I have come to believe when we eat the way our ancestors did, we allow our food to return us to good health. In addition to medicine, food acts as information. Once food enters our bodies, our cells are informed about the conditions of the exterior environment, and in reaction to that information, our cells respond accordingly, either activating or deactivating certain genes that will allow us to adapt to the current circumstances. There is nothing in our environment that has no influence on our genes. The sunlight we receive, our activity level, the amount of stressful or relaxing situations we regularly encounter, and yes, even, and most especially, the foods we eat, they all serve as information.
What this means is that while our genetic code (DNA) is fixed and unchanging, the ways our genes are signaled are not. A field of study called epigenetics sheds light on how this all works. Essentially, if we think of our genes as computer hardware (our physical computer), then the environment is the computer software (computer programs) that tell our genes what to do. This is known as “gene expression.”
A study by the Spanish National Cancer Center illustrated the environmental effects on our genes when it found that the more separate and the more different the lifestyles of identical twins, the less their gene expressions had in common – even though the twins possessed identical DNA! In some twins, one was diagnosed with cancer while the other remained cancer-free.
All of us have strong predispositions coded into our familial genes. Some of us even have a genetic predisposition for obesity, arthritis, or other such maladies. But even genetic bad luck requires a lifestyle component to play out – without that influence, it will likely lie dormant. And in the same way, the genetic recipe for the perfect human being, standing proud after conquering more than two million years of selection pressure resides in each one of us. All you have to do is deliver the proper environmental signals to experience your personal potential, and (no matter how bad your familial genes are) skate right past the health problems caused when genetic predispositions encounter adverse lifestyle practices.
Just think for a moment how empowering that can be. Your fate is not predetermined – it’s up to you! Without a doubt, your way of eating promotes optimal gene expression. But this need not be a reenactment of days gone by. You have the flexibility to strike your own balance and work around your personal preferences. It’s just a matter of sorting out which of today’s foods are beneficial and which are not. Once you do that, technology and progress can work to your benefit instead of your detriment.
I help to spell out a list of foods that you should eat, minimize, and totally avoid in my just released The Perfect Health Operating Manual. In it I present compelling scientific evidence to support a nutritional program based on anthropological research and evolutionary biology. We are in dire need of a new model of eating that promotes health, rather than creates disease.
Yours in health,
Rick J Bernard, L.Ac.