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Dr Kenneth Pelletier has written a wonderful book called Change Your Genes, Change Your Life, where he discusses the linkage between epigenetics and health.
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Allan (1:23): Dr. Pelletier, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Pelletier (1:29): Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Allan (1:31): The book is called Change Your Genes, Change Your Life. The topic of genes and what we’re learning in the last couple of decades has been fascinating to me. It’s one of those things, whenever I see an article or a book, I want to read that, because I know that we’ve learned so much and we’re learning so much now, that I’m going to get something valuable out of it. And I definitely got some value out of your book.
Dr. Pelletier (1:58): Thank you, that’s good to hear. And you’re right, genetics testing and the promise of genetics or the lack of delivery on the promise of genetics really is the hot topic in the last five years and it’s going to be really into the near future.
Allan (2:19): When they went through the process of sequencing the genome, or basically understanding how this was supposed to work, there was this flood of news out there that they were going to be able to fix practically everything. That didn’t quite play out. What we learned when we were in school was, your eye color, other things are determined by a gene, based on families. We learned that; I’ve unlearned a lot of it since then. There’s really only a small percentage of our genes that are really fixed like that, where this gene is going to affect eye color or this gene is going to cause maybe potentially this particular disease. But it’s really a small percentage of them that work that way, right?
Dr. Pelletier (3:13): Yes, actually a very small percentage; it’s probably as low as 5%. Those are known as fully penetrant genes or monogenic genes. So, conditions like lateral sclerosis, that are clearly genetically caused – those will show up usually in the first six months of life, and that’s in effect the 5% that we know is monogenic or fully penetrant. After the first six months of life, the vast majority of what we see as late life chronic disease is caused by the interaction between the gene and the environment, and that’s the basis for epigenesis. So, epigenesis means above and beyond, or over the gene. It’s all of the influences that impact the gene after that first six months. Now, there are late life conditions that show up that do have a genetic expression, but the reality is, again, we may have an 80% likelihood of a certain condition at any time in our life, but it means that people who have the identical same gene, there are 20% of them that never have that disease show up. The question is why? And that is the fundamental question that’s now come up with epigenesis. And it’s interesting because James Watson of Watson and Crick – the discoverers of the structure of the DNA in 1954 – was the first human to have his human genome completely mapped. That was about five, maybe six years ago now, and it’s a great quotation that if he brought his completely mapped human genome to his family doctor, that he or she would know 1% to 3% more about his health than from just doing a good physical. One to 3% – that’s a pretty insignificant amount.
Allan (5:18): It is. It’s hard to see that though. I’ll give you my story. My father and my mother split up when I was very, very young. So I never really spent time with my father or knew much about him. But more and more now that I am getting to know him and that side of the family, there are so many similarities between my father and I, from the way we look, the way we act. Almost everything we do, I’m very like him. You see that on the outside – there’s this genetic component that’s, I guess, driving me to look and behave similar to my father. But what we’re seeing is still only a very small percentage of what’s out there.
Dr. Pelletier (6:03): That’s a great example. In the book, I’m very clear. I’m not denying the reality of genetic predisposition. That’s very real. In fact, there’s a whole chapter in there where I look at, what do we really know about genetic inheritance? And you’ve just rattled off color of your hair, certain looks, certain features. If you think about it, those are relatively superficial. But what we’re looking at are the deeper issues of what kinds of illnesses will you have, how healthy will you be, how long will you live, what’s going to happen to your cognition, your mental acuity, your physical fitness levels? What are your dietary preferences and what’s the impact on you as an adult? Those things are governed by a deeper layer of biochemistry. And that’s really what we’re looking at, is what things do we have within our control that we can influence day in and day out, that change the predisposition? The title of the book, Change Your Genes, is actually a trick title, because the genes actually don’t change. Genes are fixed. What does change is the expression. So, whether a gene becomes expressed or suppressed depends on everything that happens between it, other genes, our internal environment, our physical environment, radiation exposure, environmental toxins, etcetera. We have genes that do give you a certain look, a certain high color, etcetera, within your family. But then we have all of the other influences happening throughout our life that govern pretty much most of what constitutes our adult life and functioning.
Allan (7:53): I want to go past the language, because I had always thought of epigenetics as turning a gene on or off from an expression perspective, but you mention in the book that it’s not always an on or off. Sometimes it’s more like a dimmer switch.
Dr. Pelletier (8:07): Actually it is a dimmer switch. The common language is a gene turning on or turning off, but that’s not really the case. It is precisely like a dimmer switch. The gene itself is surrounded by a molecular coating; they’re called single-nucleotide polymorphisms, which is really a mouthful. They are referred to SNPs, and these SNPs are what interact with the biochemistry within the cell, which is like an ocean. So the gene is in an ocean within the cell, and the ocean is influenced by everything in our life, our diet, our stress. That’s really how the gene gets regulated, and the term really is “regulated”. So, it is like a dimmer switch. You can either turn up an influence, or turn it down. You can’t turn it off altogether. You can turn it on full board; in most cases we don’t want that to happen. But that mechanism of dialing a rheostat on a light dimmer is actually exactly how the gene expression occurs.
Allan (9:16): Okay. There are seven, what you call biologic pathways, that cause this dimmer switch to be adjusted. Do you mind going through the seven?
Dr. Pelletier (9:26): No, not at all. This is basic human biochemistry, but there are really seven pathways in the human body, and each of those pathways is governed by a multiplicity of genes. Those seven pathways are at the end of which determine your state of health and illness, and the way it shows up in our body is you have biomarkers. So you’ll have an indication of inflammation or not, or a degree of inflammation. Some inflammation is good, too much is bad. So just to rattle them off, and we can discuss any one of them in detail.
Methylation is a molecule that is like the period at the end of a sentence. It tells a gene, “That’s the end of your statement, period. End of discussion.” That’s methylation. And the other is inflammation that we’re all very familiar with. There’s acute versus chronic inflammation. There’s oxidative stress, so it’s literally the stress induced in the act of metabolism. Every time we metabolize any food product, it involves oxygen, and there are more or less degrees of oxygenation that occur. So oxidative stress is the third. Detoxification is the fourth. Our body, our liver, our intestinal tract is constantly detoxifying things from the environment and our food, etcetera. The fifth is immunity. The basic function of the immune system is to differentiate self from not self, who you are from every other pathogen person or thing in the environment. That distinguishes kind of a border between us and our environment, between us and other people, is your immune system. It maintains the integrity of your biochemistry. The sixth is lipid metabolism. That’s basically how well we digest and utilize fats. And the way that this has a very direct impact on many people is, we have the statement – we’re all supposed to eat a low fat diet. That’s simply not accurate at all. There are some people that can consume an enormous amount of saturated fats, both animal and plant-based, and they have no problems whatsoever. They don’t develop heart disease, it isn’t a predisposing factor. There are other people who are highly sensitive to lipids and they have to really restrict their diet. We can talk about how this whole area of epigenetics helps us identify really optimal diets, as opposed to general guidelines. And the last is mineral metabolism. Those minerals are all of the nutrients and trace elements in whole foods. How well the body manages that is the basis for hormone production, for basic body chemistry. Those seven pathways, again, are basic human biochemistry. That’s in virtually every biochemical text, but what we’re now finding is that each of these are governed in turn by genes, and usually a collection of genes. And how those genes regulate and get in the way – we talked about a rheostat – these pathways result in biomarkers or changes that we can detect in the human blood, and that in turn affects our organs, our state of health, etcetera. So it’s this chain reaction, if you will, from the bottom on up.
Allan (13:09): As I kind of understand this then, from a health perspective… Right now we’re getting into some of those chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s – what we’re doing in our lifestyle, our behaviors, some of the chemicals we’re exposed to, inflammation that we experience, and oxidative stress – all those things are working within our bodies based on our gene profile and which of our genes have been ratcheted up or ratcheted back down.
Dr. Pelletier (13:46): Absolutely. You just described very accurately the whole process. Exactly. Again, these are standard pathways, whether you’re looking at integrative medicine or conventional medicine. These all exist within the human body. What’s really new is that we’re finding that these pathways are under our influence. These are not biological mechanisms that are set in place and invariant and just run. These are influenced by everything we do, day in and day out. I think that’s both the good news and the bad news. Someone might say, “That scares me. I don’t want to have that much control over my life and my destiny and my health.” And other people say, “Wow, that’s great. It means I have a greater influence over my own health and longevity and wellbeing than ever thought.” And my book really comes down on the latter case, which is, this is good news. If you know what these pathways are, if you know what your genetic predisposition is, and if you know what you can do about it – that’s all good news.
Allan (14:50): It is. It’s like if someone knows, “I lost my grandmother to diabetes, I lost my father to diabetes.” So you see that family lineage – that’s not your destination. You may be more predisposed to diabetes, but there are things that you can actually do to prevent that from happening.
Dr. Pelletier (15:09): Absolutely. There are many studies of identical twins, and what those studies indicate is that a very, very small percentage of major chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome – very few of those are actually the same in adult twins. So you have identical twins that have exactly the same genetic code, if you will, built into their cells, but as adults you have maybe 30% of them manifest the same cancer, maybe 10% manifest the same heart disease. So the actual percentage of a disease in a person’s gene among identical twins is very low. That means that everything that each of them has been doing differently in their lives is really the governing factor. Again, to me that’s very exciting news, because genes are not our destiny. They’re clearly a push, and some of the pushes are good. Again, it’s not always vulnerabilities.
There really are two basic models that you see in the public information literature on genes. One is a disease model. 23andMe gives a prediction about the likelihood of you having a particular disease. That’s a disease model, and I honestly am not supportive of that, because you and I would submit our genes and we would have virtually the same information come back. So it’s not really a predictive model; it’s statistical. It says you have a 60% chance or a 40% chance. What about the other 30% or 40%, or sometimes more than 50% of people with the identical profile who don’t have that particular disease? The other is the area of healthy biomarkers, which is what we’re really talking about, which is how do you identify when these markers are telling you that you have a higher than normal inflammation or lower than normal inflammation? And what can you do about that to maintain this optimal zone? So it’s really a health model. You’re using the same technology, but you’re reading it differently. One of the analogies I use is that if you walk into a supermarket, everything has a barcode. If you could read the barcodes, you would know a tremendous amount about that lettuce, or that soup, or that cereal – it would be where it came from, what the date was, some certain contents, etcetera. But we don’t have the means to read the barcode, so we just look at it. It’s a mystery. It’s exactly that same way with genetics. We are born as human beings with a barcode, and now we’re learning to read it. That’s what’s really fascinating.
Allan (17:59): What I liked about this was that one, it helps me understand why two people can basically do the same things, live the same way, but have very different health outcomes. I’ve always felt, from an eating perspective, someone will sit there and they’ll say the Inuits ate just fat and they did just great. Someone else will sit there and say you just need to eat fruit and vegetables. I actually did the 23andMe, and I was more fascinated about where my ancestors were from than anything else. I don’t know what the 2.6% Neanderthal actually means, but that’s out there. My lineage, everybody above me, is from Northern and Eastern Europe. Looking at that as a lifestyle, what they would have eaten – they would not have had access to tropical fruits.
Dr. Pelletier (18:58): Correct. You’re absolutely right. In fact, just as a side note, you mentioned about 2.6% Neanderthal in your chart. Virtually every person that’s tested will in fact show up as having Neanderthal genes, because at certain points in evolution, Neanderthal and what we now know is Homo Sapiens interbred. So, there are these Neanderthal genetic predispositions in our bodies. That’s quite a recent discovery. And one of the avenues of thought is that because this is in effect a more primitive genetic predisposition, that some of what we see as violence or post-traumatic stress syndrome or other kinds of hyper regression in individuals may in fact be this Neanderthal gene manifesting itself. So that’s another little subset of genetics, which is kind of fascinating.
Allan (19:52): So I could just tell someone, “Don’t bring it out. I’ve got this 2.6% out here.”
Dr. Pelletier (19:58): That’s it. And you’ve really hit on the essence of what the book is about, which is once you know… So, if you know that both parents were smokers, or both parents had obesity, or whatever the predisposition is, and you get your genes test and you found you have a low lipid metabolism quotient so you’re predisposed not to metabolize fats very rapidly or completely. Once you know that, then you say, “I then have to pay more attention to my diet. I need to, in fact, have a low fat, Mediterranean, ideally, kind of diet.” So it’s that knowledge that you can use to change your, in effect, destiny into something you can regulate. Diet is the single most potent influence on gene expression that we know of. Stress is another, and certain biochemical exposures from the environment. But diet has a huge part to play in genetics. Whenever I’m at conferences and you hear one speaker after another; there’s one saying the ketogenic diet, then another one says, “No, Paleolithic.” And then there’s high fat and low fat, and no fat, and various forms of fasting. Those are all general guidelines, general recommendations. It’s like a suit of clothing or a dress. If you buy it off the rack, that’s fine, but it’s never going to fit you perfectly. It’s all in the tailoring that makes it uniquely you, makes it look good, makes it look like a high-quality piece of clothing. So, all of these guidelines kind of fit someone but they don’t fit anyone. And until you know your own biochemistry, your own composition, your own genetic code, then you don’t know which of those match up with you. Maybe you really are a Paleo diet, maybe you really are a non-fat diet, maybe you are a periodic fasting person, but you don’t know until you get this code deciphered. And it will tell you sometimes things as specifically as to consume walnuts, not almonds, because you can digest walnuts by your genetic predisposition and pathway, but almonds are relatively indigestible for you, or you even have an allergy to almonds. Some people have peanut allergies – that’s a genetic predisposition. So again, it’s a matter of specificity. I think you’ve heard this phrase – we’re hearing “personalized medicine”. Even Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, uses the phrase “personalized medicine”. That’s what we’re coming to, where you use these tests, these assays, this knowledge to really make these general guidelines applicable to you.
Allan (22:49): Okay. So, if I want to buy a suit off the rack, as far as how to eat, and then I want to start tailoring it myself, what approach would you start with, and then how would you go about deciding your tailoring needs?
Dr. Pelletier (23:04): That’s a great question; maybe very personal. When I look at all of the dietary recommendations, there really is only one diet that has a large body of research over decades, where both the biochemistry makes sense, the epidemiology makes sense, the disease outcomes, etcetera. It’s basically the Mediterranean diet. And the Mediterranean diet is literally the diet that is consumed by countries along the southern part of the Mediterranean – so Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, North Africa even. That region has a very particular diet, which has predominantly fish as a protein source, not red meat. It is high in vegetables and fruit, and deeply colored vegetables and fruits. You can think about carrots and tomatoes, or apples and oranges. So, fruits and vegetables that are deeply colored, leafy green vegetables, etcetera. It has a moderate alcohol consumption, which is kind of a nice thing. It’s basically high fiber, and all in effect natural ingredients. These are not ideally products that are grown with a great deal of chemistry involved in their growth. So, the Mediterranean diet is kind of the optimal diet, with the most research underlying it. If you think about many of the other diets that are touted, in terms of fat content, fasting, not fasting, high protein, low protein – they’re really variance of the Mediterranean diet. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in the last year that looked at seven or eight of the common diets that are touted in public, and they followed people out, they looked at the outcomes at one year. What was interesting is there were no differences. There were weight losses on all of the diets, or improvements in health status on all of the diets for about three to six months, and then there was what’s called “regression to the mean”. Basically people went back to their usual baseline, and at one year these positive changes that had shown up in three to six months were all gone. People had gained weight, they were back to eating how they were, they had unhealthy biomarkers. So, basically all the diets are either equally good or equally bad, depending on your perspective.
Allan (25:49): I would think that might be the Hawthorne effect, if you’re familiar with that. When you’re being watched, you tend to be a little bit more spot-on. They looked at it from the work perspective – workers that were watched worked harder. I think maybe in that first three months, they know they’re being tracked and at that point they’ve got this, “I want to be good.” Then after a while, the Hawthorne effect wears off. The observer is still there, but they begin to ignore the observer. I think that might just be a human behavior thing, more so than to really say that a diet worked or not, because I think a lot of people probably just fell off the wagon at that point. Or were they still really trying to eat that way?
Dr. Pelletier (26:31): Absolutely. You hit it right on the head. Any dietary change that forces you to pay attention to what you’re eating, you will lose weight and your health will improve, period. It doesn’t matter what it is. So, pick any diet that you think is going to be the wonderful diet that’s going to cure all your ills, and if you stick with it for 10 to 12 weeks, you will get benefits. You’ll lose weight, you’ll look better, feel better, until you go off it. The issue is not, “Can we change our diet and improve our health?” The issue is, “Can we change our diet and sustain it for a lifetime?” That’s the biggest challenge. In integrative medicine, or even in conventional medicine, the biggest challenge is not, can you help people, can people stop smoking, can they reduce alcohol, can they reduce weight, can they increase exercise? The answer is “Yes” to all of those. That’s unequivocal. We’ve got tons of research that demonstrates that. What we don’t have is research on how people could sustain that change. Going back to the JAMA study, to me one of the most amusing things was that the diet that actually showed a sustained weight decrease, sustained over one year, was Weight Watchers, and the factor that you just said about the Hawthorne effect. The nutrition value of Weight Watchers is okay. It’s not great, it’s moderate. But the difference is they have support groups. They have partners, they have diets, the foods are supplied to people, so it’s sustained. It’s that psychological group support, psychological commitment to that dietary program that is responsible for the sustained weight loss and health benefits. It’s not inherent to the diet per se. It’s not a particularly healthy diet, but it’s one that people stay with because of the surrounding program. There’s a lot we can learn from that.
Allan (28:32): Yes – get help, get accountability partners. And they go in for weekly weigh-ins, so there’s a constant reminder that Monday is coming up and they’ve got to do their weigh-in. So they’re paying a little bit more attention over the weekend to try to make Monday not such a day.
Dr. Pelletier (28:52): You’ve got it. Absolutely. Absolutely correct.
Allan (28:57): One of the things that I’ve been dealing with and really focused on from a health perspective over the course of the last year, has been stress. I had a very stressful corporate job. I was laid off. I actually now look at that as a blessing, because now I can actually focus on my life and my stress. And I have choice, which I feel really, really good about. But stress is also one of those things that can really impact how our genes express and what’s going on with our bodies.
Dr. Pelletier (29:32): Absolutely. Other than diet, probably the second, in some cases primary influence on genetic expression is stress. You also cited in your own case a really critical term, which is “choice”. When we can influence external events and realize we have a choice, not over the external event, but we have a choice of our response – that one insight is critical. There’s an apocryphal story about William James, who’s the founder of modern psychology. He was in a profound depression. He suffered from depression his whole life, and he was in a very deep depression. And what roused him out of his deep depression was the realization that he had a choice between one thought and the next. That infinitesimal moment when he could choose between one depressing thought and another, versus a depressing thought and a happy thought – that roused him out of his depression and gave rise to much of what he wrote. So, you’ve hit on the critical factor of choice.
Now, with stress, it’s interesting. Stress is a complex subject, but let me try to be brief. There are really two kinds of stress. One is short-term, immediate, when the source of stress is identifiable and resolvable. If you think about it, you step off the curb, a car honks its horn, you jump back on the curb and that saves your life. So, the short-term stress, which in my book I call “type 1 stress” – the body is built to take that, we owe our survival as a species to it. If we didn’t have it, we’d be dead. Then there’s a “type 2 stress”, and that occurs when the source of stress is not immediate, not identifiable, and not resolvable. If you think about it, most of the stress in our lives – worry about income or children or career planning or a conflict in a relationship – those are all long-term, not even always identifiable, and not readily resolvable. That’s the culprit. The type 2 stress is the killer. That’s what affects our genes, and the effect is through pathways. As one example, excessive stress would increase inflammation. Inflammation predisposes to diabetes, heart disease, rheumatology diseases, irritable bowel, and a whole rash of other conditions. So, this type 2 stress is the worst.
Now, the common pathway between both of those is that if you perceive something to be threatening – so again, it’s this matter of perception – if you think something is threatening, your body will react as though it’s a real physical danger. So if you think that a change in your income is a threat to your physical wellbeing, your body will react as though you’re being stalked by a saber tooth tiger. It goes on red alert, all of your stress hormones, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and your body chemistry changes to one that’s a red alert. For a short period of time, no problem – our bodies are meant to take that. In fact, if you think about a pleasurable activity – sky diving or whatever your thrilling pleasure is – we voluntarily enter into these situations to get that high. So, short-term stress actually gives us a high, it increases perception and judgment, road to recall, etcetera. It’s a good thing. When it goes on for too long, normal increases in body chemistry, normal increases in biological changes become a problem. So blood pressure will go up in the short run. If it stays elevated, that’s hypertension. Our heart rates become slightly arrhythmic and rapid. If it goes on too long, that becomes tachycardia or various forms of life threatening arrhythmias. Our bodies become rigid so we’re not pushed over. If that goes on for too long, we have musculoskeletal contractions and pains and headaches. The last one would be if blood flow to the periphery of the body shuts down in type 1 stress, it’s like with any other animal. If we’re in a fight and you’re cut, you won’t bleed as much and you won’t succumb to loss of blood. In the long run, it becomes things like peripheral artery disease, Raynaud’s syndrome, a whole host of other conditions. So it’s this type 2 stress that’s the culprit.
The solution, and this is where the perception comes in – think about it – just identify, how do you know when you personally are under stress? For some people, their mouth gets dry – that’s the normal response. Neck tension, loss of appetite, racing thoughts, a stomach upset. Something tells you you’re under a lot of stress right now. If you can identify when you are moving down that type 2 pathway, you can then initiate a stress management technique. That could be meditation, it could be yoga, it could be simple abdominal breathing, it could be reciting a poem or a prayer that’s meaningful to you. It could be seeing an image of being on a beach or walking in the mountains, or whatever. That will interrupt that cumulative type 2 destructive response into a short-term type 1 interval which you can manage and recover. So the trick is not avoiding stress. It’s to cycle in and out of this optimal zone, where you have enough stress to be stimulated, to be excited, to be thrilled by what you’re doing, but not so much that it’s taxing on your body. That’s the difference. So, the type 1 stress does not have an adverse effect on your genes. Your genes are set up for short-term responses that basically preserve our integrity and our lives. The difference with type 2 is that it upregulates, in effect overexpresses that genetic predisposition in a way that’s ultimately destructive. So that, if you will, in a perhaps too long-winded answer, is really how stress affects our health, but also interacts with our genes and determines how well we do or do not manage the stress in our lives, which is inevitable. Stress is life. If we weren’t stressed, we’d be dead. Stress is certainly not bad. Excessive stress is simply destructive.
Allan (36:36): What I would find is that if there was an acute stress, I just need to move, in some form of movement. Sometimes it was throwing around heavy weights, sometimes it was just going for a walk in nature, and the acute stress, that type 1 stress would go away very, very quickly. If I found myself shallow breathing, just basically chest breathing – that’s when I would start to recognize that I was consistently stressed. This was something that had been going on longer than just a few minutes. And that’s where I found meditation and box breathing or something like that would be a good practice for me at that point in time to kind of let some of that go. Unfortunately I wasn’t, and in my mind I’m still not really, really good at relieving stress as well as I should. So that’s a practice and some things that I’ve been working on in the last several months, because I see that as the next big rock for me to be dealing with on my health. I’m pretty good about my food, and now I want to deal with that one. I appreciate you taking the time; you didn’t go too long at all. That was actually excellent. I appreciate that.
Dr. Pelletier (37:51): You just took out exactly in your own personal situation what we’re talking about. So, for you, the shallow thoracic breathing – that’s hyperventilation. When we’re under stress, your brain needs a lot of oxygen. You begin to breathe shallowly and slowly, a lot of oxygen to the brain for rapid reaction time. When it’s over – think about it – you usually take a deep sigh, right? You go, “Phew. That was close. It’s over.” That tells your diaphragm, “Unlock, start to breathe more abdominally.” If you can do that, which is what you’re practicing, then that’s the way to break the type 2 into type 1. The other critical thing that you said – again, you’re right on target – is, practice. If someone said, “I want to learn to play the piano”, you’d say, “You’re going to need lessons and practice, and it’s going to take you time.” And they’d say, “Yeah, of course, I know that.” But if the person says, “I want to learn how to manage stress better”, and you say, “It’s going to take practice. You have to learn it, it’s going to take time.” They look at you like, “Really? Why should that be the case?” The point is, it’s a skill. Like any other skill, you can learn which one you need, when to initiate it, and as you do more of it, you get better over time. And quite literally there’s research that shows that as you practice a stress management technique, most of the benefits that you accrue initially are imaginary. You think that you’re relaxing, and really you’re not changing your blood chemistry very much at all. But as you practice, the convergence between perceiving that you’re managing it well and it actually happening on a physical level, happens. Initially people say, “I give up” or, “It’s not really working.” It’s true initially, but over time it will.
Allan (39:38): Good, thank you. The book is Change Your Genes, Change Your Life. Like I said, this topic just fascinates me to no end. It’s a really good book. If someone wanted to learn more about you and the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Pelletier (39:57): I have a website, and it’s very simple – it’s DrPelletier.com. It has information on the book. I post articles, most of which have come from the book, out of the original sources for it. There are some videos of lectures I’ve given, all the way from Singapore to Istanbul. It’s a good site; it’s just DrPelletier.com – very simple. Thank you for asking.
Allan (40:29): So you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/344, and I’ll be sure to have a link there. Dr. Pelletier, thank you for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast.
Dr. Pelletier (40:41): Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed this discussion, and you’re very knowledgeable. I appreciate the fact that you’ve obviously really thought about this. So thank you for letting me be your guest.
Allan (40:51): You’re welcome. Thank you.
I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. Dr. Pelletier is a fascinating man and his book is so well done. If you’re interested at all in epigenetics, this is the most recent research. He really did a great job with the research and did a really great job of explaining things in the book. I’d encourage you to reach out and get that book. If you enjoy the podcast, I’d like to ask you if you wouldn’t mind stepping in and becoming a patron and supporting the show. I want to thank the folks that have already done that. You’re helping to cover the cost of posting and all the support I get from audio and the show notes and everything that goes into getting a podcast done. We are doing some extra episodes this month, so there are some additional costs. I appreciate anyone and everyone that stepped up to become a patron. And you can as well, by going to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon. Of course you can go to the show notes of this episode at 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/344, and I’ll have a link to Patreon. You’ll see that right on the top there. And I list the patrons that contribute at least $4 a month, so it’s about $1 an episode for most months. It’s about $0.50 an episode for the month of October. So, please do go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon and become a patron of the show. Show your support and help me make this podcast is wonderful as I can.
And if you haven’t already, please do check out WellnessRoadmapBook.com. I’m building that out right now to support the launch of the book, which is expected to happen in the early part of December. I’m working on getting everything synched up there, but I’m putting together the materials there so you can learn a lot about the book. And if you want to learn any more, you can go ahead and sign up to be a part of the launch team. The launch team gets weekly updates that I don’t share anywhere else, and they’re also going to get some pretty cool bonuses and surprises as we go along. So, thank you for those that have joined the launch team. I really appreciate you. And if you haven’t joined the launch team, please do – go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com. Thank you.
Allan (0:00): On episode 327 of the 40+ Fitness podcast, we meet Dr. Ben Lynch and discuss his book Dirty Genes, a breakthrough program to treat the root cause of illness and optimize your health. You can find the full show notes for this episode at FortyPlusFitnessPodcast.com/327.
Allan (0:50): Our guest today received his doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. He has supported thousands of clients and trained thousands of physicians and health professionals across the globe in using insights from epigenetics to optimize health. He is the founder of Seeking Health – a company that helps educate both the public and health professionals on how to overcome genetic dysfunction through diet, lifestyle, and supplements. I bring you Dr. Ben Lynch. Dr. Lynch, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Lynch (1:20): Great to be here, Allan.
Allan (1:22): Your book, Dirty Genes – and I’m sure that was somewhat of a play on words – but it was really interesting to me as I got into the book that my eye color is because of my genes. I had a receding hairline when I was younger, and now I shave my head. That’s a part of what my genes were. So what we were taught in school about our genes and how they define who we are – it makes it seem like you can take them almost like they were a predestination, like this is who we’re going to be, this is what we’re going to be. But when it comes to our actual health, we have a lot of say in what our genes do or don’t do for us.
Dr. Lynch (2:11): 100%. I had the same exact philosophy as we all did back in the day. It’s like, “Oh God, what was our family history? Oh, I’m next.” And now it’s totally the opposite. It’s as malleable as Play-Doh, almost. Nice, new Play-Doh. As we get older, our genes are about as malleable as old Play-Doh, but the good news is we have different symptoms that come and go every day. Some days we’re more tired, some days we’re full of energy, other days we’re grumpy and don’t really want to meet anybody, other days we want to go party hard. Our genes are responsive for that, but they’re responding to the things that we are providing them. We’re giving them either the tools that they want to use and perform, or we’re giving them hindrances and roadblocks and they’re saying, “Dang it, now I can’t get my job done.” Because that’s all genes do. They just do work, and we better give them the right tools to do it.
Allan (3:15): This is not going to mean anything to anyone unless they owned a computer back in the 1980s. But if you owned a personal computer back in the 1980s, they had this series of dip switches in the back. You could turn them on and turn them off. When you first get your computer and you’re trying to set it all up, it wasn’t as simple as just plug-and-play and some of the things we have today. You had to almost have a computer science engineering degree to sit down and know how those dip switches work. Our genes are in many ways the same thing, that you can basically turn a gene on or off. And the series of them all working together can create, for lack of a better word, a symphony. It can make us very, very healthy or very, very sick. Can you go through just a little brief description of what epigenetics is all about and what this “on switch, off switch” stuff is all really working for?
Dr. Lynch (4:10): I’ve related our bodies to a symphony before, where we are the conductor, and the orchestra are the genes. Actually they’re not their genes. I’m forgetting my analogy, how it worked. It was so good when I presented on it. But you could have a great sounding orchestra or band, or you could have a horrible sounding band. And it could be because the instruments aren’t tuned, and it could be because the player isn’t very good, or all of the above.
Epigenetics is simply how our genes are responding to the environment. “Epi” means “above”, and genetics is genetics. So it literally is “above the genetics”, and that doesn’t really help you out that much, but what you need to know is genes are buried inside your nucleus, which is buried inside your cell, and your cell contains all this stuff inside a cell membrane. The cell membranes have these antennas or receptors and they’re constantly sensing their environment around them. From that, there’s hormones, neurotransmitters, vitamins and stuff floating around. Ultimately when we eat something or see, hear, taste, or touch something – we are sending signals that get all the way down to the surface of the cell, which sends a signal down into the nucleus, which tells certain genes to turn on, certain genes to turn off, and they produce something because of that. When we touch a hot stove, we immediately go, “Ow”, right? And that is a very, very quick response; it’s nerve response. But we also have neuro transmitters in our brain fire because of that, where we get stressed out and we get a flood of norepinephrine probably. That is all responses from our environment and our perception of it.
Allan (6:25): There are hundreds of thousands of genes throughout our body and they’re all going to respond differently. Some are going to have very little effect, as far as what we would notice, because they are doing something not benign, but something that’s probably very important, just not something that overall we’re going to see a huge, huge benefit. But there are seven, and you call them the “Super Seven”. Do you mind going through those? As I was reading through them, the first one – the methylation gene – I’m very familiar with that one because everybody likes to talk about that one. And it’s very, very important – don’t get me wrong – but there are six others that I think also are. This is I think where it really connected for me is, when I first got your book and I said, “Okay, we’re going to talk about genes.” And I was almost immediately like, “I should send him my 23andMe and say, ‘Tell me, Doc, what do I have to look forward to in the next 5, 10, 15, 50 years?’” But then as I got into the book, I’m like, “This is not something where you just do a 23andMe kind of thing and say, ‘This is everything.’” There’s a lot more going on, but these seven really are the defining ones that for most of us, if we can address these seven, we’re going to live a lot better.
Dr. Lynch (7:47): A lot better. And there’s a whole bunch of reasons why I picked these seven. The biggest reason is because when you support these seven, they help clean up all the other genes in your body. You have to find genes that are one, well-researched; two, I had to have enough clinical experience with them; three, you have to be able to support them through basic lifestyle habits and supplementation and environmental changes; and four, they had to make a huge impact in day-to-day life. Those are the reasons why I picked these seven. And there are approximately 19,000 to 20,000 some genes in the human body, and there are millions of genetic variations. So there are a lot of things that you can choose from, but I just picked genes in general. I didn’t pick snips, I didn’t pick mutations, I didn’t pick variations. I picked genes, period. Because if you understand how the genes work, that’s what you need to understand.
These Super Seven – their jobs are massively important. One gene – MTHFR – it’s the master of methylation. And what that means is that it helps control over 200 other genes, which affects your ability to think, sleep, and support your cardiovascular system, support your cell membrane production. If your cell membranes are not healthy, it’s like you’re not having skin on your body. It’s that important. You’ve got to have healthy cell membranes or you’re in trouble. Then you have COMT, and COMT’s job is to help really process your estrogen levels, in men too. It also helps process your dopamine and norepinephrine, and that’s really important. And then it also helps process your epinephrine, so your neurotransmitters. And then I can work faster or slower, and there’s pros and cons to that. There’s another gene called DAO, and this one lives primarily in your digestive system, and its job is to break down histamine. Histamine is this compound that is very, very common in the population, where it’s elevated. When you have high histamine, you’ve got seasonal allergies, itchy, scratchy, skin, you can’t sleep, you’re irritable, you get migraines, headaches, nose bleeds, rashes, urticaria, psoriasis, eczema, diarrhea, acid reflux, low blood pressure. These are really, really common problems. You get bit by a mosquito and you’re super, super itchy. Exercise-induced asthma, asthma – that’s majorly impacted by this gene, which is in your gut and it’s very easily dirtied. And then there’s another one called MAO, and MAO also works for neurotransmitters. A really big one for serotonin, which is kind of your feel-good, happy neurotransmitter, like dopamine, but it also is needed for your melatonin for sleep. And then you have PEMT, which really no one talks about, and PEMT’s job is to help make your cell membranes. It’s kind of a tag team with MTHFR; they all kind of tag team each other. Throughout the book I interweave them and explain how and why. It helps make your cell membranes and it also helps make your bile, which is this product your liver makes so you can absorb fats and kill bad bugs in your small intestine, hence small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. So if you have SIBO or struggling with gut issues, PEMT is a factor that a lot of people need to start digging into more, and a lot of doctors don’t know the connection there. Then we’ve got NOS3, and this one’s super important. If any of those other six genes are dirty, this NOS3 gene is dirty. It’s very, very sensitive. And if it gets dirty, you have neurological issues, mental issues, and cardiovascular issues. And cardiovascular disease is the number one killer for women. There’s so much emphasis on breast cancer, and there should be, but the number one killer actually in women is cardiovascular disease. And this gene has a big, big role to play here.
Allan (12:23): Okay. And then there was the GST.
Dr. Lynch (12:27): I forgot one.
Allan (12:28): That’s alright. I’m here to help.
Dr. Lynch (12:30): I appreciate that. So, glutathione – so GST/GPX. It’s kind of a tag team, these two. It’s a Super Eight, but that doesn’t sound good. Super Seven sounds better.
Allan (12:42): It has to be an odd number.
Dr. Lynch (12:44): Yeah, it’s got to be an odd number for Feng Shui in the book. So, we combine these two because I was just doing GST or GPX alone, and I could not write the chapter effectively. I kept intertwining them and it was like, “It doesn’t work”, so I combined them both. Glutathione is your body’s number one antioxidant. When you’re fighting an infection, the cleanup crew is glutathione to clean up all the mess. If you’re exercising and you have really bad post workout soreness, glutathione levels are probably low and you probably need to support those. When you have asthma, you are struggling with low glutathione . When you have exposures to chemicals in the environment, which we all do, especially formaldehyde. It’s everywhere – in our building materials and furniture, and your clothing, your carpets, your cabinets, your mattresses. When you’re breathing this, you’re using up your glutathione, and that gene is very, very easily dirtied. And if your glutathione levels get low, you’re in trouble, period. All the other genes are dirty too.
Allan (14:00): I think that’s one of the things that you did really, really well in the book, was you took something that I would say might be one of the most complex topics in the health and fitness arena, and you made it relatively simple. There is a lot of interplay and a lot of complexity to this, but you did a really good job in the book, at least in my opinion, of making this attainable, making this something we can wrap our heads around. I think it’s because we all like these very simple rules. “If this, then that” health and fitness rules seem to be kind of the rage. “If you cut your calories, you’re going to lose weight. If you eat this supplement, then you’re going to have this result”. And so a lot of people are out looking for those very, very simple, “What’s something I can do?” One that typically comes up for me with a lot of my clients is, “What supplements should I be taking?” And I always have to caution them to start with the food. Let’s get better food, because that’s going to give you 99% of what you need. And then if there’s a reason, we can look at these other supplements as just that, a supplement. However, in particular with the first gene – the methylation gene – folate is a big deal, and we want to make sure that we’re getting adequate folate. That’s leafy greens and things like that. But we really struggle with our vegetables, so the simple thing is, “Let’s go pop one of these benign pills. Let’s get our vitamins that way.” And so they get the multivitamin with the folic acid. And I told you this just before we started here – I had to put the book down because I got angry. I can’t believe that the vitamin manufacturers are allowed to feed us this stuff. Can you take just a moment to explain folate, why it’s important, and actually what the difference is between that and folic acid?
Dr. Lynch (16:01): You share a lot of great points here. First of all, I’m glad you got irritated and pissed off, and second, I’m sorry that you did that because you dirtied your genes from doing that.
Allan (16:14): I know, I know.
Dr. Lynch (16:16): But folate is one of those things that isn’t very sexy. You eat a salad; it’s not like biting into a big dark decadent chocolate cake and getting that sugar rush. Eating a salad tastes good, but it’s not exciting to make, it’s not exciting to eat, but it’s super, super important and super fundamental. One of the things we forget all the time is, we are animals. We should be outside like all the other ones that are out there. Every other animal’s outside and they are grazing, they are foraging, they are harvesting, they are storing. And we don’t. We eat processed foods that fill the void and stick a lot of neurotransmitters because food scientists get it right, to do wrong.
Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate. What you need to know about folate is, I think it’s Latin – “folar”, if I’m not mistaken, or “folium”, and it means “leaf”, “foliage”. So it’s pretty simple, that folate comes from green, leafy vegetables – the darker the green, the more folate typically. It also is found in liver and some other foods as well, like beans, but it’s not very absorbable. So you can get folate from food. If you’re reading the book and you just found out you have an MTHFR variant, and you’re told to run out and take a supplement – no, just eat more leafy greens, because leafy greens are helping you out. What you do need to do is stop taking a supplement, more importantly, and that is folic acid. That’s what irritated you so much from reading that in the book. Folic acid is one of those things that was literally invented by humans, because we decided, geniusly, to have basically bread flour, stripped of all nutrients, so it’ll live on the shelf longer. It’s great for business, it’s great for convenience, but you are literally eating dust without nutritional value. And we had a lot of issues with that from history, and they figured out, “We’re actually getting a lot of birth defects and fertility issues, so we have to fix this problem. Instead of stripping the nutrients anymore from the grains, we’re going to synthesize a nutrient that looks very close to the body’s natural form of folate.” And they did a great job. It’s so close to the natural form of folate that is recognized by the human body, that it does get well absorbed and it does bind to folate receptors, and it does get bound to the transportation systems in our bodies to carry the folate around. The problem is, it does it too well, and it sticks to them. It’s like, if you have honey on your fingers and you’re trying to type on your keyboard, or you’ve ever made dough and you need to add more flour on the counter, otherwise it’s sticking. This synthetic folic acid really binds strongly to your receptors and also your folate-binding proteins.
What does all that mean? I’ll give you an example. If you have a car key or a house key, and you insert the key into your door, you unlock it and you go inside. You try to take your key out, and you do, and you put it on the key hooks right inside your door – you’re good. But if you go later on and you stick your key in the door, you unlock it, and you try to take the key out again – you can’t, it’s stuck. So folic acid is the key, and the doorknob is the receptor or the folate-binding protein. You need to have that folate dock and get off, dock and get off. But what happens is that folic acid has no human physiological benefit at all in the human body. It has to be transformed into something that’s usable, and that requires genes. And the genes in the human beings do not work fast to process folic acid. It’s extremely slow. Very, very slow. All the research that was done on folic acid was done on rats, and rats can process folic acid, no problem. Humans, on the other hand – very, very slow. There are genetic variations in this gene called DHFR that are known to be very, very slow at processing folic acid, and they’re very common actually. So if you’re an individual and you’re consuming folic acid and you have symptoms, the first thing you need to do is stop taking the folic acid. It’s literally gumming up your genetics and your whole body. It’s going to affect your neurotransmission, your cardiovascular system, your detoxification, your hair, your nails, your blood cells – white blood cells, red blood cells. It’s going to affect all that. So you get rid of it. The good thing is, they’ll get out of your system in about, I would say two weeks. Your genes will get rid of it and it’ll be gone. Another good thing is folic acid is typically found in processed foods, so if you limit your processed food intake, you’re also reducing your folic acid intake. So it’s kind of a double benefit there by avoiding folic acid.
Allan (21:59): Like I said, that’s what really frustrated me, was, they’re selling you a fortified breakfast cereal. It has all the vitamins and minerals that a growing body needs, and now we’re eating that and /or we’re feeding that to our children. We’re taking our supplements, because that’s what we think we’re supposed to do, and really it’s not doing us any good, and in fact actually harming us. So that was really what frustrated me – just the whole concept of, we’re trying to do the right thing. We’re trying to fix our health and we think that the companies are out there providing us a tool to help us do that, but that tool is actually the key that sticks. And therefore we’re not actually improving our health, and in many cases we’re actually making it worse.
Dr. Lynch (22:49): Let me drive this point home with the final blow. And the final blow is, standard medicine knows that folic acid is bad. It does. When you dig hard enough in the research, looking for reasons why folic acid is bad, you find it. But very, very few people are actively looking for why folic acid is bad. I work hard on that, because I’m vehemently against it. In fact, I bought the domain FolicAcid.com for a lot of money to make this a public health issue. There are a lot of people that Google “folic acid”, so if I can make a website FolicAcid.com, and I will be, I’m going to be garnering a lot of attention and making a lot of noise with the help of social media. But the point that I want to make is that folic acid is a known contraindication, meaning do not do it for a condition called cerebral folate deficiency. What that means is, you have low levels of folate in your brain. You can have all the folate you want in your blood, but you have to get the folate into your brain. If you don’t, you have seizures, you have epileptic seizures, you have neurotransmitter deficiencies. You’re not making your dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin. You’re not generating that stuff, so big issues happen. When you have the condition of cerebral folate deficiency, which a lot of autistic children have, then folic acid is a known contraindication when that occurs, because they know that it’s going to cause further folate deficiency in the brain. You’re supposed to use a more active form of folate, called folinic acid or methylfolate, and everything is merry, and it’s pretty simple and pretty cheap.
Allan (24:47): Cool. Now, in your book, you have the 4-week Clean Gene Protocol. And I like this, because it takes something that’s relatively complex and it applies lifestyle choices for the vast majority of us to make sure that we are maximizing our opportunity with our genes. There is a quiz in the book where you can go through and ask yourself some questions. And it’s not just physical; there are some mood-based things in there as well, or tendencies, like if you have a tendency to be a little bit more focused or single-minded or a little bit more out there with the ADHD kind of stuff. Those are all indicators of your genes. But you put together a very simple protocol for us to go through over the course of four weeks. Do you mind taking some time to walk us through that protocol?
Dr. Lynch (25:41): Yeah, for sure. And I equate this to general cleanup. So, if you tell your kid to clean the room, or you’re going to clean the kitchen – you’re not going to clean the kitchen by unloading all the stuff in your cabinets and dusting the back of one cabinet, right? That’s something you do once every few years. But when people get their genetic tests done, that’s kind of what they’re doing. That’s how they’re cleaning their genes – they’re targeting one tiny little area that’s pretty insignificant, and it really doesn’t make any difference. When you want to clean your kitchen, you start with the dishes – they’re glaring there on the counter. You clean those, you put them away. Now you’ve got a huge improvement already. Then you tackle the counters. Counters are full of stuff. You put it away, put it in the cabinets, in the fridge. You throw the old stuff away and wipe the counters. Wow, now your kitchen’s looking really good. In fact, you can walk away.
So the biggest things I like to hit are the ones that are going to have the biggest impact. And you already hit it, Allan – that’s food. Genes do work, and if you give your genes healthy food, they can do healthy work. If you give your genes bad food, now you’re taking the genes that want to make your dopamine and norepinephrine, but they can’t because now you’ve eaten all this garbage food that is telling all these other genes to get to work and try to get it out of your system. Now you’re dealing with high blood sugar and you’ve got inflammation and you’ve got a yeast overgrowth, and all these other genes are triggering because of that. Instead, if you had a salad with a bit of protein and a bit of fat that would’ve been all nourishing, genes would have been firing, but they would have been healthy firing.
So you’ve got to start with healthy food and you also have to start with basically understanding that breathing is an automatic thing, the autonomic nervous system, but if you are not breathing properly, then your genes are very, very dirty. A simple a way to understand if you’re mouth-breathing or breathing poorly, is if your hands are routinely cold. If your hands are always cold, or your feet are always cold, or both, then you’re not breathing right. It’s that simple. If you change your breathing, you can warm up your hands and your feet very quickly, within minutes. I do it in conferences all the time with people. “Whose hands are cold?” 20% or 30% of the hands go up. And we’ll follow a certain exercise of closing their mouth, breathing through their nose slowly, out through their nose slowly. Then after a couple minutes I say, “Whose hands are much warmer?”, and about 50% of those people will already have a huge improvement. Breathing is super, super important. So food, breathing, hydration.
If you’re 1% dehydrated – just 1% – you’re becoming not only more fatigued, but you’re becoming dumber. A lot of people don’t understand this, Allan, that food provides energy and it also provides the necessary building blocks for things in our body, which our genes use to make things. But water is needed in order to make our energy work. It’s a conductor, so it has to be present. If you’re dehydrated, your energy levels literally decline. Just yesterday I walked into the house and I was like, “God, I’m tired.” And I opened the fridge looking for something to give me a perk up. I looked at my supplement shelf, looking for something to perk me up, and I was like, “No, that’s not it.” And so I reached for a glass, I filled it up with water. I drank a glass of water – bam! Within seconds I got my energy back and I was like, “Thank you. That was it.” So you’ve got to really tune in to yourself and understand and really figure out why you’re actually tired. For me, I kind of resonate and I look at things and I will pretend that I’d taken that supplement or I’ve eaten that food, and then I look at myself about 20, 30 minutes in the future and see if that was going to help me. It sounds kind of weird, but it really, really helps. But hydration is a huge one and you’ve got to hydrate with filtered water, not chlorinated water. So you’ve got to clean up your environment because you breathe 11,000 liters of air every day. So you’ve got to make sure that your air is clean.
That’s what I call the ABCs of clean genes – A is Avoidance. So avoidance of chemicals is number one, because if you breathe in a chemical, your genes are dirty. B is Breathe. If you’re not breathing, you’ve got issues. Those are probably the two biggest ones, and then C is Chew. A lot of people don’t chew their food, and our stomach doesn’t have teeth. A lot of people are stressed out, and if you’re stressed out, you’re not secreting stomach acid. And if you’re not secreting stomach acid, you’re not breaking the food down. Food contains what? If you’re eating healthy food, it contains nutrients that your body uses so your genes can work and build things. But if you’re stressed out, chewing quickly and eating garbage food, your genes aren’t getting any benefit. Breathing is primary, food would be secondary, and tertiary I would say your environment, and I would say air and water are equally important, because if you’re hydrating with dirty, polluted water out of the tap – no, don’t. I know it sounds not like these are big changes, and they’re not, which is the cool thing, but the impact you will feel is massive.
There was a couple that just recently shared in our Dirty Genes Facebook group. She said her husband is as a building contractor, he’s actually a plumber, and he was reading Dirty Genes, which was cool. And he went up to his wife and said, “You know what? I’m reading this book. And what it’s basically telling me is that my environment is super, super important, and if I don’t clean up my environment, my genes are going to be dealing with all these chemicals and not working on my health.” And he’s absolutely right. So he started changing his furnace filters, making them better. He got a water filter, he ripped out carpets, he ripped off flooring, he ripped out all sorts of stuff, and they immediately noticed benefits. So, it was pretty cool.
Allan (32:36): I think there are two things that really resonated with me with what you just talked about, the first being really having this self-awareness, slowing down just a little bit to say, “What makes me feel which way?” You talked about kind of looking into the future to get a view of where you’re going to be or how that was going to affect you. But you can only do that because you’ve got this experience where you actually paid attention. “When I drank water, I immediately felt energized. When I had this supplement, this is how it affected me.” So you’ve built sort of a user manual for yourself. I think that’s what I really liked about this book, was that it gave us some tools. It is probably even more complex than rocket science, but that said, from a lifestyle perspective, there are really basic, simple things we can do, and it is the nutrition, it’s our environment, it’s being sure that we’re breathing. And then wrapping that all around to that self-awareness. You put that all together and you now have a manual. And the four weeks that you have here for the clean gene – I think when people sit down and actually go through that four weeks, they’re going to feel so much better that it’s not just going to be four weeks.
Dr. Lynch (34:00): No. And that’s the other point of it. Our publisher said, “Ben, we need a 30-day or a 28-day program for people.” I just laughed when they told me that on the phone. I said, “Are you serious?” And he goes, “Yeah, we need a 30-day program.” I said this is a program to help people clean their genes for the rest of their life; this is not a 30-day thing. He goes, “It needs to be 30 days.” So we went back and forth, back and forth. And I said some people are going to need two weeks, some people are going to need no days because they’ve already been living it. Other people are going to need to be doing it for six months before they move on to the next section. So you do it for as long as you need to, and you do it in a way that is not overwhelming to you. There’s a lot of people that fear change or resist change, or are perfectionists, or they have to do all of them at once. I really want people to welcome the concept that it is okay to pick up the book Dirty Genes, read it, and when you learn something and you say, “Wow, that breathing thing really resonated with me” – put the book down. Let it sit there for two weeks, three weeks, and focus on your breathing. When you feel better, your hands are warm again – pick up the book, start reading where you left off. It’s like, “Wow, that chewing thing – I definitely need to work on that.” Put the book down. Put it down.
I almost dedicated the book to… It was going to say something along the lines, “This book is dedicated to those who read and actually implement what they read.” Because you can read all you want, but if you don’t actually implement, no book is going to serve you and you’re going to be complaining that the book didn’t help you out. And Dirty Genes is a manual for you. As you pointed out, Allan, I do have a huge personal reservoir of, “Yes, I know this supplement can do this. It’s going to make me feel good if I take it then. It’s going to make me feel worse if I take it when I feel these symptoms.” And so, I take a mental file. I file everything away mentally about how everything makes me feel. I remember when I was in the grocery store with my boys years ago. I’ve got three boys, and right now they’re 15, 13 and 10. We were walking through the store and we’d walk by and the donuts, and they were just baked. They were like, “Those look good. Dad, how do you walk by those without any issue?” I said, because I put myself one hour into the future, after I’ve enjoyed them, and I realize that they’re going to make me super tired, have a headache, they’re going make the yeast overgrow and I’ll be battling that for probably two months. And I’m just not going to feel good, so I don’t eat it. I move past the impulse and think what it’s actually going to do to me. And then it’s like, “Heck no, I don’t want it.”
Allan (37:07): That’s a cost-benefit. We don’t always make the right decision for ourselves, but there’s a cost-benefit to pretty much everything we do. So having and taking the time. And like I said, I can’t stress that enough – the self-awareness to say, “I know that this is not going to do for me what I need to have done. This is not going to make me better tomorrow. It might make me feel better for five minutes, I’ll enjoy it, but then I know the repercussions of what my next day, two days, two weeks, or in some cases even longer – I know what that’s going to mean to me.”
Dr. Lynch (37:40): Yeah. And sometimes I will walk by a bag of chips or a 4 pack of alcoholic apple cider. And once in a blue moon I will pick it up and I will take it home. I’ll say, “I know the repercussions, but the heck with it. I’m going to enjoy it.” And if you want to stay up late and watch a movie, just know how you’re going to feel tomorrow and don’t blame others for your bad day. You’ve got to make some adjustments. If I eat chips and garbage, which I do at times, I will compensate the next day by doing something different to make it up. And if it’s not the next day, it’s pretty soon thereafter. So, I clean myself up after.
Allan (38:27): It’s just like your kitchen – you clean it once, you’re going to use it again, you’re going to need to clean it again. So this is just a function of something relatively simple that we can incorporate in our lives to improve our health overall. And then we have these tools in our tool chest. There’s something we can pull out when we know, “I really shouldn’t have had that bag of M&M’s, so I know I’m going to feel crappy because of the carbs and all the other stuff. I know why I wanted them. I know that I enjoyed them when I had them, but now I’ve got to make that up and clean myself up with the breathing, with the water, and finding good quality food that’s going to actually nourish me, because I didn’t really get any nourishment out of that snack.”
Dr. Lynch (39:10): That’s right. You actually went backwards in your health. My kids, I’ll let them eat stuff that they shouldn’t eat. Someday they’re going to be adults and living on their own, and I want them to feel the repercussion of eating fast food. I want them to feel the repercussions of chowing on a bunch of garbage and getting acne all over their face or getting symptoms of congested noses, or irritable or depressed from it. I let them know how that’s happening, why it’s happening, how to clean it up, why they gravitated towards it. So they’re getting it, and they make their own choices. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see them make those choices, but at the end of the day they’re going to be not living under my roof and they’re going to make grown decisions as an adult and I’m not going to be there for them. So they need to know now how they’re going to feel if they eat garbage, and they’re already experiencing it. They’re still kids; they bounce back faster than adults do, but they still experience repercussions – performance in soccer games goes down, their moods get altered, their noses get messed up, their faces get messed up, they do worse in school. You’ve got to let them learn and experience it. I used to do the opposite. I used to be super strict about all this stuff. I’m still pretty strict, but I will let them go for it. And it’s been great that I’ve done that.
Allan (40:45): You can give each of them a signed copy of Dirty Genes and they can learn for themselves. Dr. Lynch, this has been a wonderful conversation. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about what you’re doing, more about the book and get to that Facebook group that you talked about, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Lynch (41:05): I think the best thing to do, Allan, is just invest in the book. It’s only $19 now, or $17 on Amazon, which is very, very affordable for what you get. I was talking with a colleague of mine and he said we should charge thousands for our books. It’s only $17.
Allan (41:24): All the research and all the time that goes into writing a book, yes.
Dr. Lynch (41:29): Yeah, but it’s great that it’s so available. That’s the cool thing. I really highly recommend people grab the book wherever it’s solid. It’s sold everywhere and it’s been translated into 11 languages. But if you don’t want to invest the money in the book right now, go to DrBenLynch.com, and there’s a free download of a bonus chapter that I really wanted to be included in the book, but the book was already 300 some pages and the publisher said, “No, make it a bonus chapter, give it away.” It’s the ABCs of clean genes. Every letter is something that you can do, and we already talked about Avoid, Breath and Chew. I forget what D was, and E, and all these other ones. But it’s a very, very good chapter. It’ll give you a great understanding of the writing style, the simplicity, the tone, the empowerment, and just reading that might be enough to get you started. It’s like the soak and scrub 4-week protocol for free for you. So go to DrBenLynch.com, download that. And when you’re on DrBenLynch.com, there’s a bunch of articles there. And every Thursday – in fact I just got done with one today – at 2:30 PM Pacific Time, I do a Facebook Live for about an hour on a specific topic, and they’re all recorded. I answer people’s questions and they all stay there for free. So we have tons of video on Dr Ben Lynch Facebook page that are freely available, and a lot of great questions, a lot of comments. We have thousands and thousands of views on each one, and they’re a lot of fun. I really walk through people’s specific questions and tell them why and how their body is working. Because if you understand how your body works and why it’s important to breathe properly and why it’s important to eat certain foods and avoid certain foods at certain times; even healthy food you need to avoid at certain times, and I explain why – it will really make sense to you, especially when you apply it and you’re aware of the changes. For example, somebody posted just yesterday, “I can’t fall asleep at night. I had dinner at 8:30 and it was a big protein dinner and I had a protein shake. Why can’t I fall asleep?” I was like, “One, you eat late; and two, you had a lot of protein. Protein stimulates histamine and dopamine, and those are two alert-causing compounds.” So, that’s what happens on these Facebook pages and it’s a great community.
Allan (43:57): Cool. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/327 and I’ll make sure to have links to both the Facebook group and to Dr. Lynch’s website and to the book. Dr. Lynch, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Lynch (44:12): My pleasure. And now that I’m 40+, I’ve got to tune into some of your podcasts.
Allan (44:16): Outstanding.
Allan (44:22): I hope you enjoyed that interview with Dr. Lynch. I really enjoyed the conversation. Epigenetics is a very complex topic, but he does a really good job in his book Dirty Genes on explaining how all this stuff works in a way that’s applicable. So I really enjoyed the book and I really enjoyed that conversation, and I hope you did too. I’m recording this on the 4th of July. That means for me from a scheduling perspective, I’m way behind, but that’s cool. I’ll get caught up. The show notes might not be there when you’re first listening to this, but they’ll be out there soon, I promise. I’m putting a lot of pressure on the people behind me, I know. But I needed to get a few things done for Ketofest and for the book, so this has been a really big push week for me and I’m glad to have a day off.
And that’s where I wanted to start this discussion today. It is the 4th of July, which in the United States is a pretty big holiday for a lot of us. It’s a time for us to be with friends and family. I’m pretty excited. One of my neighbors has decided to host a little pop-up party for the 4th of July. Nothing famous, nothing fancy, just a get-together as a neighborhood and friends and hang out, and I’m pretty excited about that. In The Blue Zones, which was a book by Dan Buettner, but it was brought up by Michelle Poulin, and it’s basically a concept of where people live and how based on where they live and how they’re living their lives, they live longer. And one of the big aspects of that was social structure – having friends, having family and really being interconnected with your community, neighbors, friends, family. That was also brought up by Dr. John and Jane Day in their book The Longevity Plan. I had Dr. John Day on the show for episode 272. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/272 and listen to the longevity plan discussion we had. Again, a very fascinating study that he did in a small location in China that’s known as Longevity Village. So, really worth a listen. After you get through with this episode, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/272 and listen to Dr. Day. But that said, do take time when you get time to really enjoy time with your family and your friends. Life is precious, and a big part of the way that I am now structuring the way I look at things is what I call “wellness”. My definition of wellness is going to include of course health, fitness, which is where most people stop, but I want you to add happiness to that definition, because when you have all three of those, you really have all three legs of the stool that make you feel and be well. So, make sure you’re making happiness a big priority in your life and it’ll go a long way towards your wellness journey.
I did talk about Ketofest. I’ll be a presenter at Ketofest, not just a trainer, which means yesterday I did plans for all of my group training. I’ve got that done and I’m about halfway through with putting together my slides for my presentation. It’s in PowerPoint. I prefer Keynote, but the host of the event is a big Microsoft guy, so I’m pretty sure he’s going to only want to run Microsoft equipment, and that means that I’ve got to do it in PowerPoint. So, a little bit of a learning curve to get back into PowerPoint. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a presentation, a live speaking engagement. In fact, the last one I did was on how to put together a fraud investigation. This one should be a lot more interesting than that, as I am talking about wellness and keto and how those things really do give you an opportunity, because the ketosis that you’re in a lot of times with the extra energy – I really do think that can be a super power for people that want to go that route, they want to eat that way. And when they have that extra energy, I want to help them focus it and make it something special. So I’m really, really excited about my talk and how that’s coming along. Ketofest is in New London, Connecticut, from the 20th of July to the 22nd. Now I’m planning to be in that area. If you’re anywhere up in the Northeast, anywhere close to New London, Connecticut, and you want to meet up – please do send me an email. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. We can sit down and have a coffee, we can have a drink afterwards, in the evening, or whatever you want to do if you can make it down there and want to spend some time. If you can go to Ketofest, that’s even better. Again, it’s in New London, Connecticut, July 20th to the 22nd. You can go to Ketofest.com and learn more there. They’ve got it all broken down, you can buy tickets to the different things. I’ll be arriving I think on the 19th. I’ll probably be there in the evening. I don’t think they have anything planned. So again, if you want to catch up for a drink or something, or a coffee in the morning – please, by all means, do reach out. I would like to meet with you.
And then finally I do want to talk about the personal training. I’ve talked to a few people lately and it’s kind of interesting. I was in a mastermind meeting, so we’re not talking about fitness, we’re talking about our businesses. And one of the concepts that came up was how when someone’s trying to teach you how to do an online business, most of the people that were successful at that are actually just selling to other people that want to run online businesses. So it’s this racket of, “I know how to run an online business. I’ll teach you how to run an online business.” And that’s how they make their money. Very few of them make money doing anything else. So we were talking about that, and one of the theories I have is that people who are in business know that you have to spend money to make money. That’s a known concept that I think anyone would generally agree with. You can’t start a business from nothing, really, and expect. You need some seed capital, some money, some investment to make things start. I’m not saying that’s completely necessarily true in health and fitness, but I can say if you want to accelerate your health and fitness journey, you do need to make an investment. You need to make an investment in time, you need to make an investment of effort, and in many cases you do need to make an investment in money, so that you can have the accountability, so you can have the structure, so you cannot make the mistakes that a lot of other people are making, and so you can be the most efficient and effective at your health and fitness work, so you’re getting the most out of your time and effort.
If you’re on the fence about hiring a coach, please do give me a call. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/talk. That’s going to put a time on my calendar. You can give me your phone number, you can give me your email. I’ll send you a conference call. I prefer if you give me your phone number so I can call you at the prescribed time. But go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/talk, get a little slot with me and we can just talk through what your issues are, what’s going on with you right now. What can I do to help you? Or maybe I can’t help you, but we can kind of diagnose that right there. We can figure that out. Am I the right coach for you? Is this the right time for you? I’m telling you, there’s never a bad time to start. There’s only a time when you look back and wish you had started earlier. So I do hope that you’re thinking about this, that you’re considering this. And if you are on that fence, if you’re right there saying, “Maybe I do want to make this investment, maybe this would help me” – let’s talk, and we can figure out if I’m the right coach for you right then and there. So again, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/talk.