Tom Ballard, ND's blog


Genetic or Diet Inheritance?
October 14, 2010, 11:36 am
Filed under: Commentary | Tags: , , ,

Disease used to be blamed on evil spirits – mysterious forces that no one knew how to control. These days, fingers often point to evil genes.  Truth is, genes are rarely the cause of disease.

Experts estimate that only about 10% of diseases have direct genetic causes. The other 90% are the result of outside, or environmental, influences. If you’re never exposed to small pox, you’ll never get it. If you’re exposed to toxic pesticides your nervous system will be impacted. If you don’t eat protein, your body will steal it from your muscles. If you don’t exercise, your heart muscles will wither. If you smoke, you increase your chances of cancer and lung diseases. The list is long for negative influences that you have control over.

Unfortunately, most people are told their problem is genetic, inherited, inevitable, and uncontrollable. You’ve heard it. You’ve seen the shrug that goes with the verdict. Fate. Kismet.

There is rarely, however, one gene responsible for disease. If you inherit several specific genes you may then have a tendency toward a disease, but there is abundant research showing that things like exercise, diet, and exposure to toxins change the expression of genes.

There are about 4000 single gene diseases, but most are quite rare (Huntington Disease, Hemophilia). Of the 3-6 percent of birth defects that occur every year, only 50% of those have a predominant genetic contribution. The most common singe gene disease is familial hypercholesterolemia (genetically high cholesterol) which affects one in 500 people. Yet even in this condition only 10-20% of those with the gene will develop early heart disease and only 50% will have a heart attack before age 50. In other words, other issues influence the outcome of those who inherit this condition. And, implementing cholesterol-lowering treatments reduces the risk even more.

When there is a “genetic component” to a disease, it usually means that a number of genes are involved and they increase the likelihood of developing the disease. It is in no way inevitable. You may carry a certain “cancer gene” that sits dormant and never bothers you. Or, you could turn on the gene by smoking, eating too much charred meat or not enough omega-3 oil. On the other hand, you have genes that protect you from cancer that you might turn off by other choices you make.  The life you choose influences which genes are turned on and off.

Not only is the genetic pronouncement usually wrong, but it takes away your power, your control, your influence over your future. Who ends up with your power?  The junk food corporations and the medical-industrial complex. Might as well just eat the junk food, give up on exercise, and take the drugs that lessen your symptoms. Their message is “There’s nothing you can do, but we will help you feel better. Trust us.”

I’ve always told my patients, “More than any genetic predisposition toward disease, people “inherit” their parents eating habits.”  If your grandmother ate a zinc deficient diet, then your mother and you would also be deficient unless your intake is sufficient to raise your levels. More likely you’ll continue eating the same zinc deficient foods as your mother. People tend to eat the same foods as their parents. Your deficiency of zinc will increase your risk for diabetes, recurrent infections, chronic skin conditions, and hormonal imbalances.

Toxins are another negative you “inherit” from your parents. Whatever toxic chemicals your mother had in her were transferred in part to you during breast-feeding. In a study looking at breast milk samples from around the world, no uncontaminated samples could be found.  According to a study published by the American Association for Cancer Research, rats fed junk food will pass on cancer risk to their children and grandchildren – even if the offspring eat a healthy diet. Speaking of “inherited disease” and toxins, remember that one of the ways in which toxic chemicals harm our health is by damaging our DNA. This is one reason infertility rates are on the rise.

Next time someone tries to blame your genes for your sore knees, high cholesterol, failing memory, or other health problem, run the other way. Not only do they not understand genetics, but they’re stealing your power, giving up on your chances of recovery.

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