The Inside and Outside of DNA Health

You may think that taking action to strengthen your DNA is all about what you eat, the supplements you ingest, and the exercise and meditation you incorporate to directly turn on the body’s good genes from the inside. Well, yes, that’s a big part of armoring your DNA. But what you can do to protect your DNA from environmental stressors is equally important.

My new book, The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle, already a number-one bestseller on Amazon, maps out myriad recipes, menu plans, and scientific evidence for easy steps we can incorporate to strengthen our DNA from the inside and to help prevent chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and the effects of aging. 

However, The Gene Therapy Plan’s message is not that we must, or can, change our ENTIRE way of life in order to be healthier. In a strict sense, it is true that this would be the most effective means of reducing, for example, cancer or diabetes. Having prescribed nutritional and lifestyle activities like meditation and exercise to my cancer patients for more than 25 years, I have seen, first hand, that cancer can be curtailed and further risks neutered. In fact, if we lived like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we would probably prevent many kinds of disease.

But this is not an option. I don’t mean that you can’t make better choices; of course, you can, and my patients will be the first to tell you what profound effects these choices have on fortifying their health.

What I do mean is that since the alternative hunter-gatherer world is gone, and since we live in a contaminated, obesity-inducing world — which is also our automobile-driving, smartphone-using, individual-choice oriented world — we have to slow down and think about each choice that we make throughout the day to minimize risks.

For instance, take a moment to do a quick inventory of how your individual world is shaped: Think about your ingrained preferences, your assumptions about what constitutes a good life, your thoughts about the rhythms of work and play — indeed all of your patterns of thought that make your lives valuable — well, every one of these attitudes is shaped and reciprocally informed by the general culture we live in, including the disease-enhancing elements of it. Tricky stuff. Our job is, first, to become aware, and, two, to make better choices to armor our health by armoring our very DNA.

Ultimately, this is why I emphasize ecogenetically targeted nutrition in my new book, The Gene Therapy Plan. This is what I mean by ecogenetically targeted nutrition: using what you eat as a way of defending yourself against the endless and embedded risks of our way of life. The risks are omnipresent and variable and to a certain extent unavoidable. But the site of exposure—the epigenome—is identifiable and limited. You cannot possibly hope to eliminate the dangers flying at you from all directions. But you certainly can defend your DNA.

In my previous book, Nurture Nature, Nurture Health, I lay out the astounding scientific evidence for how environmental toxins are devastating our health and the steps we can take to modify risks from the outside. You cannot completely avoid the disease-causing exposures implicit in our modern culture, but you can minimize, moderate, and modify toxic exposures.

So, please take the time to strengthen your defenses with measures as simple as eating organic foods and avoiding chemicals that have been used to manufacture everything from skin care products to upholstery and children’s play sets.

Below I’ll list a few simple steps you can take. Remember, it’s up to you to control what you can, because every one of us can bring ourselves closer to the body’s natural propensity for health. Hunter-gatherers knew this instinctively. So did our own grandparents and elders.

Follow their lead: Eat right. Meditate. Exercise. Stay close to nature. Nurture your family and your environment. In the process, you’ll definitely enhance your own DNA and that of future generations.

8 Tips for Ecogenetic Armor

  1. Crush toxins with garlic daily: Garlic contains nutrients that turn on genes that code for critical detoxifying enzymes — our bodies’ first line of defense against toxic assault.
  1. Eat the dandelions: Loaded with anti-inflammatory alpha-linoleic acid, these greens are great in salads.
  1. Use toxin-free, green cleaning products in your home such as Seventh Generation. Choose peroxide rather than chlorine-based bleaches.
  1. Use non-toxic lawn care products: It has been found that after application of potentially toxic pesticides and herbicides around your home, within 24 hours traces have traveled to most household bathroom and kitchen surfaces. Just because you apply them outside, that doesn’t mean they stay there!
  1. Check your home for radon: Kits can be purchased from most hardware stores, and ridding your home of this naturally occurring cause of lung cancer is essential if you find high levels.
  1. Avoid damaged oils: Heat damaged oils are as bad for your gene expression as refined sugar and flour. Use organic coconut oil, cold-pressed grape seed oil or butter for high-heat cooking.
  1. Ask your doctor about taking low-dose aspirin. This has been associated with a reduced risk of breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers largely by preventing gene expression that ends up producing cancer-inducing inflammatory mediators.
  1. Ask your doctor about low-dose metformin if you are over 50. This drug was first produced in 1955 and is derived from the French lilac. It turns on a gene called AMPK that, in turn, elicits expression of genes that suppress tumors, obesity, and diabetes.
Photo Credit: Elena Schweitzer/