Preventing Disease through Gene Expression: Your Family History is Not an Excuse to Make Unhealthy Choices.

As a health care professional, I hate to admit that I hear the sentence “it runs in the family” much too often. I used to just nod my head and figure they had a point. However, as I have learned more and more in the holistic health world. I now have to physically keep myself from rolling my eyes when I hear this statement. This statement creates an internal mindset of victimization and health that is “out of our control,” which for the most part just isn’t true.

Healthy habits are to quality of life.
Our health is largely influenced by the choices we make each day.

Your family genes and history are just one small part of the story.

More and more research is showing that although your genes may have the susceptibility to certain diseases, how they are expressed is almost 100% up to you! This is empowering news! It means that for the most part you are in control of your life and how to live it, free of disease or not (or at least better managed). Lucky for us, there are only a handful of diseases that are truly genetic (such as cystic fibrosis).

Health sabotage through poor habits.
What habits are sabotaging your health?

Stop making excuses.

As a physical therapist, I see way too many people with chronic issues like obesity, chronic pain, high blood pressure and diabetes coming to my office, throwing their hands up and saying “well my mom had it” or “all my family members” have it, basically accepting that they are just destined to suffer. Meanwhile, I start to learn of their poor exercise habits, diet, poor stress management skills, and it all starts to pain a different picture.

As a clinician the patterns have become pretty clear, that many of the chronic diseases our society suffers from are due to lifestyle.

Family influences our health habits.
What habits and values did your family instill in you?

You inherit lifestyle from your family- not disease.

The first time I heart this statement while reading David Perlmutter’s book “Brain Maker,” it was so simple yet so profound: it blew my mind! It was an “a-ha!” moment for me, realizing this is exactly the reason I was struggling with helping my patient’s improve their health and have the quality of life they want and deserve. We learn our habits and pre-conceptions about health from the people we spend the most time with- usually our families. This makes complete sense when you notice that entire countries, and traditions, demonstrate different patterns of health and disease.

I “inherited” at tradition American way of life.

Personally, I grew up eating a “standard” American kid’s diet comprised of sugar loaded peanut butter, over processed bread, Velveeta cheese “product,” ramen noodles, hot dogs, bologna, and macaroni and cheese. (It was considered the norm, so I don’t hold it against my parents at all, love you guys if you’re reading this!). Luckily, my parents at least restricted our consumption of sweets, particularly soda pop, only for special occasions. Thus, my eating habits were shaped early and most likely contributed to my chronic issues with strep throat, acne and eczema. Luckily for me (and hopefully you!), I learned the harsh reality of how my health choices early and made change before developing any serious illnesses. Also, I believe my avid participation is what minimized the consequences I felt from some of my health choices related to diet, hydration, sleep and stress management.

Are you truly maximizing your potential?

Many of us have learned to accept the health problems we have accumulated over the years. I too used that excuse for my off and on acne as a family trait. But when I really stopped to be honest with myself, I realized it had to do with my lifestyle. For me, it was specific to my diet and stress management. However, your health could be affected by any facet such as exercise, toxic chemical exposure from everyday household items, a disconnect with nature, poor sleeping habits and poor diet.

If you started making small changes in your life, what possibilities might open up for you?

Feel empowered- you have control of your gene expression!

If you are reading this and feeling frustrated and maybe even “called out” on your excuses. Don’t get too worked up. Once you have some time to absorb this information, you will learn how much of a blessing it is to realize this information and put it to use!

This should be just the flame you need to get started with the healthy life that you deserve.

Feel empowered in your healthy life choices.
Don’t feel discouraged if your lifestyle habits are sub-par. Get motivated to live the life you want!

Start small and make a big impact in your life.

It’s not about being perfect, its about awareness and doing your best. It can start with simply cutting out processed food from one meal per day, trading one junk food snack for a piece of fruit, going for a walk everyday, meditating for one minute or going to bed thirty minutes earlier. It all helps!

Once I realized the power of my choices and health habits, I used to struggle with anxiety (and sometimes still do) when I made a “poor” health decision that might affect my health. I’ve learned to be more graceful with myself, and you should too. Life happens and all we can do is try our best. Hopefully, what your “best” looks likes, with the right tools and education, will drastically improve as you take full control.

What are your biggest challenges related to your health? What kind of problems run in your family that you can tackle head on with the right tools?

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