Your Genes are Not Your Destiny: Interview with Dr. Ben LynchOne thing a bout Dr. Ben Lynch, he is always out ahead of the curve, forging new ground. Another thing, he is strikingly tall :) Ben Lynch and I went to medical school together at Bastyr University in Washington State. At that time – early 2000’s – Ben already had his own online supplement and health goods store, and an email list.
Oh, if only I had taken a page out of his book, and started my own list at that time! Both of us are heavy introverts, and Ben was starting his family, so we never hung out socially. We now find ourselves in overlapping spaces and seminars and summits these days, and my respect for his work and leadership makes me want to share with you, dear reader. I am one of the experts Ben interviewed for his upcoming Dirty Genes Summit, so be sure to check that out, it’s going to be epic.
JST: Ben, I am so excited to sit down and chat with you. Your work symbolizes hope for a lot of folks. Before we explore genes and their relationship to our health, tell us who you are, what you’re about and where to find you online and in print.
BL: I’m happily married, 6’5”, 200 lbs, brown eyes and hair, enjoy skiing, chasing soccer balls, traveling to more remote parts of the world and playing with my three amazing sons. I’m all about optimizing lives on our amazing planet. Treating disease is not my thing – helping people, especially unborn children, reach their genetic potential is the ultimate drive. As a previous collegiate athlete, I know what it takes to perform at a high level. I also am familiar with how awesome it feels to be able to perform at such a level. I want all to be able to get their wishes especially if they are willing to work for them.
You can learn more about who I am, what I do and why at www.drbenlynch.com
If you want to geek out, be empowered and take your health to the next level, you can grab a copy of Dirty Genes at www.DirtyGenes.com
If you’re looking for supplements which actually are formulated based on research, use active nutrients and are tested for purity, you can find them at my supplement company www.SeekingHealth.com. We’re a three time Inc. 500 winner because our supplements transform people’s lives – literally. Our prenatal line also received the Women’s Choice Award which is truly an honor.
JST: Congratulations, although I am not surprised! Ben, it’s easy for people to get spooked by their family history and assume that it sets their path of health in stone, but one of your most important messages is that “our genes are not our destiny.” Can you elaborate on this and tell us why it is so crucial?
I can totally relate. My family struggles with addictions of all types – alcohol, smoking, gambling, drugs – along with mood disorders. I saw the writing on the wall and it freaked me out. Thankfully, I discovered ‘alternative medicine’ while traveling in India. What really made me change my mindset about genetic destiny happened during our first quarter at med school.
Dr. Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ was popped into the VHS and I sat there spellbound. I had no idea that it was actually our environment and our perception of said environment that ultimately controlled our genes. I took this to heart immediately and made some changes. It helped me – a lot. I then kept digging deeper into this which led me to environmental medicine. I quickly learned how our environment – air, water, food, soil, manufactured goods – are contributing to either ill health or positive health. The last major influence on me was seeing the ‘Tale of Two Mice’ NOVA video. These mice were predisposed to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The researchers decided to take these genetically identical mice and split them up into two groups. They were both exposed to BPA. The difference was in what they ate. One group ate standard chow while the other got methylated nutrients. The group exposed to BPA and methylated nutrients went on healthfully throughout their life – no diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer. The other group exposed to BPA and standard chow went on to get ill.
Remember, both groups had inferior genetics and exposed to BPA. It was the dietary change which was the major deciding factor determining whether those ‘bad’ genes would contribute to disease or not. Talk about proof. People need to stop and realize the choices they make – and don’t make – are influencing their genes. Not the other way around.
JST: This is very empowering news. That despite the genetic hand we have been dealt, it is not rigid and we have control over the shape it takes. Something as simple as what we do or do not put into our bodies. You mentioned methylated nutrients, and this is a good lead into the next thing I wanted to discuss with you.
As you are well aware, “methylation” is a very sexy topic on the natural blogosphere. Can you tell us what it is and why it is so important for our everyday health?
BL: We do tend to get caught up with trends and big words. The reality is we don’t really need to. What we need to do is respect and appreciate the fundamentals of life – air, food, water, soil, vacation, companionship – and stop worrying about the next ‘big thing’.
I will answer your question though as it is a good one.
Methylation has many roles.
To define methylation –
‘methyl’ is the simplest compound in the human body and consists of a single carbon and three hydrogens – called a methyl group.
‘-ation’ is an action. Combined, ‘methylation’ is the action of the body’s simplest compound.
There are many actions.
A big one is gene control.
We all have lights in our home. They are controlled by a switch – on / off. Methylation is what turns our genes on / off. Typically, methylation turns our genes off but sometimes it’s the other way around. We don’t want to have our genes running all the time – only when needed. Genes ‘on’ all the time typically leads to cancer.
The other big action of methylation has to do with do with how the methyl group binds to other compounds in the body.
Examples of familiar everyday biochemical reactions using methylation are:
•Uracil (RNA base) + Methyl group = Thymine (DNA)
•Histamine + Methyl group = N-methylhistamine
•Homocysteine + Methyl group = Methionine
•Cobalamin + Methyl group = Methylcobalamin
•Serotonin + Methyl group + Vitamin B5 = Melatonin
These are absolutely critical reactions in the human body. Without methylation, these reactions would not occur and we’d struggle – big time. In fact, many do struggle because their methylation isn’t working very well. Their homocysteine is high, their melatonin is low, their histamine is high and their DNA is getting damaged.
JST: You’re a man from my own school of thought: the big picture. This is especially important when we are talking about the potential of tens of thousands of genetic variations in one individual. It’s easy for us to get lost down the rabbit hole of minutiae when it comes to reading our genetic reports. Tell us in a few words why the big picture is so important (and why we should resist being on dozens of supplements).
Can you give us three tips we could do today to improve our big picture?
BL: Life is awesome. Humans have been living on planet Earth for a very, very, long time. Many of the genes we’re born with have been selected for via natural selection. Look, it’s only the last 100 years that we’ve really dirtied up our planet and as a result, our genes are overwhelmed.
Before, we used to die early from infections, fighting and lack of food. Now we die from our own choices. We die slowly and live a life of ‘ok’ by eating processed foods, working too much, no vacations, being frustrated and exposed to millions of man-made chemicals. Our genes cannot handle this load.
As a society, we want the ‘fast fix.’ What pill can we swallow? What hack can we do?
What SNP is causing my disease (so I can blame my bad choices on it)?
As I say in my book, Dirty Genes, ‘Health is a four-letter word: W O R K.’
Look, I thought the MTHFR gene being dirty was the underlying cause of a number of serious medical conditions – and it is – to some degree. Later on, I realized that those living a healthy life and born with a MTHFR variant/mutation/polymorphism, we’re absolutely fine.
They lived a lifestyle of health and made great choices most of the time. It doesn’t have to be all the time. We can party hard and make dumb choices at times. We just cannot do them every day. Our genes don’t allow it.
You cannot supplement yourself out of a shit&y diet.
Three tips you can do right now to improve your big picture of health:
a – Avoid. Limit your use of chemicals, avoid them. Avoid stress as much as you can.
b – Breathe. Are you breathing right now? I bet you aren’t. I bet you’re holding your breath as you read this. It’s called ‘email apnea’. You can’t thrive if you aren’t breathing.
c – Chew. I get it. You’re in a hurry but your stomach, pancreas, liver and small intestine don’t have teeth. Your mouth does and your digestive system is banking that you are using your teeth to chew your food properly so they then can absorb the nutrients from your food. Don’t chew and suffer from malnutrition. Period.
JST: I love that you tell people to chew their food – and to breathe. These two little tidbits I find myself repeating over and over. Something else that comes up a lot: I work with and hear from people struggling with SIBO, IBS and other disorders of an imbalanced microbiome all the time. What is the connection between dysbiosis and one’s ability to methylate?
BL: Great question. Huge topic. Loads of evidence and little room to write it all out.
In short, if you are not methylating, your microbiome is going to struggle.
Your liver uses over 80% of your body’s methylation reactions. If your liver is not methylating properly, then your bile is not able to easily squirt out into your small intestine. If your bile isn’t able to squirt out into your small intestine, then bacteria start thriving there. We call an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO for short.
Bile is anti-microbial. Many do not know this. They think that bile is just to absorb fats and that’s partly true – but bile has major roles in keeping the microbiome in check.
People with methylation issues have SIBO.
The connection? A ton of methylation is needed to produce a compound called phosphatidylcholine. If one is low in phosphatidylcholine, they have a ton of issues but one is their bile doesn’t flow as well as it should. Most gallstones are caused by an imbalance in the cholesterol:phosphatidylcholine ratio. There should be 10 parts phosphatidylcholine to 1 part cholesterol. If there isn’t, then bile gets thick, stuck and doesn’t flow.
The result: SIBO and fat malabsorption.
There are other ones but that’s a good one to have sink in.
JST: And to think, our gallbladders are treated as if they are dispensable nuisances! Thank you, Ben, you have given us a lot to chew on, and hopefully folks have some new ideas to explore.
For those of you who can’t get enough of this and are looking for more, be sure to grab your spot in the upcoming Dirty Genes Summit that is kicking off Monday, January 22nd. This Summit explores how your genes impact you; what control you have over your genes; how to “clean” your genes with food (yep); how your genes play in to your mental health; genetic testing and how to interpret results and what to implement based on results…and of course, how to use your digestive system to harness your genetic potential! I hope to see you there.
A little more about Ben: Benjamin Lynch, ND received his Cell and Molecular Biology, BS from the University of Washington and his ND from Bastyr University. His passion for identifying the cause of disease directed him towards nutrigenomics and methylation dysfunction. Currently, he researches, writes and presents worldwide on the topic of MTHFR and methylation defects. He is the author of Dirty Genes. You may learn more about Dr. Lynch and his work at www.drbenlynch.com. Dr Lynch is also the President & Founder of www.SeekingHealth.com, a company oriented towards disease prevention and health promotion. He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife, Nadia, and three boys, Tasman, Mathew and Theodor.