During the past two decades, there has been a rapid increase in studies that report associations with gene polymorphisms, nutrition and disease risk (Burdge, Hoile, & Lillycrop, 2012). This is a paradigm shift from traditional nutritional recommendations that have been based on age, sex, and pregnancy. The advances in the association with epigenetics and nutritional requirements have been the driver of the advancement in the field of nutrigenomics, which has been wildly exploding.
What is epigenetics? We learned in middle school that our genetic code is the sequence of nucleotides in our DNA, which can certainly influence health status. However, I was amazed when I learned for the first time that there is another set of instructions that affects our gene expression, and this set of instructions can actually influenced by our environment such as our diet! This is referred to as epigenetics. I remember learning in my Biology Masters that Epigenetics meant “above the genome”. Epigenetics is the “study of heritable changes in gene function that occurs independent of a change in DNA sequence” (Kauwell, 2008) which involves a group of modifications that do not alter the actual DNA structure, but rather chromatin structure that can regulate transcription. “The major epigenetic processes are DNA methylation, histone modification, and noncoding RNA’s” (Burdge et al., 2012).
As we learned once in college, through the process of meiosis, there are multiple ways that diversity occurs among our genotypes to ensure no two genotypes are alike (well, except in the case of identical twins). These include crossing over, independent assortment, and random fertilization. This creates genetic uniqueness that is a result of variations in our DNA in which one nucleotide is substituted for another at specific locations on our genome, often called SNP’s (single nucleotide polymorphism) (Kauwell, 2008). We are finding out that SNP’s can alter certain nutrient requirements and metabolism, and although they do not affect regions that code for proteins, they do affect events that occur at the molecular levels such as transcription factor binding to the promoter region of the gene, which can thus alter the expression of that gene. Studies with identical twins have demonstrated some interesting results in the role environment indeed can play a role as seen in insights from identical twins (Learn Genetics, n.d.).
One common nutritionally relevant SNP that is a hot topic in functional medicine occurs on the MTHFR gene which provides instructions for making an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This enzyme plays a role in processing amino acids such as homocysteine to methionine (NIH, n.d.). This SNP involves the substitution of cytosine with thymine (C->T) at the base pair 677 of the gene, that results in a coding change where alanine is replaced with valine at position 222 in the gene product (Kauwell, 2008). Inheriting one or two copies of this gene variant can down-regulate the enzyme function, which has some health implications. For example, someone with two copies of the gene (homozygous) may experience elevated plasma homocysteine, especially when paired with low folate status (Kauwell, 2008). This can put the person at risk for coronary artery disease. “Fortunately, reduced MTHFR activity associated 677C->T polymorphism is attenuated when folate status is adequate” (Kauwell, 2008).
What is fascinating about our epigenome is that it provides an extra layer of instructions besides our genetic sequence that codes for proteins synthesized by our bodies. This “extra layer of instructions” can affect whether certain genes are turned on or off, which can thus affect cellular function and metabolism. In fact, the environment has a strong influence on these instructions, such as nutrient status from food and supplements, which can alter the epigenetic state of the genome and subsequent gene expression. What this means is that the same exact DNA sequence for a particular gene may give rise to different outcomes based on things like diet-induced epigenetic modifications that can influence gene silencing and activation.
This is an exciting time for the field of nutrition and nutrigenomics, as we are finding increasing evidence that nutrition throughout the life course can modify the epigenome in such a way that can influence risk of a number of important diseases. “Therefore, if nutritional recommendations are to be targeted at individuals then epigenetic effects must be included in any attempt at personalized nutrition” (Burdge et al., 2012).
Burdge, G. C., Hoile, S. P., & Lillycrop, K. A. (2012). Epigenetics: are there implications for personalised nutrition? Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 15(5), 442-447. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283567dd2
Kauwell, G. P. (2008). Epigenetics: what it is and how it can affect dietetics practice. J Am Diet Assoc, 108(6), 1056-1059. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2008.03.003
Learn Genetics. Insights from Identical Twins. Retrieved (2019, April 25) from https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/twins/
NIH (n.d.) MTHFR gene. Retrieved (2019, April 25) from https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MTHFR
Broccoli is so good for you! It is not only high in fiber, its filling, packed with nutrients and promotes phase 2 detoxification for your liver. This is very important for your healing.
Broccoli is an important part of a healthy diet for many people around the world, and while broccoli is widely appreciated for its unique taste and crunchiness, most people don’t even realize that this veggie prevents various types of cancer, improves eye health, and helps you shed the pounds.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable and a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Here is what you need:
1-2c fresh broccoli
Fresh cilantro (1 bunch)- finely chopped
Fresh garlic (2-3 cloves) chopped
1 TBSP ghee
Pink Himalayan sea salt
1/4c Coconut aminos
- Preheat oven to 350
- In a glass dish, combine broccoli, melted ghee or avocado oil, chopped garlic, cilantro, sea salt and coconut aminos
- Mix well until broccoli is completely covered.
- Cover with aluminum
- Bake for 30 minutes
- Remove, cool and enjoy
Garlic-the benefits are most when eaten raw after they have been chopped. Or left out for 10 minutes before cooked. The key is to chop them! Garlic is high in manganese, B6, Vit C, selenium and fiber. Garlic also has potent antimicrobial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. The active compounds can also reduce blood pressure, lowers LDL cholesterol, and help enhance liver detox pathways.
Sea salt-rich in trace minerals, can regulate fluid balance, and provides the body with essential electrolytes for regulating cellular function. Contains magnesium, calcium and potassium…cooking with Sea salt is the wise thing to do! IT can also help increase HCL production in your stomach for proper digestion
Cilantro- This is definitely my favorite herb.
Cilantro not only has an amazing aroma, it is a superfood. Packed with vitamin
A, K, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, this herb can help build
strong bone, teeth and hair.
Cilantro is considered the “anti-diabetic” plant in some parts of Europe, and research shows that it helps to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, supports healthy cardiovascular function, and much more. Cilantro is able to bind heavy metals and facilitate their elimination out of the body. This is important since chronic antibiotic use is associated with heavy metal toxicity, and that can actually cause infections to relapse. Therefore, a strong detoxification protocol is key, and it should involve removing the stubborn heavy metals. Results of the study showed that by supplementing antibiotic drugs with cilantro, cilantro is able to rid the body of the heavy metal toxins, and keep the infections from arising again. Cilantro has other benefits such as protecting from oxidative stress/free radicals, lowering anxiety and improving sleep, controlling blood sugar, and can even prevent UTI’s! So double wammy here for UTI prevention. The coriander seeds within cilantro is where most of the UTI armor comes from.
UTI’s may be caused by E. coli, staphylococcus bacteria, sexual activity, genetics, or diabetes. Cilantro’s antibacterial compounds help to keep the urinary tract healthy, and free from unhealthy bacteria in a healthy alkaline environment. In addition to cilantro, coriander seeds are helpful in relieving symptoms, if a UTI does occur. Finally, cilantro can also support neurological function, prevent neuroinflammation, and also protects against colon cancer.
Coconut Aminos- Coconut aminos are a sauce often
used to substitute for soy sauce in Asian food dishes. Rather than
supplementing food with a hormone-riddled, sodium-rich mystery sauce, you can
use coconut aminos as a tasty, healthy replacement. Coconut aminos are
gluten-free, non-GMO, certified organic, soy-free, MSG-free, kosher and
vegan. Coconut aminos may strengthen your immune system. Coconut products
are high antioxidant foods which counteract the dangerous influence of free
radicals in your body. They can reduce oxidative stress, which can strengthen
against illness and disease.
The significance of coconut products and their effects on adiponectin production may also resolve some insulin resistance issues. These issues are common in both patients with diabetes and those suffering from other metabolic conditions, such as PCOS. It also contains inositol that also can help regulate insulin and treat conditions of PCOS, elevated androgen hormones and irregular periods. They are rich in amino acids (contains 9 essential and 5 conditionally essential), B vitamins and medium chain triglycerdies
Broccoli- Broccoli is a superfood! Not only is
it high in fiber, it contains sulforophane that has been shown to kill cancer
cells and suppress tumor growth. It also has glucorophanin that can boost cell
enzymes to protect against molecular damage from cancer causing agents. Studies
show that sulforophane can normalize DNA methylation which is important for
normal cell function to turn the right genes on and off.
One study published in PLoS One, for instance, found that just four servings of broccoli per week could protect men from prostate cancer. One serving of broccoli is about two spears, so that’s only 10 broccoli spears per week.
Broccoli supports your body’s detoxification, thanks to the phytonutrients glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian, and glucobrassicin. It is anti inflammatory, contains flavanoids that may fight allergies, supports eye health (carotenoids), and can support phase 2 detoxification. It is also rich in potassium, calcium, protein and vitamin C
Ghee-Ghee is truly delicious in vegetables and gives it a buttery taste without the inflammation. It is packed with fat soluble vitamins (E, K) and are highly absorbing in a leaky gut. It is free of lactose, casein, contains conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) and is loaded with butyrate, which is a short chain fatty acid that plays a role in gut health. ome studies have suggested that it may help support healthy insulin levels, fight off inflammation, and provide relief for individuals suffering from conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (Axe, n.d.). This important fatty acid is made when you eat fiber, so eating ghee with vegetables seems like a dazzling duo. It is food for your microbiome and may help fight inflammation
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Probiotics can enhance your immune system!
The intestine is considered a key target organ to improve the quality of life in senescence, which can be modulated with a healthy lifestyle with a customized diet including probiotics. Probiotics are demonstrating immunomodulating properties that can alleviate the proinflammatory status of the elderly. “The preservation of gut barrier integrity and an increased ability to fight infections are the main reported immune benefits of probiotics” (Landete et al., 2017). In addition, the intake of a diet rich in phytoestrogens along with the presence of selected probiotic bacteria may lead to the production of equol, enterolignans, and urolithins, which are considered protective against chronic diseases related to aging.
Commensal bacteria can modulate the host inflammatory response, mainly by targeting NF- 𝜅B. According to Landete et.al, an aged-type microbiota shows low microbial biodiversity, enriched in pathobionts and facultative anaerobes and depleted of Firmicutes, which is linked with an increase of proinflammatory signals. Improving the profile of the gut microbiota through lifestyle and nutritional modifications may exert beneficial immunological effects. They can preserve the gut barrier integrity and function and regulate expression of tight junctions. “Probiotic treatments can ameliorate some of these processes modulating cytokine production, improving distribution and function of NK cells, macrophages, granulocytes, and T cells in the circulation, and enhancing mucosal and systemic antibody responses” (Landete et al., 2017). The presence of some beneficial microorganisms can also help the production of bioactive metabolites as equol, enterolignans, and urolithins. A diet rich in isoflavones, lignins from flaxseeds, or eggagitannisn from cherries/pomegranates would thus work synergistically with probiotics to activate these bioactive metabolites.
Below is a chart that summarizes some probiotics and how they influence immunity
Here is a screenshot of some important resources for probiotics and prebiotics (food for probiotics).