Until recently, many people thought that their risk for chronic disease was mostly determined by the genes that they inherited. Recent scientific discoveries have revealed, though, that we have a lot more control over our health status than we thought. It turns out that what is in our DNA is only part of the story. The study of "epigenetics" is teaching us about some of the factors that determine how our DNA expresses itself - and whether certain genes get turned on or off.
Our bodies have any amazing ability to heal themselves, and the lifestyle choices that we make each day can boost or diminish this power. One of the ways these choices affect our health is through a pathway called Nrf2 Activation. In a nutshell, when this pathway is activated by our lifestyle choices, it affects over 500 "survival genes" which stimulate processes that decrease oxidative stress and inflammation, produce more mitochondria (the energy-generating components of our cells) and increase cellular detoxification.
Multiple studies have found that activation of the Nrf2 Pathway positively affects a range of chronic diseases. This makes sense, since oxidative stress and inflammation contribute significantly to the burden of chronic disease. In fact, a recent peer-reviewed article went so far as to say that Nrf2 Activation "may well become the most extraordinary therapeutic and most extraordinary preventative breakthrough in the history of medicine."
So, how do we activate this powerful pathway? The good news is that many of the behaviors that we know to be healthy are the ones that activate Nrf2! Here are a few ways to make sure that you are turning on your survival genes:
- Eat a healthy diet - An variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, fish oil, and fiber are among the nutritional components that stimulate Nrf2. The Mediterranean, traditional Okinawan, and Paleolithic diets contain many of these nutritional components.
- Engage in moderate exercise - Moderate exercise stimulates Nrf2, but too much can aggravate oxidative stress.
- Try Intermittent fasting - Caloric restriction is another stimulator of the Nrf2 Pathway.
- Consider supplements with specific plant extracts - A number of botanicals that are have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine for centuries contain the nutritional components that stimulate the Nrf2 pathway. Turmeric and Ginger are two well-known plants that contain Nrf2-activating compounds. Recently, I became an independent distributor for LifeVantage, a company that invented a supplement containing a synergistic formula of five Nrf2-activating botanicals (Protandim). Below I share more about my personal experience with this innovative product.
What about you? Please share your experience with these or other approaches in the comments below!