processes and consequently our overall health and well-being. And this action can work in two ways. Firstly, it can have an effect on what we crave, and, subsequently, what we eat. Some people can happily live on a diet of watercress and kale, while others would be willing to die for a piece of cake. Quite often, this is down to the way our genes are expressed to process certain substances. People whose genes provide them with a high tolerance for bitterness may find themselves craving coffee. Others may crave sugar or salt, depending on how their genes are expressed, while others can give these items a pass. There is some evidence that genes determine your preference for oil over butter, thus affecting the way your body metabolizes fats. So, you can see how your very DNA can decide what you find to be satisfying. But over and above your preferences, your genes decide how nutrients are processed. Our LCT gene provides the instructions for manufacturing lactase, the enzyme which enables us to digest dairy products properly. Abnormalities in this gene can cause lactose intolerance. The overwhelming majority of people who suffer from celiac disease, have been found to have aberrations in one of their genes which causes the immune system, while trying to process gluten found in grains, to stimulate the immune system to attack the small intestine. Obviously, this is not good. Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammation of the bowel, may be attributable to one gene which can cause the body to overreact to the good bacteria normally found in the digestive system. As you can tell, we all may benefit from an individualized diet as unique to ourselves as our fingerprints.
Genes not only can affect what we want to eat, but also just how much we need to feel satisfied. Two hormones are primary in this cycle of hunger and satiation. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells us when we’re hungry, when we need to eat. Leptin tells us when we are sated, and no longer need to eat, thus aiding in weight loss. The production and expression of these hormones are decided by our individual code. A study in 2008 found what is now called the OB (for obesity) gene in mice, and evidence for its existence in humans. This mutated gene affects the leptin, causing us to not realize when we are full. Continued eating can, and will, cause obesity. So, when you eat that extra portion of fries, perhaps you can blame it on an errant gene. Take for example, fruit juices. These Superfood juices can be packed with sugar and contain virtually no fiber. Replacing meals with these types of drinks can seriously alter your own metabolism and have been shown to result in rebound weight gain, not to mention insulin insensitivity! if you are really into it, and love juicing, then I would suggest that you eat your fruits and drink your vegetables.
Taking all this into account, it is not surprising that you can currently find a number of companies online offering to test your DNA in order to develop a personalized diet plan based on your genetic profile based on the study of nutrigenomics.This plan would take into account how you process nutrients, why you have certain preferences, and why your body may simply not be able to tolerate certain foods. Once you understand the hows and the whys, you will be better informed in order to come up with a viable wellness plan. But, science also warns us that the day when you can be presented with a perfect nutrition plan custom tailored to your own genetic makeup is not here yet. Take the information provided and apply it as seems logical, always remembering that a healthy, well-balanced diet is the best road to good health. The perfect diet of the future is not here yet, but it is well on its way.
We all are well aware that our DNA, our genes, affect us at a very basic level. They decide how tall we are, what color we are, the nature of our hair, and the acuteness of our vision. But it seems now that they are responsible for many things at a far more obscure level. It turns out that the food/fuel that we ingest can be beneficial depending on how our body absorbs and makes use of the vitamins and nutrients in food. Individual DNA and body chemistry differences will impact your health and nutrition goals on a basic genetic level. Learning about how our genes operate, and how one man’s Superfood can be another man’s poison can only be a benefit to us. Knowledge and information are power, and have never been disadvantages. When they say “everything in moderation” that means ‘healthy’ foods too! If you overdo a Superfood you may be responsible for creating intolerance’s within your own body, and that is not a good thing if you’re trying to stay healthy and lose weight!
I’m Nick Wilkinson. I writer and radio personality who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
With over 14 years of experience in the Behavioral Health Field, I’ve been working in close contact with kids from all walks of life.
Specializing in teenagers and young adults, I’ve been a career long supporter of “verbal de-escalation” and non-violent crisis intervention. I believe that what you say, and how you say it, are the keys to successful communication. I currently write about men’s health topics, parenting and child abuse topics, and other social issues. You can visit my blog at www.ActingNotReacting.com