There is a natural order in life and in the body that starts with DNA. DNA contains all the instructions that transform us from a fertilized egg into a full human being. But did you know you can reverse DNA damage?
DNA contains all the programming that facilitates biological growth and repair; fights infection and disease; and aids the normal function of vital organs like the heart, brain and gut. Unfortunately, DNA and genetic expression can be damaged by diet, stress, lifestyle, emotions and injury, which may advance the physical and mental deterioration often associated with aging.
Primary Causes of DNA Damage
However, limiting factors that cause the most genetic damage can help reverse disease and restore proper biological function. The most common causes of DNA damage, include:
- Free Radical Damage – Free radicals form in the body as a by-product of the processes that break down food for energy, fight infection and detoxify hazardous chemicals. They are highly unstable molecules that encourage oxidation, or cellular rust, that interferes with energy production and may be related to symptoms of extreme physical and mental fatigue in the elderly.
- Mistakes in DNA Replication – Mistakes can be made during DNA replication that result in the accumulation of genetic mutations that increase the amount of time it takes to repair and replace “old” DNA.
- Errors during DNA Transcription – When various amino acids are missing during DNA transcription, the process of encoding specific information into our genes, which are used in the creation of enzymes and proteins, vital components of health and biological repair, can be altered that may encourage the development of disease.
Many modern health problems and the prevalence of genetic damage are a result of our modern food system and lifestyles. Our genes are routinely exposed to “genetically unfamiliar foods”, which includes highly refined and modified products, and they respond abnormally.
Further, food production practices that deplete soil and the nutrients found within food, in addition to pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotic exposure cause further genetic damage. Finally, the tendency to make food decisions based on price, convenience and speed further separates the body from the foods and nutrients it needs to be healthy and happy.
There are a few DNA-enhancing guidelines we can follow to help “feed our genes right” and reverse DNA damage done:
- Eat a nutrient-dense diet to make every bite count.
- Eat a variety of fresh, whole foods.
- Eat quality protein.
- Eat a varied selection of non-starchy vegetables.
- Eat a varied selection of non-starchy fruits.
- Consume only healthy oils and fats.
- Season your foods with herbs and spices.
- Drink water and herbal teas.
- Eat organically produced foods whenever possible.
- Restrict or avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars, and limit your intake of all processed carbohydrates.
- Minimize your consumption of highly refined cooking oils, like soybean, canola, ‘vegetable oil.’
- Avoid all foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans fat.
It may be easier for us to implement these guidelines if we simply consider dietary modification in the context of nutrient density. Nutrient density is method for measuring a foods “value” in promoting health according to its micronutrient profile with respect to its caloric value.
More simply, more nutrients and fewer calories equates to greater nutrient density. Eating with nutrient density and our DNA in mind translates into a high intake of fiber rich fruits and vegetables, in addition to sources of plant-based protein like beans, tofu/tempeh, grains, and nuts/seeds.
A few of my favorite plant protein packed recipes include:
Conversely, sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, which the body quickly breaks down into glucose sending blood sugar levels through the roof, trigger the release of insulin that quickly sends blood sugar in the opposite direction initiating wild swings in energy, mood, and hormones that can damage our DNA.
Another thing to keep our eye on in order to optimize our DNA is the consumption of highly refined, processed foods. These foods are often high in omega-6 polyunsaturated and trans fats, which trigger chronic inflammatory reactions that cause further genetic damage and may contribute to the development of many adverse health conditions.
Stress, Depression and the Gene-Nutrient Connection
Feeding our genes right is especially important for those who have trouble managing stress (Christmas, anyone?), depression and other mood disorders. Stress triggers changes in hormone levels, which in turn modify the activities of multiple genes in cells throughout the body.
The consequence of these genetic changes include the accelerated aging of brain cells, an increased susceptibility to depression and anxiety, and a greater long-term risk of stress-related physical illnesses, including heart disease. Trauma, genetics, and nutritional and biochemical imbalances can reduce the efficiency of folic acid metabolism, leading to inefficient methylation (detoxification), elevated levels of homocysteine, and impaired DNA synthesis and repair which may increase a person’s susceptibility to both mild and severe depression.
Also, gene mutations that interfere with the programming of serotonin transport proteins can influence susceptibility to depression. Finally, those who are predisposed to make and excrete a chemical known as kryptopyrrole are stress-intolerant and highly susceptible to depression, fatigue, lethargy, and schizophrenia.
Discovering vibrant health and wellness begins with healing the most basic element of life – our DNA. Eating a fruit and vegetable rich diet that incorporates a fair amount of lean proteins can help treat and prevent disease to stop the hands of time.
For more information on how to best support your DNA, check out Jack Challem’s Feed Your Genes Right: Eat to Turn Off Disease-Causing Genes and Slow Down Aging. DNA image from PixaBay; detailed diagram of DNA from LiveScience