How does food affect your genes?

In the previous post we looked at the way epigenetics influences the way your genes work and introduced the idea of ‘single nucleotide polymorphisms’ or SNPs which may help to explain how even people with a healthy diet and lifestyle can become ill.  In this post we’ll take a closer look at how food can make a difference.

By the time you were five years old you’d probably already worked out that some foods make you feel good and others make you feel bad. But you may never have considered that it’s genetic.

Depending on your genes you may find that chicken makes you happy, caffeine makes you feel jittery, bread makes you bloated, and alcohol makes you high.

Or you may find that chicken makes you itchy, caffeine makes you perform better, bread makes you happy and alcohol makes you aggressive.

Individual single nucleotide polymorphisms directly influence our ability to utilise the food we eat to operate the body’s many biochemical pathways. Broccoli can speed up sluggish genes, cherries can boost melatonin production, turmeric can balance oestrogen detoxification, dark chocolate can improve your antioxidant status. Understanding your own SNPs can help you see if you need more chocolate than most people – or more broccoli!

The unique advantage of nutrigenetic testing is the ability to understand areas where your own genes need a bit of extra help. For example your genes may reveal a reduced ability to absorb folate from your diet, problems with recycling B12, difficulty converting beta-carotene to Vitamin A, impaired sensitivity to Vitamin D, lower blood levels of Vitamin C.

From experience I often find that discovering your SNPS feels like coming home to yourself. Clients often get a deep sense of satisfaction and validation from the information contained in the reports, together with confirmation of things they’ve ‘always known’ about themselves but never really understood. From there it’s not such a big leap to see how and why continuously eating things that suit you will result in continuously good gene expression. And vice versa.

The fact that we are now able to look at nutritional requirements at a genetic level is hugely empowering. It can help us to understand why cancer may have happened, even on a healthy diet, and can reduce your risk of problems in future. It’s a way to make sure your body is working as well as possible, despite the set of instructions you inherited.

To learn more about how you can influence your genes following a cancer diagnosis, sign up to Your Life and Cancer 2020 and tune in at 10:00 am on Sunday, 11th October.