How much do genetics play a role in body composition? Are some of us born with a slower metabolism, a higher appetite and a greater affinity to accumulate body fat?
Epigenetics are the study, in the field of genetics, of cellular and physiological phenotypic trait variations that are caused by external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off and affect how cells read genes instead of being caused by changes in the DNA sequence.
Huh…English please. We’re born with a bunch of genes; epigenetics demonstrates that our lifestyle is a determinant factor on how our genes are ‘expressed’ or ‘play out’. Bear with me it’s all gonna make sense in a sec here…
For example: Let’s say type-2 diabetes (type-2 is developed, you’re not born with it like type-1 diabetes) runs in your family, your grandmother developed it along with a few uncles and a sibling. You have a similar genetic makeup to these family members HOWEVER you exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight while they do not move much, eat a heavily processed diet and are overweight…due to your lifestyle choices you do not develop type-2 diabetes while they're at a much higher risk of doing so. This is epigenetics at play!
Same family, same genetic make up but different lifestyle habits! These lifestyle habits are the key to whether the ‘type-2 diabetes genes’ are expressed or remain dormant! This is SUPER exciting stuff because it means that WE have the power via our lifestyle habits of how healthy we wanna be despite our familial genetic tendencies.
Now here is where it pays to find out a little bit about the various diseases in your family lineage because that way you can be extra aware of what dis-ease you’re susceptible to genetically and alter your lifestyle accordingly. I’ll use myself as an example…
Autoimmune conditions run rampant in my family on both sides. Some common ones are Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac Disease, Psoriasis, Hashimotos and Type-1 Diabetes. All of these diseases are immune related meaning the body has an exaggerated immune response due to the disease. An analogy would be when you lightly tap someone on the shoulder and they jump out of their seat and freak out instead of just turning around, it’s an unnecessary ‘hyper’ response to something very nonthreatening.
Autoimmune conditions are VERY closely related to the gut and digestive health. When I was younger I used to eat certain foods and get digestive distress, the more I paid attention to the foods I was eating and how my body responded I was able to pinpoint the culprits and eliminate them, now my digestion is spot on! Now being that I’m susceptible to autoimmune disease genetically my eating habits are now helping me keep those genes ‘dormant’ so my likelihood for developing an autoimmune condition is minimized.
So…is disease hereditary, lifestyle related or a mix of the two?
The takeaway is that you have a lot more control over your body than you may think. You’re not doomed to the same ailments as your family just because you share the same genetic makeup, all it takes is awareness and follow through with lifestyle habits that leave you no other option but to be the best version of yourself and thrive!