I hope you’re as excited about today’s discussion as I am! Today we will be discussing our genetics and how factors such as food, sleep, hydration, relationships with family/friends/work/self, and environment play a large role in that. Better yet these markers in our life form the big picture in how healthy and capable our bodies stay.
Firstly, one of the biggest things we should look at is our organ reserve. This is basically a “savings account” of extra functional capability for us to draw from in times of injury or illness. As we age, we lose our organ reserve due to the amount of chronic stress that we go through everyday. Let’s say our organs require a certain average amount of energy to efficiently keep our bodies healthy and running. But as the stressors in life begin to stack up, our organs have to work increasingly harder to keep up with the heightened amount of cortisol being produced. Over time as our bodies keep taking advantage of our organ reserve the “savings account” loses its ability to bounce back after a traumatic event. If the heart and lungs respond to stress 3x,5x,10x more than what is required of them, what do you think will happen to these organs when you are constantly put under stress from work, family and the countless amount of life “intricacies” that tend to befall us all? Not including the physiological damage that a diet high in processed, sugary or fatty foods can do to our bodies. The work overload will cause inflammation, the source of all chronic illnesses, which can take up to 10 years before your body starts showing signs of diseases. Which now means we have 10+ years of horrible life habits to reverse. This is one of the reasons why your health deteriorates as you age. That’s why you see people who are in their 30s, but can have the biological age of someone in their 50s. They might look old and withered as compared to their actual age and you might consistently hear them complain about how “broken” and how many ailments they have at any given time. We all have these people in our life. I’ll be honest, I’ve been that person. Where I feel like I am falling apart as I’m struggling to get out of bed and I’m constantly grunting as my body aches through every movement of my day. There were many things I had to fix to get myself back to feeling not only 100%, but CAPABLE again. These include getting adequate sleep, hydrating, and focusing on really dialing in my nutrition (both macro and micro). I wouldn’t say things were absolutely horrible before (besides sleep, that was actually horrible. Working far too much) but I could surely stand to do things more efficiently and optimally. Especially considering sleeping and eating are the number one ways to recover. Hydration was also not emphasized for myself (even though as an athlete I always made sure I kept this consistent). The long work days made it easy to push the small details aside. But success is FOUND IN THE DETAILS. Through these small daily tasks is where we find success in all walks of life. Health, fitness, career, business, relationships with others, etc. The small daily things are what keep us from straying off path.
Now back to our biological age. Let’s switch our measure of health by way of this biological age, because after all, it directly dictates our risks of having or contracting chronic illnesses. Although our average lifespan has increased by about 25 years over the past century, we spend most of our lives at risk for, or battling, chronic illnesses. The research shows that the average American spends about 90% of their medical expenses in their last few years of life. Imagine neglecting your health for so long that the focus of life as you enter your 60s, 70s, and 80s becomes driving an “investment” in keeping yourself alive. However, here is some good news for all of us: the way we live (our lifestyles, stress responses, environments and diets) can shorten the time between the onset of illness and the time of death by increasing the time before the illness occurs. In other words, our lifestyle behaviors can help us stay young longer! As for myself, I would rather make the choice to invest in feeling alive while I’m young! As mentioned in previous discussions – avoiding inflammatory foods like dairy, processed foods, and refined sugars while learning to manage stress, exercising regularly, maintaining healthy relationships, keeping a healthy diet and healthy sleeping patterns can get people off of medication and disease-free for a very long time.
Now you may ask, “don’t our genetics play an important part in our diseases?” They surely do and you can’t fight your DNA, but DNA doesn’t determine everything. It all comes down to your “genetic expression.” Our genes translate the way we choose to respond to our environment and how we choose to fuel the body and mind. Remember; this includes the food we eat, what we drink, how much sleep we get in daily, any extra supplements/drugs we use, the stressors in our life from relationships, work, etc. All these things are translated by “cellular instructions”. These instructions control our disease patterns and determine whether or not we will contract a given disease or express a given genetic marker that we have a gene mutation for. Take the BRCA mutation as an example. This mutation includes two types of mutations, being BRCA1 and BRCA2, and testing positive for this mutation as a female means you have an increased risk of contracting breast or ovarian cancer. For males testing positive this signifies having an increased risk of contracting prostate, pancreatic, or breast cancer as well. Before 1940, the chances of women being diagnosed with breast cancer while having the BRCA mutation was 24% . By 2013, the numbers increased to greater than 85%. So you may ask what changed? What actually caused this dramatic increase in the rates of our gene mutation? Was it our DNA? Of course not, our genes can’t change. It was the environment that changed which caused cortisol (stress hormone) levels to increase . The food we find as the mainstay in the current American diet contains more chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics due to the high amount of processed and refined foods we choose. And the increase in productivity through a longer workday and longer work week only add to consistent levels of cortisol compounding over time. The price we pay for valuing an overworking mentality here in the US. These two can form a trickle down effect into everything else. Fuel the body with crap and you’ll feel like crap which leads to lack of motivation to exercise after a long day of work and then crummy sleep because of the hormonal imbalance we’ve now created. Not to mention most people don’t care to prepare or cook their own meals which leads to creating habits such as succumbing to the “convenience” of fast food or a meal prep company. I emphasize “convenience” due to the fact that you don’t actually save time by going to restaurants or picking up something quick on the way home. The time spent commuting and waiting for the food is much longer than going to the grocery store once a week and buying what’s needed. This includes shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store and not down the aisles. The perimeter of the store includes lean meats, dairy, eggs, fruits, and veggies. The only reason to go down the aisles is for rice, beans, and whole grain and whole wheat pastas and breads. However, if you’re sensitive to gluten then you can exclude that.
Now don’t tell me you’re surprised. You mean to tell me if I eat less lean meats, don’t consume healthy fats, avoid clean carbs, lack variety in fruits and vegetables, don’t hydrate, sleep on average 25-45% less than what’s actually needed, and don’t move the body enough and allow it to atrophy and breakdown that I drastically increase the chances of contracting illnesses, diseases, and allow my genetics to work against me??? Wake up and take full accountability of your life! The choices you make for every aspect of your health are entirely on you. Not on your friends, family, or the genetic hand you’ve been dealt. All of these poor decisions can cause our genes to express an intended illness. And you see an example of this with the increase in breast cancer rates from 1940 to 2013. 24% to 85% is too significant of an increase. Especially considering we are to consider our medical system in the US to be advancing substantially even now and most (if not all) would consider it a drastic improvement from any point in the 1900’s. Yet we choose to ignore the science and affect food and environment have on our health. It does ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING for us. As Dr. Mark Hyman, a Functional Medicine doctor and New York Times best-selling author, always says, your DNA acts as a loaded gun, but your environment pulls the trigger.
How liberating is it to know that your diseases are not hardwired to you? You have time to deactivate your illnesses by changing the “cellular instructions” that your genes follow and it all depends on how you choose to live your life. You don’t have to succumb to the same disease that your father or mother suffered from if you start making consistent improvements today. Keeping your mental and physical health well-balanced can help you maintain your organ reserve, be medication-free and increase your quality of life astronomically. But it all starts with YOU. And we subscribe to the notion of “extreme ownership” here at Primitive Movement. Own up to where you’re at and what needs to be done to fix your health and improve it to be your best quality self LONG TERM. This is a numbers game, so choose to win each and every day through those small daily tasks. Sleep earlier, stay off your handheld device, read a book and keep the mind fresh and wet with knowledge, make a quick 20 min grocery run one day a week instead of multiple 10, 15, 20 min plus trips to the fast food joint nearest you. Don’t forget to hydrate incessantly throughout your day, and keep your community strong with healthy and sound individuals. I promise you this will change your health dramatically in decreasing stress in volumes.
As always I loved our time together and I hope you got much out of this to help guide you on this path of health and wellness. Stay tuned for next week as we dive into movement a bit more, specifically in how we are seeing changes with our perception of biomechanical efficiency and how it’s translated.
Blessings, Coach Adan Martinez