Epigenetics and the Restoration of Health

It’s well known that drugs and alcohol have the ability to change how we feel and act. They interact with regions of the brain that control motor skill and executive function so that we become clumsy, slow to react, irrational and unable to solve relatively simple problems. Unfortunately, the damage caused by substance abuse doesn’t stop in the brain because it can alter genetic expression to increase the risk of dependence and disease.

Understanding the interaction between drugs and alcohol and our genetic material falls under the umbrella of epigenetics – the study of how the humane genome responds to external forces to influence health.

Our genes, found within certain stretches of DNA, hold the information necessary to build and maintain cells – the foundation of a healthy body. We depend on our genes, because they correspond to various biological adaptations such as eye color, blood type, and other heritable characteristics that function as mechanisms for survival. Unfortunately, when specific genes begin to express themselves in a detrimental manner in response to external stimuli, we are likely to experience an increased risk of ill health and disease.

One extremely powerful external stimuli are drugs and alcohol, which, according to a recent study published in the journal Pharmacogenomics, “epigenetic factors may alter initial response to a drug, continued response, the development of tolerance leading to addiction, as well as withdrawal and relapse.”

In other words, drugs and alcohol have the ability to alter genetic expression to increase the likelihood of addiction.

The good news is that we are not doomed to a life of harmful genetic expression because of overindulgence in drugs of abuse. Just as genetic expression can be altered to produce illness and addiction so can it be reversed to restore health and wellbeing.

According to Catherine and Luke Shanahan, authors of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods, incorporating a few specific foods that have been utilized throughout history can restore proper genetic function and health. Pillar foods that restore health, include:

  • Meat cooked on the bone. When cooking and eating meat, the more everything stays together, the better. This includes the fat, bone, marrow, skin and other connective tissues. This provides the body with the full complement of nutrients found in meat and better allows them to be absorbed and utilized by the body. Cooking meat and all its parts together also improves flavor and texture, which will improve the overall eating experience. Bone broth, anyone?
  • Organ meats and offal. Offal encompasses every part of the animal except the ordinary muscle meat, including all of the nutrient rich organs. Such meats – liver, kidney, tongue, brain, heart and thymus – are rich in fat-soluble vitamins that serve a variety of vital functions in the brain and body. Although eyes, brains and nervous tissue all serve a valuable function when consumed, liver may be, “the most outstanding meat which can be purchased.”
  • Fermented and sprouted foods. Sprouting and fermenting foods has the ability to deactivate anti-nutrients, enzyme inhibitors, carcinogens and many other nasty things that can interfere with health. This process not only frees up minerals for absorption, it makes food easier to digest, enables better preservation, manufactures vitamins and encourages the production of immune boosting pre- and probiotics.
  • Fresh, raw and seasonal vegetables. Fresh foods contain a wealth of healthful nutrients that may get destroyed when heat, pressure and other means of industrial preservation are applied.

I would like to end this discussion with something that really grabs your attention, but now all I can think about is bone broth :/. Until next time, friends.

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© Matthew Lovitt and TwelveWellness, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lovitt and TwelveWellness with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.