Dr. Harris returns to the six root causes of chronic disease with a special bonus cause. We can not change our genes, but we can alter how they are expressed. This process is called epigenetics and is a hot topic in medical news currently. Listen and learn how nature (your genes) loads the gun, but nurture (your lifestyle) pulls the trigger. You can mitigate the risk imparted by your genes by your lifestyle. Learn more about this topic in this secret bonus episode of the Strive For Great Health Podcast!
Lifestyle Medicine with Dr. Harris
Join me, Dr. Richard Harris, as we strive to unlock the secrets of the human body, strive for wellness, strive for great health. Follow the show on iTunes, Spotify, Google and Android, and Patron.
Welcome to this episode of The Strive for Great Health Podcast. And today’s episode is a bonus. So in the initial episode I talked about the six root causes of disease. Well, there’s actually a seventh. And so this is the actual bonus episode, we’ll get back to talking about the six next time. But what is our bonus? And that is genetics. Genetics is a pretty hot topic in the news right now. Everything from 23andMe to home testing. When we first started learning about genes and how genes impact health and disease, the prevailing notion then was it’s just genetic, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not your fault if you get something. But we know now that that’s not true. The old debate, is it nature verse nurture.
Is it nature, is it our genetics? Or is it nurture, is it our environment and what we do? And now the prevailing theory is that nature loads the gun, but nurture pulls the trigger. What that means is, your genes determine what you can and cannot be susceptible to, but it’s environmental triggers, it’s lifestyle triggers, it’s possibly an infection or a toxin or some other element out in the environment that actually causes that genetic susceptibility to manifest itself as genes. As disease. So first, what are genes? If you go back to high school biology, you’re going to learn that there’s 23 pairs of chromosomes and men are XY, and females are XX. And just so you know, if one of those Xs is inactivated, it’s called the Barr body. That’s one of the things you learned in biology. It’s the reason that Calico cats are different colors, because there’s different inactivation around the cats.
You can go all the way back to all the basics there and learn about genes, but what do our genes do? They determine a lot. They determine a lot about who we are, our structure, our function. About what happens behind the scenes in our bodies. And there’s a lot of genetic diseases. People know about cystic fibrosis, that’s a genetic disease. Some of our chronic diseases that we see in adults are linked to genetics. Diabetes. Three generations of males in my family are diabetic. Alzheimer’s can have a genetic link. The APOE e4 gene is something you hear about. APOE e4 stands for apolipoprotein e4. Well, these apolipoproteins are basically proteins that carry fats. And so when the apolipoprotein e4, APOE e4 mutation makes people who have it less efficient at transporting fats in the body. And we know that if you have one copy of the gene like me, that’s a 30% increased risk of Alzheimer’s. If you have two copies, that’s a 50% increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Now that’s not 50% are going to get Alzheimer’s, it just means the risk is increased.
And that we know that lifestyle factors dramatically impact the rate of developing Alzheimer’s. Again, nature loads the gun, nurture pulls the trigger. What else is related to genetics? We know heart disease tends to run in families. We know things like depression tends to run in families. Substance abuse tends to run in families. So there’s a lot of the chronic diseases out there or illness that people have can have a genetic tendency. Now, that doesn’t mean that we’re a slave to our genes, that our genes are the final determining say. No. We’ve talked about before, epigenetics. Epigenetics is basically how our genes express themselves. And I always like to tell people it’s like a light switch. It’s like turning genes on and off. And depending on the environment, your body will turn on and off certain genes.
Also epigenetics is the study of how we transmit signals from our environment into our children. There have been studies that have been done that show that the adults who go through a famine transmit a signal to their children that you need to be more efficient at conserving calories. So what happens in those children? Obesity rates go through the roof. There’s a lot of studies that have come out now about fathers and exercise and having healthy habits before conceiving, even six weeks before conceiving, decrease certain events in the child.
One of them was related to heart disease and heart malfunctions, that exercise can decrease that if a father exercises before they decide to conceive. So all of these are related to epigenetics. That part of that signal gets passed on to children, and also that what we see in the environment and what our bodies sense determines how our bodies will respond to certain things. And this makes perfect sense. You wouldn’t want your genes for shivering to be on at the same time as your genes are sweating. That would be really, really weird to feel cold and shivering and hot and sweating at the same time. Also, it makes complete sense that we would want to pass on signals to our children,. Signals about the environment saying, “Hey, this is a safe environment. Everything’s great. There’s plenty of foods. There’s plenty of sunlight. There’s no dangers. There’s no predators.”
You’re going to pass on that information. If the environment was the exact opposite. If it was drought, there was famine, if there was lots of predators, you’d pass on that information to your young so that they are better able to handle that environment. So that is epigenetics, and it’s a very new area. We’re starting to learn more and more about this, about how we pass on certain signals and about how we regulate our genes to express different things at different times.
So along with this epigenetics and genetics, I do want to talk about telomeres. Telomeres are the ends of our DNA. And over time, as our cells regrow, cells die, they make new cells, they make copies of each other, and so over time, the telomeres, the ends of the DNA, get shorter and shorter and shorter. And it’s one of the reasons why we think we age, because as those telomeres get shorter, bad things happen that can lead to disease. At least the aging process or part of what causes the aging process. Telomerase is an enzyme that adds more DNA onto the ends, and the telomerase gets less active as we age. It also can be brought about by lifestyle. So telomerase activity decreases if we’re smoking, if we’re excessive alcohol intake, if we’re stressed out, if we’re eating a poor nutrition plan that’s leading to inflammation. There’s some evidence that certain infections can cause some issues with telomerase and decreasing activity.
So keeping your DNA nice, strong, repaired also helps prevent disease and will also help stave off some of the genetic susceptibility. If we have genetic susceptibility and then our DNA is under attack all the time, that’s going to increase our likelihood of getting a chronic disease.
What are some ways that we can increase the activity of telomerase? Ketosis. Ketosis is a powerful state that can increase telomerase activity. This is likely due to some genetic change or some gene expression changes that happened in ketosis. And that also ketosis is a profoundly anti-inflammatory state. So how I do my ketosis, I do drink exogenous or drinkable ketones. I do use the Prüvit ketones. If you’re interested to learn more about that, you can head to our website, theGHwellness.com\ketosis. And that’ll give you a lot of information about drinkable ketones and the benefits of ketosis. But I try to get myself intermittently into ketosis by drinking ketones, 50% of the time I follow a keto diet. Keto nutrition plan, sorry. I hate the word diet because what is that? I have a nutrition plan, I don’t have a diet.
So 50% of the time I follow a keto nutrition plan, 50% of the time I’m low carb paleo, and then fasting. True fasting. I have at least a 24 hour fast every week. Or if I don’t have much to do that following Monday, I will extend it to a 36 hour fast. And then once every three months I do the ProLon. ProLon is a great five day fasting mimicking program. So you get all the benefits of fasting without the drawbacks. It does have some calories, but they do have research that shows you get into that autophagy, that self eating phase where your body starts cleaning up dead tissue, underperforming tissue. Helps fight off cancer cells. Helps lower insulin levels. It really helps the body clean. But what the really cool part about the ProLon is, after that last day of fasting, that fifth day of fasting, when you refeed, and of course we recommend refeeding with nutrient dense whole foods, what happens is you get this massive mobilization of stem cells from the bone marrow and other tissues, and that helps the body repair and recover.
Stem cells is another thing you see highly in the news today. And unfortunately, a lot of these stem cell clinics and places that you go to, it’s really the wild, wild West. We’re having a lot of bad outcomes, a lot of shady practitioners using stem cells. I personally don’t do anything with stem cells. I don’t think the technology is there. I don’t think the safety is there yet. What I do is I mobilize my body’s own stem cells through fasting. And one of the best ways I do that is the ProLon. ProLon is available in our e-store, store.theGHwellness.com. Initially they recommend doing it once a month for three months, and then every three to four months, as necessary. I did it once a month for two months, and then I do it every three months as a maintenance to help with those stem cells.
Exercise. Exercise is a powerful motivator of telomerase activity. So exercise does help keep you young. It helps prevent DNA damage. It strengthens your muscles. It decreases your risk of diabetes. It decreases your risk of Alzheimer’s. Literally, exercise is the single best thing that you can do to improve your health. But also, if you’ve ever heard me speak, you hear me talk about keystone habits. Keystone habits are habits that are so powerful they cause you to have other good habits. And the most powerful, beneficial habit you can have is routine exercise. Because then you’ll start to look at other ways you can improve your life. You’ll be like, “I started exercising. Well, let me look at my nutrition plan. I’m going to prove my nutrition plan. Okay. Exercise and nutrition’s on point. Let me look at stress. How am I moderating my stress? Okay, let me look at my supplement regimen. How can I improve?”
And then you begin just tinkering with your routine over and over and over. And all of a sudden, now you have a great lifestyle routine. You have a great holistic plan. And that’s how I started. I didn’t jump into where I am today and doing all the stuff I did today. I started with one thing. I started with exercise. That was the first thing I did for my overall health was exercise. And then slowly, over time, I started to add on other beneficial habits as I’d mastered them. So in the five pillar system, I talk about this, I say, “Pick one section first, master that, and then move on to the next, move on to the next.” Don’t just try and jump in and do everything at once because it can be a lot. But start with someplace, have a large audacious goal, and then break that down into individual SMART goals. Individual specific, measurable, achievable.
Oh my gosh, I just blanked on SMART goal. Specific, measurable, achievable, timing. Something that you can actually measure. And once you achieve that SMART goal, then you move on to the next SMART goal. And you keep on moving in little increments until you’ve achieved your big audacious goal.
So what else can I do to increase my telomerase activity? Nutrition. Of course, always, always, always nutrition. Again, eating a lot of processed foods, eating a lot of carbohydrates, can cause inflammation and that can actually decrease telomere activity. Also, there’s certain nutrients that are very important to telomerase activity. We’ll go onto that in a minute. And as I said before, you want to avoid smoking and avoid alcohol over consumption. You want to manage your stress. Meditation. Again, very key component. We’ve we’ve talked about that before. I’ll probably do an entire segment dedicated to meditation.
Supplements can help with this. Any of the antioxidant supplements we’ve covered before can help with telomerase activity, specifically vitamin A, vitamin C, are very powerful antioxidants. Vitamin E as well. Vitamin D, which is not a vitamin, it’s a hormone, actually does increase telomerase activity on its own. It has a lot of other beneficial effects and most of us are deficient in vitamin D because we just don’t get enough sunlight anymore. And then the B vitamins. B3, B5, B6, B9. B9 is folate and B12. They are extremely involved in processes related to energy generation, also in processes related to DNA and how we make new DNA. One of those processes is called a methylation. We’ve talked about methylation before.
Methylation is a way that we turn on and off the light switch. It’s a key component of epigenetics. Methyl groups that are just little carbon and hydrogen groups, and we will put them on and off of certain pieces of the DNA if we want certain genes turned on or off. And one of the things that’s very important in methylation, in getting these methyl groups, are B vitamins. B vitamins are very important in how the body shifts these methyl groups around. So those are some supplements that can help with telomerase.
So overall, what I want you to get out of this bonus podcast is that your genes are not some hard and fast set in stone, “Everyone in my family had this, so I’m going to get it too.” No. No, no, no, no, no. You are in control. You have an internal locus of control. Well, not everyone, but I really wish everyone had an internal locus of control. What that means is that I am in control. Whenever I think about these type of things that happened in my health, I am in control. Even if things don’t go my way with my health, I can still determine my output. I can still determine how I feel about that. I can still make the determination to be optimistic, even in the face of bad advice. That’s me. I can choose to be sad or I can choose to be happy. I choose to be happy and I choose to do something about it, but that’s just who I am.
I have APOE e4. I have a higher chance of getting Alzheimer’s. So? That doesn’t mean I’m just going to say, “Okay, well I can’t do anything about this.” Yes, I can. I can exercise. I can have my nutrition plan. I can get into ketosis. I had, like I said, a lot of people in my family, my dad, my grandfather, and probably his father, were all diabetic. Strong family history of diabetes. When I was 18, I told myself I will not get diabetes. I will do everything I can to prevent myself from getting diabetes even though my genes tell me that I should be profoundly insulin resistant, that I have a high chance of getting diabetes. That’s not happening.
And one of the things I also want to talk about is a genetic testing. I did a genetic testing from a company called GX Sciences. Really interesting. It tells you a lot. I have a lot of diseases that run in my family. Diabetes Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. What else? Heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression. Yeah. I think that’s enough for now. All of these things run in immediate or family members. Either my parents or my sister, and then my grandparents. So very close in the family tree. And so when I did my genetic testing, I found out a lot of information. And a lot of this started to make sense. So my genetic testing showed that I had a lot of B vitamin mutations. I had a lot of methylation pathway mutations. So one these methylation pathway mutations can lead to chronic disease. If you’re not able to flip on and off your gene expression at the right moment, that can manifest itself as a disease.
One of the other things that we found when I did my genetic testing was that I had a lot of mutations in anti-inflammatory pathways. My body is prone to bouts of inflammation. That’s one of the reasons why I have a very profoundly anti-inflammatory regiment, from what I eat to the supplements I take to exercise to getting in ketosis. A lot of what I do revolves around inflammation. There was also some mutations in the enzymes that make our brain chemicals, our neurotransmitters. So I had a knockout mutation. Knockout means that, literally, the enzyme was gone. And one of the key pathways of keeping these brain chemicals there, and this is why everyone of my family suffers from these mental illnesses. I don’t. And one of the reasons is because my routine has helped with that. I never tell people for any one disease, this is the only one thing you need to do. No. If you get these messages, you see that health is a very active process and there’s a lot that goes into it. There’s a lot that goes into being healthy.
There’s a lot that goes into being sick too. But the choice is yours. Would you rather put a lot into something that builds you up or put a lot into something that tears you down? I’d rather put a lot into something that builds me up, makes me better and is going to make the people around me better as well.
So I had a lot of mutations in our hygiene pathways for inflammation, for mental health, for B vitamins and methylation. I also had mutations in detoxification. I had multiple mutations in the glutathione pathway. Remember we’ve talked about glutathionea? A major, major antioxidant in the body. My body doesn’t efficiently make glutathione. So once I aggregated all this information, I was like, “This makes sense. This is why all these diseases were running in my family.” But I look at a lot of my other family members, and I’m sorry for putting you all on blast, but they have very unhealthy habits. Very unhealthy habits. So I looked at what happens when people who have very similar genetics as mine had very unhealthy habits, and I look at the chronic disease. And I said, “Nope, Nope. I can’t change my genetics, but I can change my lifestyle. I can change my nutrition. I can change how I exercise. I can change with the supplements I take.” And so that’s what I’ve done to mitigate, to decrease, what my genes say I should have.
I highly do recommend getting some genetic testing. It is very informative, but you need someone who’s well versed in the testing to interpret it for you. I still do have an online arm to my business where I do interpret lab tests like genetic testing, like micronutrient testing and other testing for people, to recommend supplements and specific elements of lifestyle that can help with that. So if that’s something you’re interested in, just send me an email at [email protected] or send us a message on our Facebook page, Great Health and Wellness. And we can go ahead and order those tests and when we get them, I can interpret it for you. Sit down with you, walk you through them, and craft a lifestyle and supplement regimen that can help mitigate that risk.
Okay. So let’s talk about the articles. Two articles will be posted in The Strive for Great Health Facebook group. The first article talks about sleep and my fellow healthcare workers. And this is something that’s near and dear to my heart because when you’re going through medical school, when you’re going through pharmacy school, you’re taught to put the patient first. You’re literally taught to forget about your health, forget about what’s going on with you, put that person in front of you first. And I go, “Wait a minute. If you’re drowning, how can you save someone else?” Even on the airline, what do they tell you? Put on your oxygen mask first. And so much in healthcare, unfortunately, now we are sick. We are not taking care of ourselves. We are burnt out. And how can we pour into other people, how can we help other people, how can we be these healthcare providers, if we don’t take care of ourselves? And this article talks about how healthcare workers get less sleep than the national average. And we know this.
Part of this is related to that attitude of put other people first, which is great but you have to take care of yourself. Really, in order to put other people first, you have to be in a position of wholeness. You can’t be drowning and save someone else who’s drowning. You’re both going to drown. You have to know how to swim. You have to have your life jacket on to save someone else, who doesn’t have their life jacket on, who doesn’t know how to swim. One of the reasons that this happens a lot is because of stress. Healthcare industries, we’re all stressed out. It’s a very, very tough job. It’s very demanding. And a lot of people bring their work home with them. And these people are usually very empathetic and very caring, and it sounds a little callous, but I’m not to be harsh but as healthcare workers, we have to learn that our job ends when we leave the hospital.
We can’t bring all that with us. There’s unfortunately a lot of sickness, a lot of illness, a lot of negative emotions that we’re dealing with. People yelling at us, spitting at us, bodily fluids on us, all kinds of stuff we have to deal with. Or God forbid, the death of a patient or a really bad outcome. And we bring all that negativity home and then it just keeps us up at night and we’re stressed. We have to learn how to be able to handle that in the hospital. But as soon as we get home, we have our safe place. We have our place to recover. We have the loved ones around us and the things we love to do to help us recover. That is what we need to do as healthcare providers. And that is actually one of the best things that happened to me, because I learned how to do this, that I’m able to leave the hospital in the hospital. And when I come home, I am in my place of recovery, in my place of wellness, in my place of health. And I rest, I recover and get ready for the next day.
So the second article deals with something that a lot of people have noticed, or probably experienced themselves is, when I’m sleep deprived, I’m hungry. And when I’m sleep deprived and hungry, I eat really bad junky food. Why is that? Well, a couple of reasons. One, cortisol. The hormone we’ve talked about cortisol, that stress hormone. It’s going to prepare you for stressful situations. If you’re constantly stressed, it’s going to say, “There’s more stress coming in. We need to get as much body fat on board to deal with that stress, to deal with a possible famine or not having food.” Because historically that’s a lot of times what happened and was major killers of of men was famine. So that’s one of the things the body will do when it’s stressed, is tell you to eat more high calorie foods.
Another reason is something we haven’t talked about, but I think we will talk about in the future, is the leptin and ghrelin access. So leptin is a hormone that tells our bodies we’re full. Ghrelin, think of growling, it tells us we’re hungry. When you’re sleep deprived, ghrelin levels go up, leptin levels go down. So what does that mean? Your signal to eat has gone up and your signal that says you’re full has gone down. So of course, you eat more. But again, because the cortisol levels are higher, your body’s not telling you eat carrots and fruits and vegetables, it’s telling you eat high calorie junk food. We’ve talked about before, a lot of these junk foods are made to have high in fat, high in carbohydrates, to cause the brain to become addicted to these foods. It causes an endorphin release, unlike anything that exists in nature and then you crave those foods.
So these food companies are playing on this exactly happening so they provide a product that’s going to meet these ghrelin induced, cortisol induced cravings. But what does that do? That leads to central obesity and insulin resistance and all those bad things. But these researchers not only showed that the ghrelin and leptin access was impaired, but also that the endocannabinoid system was impaired. When we think of endocannabinoids, we think of THC. We think of marijuana, or CBD is the new, big push. I’m a huge fan of CBD. We’ll probably do an entire episode on CBD in the future. But the endocannabinoid system also gets out of whack. Usually that system is a rest and relax kind of system. It’s a chill out. It’s an alarm system off. It’s the put on your PJ’s, put on your slippers, hit the couch for Saturday afternoon, watch some football. All my Texans out there, you know what we’re talking about. Football is basically a religion here in Texas. That’s our chill time.
The endocannabinoid system gets out of whack. So a levels of 2AG, which is a natural endocannabinoid in the body, increases. Well, what happens when 2AG increases? You crave junk food. So we’re not exactly sure why this happens. If I had to theorize it’s possibly because that endocannabinoid system gets activated to try and get you to calm down and get your body to rest. But exactly why it increases the hunger craving in sleep deprivation, we’ll try to figure that out.
What can you do? This is one of the reasons why I take CBD at night. I had horrible insomnia growing up. Didn’t get much sleep, ever. It got really bad in pharmacy school. And luckily, recently, I happened upon CBD. I take about 10 milligrams of CBD at night before I go to bed, and it does help me sleep. So as you can see, if the system gets out of whack, if you’re increasing your endocannabinoids in response to sleep deprivation, that can lead to increased hunger. One of the things that can help here is the CBD.
There’s conflicting evidence about CBD and whether it increases slow sleep, decreases slow sleep. The data’s kind of mixed. And some of these studies mix CBD with THC. When I do my testing with a Oura ring, I’ve found that with CBD I actually get more slow wave sleep. It’s one of those things that you’ll have to test on your to see how it affects you, but most people sleep very well with it.
So that’s all I got for today. Thank you for listening. I hope you found it informative and enjoyable. And have a nice day. All right, goodbye.
Okay. So this is an add on to what I was saying before. I didn’t do a very good job explaining how CBD can help. So CBD, unlike 2AG, that natural endocannabinoid, CBD binds to CBD type 2 receptors, not cannabinoid Type I receptor. So there’s cannabinoid type 1 receptors, cannabinoid type 2 receptors. THC binds to both. And the type 1 receptors in the brain are the ones that give us the psychoactive high of THC and also the increased hunger. So 2AG binds to both CBD, what we think of CBD and CBD oil, binds [inaudible] . So that’s why CBD doesn’t give you the psychoactive properties. That’s why it doesn’t increase appetite.
But it does have the relaxation properties, the anti-inflammatory properties, and it does help people fall asleep. That’s why I take it for sleep. That’s why it can help prevent this reflex increase in 2AG, because you’re helping yourself get more sleep. Thought I’d just do a little bit better job of explaining that.
Okay, now I’m signing off for real. All right, bye.
The journey towards great health continues. Thank you for listening to The Strive for Great Health Podcast by Dr. Richard Harris. Please subscribe and give feedback by leaving a positive rating and review on your preferred podcast listening platform. Follow the show on iTunes, Spotify, Google and Android, and Patron.