Your genes, microbiome and fake friends
I sat down for a chat with Dr. Ben Lynch a little while ago to chat about our own ability to change our genetic destiny – we are not closeted to the fate of our inherited DNA, but can actively shape it by the way we choose to live our lives.
This is extremely empowering and the crux of his brand new book, Dirty Genes, pre-released on Amazon earlier this week, where it has climbed the Best Seller chart all the way to the top.
Not to stop at simply writing books, Ben has organized the online-based Dirty Genes Summit, kicking off TOMORROW, Monday January 22nd. It’s totally free and features myself as one of the expert speakers. I hope you’ll check it out and grab your spot!
JST: Something I love about your program in “Dirty Genes” is your consistent call for increased consumption of green leafy veggies. I second your call here, because there are tons of options for everyone, even those on low-FODMAP diets, and because they can be prepped in so many different ways (salad, sautéed, smoothies, etc).
Why are leafy greens so important? What do you think about powdered greens products for those that don’t have the time or desire to shop, prep and cook?
BL: Leafy greens not only provide nutrients for our methylation, and other reactions, but they provide fiber so we can move our bowels. If we don’t move stool through our digestive system, we reabsorb the waste which our body is working hard to eliminate. This alone is a massive contributor to dirty genes. We must be going #2 at least once daily.
Beyond that, leafy greens provide food for our microbiome. We are not eating just for us but for what resides in our digestive system. If we eat healthy food, such as leafy greens, then we grow a healthy microbiome. If we eat processed foods, then we get an unhealthy microbiome.
Variety is key here. The more varied the diet is in leafy greens and vegetables, the more diverse the microbiome and, as you know, a diverse microbiome is a healthier one (usually).
I do like powdered greens products if they are quality. My company has one called Pure Greens which tastes fabulous and provides a comprehensive blend of greens, herbs, fruits and antioxidants. The issue with powdered green products is heavy metal contamination. One has to ask the supplement company for a ‘Certificate of Analysis’ to make sure there are lower levels of heavy metals.
All greens will have some degree of heavy metals but should not be over the FDA limit ever. This may sound alarming – and it is – but if you buy greens at the grocery store – they, too, have heavy metals. It’s in the soil and it’s in the water so it gets into the plant. It is unavoidable. Yet another reason to make sure you are dealing with a reputable supplement company. I know that arsenic levels can be very high in greens products.
One issue people have with leafy green vegetables or green drinks is oxalates. This is becoming a real issue especially in people with an imbalanced microbiome, weak stomach acid or consuming inorganic foods loaded with RoundUp. Supporting oxalate elimination requires little to no exposure to RoundUp, adequate stomach acid and a healthy microbiome.Some greens can also be high in sulfur which is excellent; however, if they are getting headaches, feel ‘off’ or their flatulence smells like sulfur, then they need to cut back on sulfur-containing veggies and foods until this is dealt with. I talk how to deal with this more in depth in Dirty Genes.
JST: One of the most captivating concepts in your book is the idea that our genes can be “born dirty” or they can “act dirty”. What’s going on there? Why would clean genes “act dirty”?
Let me first tell you that I was pushed hard to call the book, 7 Deadly Genes. Truly.
I fought hard against this and obviously won as the book is called Dirty Genes.
I credit my amazing writer, Rachel Kranz, for coming up with this concept after she heard me discussing how our genes get dirty from lifestyle, diet, environment and mindset.
The concept behind a ‘dirty gene’ is that genes can be wiped clean.Think of it like this: You just finished eating and your plate and fork are dirty. You have two choices. You can rinse and clean them easily right now or you can put them into the sink and let the food harden on there. Next time you go eat, your kitchen can be clean or it can be full of dirty dishes.
The same thing can be said for your genes.
You get stressed out – go for a walk, breathe and have a healthy meal. Your genes are now recovered from the stress. If you choose to get stressed out, eat like crap and stay up late in a huff, your genes are still dirty from the stress and worse now actually.
What I really try doing is cleaning up my genes the moment I dirty them or at least the next day. If we fly, we get exposed to jet fuel which is very hard on our system and dirties our genes. I support with liposomal glutathione which cleans them right up. If I forget, then I tend to get more sensitive to smells like perfumes, dryer sheets (I hate those things) and cigarettes. If I go out and party with friends – drinking and overeating – then I know the next day I need to limit eating the next day, take liver supportive nutrients and drink electrolytes.
A ‘clean gene’ is one which is functioning at full potential. It has the nutrients it needs, has no polymorphisms and is not burdened by chemicals, stress or infections.
A ‘born dirty’ gene is one which is not functioning at full potential. It is dirty due to the presence of a potentially problematic genetic polymorphism.
An ‘act dirty’ gene is one that is not functioning at full potential. It may be dirty from one or more of the following:
•Lack of vitamins / minerals
Throughout the book, I emphasize loudly that whether our genes are ‘born dirty’ or ‘act dirty’, it doesn’t matter. What matters is understanding that they can get dirty and we have the tools and wherewithal to clean them up. I teach exactly this all throughout the book.
Many people think that if they have no MTHFR SNP, that their MTHFR gene is working just fine.
This is absolutely incorrect.
Just because someone is born with a ‘clean MTHFR gene’ does not mean it cannot act dirty. It certainly can through lack of vitamin B2, hypothyroidism, lack of vegetables, excessive alcohol and stress to name a few.
A ‘clean gene’ can act dirty.
The opposite is also true.
Just because someone is born with a ‘dirty MTHFR gene’ (presence of SNPs) does not mean that it is actually ‘dirty’. It can act clean. Why? Their lifestyle, diet, mindset and environment are supporting their MTHFR gene and reducing how much work it has to do.
Thus, their ‘born dirty MTHFR gene’ is acting clean.
JST: Ben, you know my obsession for the microbiome, so we’re going to go here now: please tell us about the connection between the microbiome and our GST genes (the ability to produce glutathione, our most powerful antioxidant) and our NOS3 genes (the nitric oxide genes, responsible for circulation and cardiovascular health).
Yep. You are obsessed with it alright ;) – but for good reason. The microbiome either dirties our genes right up or cleans them up. It’s our choice.
If our microbiome is dirty, it is producing all sorts of compounds which get absorbed and pollute us. Our genes get to work and work hard to handle this massive burden. The GST gene doesn’t actually produce glutathione, it transfers it to toxic compounds in an effort to eliminate them. (The GSS gene actually produces glutathione but that’s a separate ball game.) Since the dirty microbiome is producing a significant amount of harmful compounds, our GST gene is working hard to eliminate them. If our GST genes are working hard to eliminate harmful chemicals from our microbiome, then it cannot be eliminating harmful compounds from the food, water or air that we take in every moment of the day. As a result, we get symptoms and feel ill.
A healthy microbiome also works hard on eliminating chemicals and heavy metals. Thus, a healthy microbiome reduces the workload on our GST gene thereby allowing the GST gene to more effectively reduce chemicals from the air, water and food that we bring in. As a result, we are moving out chemicals better and feeling good.
The NOS3 gene is extremely important for our overall cardiovascular health as you mentioned. If it gets dirty, we’re in trouble. NOS3 relies heavily on glutathione and methylation to keep working well. If glutathione levels are low and/or methylation isn’t working well, then neither is NOS3. If one’s microbiome is dirty, it depletes their glutathione and puts a burden on their methylation.
How is methylation affected by a dirty microbiome? High histamine. Histamine has to be eliminated via methylation if it is not eliminated by the microbiome first. Those with a dirty microbiome have typically high histamine levels which are putting stress on their methylation. A stressed methylation leads to a stressed NOS3 and cardiovascular issues may result.
JST: I adore that you have addressed what I consider the final, most important frontier in human health – our mindset. A couple quotes lifted from your book: “that’s why stress reduction belongs at the very top of your list” and “you are your own laundry” are simple yet philosophical. Why is the concept of stress reduction so often ignored? What can we do to reduce our stress to feel our best?
BL: With all the research I’ve done, much of disease and symptomatology boils down to one thing – and that’s mindset. If we think we can or we think we can’t, we’re right.
I believe stress reduction is often ignored because it takes a ton of work to deal with it. We have to make lifestyle changes. We have to change. That’s not easy. We all want to swallow a pill to make stress go away so we can continue on without having to invest a ton of effort. Nope. This doesn’t work. I’ve tried personally and did it fail? Yes. Many times. The first thing people must do is identify emotional stressors and begin dealing with them – one at a time. As they work to improve and reduce their stressors, their genes sigh in relief as there is much less work for them to do. The less work your genes have to do, the less dirty they get.
The top things I do to reduce my stress level – and ones that I see work well for people across the globe – are the basic most fundamental human needs:
•Breathe – most don’t do this properly – at all.
•Eat whole foods
•Avoid stimulating drinks to drive energy – instead eat better, sleep better, hydrate better
•Connect with nature – air, water, soil, plants, animals, stones, trees
•Companionship with loved ones and true friends – not fake ones
•Hobbies – do them. Make time for them.
•Vacation. Go. Live. Experience life.
A great resource for people is the chapter I loved writing – yet it is not in the book. This chapter is called ‘ABC’s of Clean Genes’ and it is freely available to download. Simply go to www.drbenlynch.com and grab it. This will give them a great taste of my writing style, how easy it is to read and how practical and applicable it is to real life.
Great questions. It’s been real ☺
JST: Sure has, Ben
The Dirty Genes Summit starts tomorrow and is going to be a broad, deep look at this conversation and more. The Summit is totally free, but you do have to sign up to reserve your spot.
If you want even more Ben Lynch, check out this post where we start the conversation about genetics, methylation, and the art of a simple life.