By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that our bodies and even our minds need to be fortified so that we have a foundation of good physical and mental health. It’s a lot easier for your body to defend itself against physical and emotional stress if you’ve been taking care of it before it’s faced with challenges.
A lot of what I’m referring to is epigenetics. All human beings have genetic strengths and also susceptibilities. Yet, how our genes manifest are dependent on epigenetics. In simplistic terms, epigenetics refers to the way lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, psychological stress, and sleep can change our genetic makeup and that of our children and grandchildren. In more complicated terms, epigenetics are defined as changes in gene expression transmitted from parent to offspring that can’t be explained by changes in DNA nucleotide sequence. Unfavorable lifestyle modifications such as leading a sedentary lifestyle, eating a poor diet, or undergoing psychological stress can change an important epigenetic process known as DNA methylation leading to the development of disease. However, getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy foods (like those found in the Mediterranean diet), and finding ways to soothe stress can reverse harmful epigenetic changes.1-4
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep and Soothing Away Stress
The amount of sleep we get and how we react to stress are connected, which is why I’m covering both of these lifestyle factors in one section. Most people short themselves on optimal sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it means you’re not able to RESTore yourself from the wear and tear of modern living. For starters, not getting enough sleep affects brain areas involved in cognition and emotion.5 Furthermore, in premenopausal women who cut down their usual sleep time by 1.5 hours per night for six weeks, blood pressure levels went up.6
I have observed in my clinical practice that when patients are sleeping better, they’re much better at handling stress. Research backs up this observation. In a study of 59 adult male participants, men who slept poorly the week before experiencing stress had higher stress related elevations of blood pressure and cortisol levels compared with men who slept well.7
How To Sleep Better
To encourage better sleep, I recommend to my patients to go dark in regards to technology from 7 p.m. until bedtime, whenever possible. This includes using night mode on computers, phones, and other blue light screens and/or wear special glasses in the evening to block blue
spectrum light. This is the type of light that causes melatonin levels to drop. The hormone melatonin is secreted at night when the body is exposed to darkness. Light exposure at night is associated with low melatonin levels and poor sleep. Before the invention of modern technology, the only source of blue light was the sun. Technology has altered the natural light/dark sleep cycle.
One easy way to sleep better and reduce occasional stress is to use a sleep and stress supplement containing the South African medicinal plant Sceletium tortuosum. Research indicates Sceletium tortuosum may increase well-being, support a good night’s sleep, and enhance the ability to cope with stress.8,9Its ability to generate feelings of contentment may be due to its effects on serotonin levels and inhibition of the phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4) enzyme.10 It also supports two measures of cognitive function, specifically executive function and cognitive flexibility.9
Are You Really Getting Enough Nutrients from the Diet?
If you’re like most people, the answer to this question is no. Governmental agencies recommend 3 to 4 cups vegetables per day and 2 to 2.5 cups fruit. Yet, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture, about 75% of Americans don’t eat the recommended intake of fruit, and more than 80% don’t eat the recommended intake of vegetables.11
This spells trouble for all areas of health. It’s impossible to feel healthy and energetic if you’re not nourishing your body with nutrients. Every cell in our body must be fueled, including the white blood cells of our immune systems. And in today’s fast-paced society it’s often difficult to spend time cooking a healthy meal. That’s why I always recommend my patients take a good multivitamin like TG3 Multi. Vegetables and fruit contain not only vitamins and minerals but also phytonutrients, which play an equally important role in health. As sources of some of these phytonutrients, pomegranate fruit extract, organic spinach, blueberry and strawberry fruit extracts are included in TG3 Multi. It also contains elderberry extract for immune support.
TG3 Multi also contains a comprehensive collection of nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and D3 as well as zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin, lycopene, selenium, chromium, and resveratrol. Most importantly, active forms of B vitamins are used in this multivitamin. For example, unlike many common multivitamins, TG3 Multi contains Quatrefolic®, an active form of folate known as 5- methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). Research has shown that a significant part of the world’s population has a genetic variation that makes them unable to convert the folic acid often found in supplements and fortified foods into 5-MTHF. Quatrefolic® is a unique, well-absorbed, and water soluble form of folate.
Get Moving for Good Health
Moderate exercise is crucial to all areas of health. It’s important for managing weight and keeping the cardiovascular system healthy, to name just a couple of its benefits.12 The reason
why exercise is so good for our health may involve epigenetics. Exercise—how much or how little of it you’re getting—can impact DNA methylation.2 As you may recall from earlier in this article, DNA methylation is an important part of epigenetics. Intense exercise can lead to inflammation, which is unfavorable for DNA methylation, while mild to moderate exercise can favorably affect methylation.2 That means exercise can literally change your genetic makeup.
The Common Denominator: Inflammation
All four of the factors I’ve mentioned in this article—not getting enough sleep, the damaging effects of stress, not eating enough nutrients, and getting too little or too much exercise—all have one thing in common. I’m referring to inflammation. Each of these factors can set up an inflammatory response that makes the body more vulnerable to many health concerns. If your
body is already in an inflammatory state when confronted with health and immune challenges, it won’t be able to defend itself.
Let’s face it, it’s not always possible to get enough sleep, stay away from stress, eat all the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables, and get the right amount of exercise. Consequently, I recommend that my patients take a curcumin supplement. Unfortunately, many curcumin supplements are not absorbed well enough by the body. I prefer CurcuVES, a curcumin supplement which is formulated with the VESIsorb® delivery system. VESIsorb® allows the beneficial compounds in curcumin known as curcuminoids to be easily absorbed in the intestine. This state-of-the-art technology can enhance the absorption of other formulas, too, such as hemp oil extract, coenzyme Q10, vitamin D3 as well as heart support and brain supplements.
Another way to reduce inflammation is with omega-3 fatty acids. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is loaded with omega-6 fatty acids and is deficient in omega-3s. This leads to an imbalanced ratio, with many people eating far more omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega 3s. This imbalance leaves the body ripe for inflammation. Intense exercise can also lead to a systemic inflammatory response. On the other hand, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids supports a healthy inflammatory response during exercise by regulating DNA methylation.2I prefer a combination of CoQ10 and Omega-3 fatty acids made with the VESIsorb® delivery system so that I can be confident my patients are absorbing the nutrients.
I like to say that genetics load the gun but lifestyle pulls the trigger. The science of epigenetics has proven this saying true. Four of the most powerful ways we can lead a more vibrant and healthy life is to control the lifestyle factors that influence epigenetics. These factors include getting enough sleep, keeping stress under control, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. However, it’s not always easy to do all of these things. That’s why I recommend the South African medicinal plant Sceletium tortuosum for sleep and stress, a good multivitamin that uses active forms of B vitamins and includes phytonutrients, and curcumin and omega-3
fatty acids to support a healthy inflammatory response. The end result equals lots of energy, a calm mood, overall good health, and a strong immune system.
1. Arpón A, Milagro FI, Razquin C, et al. Impact of Consuming Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts within a Mediterranean Diet on DNA Methylation in Peripheral White Blood Cells within the PREDIMED-Navarra Randomized Controlled Trial: A Role for Dietary Lipids. Nutrients. 2017;10(1).
2. Hunter DJ, James L, Hussey B, Wadley AJ, Lindley MR, Mastana SS. Impact of aerobic exercise and fatty acid supplementation on global and gene-specific DNA methylation. Epigenetics. 2019;14(3):294-309.
3. McEwen LM, Gatev EG, Jones MJ, et al. DNA methylation signatures in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a lifestyle intervention for women at midlife: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018;43(3):233-239.
4. Harkess KN, Ryan J, Delfabbro PH, Cohen-Woods S. Preliminary indications of the effect of a brief yoga intervention on markers of inflammation and DNA methylation in chronically stressed women. Transl Psychiatry. 2016;6(11):e965.
5. Long Z, Cheng F, Lei X. Age effect on gray matter volume changes after sleep restriction. PLoS One. 2020;15(2):e0228473.
6. St-Onge MP, Campbell A, Aggarwal B, Taylor JL, Spruill TM, RoyChoudhury A. Mild sleep restriction increases 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure in premenopausal women with no indication of mediation by psychological effects. Am Heart J. 2020;223:12-22.
7. Massar SAA, Liu JCJ, Mohammad NB, Chee MWL. Poor habitual sleep efficiency is associated with increased cardiovascular and cortisol stress reactivity in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017;81:151-156.
8. Nell H, Siebert M, Chellan P, Gericke N. A randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial of Extract Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin) in healthy adults. J Altern Complement Med. 2013;19(11):898-904.
9. Chiu S, Gericke N, Farina-Woodbury M, et al. Proof-of-Concept Randomized Controlled Study of Cognition Effects of the Proprietary Extract Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin) Targeting Phosphodiesterase-4 in Cognitively Healthy Subjects: Implications for Alzheimer’s Dementia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:682014.
10. Terburg D, Syal S, Rosenberger LA, et al. Acute effects of Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin), a dual 5-HT reuptake and PDE4 inhibitor, in the human amygdala and its connection to the hypothalamus. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013;38(13):2708-2716.
11. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans December 2015. US Department of Health and Human Services https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/. Accessed January 5, 2021.
12. Salas-Salvadó J, Díaz-López A, Ruiz-Canela M, et al. Effect of a Lifestyle Intervention Program With Energy-Restricted Mediterranean Diet and Exercise on Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: One-Year Results of the PREDIMED-Plus Trial. Diabetes Care. 2019;42(5):777-788.