How Your Environment Influences Your Genes

Genetics and Environment

Can You Control Your Genes

Your genes are not your destiny, your environment influences your genes, but you can have a big influence on your environment.

Do you want to find out how you can influence your genes?

I have been getting a lot of questions lately from people who have done some genetic testing through companies such as 23andme, wanting to know how to treat specific gene snps like MTHFR, COMT or one of the many others.

Knowing your genetic weaknesses and strengths can be very helpful in determining treatment plans and working out what may be the best lab tests to have to determine the cause of your health complaints.

You have to remember that you cannot treat specific genes in isolation.

You have to treat each person as an individual, many people can have issues with the same 3 genes but due to other genetic factors, diet, lifestyle, stress, toxin exposure and so much more, how their genes are expressed is going to vary from one individual to the next.

These environmental factors are collectively known as the exposome.

Chronic Illness Epidemic

We have the worst chronic illness epidemic ever, modern medicine has moved ahead in leaps and bounds over the last few decades with unbelievable medical advances.

We can now do organ transplants, reattach limbs, laser eye surgery, and many other modern medical  “miracles”, but when it comes to addressing common chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, IBS and autoimmune conditions modern medicine falls far short.

With these chronic illnesses, each symptom is matched up to a drug to treat that symptom, this has led to half of the adults on prescription medication and 40% of the elderly on 5 or more medications. This is because the side effect of these medications often leads to the need for a different medication, but it fails to address the cause.

The only ones benefitting from this situation is the pharmaceutical companies who are making billions from prescription medications, their business model thrives on treating the symptoms and not addressing the cause.

If you have high blood pressure you will be given a drug to lower it, this may lead to reflux which will involve another drug like Pariet or Losec to prevent that, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Drugs rarely address the real problem. For example NSAIDs like Ibuprofen are very effective at relieving pain of an injury or arthritis, but they also reduce blood supply to the cartilage, the blood supply to the cartilage is essential for providing all of the nutrients for tissue repair and reducing inflammation …. so while the NSAIDS provide short term solutions they lead to long term chronic problems, arthritis and poor recovery from injuries.

A New Approach To Treating Chronic Health Problems

We need a new approach to treating chronic health problems, one that emphasizes health care over symptom management, one that uses an individual approach rather than one drug for each symptom.

A functional medicine approach looks at identifying the cause of an illness, and this is going to be different for everybody. For example, IBS may be caused by food intolerances, FODMAPS, bacterial or parasite infections, low stomach acid, stress, SIBO or a number of other causes, and the treatment is going to be different for each person.

Introducing the Exposome

The exposome was first coined by Dr. Christopher Wild in 2005 and is all of the nongenetic factors that affect our health since conception, while your genes have a big influence on your health, the exposome has the biggest influence.

The exposome can be divided into 3 categories:

  1. Specific external activities that we have more control over, this refers to the water we drink, our diet, physical activity, social interactions and the personal and home care products that we use.
  2. Number two is the external activities that we have less personal control over like air pollution, climate and the culture/ country that we live in
  3. Number three is the internal environment that affects our health, this includes our gut bacteria, hormones, metabolism, inflammation and oxidative stress. The internal environment can be influenced by what we do in number one.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) over 50% of mortality is related to 3 aspects of the exposome, these are air pollution, cigarette smoking, and diet.

While collectively we can all take steps to reduce air pollution it is not something that we personally control. If you are a smoker you can stop, or at the very minimum not smoke near other people, but the biggest factor that we have control over is our diet.

Genes have an influence on your health, but our diet and lifestyle have a bigger influence, and this is good news as it means our health is in our hands. An analogy that Chris Kresser uses to describe this situation is that genetics load the gun but it is the factors in the exposome that pull the trigger.

Take Control of your Genetics

Modern medicine is essential and beneficial in so many ways but if you want to be healthy now and in the long term you need to take personal responsibility for your own health, don’t rely on doctors and drugs to keep you well!

It is our responsibility to minimize processed foods, eat a real food nutrient dense diet, keep active, have fun and live a rewarding life …. don’t pass that responsibility to anyone else.

If you have kids then you are responsible for giving them a real food diet, and not allowing them to live off processed foods, they may seem “healthy enough” now but what they are fed as kids and teenagers is going to have an effect on their health later in life.

Research is now showing that what you eat now is going to affect the genes and health of not only your children but your grandchildren as well.

Need Help Optimizing Your Genetic Health

If you feel like you are off track with your diet and lifestyle, and this is affecting your health, it is never too late to change. Often it takes a chronic illness for people to be motivated enough to change their diets, I have seen so many people overcome chronic illnesses by changing their diet to a nutrient dense real food diet …. this is way more powerful than drugs and brings about true healing.

If you need help making these changes there are many great books and blogs our there to help and inspire.

If you need some help one on one with functional pathology testing, analysis of genetics and diet/ nutrition advice contact me at

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