For years the common thinking has been that our genes control our destiny. That all your personality traits, talents, and intelligence are dictated by what’s imprinted in your DNA, including health issues. Turns out it’s not quite as simple or rigid as that.
Newer research is showing that our genes are malleable, in other words, depending on the choices we make about how we live our lives we can change our destinies, to a certain extent. Of course, things like the color of your eyes, skin and hair are predetermined. But, making choices about what you eat, whether you exercise, what you expose yourself to, can change the course of your life.
In “You Are Not Your Genes”, I’m joined by world-renowned experts who talk to me about the new genetics and some folks who have taken their lives, literally, into their own hands and proven your genes don’t have the final say.
In July 2016 Anthony Beven was given a diagnosis of HIV. But, Anthony tells me that wasn’t the worst of it, “A month and a half later my whole body went into inflammation. So, when I say my whole body, my top and bottom eyelids were swollen. My ears, my neck, my groin area, my armpits, all the places where we have lymph nodes. My body was trying to let me know there’s something going on.” After seeing a series of specialists he received a cancer diagnosis.
We all know about the fragile immune systems of people with HIV. Anthony says by the time he finished with the cancer treatments his T-cells, the frontline defender of our immune systems, were so low he was in AIDS territory. When his specialist wanted him to take medication to prevent a recurrence of the cancer, Anthony decided to made a different choice. I talk with Anthony about why he decided to buck tradition, what he learned, and the holistic methods he used to get his health back on track. Anthony also tells me about the serious health issues that exist in his family’s background, including cancer. “It’s not as much about what’s in your genetic history as in, do you have the detox gene?” Anthony tells me. He also shares what he’s learned about the importance of our dietary choices.
From obese and shoeless in the deep south to a United Nations appointed global champion, my guest Bryant McGill tells an amazing story of overcoming a seeming genetic blueprint for a short lifespan. “Just about everyone in my family had a heart attack or a heart surgery by the age of 50,” he says, “a lot of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure.” I talk to Bryant about the moment the lightbulb went off and he realized he could change his destiny. As he began to have some success Bryant found himself on the red carpet, he was wearing “fat pants” from Walmart, due to his 50-inch waist. He tells me, in that moment, he realized he was a hypocrite, “I was talking about poverty, yet I was eating more than my fair share and I realized I needed to do a self-assessment.”
Dyslexic, with an eighth-grade education, Bryant grew up believing his genes and family history meant he was unlikely to see much success in life. Along with his wife Jenni, we talk about how Bryant’s weight was almost like a psychological tumor and how he believes he entombed himself in a protective layer of flesh due to shame. We discuss how Bryant broke through that destructive thinking and the steps he took to change his life. Plus his wife Jenni shares how it’s important to be on the same page as your partner, and what their healthy lifestyle consists of.
When Dr. Erika Gray was 16 she was diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful disorder that affects a woman’s reproductive system. After two back-to-back surgeries and three re-occurrences in less than a year, Dr. Gray says the OB/GYN wanted to put her on a variety of medications. Dr. Gray tells me, “I didn’t do well on birth control pills and so my mother said, ‘There’s got to be another way.’” There was, Dr. Gray’s nutritionist and OB/GYN worked together with a compounding pharmacist to find the answer to the problem. And in the process, Dr. Gray found her future.
Fascinated by the process, Dr. Gray went to pharmacy school, along the way her parents did some genetic testing. “We looked at my father’s genes, and he’s a carrier for the APOE gene, which puts him at a high risk for either Alzheimer’s or cardiovascular disease. I said, ‘So dad, you have this gene,’ and he goes, ‘Okay sweetie, what do I need to do?’” Dr. Gray tells me, she discovered one of the issues with genetic testing is, if they find something, there’s no real actionable advice on how to prevent the seemingly inevitable. That lead to Dr. Gray co-founding Toolbox Genomics, a company that uses your genetic results to offer lifestyle choices and action plans that can improve your life. Dr. Gray talks to me about what she’s discovered about the important role of Omega-3’s, shellfish, and new discoveries about the choices you can make to take control of your ultimate destiny.
Dr. Ben Lynch tells me our genes are not stagnant, quite the opposite in fact, they are working for us every single day and we can make their job easier or harder, it’s all up to us. He knows what he’s talking about. Dr. Lynch was told his genes predisposed him to schizophrenia and alcoholism. He was frozen with fear that one day he’d wake up with schizophrenia. He tells me, “I didn’t want that. So, I learned basically through schooling and working with a number of patients and clients that we can control our genes, turning them on and off, by the actions that we take.” A naturopathic doctor with a background in molecular biologies, Dr. Lynch is the author the book Dirty Genes, A Breakthrough Program to Treat the Root Cause of Illness and Optimize Your Health.
In a twist of the old, you-are-what-you-eat, thinking, Dr. Lynch shares with me his thoughts on dirty genes. He says if you eat processed, chemical-laden food if you’re breathing polluted air, if your relationship is toxic and harming your spirit, your genes will react accordingly. Dr. Lynch tells me the best thing anyone can do to clean their genes is, “Take a vacation from your problems.” How do you do that? It’s not anything crazy or magical and it’s easier than you think, it’s something we can all do. Dr. Lynch and I discuss the everyday changes anybody can make to clean their dirty genes.