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Posted by on Mar 9, 2014 in Health & Nutrition | 0 comments

Your Body Is A Wonderland

For surgeons, their results are typically seen relatively quickly. Similarly, the same goes for prescription medicine use. You have a rash, you are prescribed a cream and it works or it doesn’t work. You can observe the results.

With nutrition, often times such results aren’t immediate or as concrete to show absolute results, at least immediately anyway. The exception to that is, the critical or compromised patient.

Clinical dietitians will tell you, that in a critical setting, at times, nutrition is literally what can save that patient. I admire their passion and often you can hear it in their voice. They know firsthand the value of nutrition for their patients.

I have witnessed that once outside the hospital setting, if a person appears “healthy” most clinical RDs don’t share that same passion about nutrition. If someone is not presenting obvious signs of deficiency or disease, their philosophy for the average person, and perhaps even themselves, is as basic as- just eat all foods in moderation.

I am not suggesting they don’t care about nutrition, I just find it curious as to why that same passion doesn’t transcend to wellness, and only given to the sick?

Of course in a critical patient, swift and urgent care is given. When xx happens, you do yy.

I understand that the Health Care Providers conventional role is “the fixer”. Assessing symptoms as they present themselves.

How many people actually go to the doctor annually for wellness checks?

And if and when you do go, conventional wisdom will dictate which tests are used to assess your health. As a patient are you only concerned about immediate disease states or ailments? What about prevention and longevity?

Is it possible that often times, in regards to our own health status, we only take measures AFTER the fact?

For example: If Hemoglobin A1C is only tested if 1) you’re already diabetic or 2) your fasting glucose is high, in theory, aren’t you already in a perceived danger zone?

Fasting glucose only tells what your levels are on that very morning, whereas Hemoglobin A1C is an average of the past 90 days. Doesn’t that seem to be a more informative clue into your insulin status rather than assessing it from one random day of the year?

I am not diabetic but what if my (3 month average) levels were on the high end of normal? Knowing that, I could make changes BEFORE I get into the danger zone. Wellness is about playing on the offense, versus having to compensate and make defensive play because I’m in trouble.

Research has also shown that certain conditions can alter A1C, thus the importance of looking at your total health picture and not getting micro-focused on any one number or lab value.

A friend of mine told me that his integrative physician subscribes to the principle: if your hormones and nutrients are in (optimal) balance, your risk for disease is minimized. What is optimal? Perhaps not being at the bare minimal range.

What is the point of running hormone or nutrient levels only AFTER your body is in crisis? Besides the obvious, which is to confirm which ones are running on fumes, at that point you will have to go from zero to 100 overnight to mitigate the damage.

So, until your body is absolutely depleted of Vit D or iodine, you don’t make dietary changes or take a supplement?

You go from not getting enough Vit D to having to take 25,000 IUs to get you back to normal?

Or. What if you got your Vit D level measured and from there could make adjustments as to how you can maintain a heathy level on a daily basis?

Your body is an AMAZING, finely tuned machine! We all are guilty of not appreciating just how hard it works for us everyday!

Doesn’t it seem that only giving careful thought to your diet and health after the fact, is taking advantage of your body?

Typically, unless you are really sick many labs will look normal. For example, your body’s ph level usually will not be off because your body will literally leech calcium from your bones to make sure it is in-balance if need be. Your body tightly regulates your ph and the body may compromise other systems to make sure the 7.4 level is maintained.

Side note: many will argue that unless you are acidotic, calcium isn’t leeched from your bones. This does often occur in neonates populations as they tend to be more acidotic and demineralization of their bones occurs; perhaps their kidneys aren’t fully functioning and sodium bicarbonate is given.

There is much debate over whether or not low acid diets are better. Some don’t buy into such concepts at all. The bottom line is, pH has several moving parts.

Sticking with the car analogy, unbeknownst to you, a poor diet could theoretically result in your body always running on fumes.

Sure. Your body is functioning, but does that mean things are running optimally?

Your body needs to be fueled every day, why just fill up 1/4 of the tank?

Most will say normal fasting glucose levels should be between 70-100 mg/dl.

Say your fasting glucose was 100, which is considered “normal” (at the high end) does that mean you are at your body’s optimal level? For some, this may mean your panaceas is slightly taxed.

25.8 million Americans have diabetes.

It is estimated that 79 million adults aged 20 and older have prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Studies have shown that by losing weight and increasing physical activity people can prevent or delay prediabetes from progressing to diabetes.

Most likely you haven’t had Hemoglobin A1C tested, so you don’t know what your average is but today your lab tests are “normal” so you are fine. No worries right?

Perhaps that mentality perpetuates taking your body for granted. Expecting it to function efficiently with little to no care.

You know when people start to (remotely) care? When they have a heart attack. Stroke. Diabetes diagnosis.

Why wait for your body to stop working optimally and be in the red zone, before you give it attention?

For those of you who subscribe to the philosophy of: your body works itself out and you don’t believe in “intervention”. I can understand that, as stated previously- your body really is a well oiled machine.

I would contend that diet isn’t intervention, whereas drugs and surgery is. And like with any machine, it requires maintenance to run optimally.

And of course genetics plays a role.

Paraphrasing an interesting point on this matter: the root cause (of disease) for example: high blood sugar, may manifest in one person as diabetes, but in another person as autoimmune disease.

The study of Epigenetics is fascinating and vast.

What is Epigenetics?

As an organism grows and develops, carefully orchestrated chemical reactions activate and deactivate parts of the genome at strategic times and in specific locations. Epigenetics is the study of these chemical reactions and the factors that influence them.

I am awe from what I have read.

In a landmark 1997 paper in Science, [Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist] showed that natural variations in the amount of licking and grooming received during infancy had a direct effect on how stress hormones, including corticosterone, were expressed in adulthood. The more licking as babies, the lower the stress hormones as grown-ups. It was almost as if the mother rats were licking away at a genetic dimmer switch. What the paper didn’t explain was how such a thing could be possible.

And then he met Szyf. [Moshe Szyf, a molecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal] They ended up doing a series of elaborate experiments. With the assistance of postdoctoral researchers, they began by selecting mother rats who were either highly attentive or highly inattentive. Once a pup had grown up into adulthood, the team examined its hippocampus, a brain region essential for regulating the stress response. In the pups of inattentive mothers, they found that genes regulating the production of glucocorticoid receptors, which regulate sensitivity to stress hormones, were highly methylated; in the pups of conscientious moms, the genes for the glucocorticoid receptors were rarely methylated.

Methylation just gums up the works. So the less the better when it comes to transcribing the affected gene. In this case, methylation associated with miserable mothering prevented the normal number of glucocorticoid receptors from being transcribed in the baby’s hippocampus. And so for want of sufficient glucocorticoid receptors, the rats grew up to be nervous wrecks.

To demonstrate that the effects were purely due to the mother’s behavior and not her genes, Meaney and colleagues performed a second experiment. They took rat pups born to inattentive mothers and gave them to attentive ones, and vice versa. As they predicted, the rats born to attentive mothers but raised by inattentive ones grew up to have low levels of glucocorticoid receptors in their hippocampus and behaved skittishly. Likewise, those born to bad mothers but raised by good ones grew up to be calm and brave and had high levels of glucocorticoid receptors.

Before publishing their findings, Meaney and Szyf conducted a third crucial experiment, hoping to overwhelm the inevitable skeptics who would rise up to question their results. After all, it could be argued, what if the epigenetic changes observed in the rats’ brains were not directly causing the behavioral changes in the adults, but were merely co-occurring? Freud certainly knew the enduring power of bad mothers to screw up people’s lives. Maybe the emotional effects were unrelated to the epigenetic change.

To test that possibility, Meaney and Szyf took yet another litter of rats raised by rotten mothers. This time, after the usual damage had been done, they infused their brains with trichostatin A, a drug that can remove methyl groups. These animals showed none of the behavioral deficits usually seen in such offspring, and their brains showed none of the epigenetic changes.

The landmark paper, “Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior,” was published in June 2004 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Meaney and Szyf had proved something incredible. Call it postnatal inheritance: With no changes to their genetic code, the baby rats nonetheless gained genetic attachments due solely to their upbringing — epigenetic additions of methyl groups sticking like umbrellas out the elevator doors of their histones, gumming up the works and altering the function of the brain.



This study is also very interesting.

Back in 2000, Randy Jirtle, a professor of radiation oncology at Duke University, and his postdoctoral student Robert Waterland designed a groundbreaking genetic experiment that was simplicity itself. They started with pairs of fat yellow mice known to scientists as agouti mice, so called because they carry a particular gene—the agouti gene—that in addition to making the rodents ravenous and yellow renders them prone to cancer and diabetes. Jirtle and Waterland set about to see if they could change the unfortunate genetic legacy of these little creatures.

Typically, when agouti mice breed, most of the offspring are identical to the parents: just as yellow, fat as pincushions, and susceptible to life-shortening disease. The parent mice in Jirtle and Waterland’s experiment, however, produced a majority of offspring that looked altogether different. These young mice were slender and mousy brown. Moreover, they did not display their parents’ susceptibility to cancer and diabetes and lived to a spry old age. The effects of the agouti gene had been virtually erased.

Remarkably, the researchers effected this transformation without altering a single letter of the mouse’s DNA. Their approach instead was radically straightforward—they changed the moms’ diet. Starting just before conception, Jirtle and Waterland fed a test group of mother mice a diet rich in methyl donors, small chemical clusters that can attach to a gene and turn it off. These molecules are common in the environment and are found in many foods, including onions, garlic, beets, and in the food supplements often given to pregnant women. After being consumed by the mothers, the methyl donors worked their way into the developing embryos’ chromosomes and onto the critical agouti gene. The mothers passed along the agouti gene to their children intact, but thanks to their methyl-rich pregnancy diet, they had added to the gene a chemical switch that dimmed the gene’s deleterious effects.


With no more than a change in diet, laboratory agouti mice (left)
were prompted to give birth to young (right)
that differed markedly in appearance and disease susceptibility.

“It was a little eerie and a little scary to see how something as subtle as a nutritional change in the pregnant mother rat could have such a dramatic impact on the gene expression of the baby,” Jirtle says. “The results showed how important epigenetic changes could be.”

The even greater surprise is the recent discovery that epigenetic signals from the environment can be passed on from one generation to the next, sometimes for several generations, without changing a single gene sequence.

Put simply, and as bizarre as it may sound, what you eat or smoke today could affect the health and behavior of your great-grandchildren.

In the future, he believes, epidemiologists will have their hands full looking for possible epigenetic consequences of these public-health choices. “Did this change in diet increase cancer risk? Did it increase depression? Did it increase schizophrenia? Did it increase dementia or Alzheimer’s? We don’t know yet. And it will take some time to sort it out.”

Historically, genetics has not meshed well with discussions of social policy; it’s all too easy to view disadvantaged groups—criminals, the poor, the ethnically marginalized—as somehow fated by DNA to their condition. The advent of epigenetics offers a new twist and perhaps an opportunity to understand with more nuance how nature and nurture combine to shape the society we live in today and hope to live in tomorrow.

“Epigenetics will have a dramatic impact on how we understand history, sociology, and political science,” says Szyf. “If environment has a role to play in changing your genome, then we’ve bridged the gap between social processes and biological processes. That will change the way we look at everything.”

When it comes to your health. What position do you want to play? Forward or Defensive-man.

Do you want to combat illness or strive to prevent it?

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