ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS: What CAN we do about them?

Lecture by Mark Pettus transcribed by Carolann Patterson

ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS: How do they get inside of us; what do they do to us; and how can we undo the damage they cause?

Learning objectives for this lecture will be to

i. Review some common sources of environmental toxins that pervade daily living.

ii. Examine how the growing burden of environmental toxic exposure affects health and quality of life.

iii. Examine lifestyle, behavioral, and supplement strategies that can reduce our toxic burden and optimize our capacity for detoxification.

The Precautionary Principle

We as physicians must act on facts…and on the most accurate interpretation of them, using the best scientific information.  That does not mean that we must sit back until we have 100% evidence about everything. When the state of the health of the people is at stake…we should be prepared to take action to diminish those risks even when the scientific knowledge is not conclusive” Horton. Lancet. 1998;352(9124):251

America does not apply The Precautionary Principle as do other parts of the world - especially in Europe and Canada. In America, THOUSANDS of chemicals are permitted to be used in food and countless other products until proven 100% unsafe and dangerous. Other countries approach it from the opposite angle: when a chemical is proven 100% safe it is then permitted to be used. If it happens that it is already in the system and considered to be unsafe it is more readily removed than would be the case in the US.  

Exposure to environmental toxins

Since WWII, more than 85,000 new synthetic chemicals have been released into the environment. As a species we are exposed to 6 million lbs mercury and 2.5 billion lbs of other toxic chemicals each year. Most have not been tested for potential toxicity in adults [few in children]. Over 4 billion lbs of pesticides are used annually in the US. Current law allows 350 pesticides to be used on the foods we eat. The average home contains 3-10 gallons of hazardous materials. Traces > 280 synthetic chemicals can be found in the average newborn.

Our Toxic Load is being passed on

The Environmental Working Group commissioned five laboratories in the U.S., Canada, and Europe to analyze umbilical cord blood collected from 10 minority infants born in 2007 and 2008. Collectively, the laboratories identified up to 232 industrial compounds and pollutants in these babies, finding complex mixtures of compounds in each infant. This research was the first ever to detect BPA in US cord blood as found in 9 out of 10 cord blood samples. Environmental  Working Group [EWG.org] -Neonatal Toxicity Study.

The research demonstrates that industrial chemicals cross the placenta in large numbers to contaminate a baby before the moment of birth. Of 10 babies born in US hospitals, 287 chemical compounds are identified in their cord blood, with an average of 200 chemicals per infant. In total, the nine EWG subjects with chemical traces in the cord blood carried:

  • 76 chemicals linked to cancer in humans or animals [average 53]
  • 94 chemicals that are toxic to the brain and nervous system [average 62] – nb: a more sensitive part of the body, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s
  • 86 chemicals that interfere with the hormone system [average 58] – nb: endocrine disruptors, puberty is now 2 years earlier, PCOS poly-cystic-ovarian-syndrome is an epidemic in, infertility is close to epidemic, sperm counts are down and 1:8 women develop breast cancer]
  • 79 chemicals associated with birth defects or abnormal development [average 55] – nb: associated with Autism
  • 77 chemicals toxic to the reproductive system [average 55]
  • 77 chemicals toxic to the immune system [average 53] nb: autoimmunity epidemic linked to toxic exposure 40-50 million adults with thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, MS. 

Pesticide Levels in Children

Some foods have more “residue” from pesticides. Switching your Dirty Dozen to 100% organic will yield 90% reduction in pesticide residue levels in urine.

Some foods have more “residue” from pesticides. Switching your Dirty Dozen to 100% organic will yield 90% reduction in pesticide residue levels in urine.

What are the Main targets of chemical toxins? Chemical compounds clearly affect the:

  • immune system [allergies/asthma, chronic infections, auti-immunity]
  • Nervous system
  • Endocrine-hormonal system
  • Generational [coding and programming that is passed on to children who are born with their systems on alert and “switched on“].

The Effects of Toxins

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches / joint pain
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Sinus congestion and allergies
  • Digestive problems
  • Skin problems
  • PMS and hormone imbalances
  • Weight gain

 Plausible evidence links toxic exposure with risk of:

  • Immune: Autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma, chronic dermatitis, and multiple chemical sensitivities [MCS]
  • Mitochondrial and Metabolic: Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, PD, autism spectrum, obesity, insulin resistance
  • Endocrine and reproductive disorders: weight gain, PMS, PCOS, Infertility, Endometriosis, Fibroids
  • Digestive disorders: IBS, nausea and vomiting
  • Neurological disorders e.g. Parkinson’s, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum, and multiple sclerosis
  • Behavioral health disorders e.g. depression, anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity
  • Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases

Mitochondria are our “powerhouses.” There are 53 trillion contained in every cell. They have their own DNA - their own “book of life” - and can run themselves.  We get our mitochondrial DNA from our mothers. Mitochondria from the father are loaded in the tail of the sperm and exclusively designed for one thing: to be the first to get to the egg. Once there, the tail falls off and all mitochondria then come from the mother. 

Sick mitochondria are driving many complex diseases:

  • Parkinson’s, Autism, ALS, MS, Dementia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Complex pain syndromes
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pre-diabetes/diabetes

There are many things that can be done to restore mitochondria health by following the same protocol as Anti-Inflammatory diet and lifestyle. To learn more, link here to The Health Edge podcast on mitochondria.

Chemicals Cause Damage:

  • Mitochondrial toxicity – reduced function of the mitochondria and reduced function in cells/organs that contain mitochondria
  • Oxidative damage [ATP ‘our energy.” Fats are more efficient than carbs for energy production. They improve metabolism and decrease oxidative damage]
  • Neurotoxicity – solvents diminish neural functioning and Pesticides are neurotoxins by design

Some people retain more toxins than others for the following reasons:

  • Genetic differences in Phase One and Phase Two enzymes [polymorphism] nb- this is less about a “bad” gene and more about “typos” in the genes that we are given at birth
  • Nutrient deficiencies [in Mg – Magnesium; Se - Selenium, and Vitamin B6] prevent detoxification. Many of us are also deficient in Vitamins A, E, and K all of which are powerful antioxidants that aid detoxification.
  • High sugar/Low protein diets
  • Stress, emotional stuffing, trauma – allostatic overload impairs one’s ability to detoxify
  • Heavy metal presence [esp Hg – Mercury]
  • Increased exposure to toxins
We enter the world with genetic pre-dispositions towards certain conditions, but that does not mean you will get it

We enter the world with genetic pre-dispositions towards certain conditions, but that does not mean you will get it

We enter the world with genetic pre-dispositions towards certain conditions, but that does not mean you will get it.

Inheriting “typos” can lead to poor detoxification.

Glutathione S-Transferase pi-1 is responsible for Phase II detoxification of xenobiotics*, carcinogens, steroids, heavy metals, and products of oxidative stress. GSTP1 is located primarily in the brain and lungs.

GSTP1 polymorphisms are associated with either higher or lower enzyme activity, depending on specific environmental exposures. There is an increased risk of toxic burden, oxidative stress and various cancers especially if “GSTM1 Absent” or exposed to cigarette smoke. *Xenobiotic: a foreign chemical substance found within an organism that is not naturally produced by or expected to be present within that organism; substances which are present in much higher concentrations than are usual.

Treatment options to Boost GST activity:

  • Eat cruciferous vegetables [broccoli, bok choy] and alliums [garlic] to increase GST activity and reduce cancer risk
  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants [colorful foods] and consider supplementation
  • Ensure availability of GSH cofactors [methionine-rich foods, NAC, L-glutamine, glycine, Mg, B6
  • Limit Glutathione depletion with alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle and taurine
  • Minimize exposure to xenobiotics, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and toxic metals

Pharmaceuticals are in our Drinking Water

At least one pharmaceutical was detected in tests of finished drinking water supplies for 24 metropolitan areas, according to an Associated Press survey of 62 major water providers. Only 28 tested finished drinking water. Tests results vary widely. Some water systems said tests had been negative, but the AP found independent research showing otherwise.


Phthalates are in the Products we use...and in our Urine...

Phthalates are used in many common products easily released into the environment. Exposure is airborne, from food and from direct contact. They disrupt endocrine function [EWG's list of endocrine disrupters] and are associated with cancer e.g., breast


Environmental Toxins are prevalent in many products:

  • Persistent Organic Pollutants “POPS” : e.g. PCBs, dioxin, DDT, organochlorine pesticides, petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid “PFOA”: water repellant in Scotch Guard, Gortex, carpeting, upholstery and PTFE in Teflon
  • Polybrominated compounds PBDEs : flame retardants in TVs, computers, etc. “21st century PCBs”
  • PCBs : in meat, fish, dairy
  • Bisphenol A “BPA”: polycarbinated plastics, canned foods, cash register receipts
  • Atrazine agricultural pesticide and herbicide seeps into drinking water

Toxic Chemicals are in Beauty Products:

The average woman uses 12 products daily, containing 168 unique ingredients. The average man uses 6 products daily, containing 85 unique ingredients. Get to know what you are putting ON your body, not just IN your body:

  • Phthalates and Parabens: found in hair and skin care products
  • Fragrancefound in shampoos, deodorants, skin and body care
  • DiethanolamineI: DEA
  • TriethanolamineTEA - found in many cosmetics
  • Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, and Quarternium-15: found in skin and hair products…all release formaldehyde and are linked to sensitivities
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: [SLS]
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate: [SLES] found in makeup, shampoos, conditioners and toothpaste. When combined with DEA and TEA they form nitrosamines which are carcinogenic
  • Triclosan: a synthetic antibacterial in skin cleaners and household products is a hormone disrupter. The EWG Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disrupters are listed here

A useful site for to help you get to know the cosmetics you use: 

Explore switching to natural cosmetic products:

MERCURY is found in Fish

Mercury is environmentally ubiquitous with levels 30x higher last 2 generations. It enters the air and rain from coal and oil-fired power plants, incinerators, waste and manufacturing plants that use mercury to produce chlorine-containing plastics, PVC piping, pesticides, etc. It enters water and soil from natural deposits, volcanic activity, mining ore, and disposal of wastes e.g. batteries. Methyl mercury is formed in soil and water by algae and bacteria that is then ingested by fish. It is also found in fungicides. Elemental mercury and amalgams used in dental fillings, batteries, electrodes, barometers, fluorescent light bulbs, red tattoo dye, skin-lightening creams and thermostats. Federal Toxic Release Inventory states that over 6 million lbs of toxic waste in the form of mercury compounds in toxic waste are generated by industry, most of which is released directly into the environment.


High levels found in: Bluefish, Grouper, Marlin, Tuna [yellowfin, blue, albacore], Tilefish, Sea bass, Mahi, Swordfish

Low levels found in: Arctic cod, Anchovies, Catfish, Crab, Flounder, Haddock, Herring, Mackerel, Non-farmed salmon, Trout, Tilapia, Oysters, Tuna [skipjack and chunk light]

MERCURY causes Negative Health Effects

  • Damages enzymes and other proteins by binding sulfhydryl groups, e.g., metallothionein, hemoglobin, glutathione
  • Promotes oxidative stress by formation of lipid peroxides, H2O2, and hydroxyl radical
  • Depletes glutathione and selenium
  • Penetrates nerves and binds to cysteines on Ach receptors
  • Damage to brain and kidneys
  • Cognitive dysfunction, depression, irritability, tremors, changes in vision and hearing
  • Probable carcinogenic

Chemical Additives are in Food. Read labels and steer clear of the ones pictured below:


MSG and Glutamate

  • Glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid found in plant and animal protein. 
  • Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain.
  • Glutamate activates or excites cells to “communicate” important messages important for growth, development, learning and memory…essentially a brain stimulant.
  • MSG or monosodium glutamate is a synthetic chemical added to processed foods to make them more palatable.
  • The scientific literature regarding the health effects of MSG indicates controversy over the potential of MSG to cause various adverse reactions—from headaches and migraines, altered mood and cognition to endocrine disruption.
  • Possible Genetic susceptibility and “leaky” blood brain barrier
  • MSG goes by many names, read labels carefully. See image below for other names to watch out for.


Switch out THE DIRTY DOZEN to Organic and Stick to THE CLEAN FIFTEEN when not buying Organic

Follow the Principles of Healthy Detoxification:

  • Minimize your exposure to toxins by eating organic foods, moderating processed foods with refined grain flour, sugar, avoiding large game fish
  • Drink filtered water
  • Keep your bowels moving at least once a day through use of flax seeds and magnesium citrate [400mg/day]
  • Eat only organic animal products
  • Eat 6-8 servings of colorful vegetables and fruits including cruciferous veggies [broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale] and allium family [garlic, onions, leeks, watercress, green tea, cilantro, berries, etc]
  • Eliminate nicotine and moderate alcohol intake [no more than 1 drink/day]
  • Exercise: Interval cardio 20-30” twice week; yoga; tai chi; Resistance 20” twice/week; Walk a lot and use stairs
  • Eliminate white flour and sugar and HFCS
  • Minimize char-broiled meats [heterocyclic amines]
  • Don’t be afraid to sweat e.g. sauna, steam
  • Mercury and dental amalgams
  • Home testing for mold
  • Reduce toxic thought-behavioral patterns e.g. Mindfulness practice, CBT
  • Apply chelation protocols for heavy metals

Reduce your toxic burden:

  • Buy and eat organic whenever possible
  • Consider glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic
  • Decline stain protection treatments for upholstery or floor coverings
  • Ask about VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in paints, new carpeting, furniture
  • Avoid polycarbonate plastics with “7” and “3” stamped on bottom.  Consider aluminum instead
  • Switch to stainless steel or hard-anodized aluminum pots and pans when Teflon cookware wears out
  • Vacuum/dust at least once per week: Air purification ionizers
  • Carbon Filter water

Practice Mind-Body Detoxification

  • Mindfulness about the dietary and lifestyle choices you make
  • Meditation

Enhance Blood and Lymph Circulation through:

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Yoga
  • Massage and body work
  • Sauna and heat therapy
  • Skin exfoliation and brushing


Talk to your doctor or nutritionist to find out what SUPPLEMENTS are right for you to help you detoxify:

  • Multivitamin with mineral supplementation
  • Milk Thistle
  • Curcumin/turmeric and rosemary
  • Probiotics
  • Magnesium citrate [400-800 mg/day]
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine [NAC, 1200-2400mg]
  • SAMe, pronounced Sam-MEE [400-800]
  • Vitamin D [2,000-5,000 units/day to level 30+]
  • Co-Q-10 [200-400mg]
  • Alpha lipoic Acid [400-1000 mg]

 Explore Helpful websites such as these:

Use Helpful APPS such as these:


CREATING HEALTH Lecture #1: Exploring the Causes of the Causes

Lecture by Mark Pettus transcribed by Carolann Patterson


CREATING HEALTH - Exploring the Causes of the Causes is the first of eight lectures created to form "a wellness road map." The Creating Health lecture series is about how you function. How you function determines how you feel. In eight weeks we will explore the key metabolic underpinnings of how we function. We will learn how our biology becomes our biography.

The #1 cause of death and diminished quality of life are the choices we make.  Healthy living does not happen at the doctor’s office.  Good Health requires that we transform perceptions of self-care and what we as humans are capable of. It’s not the hand you’re dealt. It's how you play your cards. 

Every choice we make has the power to transform our DNA. Lifestyle choices, our thoughts, the food we eat can all alter the microbiome [that is what lives inside us]. For better or worse, our choices lead to Wellness or Disease that takes shape as fatigue, depression, pre-diabetes, diabetes, obesity, and more...

How did the outside get inside?

Yogi Berra, my favorite yogi, once said “The future ain't what it used to be.” In a medical sense, this translates to the need to deconstruct our ways of thinking about self-care so that we may learn and acknowledge the impact of our choices. What we bring into our lives and what we put into our bodies matters.

In his short story Dubliners James Joyce said “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” It's a perfect quote to illustrate how in this modern age we have so little time to examine who we really are. This dynamic leads to a total disconnect between the Mind, Body and Spirit. Now, more than ever, we need to be more mindful about all that is around us and learn more about the choices we make in order to understand our good health, and bad.

Albert Einstein said it best with Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one” to explain that reality constantly shifts and changes so that truths become...less true with time [and research]. When we apply this message to self-care, one of the most significant changes to surface through research is that Your DNA in NOT Your Destiny, a key theme that will resonate throughout the Creating Health lectures.

A proposition for Creating Health 

'Creating Health' is different from 'Preventing Disease,' 'Early Detection,' and 'Managing Disease.' It works from the starting point that the choices we make have the power to optimize our biology. Good choices yield kick-ass performance in our lives. Creating Health assumes that Good Health is more than a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol reading, and heart rate. It's about looking at our health in new ways and from many angles in order to create a new definition of self-care that reduces or eliminates the bad and fills up on the good. 

Here are some key "take-away" points from the Creating Health lectures: 

  • All health and disease are byproducts of complex individualized gene-environment interactions that may go back more than a generation before conception and continue throughout our lives and into the next generation. [yep, if Grandpa smoked then it has a bearing on you] 
  • Your genes i.e., your “Book of Life” have a Stone Age imperative, not often compatible with 21st century environmental inputs.
  • This incompatibility creates a disrupted biology e.g. inflammation that forms the basis of chronic complex disease and diminished quality of life. Our environment is no longer suited for "the Book of Life" to adapt to environmental toxins, stress, and modern day:night rhythms. 
  • Epigenetics is the relationship between our choices and how our genes function.
  • You can reduce-eliminate inflammation by aligning your lifestyle choices with your genes. Simply put: You can Create Health through the choices you make by getting to know what choices are best suited to your genes. 

There's been an explosion of knowledge.

Epigenetics research has doubled; microbiome research has doubled in the past year; and we're shifting away from Nature vs Nature to Nature via Nurture. To provide some context, here is a list of the different "moving pieces" on the playing field:

  • Ancestral 'Book of Life" - Evolutionary Biologic Lens
  • Functional – Systems Biology Model
  • Personalized Lifestyle Medicine
  • N = 1  (the quantified-self), measuring as much as you can about yourself, lots of Data Analysis
  • Food as Medicine, what you eat is a 'promoter' or 'disrupter'

If you change something in your environment, evidence will determine what is best for you.  Each of us has a unique "Book of Life." Changing variables - such as your intake of gluten, sugar or alcohol; your exposure to environmental toxins; or the positive addition of exercise, yoga and meditation - will alter your ability to thrive. 

Mark Twain had another way of defining Reality: “It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s what we know that ain't so.”  What did we once know that turned out not to be so? …Smoking is not bad for your health; If you live long enough you will get hypertension; My doctor told me I am feeling poorly because I am just getting old…

Daniel Boorstin refers to the illusion of knowledge - “The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.”  So what does that say about the current state of our health? It signals that we need to re-examine what we think we know and discover new "truths" to treat mounting health issues as outlined below.

The Current State and the Stats:

Doctors, health care providers, and care-givers are constantly "mopping up," putting out fires and helping patients gain traction. It's increasingly difficult to get to the source of many health problems. In the end, what gets treated is more often the symptoms, not the cause. This section references statistics to demonstrate the state we're in:


The Growing Burden of Chronic Complex Disease

  • 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer and stroke account for more than 50% of all deaths each year
  • In 2005, 133 million Americans – almost 1 out of every 2 adults – had at least one chronic illness
  • Obesity has become a major health concern. 1 in every 3 adults is obese and almost 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese
  • About one-fourth of people with chronic conditions have one or more daily activity limitations
  • Diabetes continues to be the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-extremity amputations, and blindness among adults, aged 20-74
  • You can reduce-eliminate inflammation by aligning your lifestyle choices with that which your genes are best suited for.

Health Patterns of Our Children and Young Adult

  •  Infants come into the world with over 200 measurable environmental toxins
  • Asthma: in 1980, 1 out of 30 kids were diagnosed. In 2010, 1 out of 10 kids
  • Obesity- rates have tripled in the age 12-19 adolescent group over the last 25 years
  • Allergies: according to JACI, the rate of serious peanut allergies has tripled over the last 10 years
  • Behavioral: Rates of attention deficit-hyper activity disorder [ADHD] diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997-2006, ever increasing to an average of 5.5% per year from 2003-2007. In 2007, almost 10% of America's children aged 4-17 years of age are or have been diagnosed with ADHAD.
  • Children aged 2 to 19 consume seven trillion calories of sugar-sweetened beverages a year. It’s a $24 billion industry just for kids alone. 
  • Obesity prevalence among men would rise from 32% in 2008 to approximately 50% and from 35% to between 45% and 52% among women
  • 7.8 million extra cases of diabetes
  • 6.8 million more cases of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • 539,000 additional cases of cancer
  • Annual spending on obesity-related diseases would rise by 13-16%, leading to 2.6% increase in national health spending

Environments are changing across the globe with the rise of Diabetes, now a pan-species epidemic. 


Growth beyond maturity-macroeconomics. Global Deaths from Infectious Disease by 2020 will be Less than 20 MILLION. More than 50 MILLION deaths will be caused by chronic disease.



Today one in four Americans over 60 years old has type 2 diabetes. By 2020, one in two Americans will have pre-diabetes or diabetes. From 1983 to 2008, world-wide diabetes incidence has increased 7 fold from 35 to 240 million. Remarkably, in just the last 3 years from 2008 to 2011, we have added another 110 million to the diabetes roll call. Increasingly, small children as young as eight are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult onset diabetes). They are having strokes at 15 years old and needing cardiac bypasses at 25 year old. The economic burden of caring for these people with pre-diabetes and diabetes will be $3.5 trillion over 10 years.

We're a Drugged Culture. There is a tremendous role for pharmaceuticals and behavioral health drugs, especially when patients are in free-fall, but we can deconstruct the ways we think about them and how we use them...


We're More Medicated than ever before...


We're More Stimulated than ever before...


The one thing that distinguishes man from other creatures is man's desire to take medications,” William Osler - 1910

How does a Functional-Systems Biology Model differ from the way we are currently looking at our health? Instead of looking at "the leaves" of disease to determine treatment, Functional Biology turns the model on its head and shifts analysis to begin at the roots, to find the root causes. Once we discover the root causes we can change our biology by changing our behavior. Our DNA is more malleable than we think. We are NOT locked in to our genetic legacy.


Disease [how things appear] - Pre-Diabetes, Diabetes, Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, Heart Disease, Stroke, Depression, Autoimmunity, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Autism, ADD, Hypertension

Core Metabolic Imbalances [what drives them] - Inflammation-Immunomodulation, Fight-Flight (HPA axis), Microbiome (Gut-Immune), Detoxification, Hormonal, Insulin resistance 

Root Causes [what are their origins] - Gene-Epigenome Environment, Nutrition, Movement   Stress Response, Environmental -toxins, Sleep   Social Connection, Traumatic events, Conflict Management   Mindfulness, Meaning in Work, Love & Play


What are the conditions of your ‘soil’?

  1. What am I getting too much of that is undermining my health and how can I reduce it?
  2. What do I need more of that I am not getting enough of to improve my health and how can I bring more of it in?
  3. What would my great grandparents have done when confronting ____?

Health as a byproduct of gene-environment compatibility


An Ancient Design in Modern Times The social and cultural context in which we live has moved forward at lightning speed into the 21st century.  Our genetic endowment and the survival edge it brings with it, is still primitive.  Our design has maintained many of the Stone Age imperatives, but life in the fast lane has not. We are not well adapted for this and we we will eventually break down. Here's a THEN and NOW to show how things have shifted: 

  • THEN: Targeted fight-flight [quick turn off and on]
  • NOW: Anxiety, fear, PTSD, depression, all chronic, complex diseases [always on]
  • THEN: Energy Conservation [quick turn off and on]
  • NOW: Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome [does not turn off, we are always saving for a rainy day that will never come]
  • THEN: Immunity [quick turn off and on]
  • NOW: Autoimmunity and allergy [constant hyper-vigilant state]
  • THEN: Promotion of clotting
  • NOW: Heart attack and stroke [hyper-vigilant clotting]

!Kung People in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana have been around for 2.5 Million years living as foragers [Hunter gatherers] and eating everything - leaves, roots, berries, meat, fish - everything but processed food. Their diets exceed RDAs 2-10 fold [O’Keefe Mayo Clinic Poc 2004 Jan; 79(1):101-8]

Robert Sapolsky has studied the lives of baboons for decades. He is well known to the baboon tribe and is able to study them closely. Baboons are highly social. They groom one another and communicate threats. With the growth of African safari retreats and hotels came...DUMPSTERS. The primates had access to those dumpsters, and the food in those dumpsters. Naturally, they ate as much of it as they could. Sapolsky's primates became Junk Food Monkeys with:

  • Increased weight with increased BMI
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Insulin resistance with elevated fasting and post-prandial insulin leves
  • Increased TGAs
  • Decreased Movement
  • Less Socialization and less play
  • Less fertility
  • Earlier Death

Westernized Lifestyle

A recent study [noted below] provides compelling evidence that changes in lifestyle associated with Westernization play a major role in the global epidemic of type 2 diabetes. Prevalence of type 2 diabetes is 5 times higher in Arizona Pima Indians compared to Mexican Pima's. The researchers concluded that "the much lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and Obesity in the Pima Indians in Mexico than in the US indicates that even in populations genetically prone to these conditions, their development is determined mostly by environmental circumstances, thereby suggesting that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable."

Pictured above: Mean body mass indices in hunter gatherers and non-westernized Populations show the BMI not exceeding normal limits in Australian Aborigines, Pygmies, !Kung, Innnuit, Yanomamo, Kren-Akore, Massai, Evenki and New Guineans. Recommended Reading: Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday - What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Diamond explores the introduction of grains and mono-commodities [corn, wheat] and its impact on growth and health [ie. lower height and greater number of cavities].


In 1890, Barnum & Bailey's Fat Man Freak Show – Chauncey “Human Freight Car” Morlan was RARE. Now, one in three adults is obese. Obesity may be the shape of things to come and "the new norm," but bigger is definitely not better. Research shows that the stress of our present diet and life choices create epigenetic change in our health. 


What else do we know that “ain’t so”? We now know that You are not a prisoner of your DNA. Case in point: TWINS. While genes of identical twins may be the same, their epigenome changes throughout life. Your epigenome is your “Book of Life’s” memory of prior environmental events and conditions.





Recommended reading: A Life Decoded, by J. Craig Venter explores what we have learned from the human genome project. The genome has far fewer genes than expected [23k]; the variation of the genes is far greater than expected with 3 million SNPs; there are no specific "disease genes"; our phenotype results from genes + environment that work through our epigenome.





Who's Randy Jirtle and what's an Agouti mouse? The Agouti mouse has a genetic mutation that interferes with the ability to feel full. They can't exercise and are depressed and overweight. Dr Jirtle administered maternal supplements [methylating agents] to pregnant Agouti mice and guess what? Their offspring [and their offspring in turn] were smaller and a different color and experienced lower risk of cancer, diabetes and obesity and they had a prolonged lifespan. The offspring were 'social superstars,' highly active and able to navigate the maze with ease and speed.  Dr. Jirtle's research is a game-changer. See charts below for more details

MTHFR Polymorphism and Depression. DNA Methylation is essential for normal functioning of an organism. Patients who have the MTHFR C-T genotypes have a greater likelihood of having depression compared to those without the SNP. 



Representative clinical conditions suggested to have epigenetic origins

  • Type 2 DM and Metabolic Syndrome
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Cancer
  • Allergic Disorders
  • Depression
  • Neurologic: Alzheimer’s, PD, ALS, Autism

Epigenetics and Nutrigenomics: Getting beyond 'food as calories' and thinking of food as medicine. Food has an impact on the methylation and a body's on/off switches. For example, Green Tea and EGCG produce epigenetic effects that repair genes.


NRf2 Activation is a critical intracellular defense, as it protects us from inflammation and is linked to Caloric Reduction; EGCG [in green tea];Resveratrol; Coffee; Sulfurophane; Curcumin/Turmeric [and brocolli, kale and cauliflower, too]


Brain Derived – Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)

BDNF is decreased in depression, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, schizophrenia and OCD. BDNF expression increases with Exercise; Caloric restriction; DHA - Omega 3; Curcumin/turmeric; EGCG and Meditation.*

*Results of the MIDAS trial: Effects of docosahexaenoic acid on physiological and safety parameters in age-related cognitive decline. Karin Yurko-Mauro, Deanna McCarthyMIDAS Investigators. Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, July 2009 (Vol. 5, Issue 4, Supplement, Page P84).



Plant based foods are nutrient dense.Things that the plant produces to protect itself are good for us, too.

Plants transfer the protective benefits to those eating them.

The converse principal holds true for foods raised in stressful, unethical environments.



Michael Skinner wrote in Scientific American [2013] “the ability of environmental factors to promote a disease state not only for the individual but also subsequent progeny for successive generations is termed transgenerational inheritance...Epigenetic changes in methylation of the genome of germ cells after specific environmental toxin exposure that become permanently programmed allow transmission of epigenetic transgenerational phenotypes."

Trauma in pregnant mothers can carry over into the offspring of survivors...

Traumas Heirs

Project Ice Stormdata provide first evidence in humans supporting the conclusion that PNMS results in a lasting, broad, and functionally organized DNA methylation signature in several tissues in offspring. We can infer that the epigenetic effects found in Project Ice Storm are due to objective levels of hardship experienced by the pregnant women.

  • FTO genotype did not predict obesity in people born before 1942
  • Higher risk when born after 1972
  • Greatest risk when born after 2000
  • As it turns out, it’s not just about who you are but in addition, when you are!

Get Moving! Acute exercise remodels promoter methylation in human skeletal muscle

Examined methylation patterns in skeletal muscle of sedentary men and women before and after 45 minutes of moderate-intense exercise revealed Methylation patterns changed significantly in genes coding for PPAR gamma and IL-6 suggesting more favorable gene expression patterns as they relate to inflammation and insulin signaling. Barres R et al. Cell Metab Mar 2012


SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN – November 2014 The Neuroscience of Meditation [How it changes the brain, boosting focus and easing stress]

Meditate more. Stress Less. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction [MBSR] and Reduction in Inflammatory Biomarkers

  • Randomized controlled trial of 40 individuals
  • Half received training in MBSR technique
  • Treatment group scored better on emotional wellness
  • Down regulation of inflammatory gene expression patterns
  • Diminished NF-kappa B expression
  • C-reactive protein reduced
relaxation response.jpg

Change of Scenery [Change of 'genery'] - where you live and how you live change your gene expression:


Environmental Programming of Gene Activity - Bonding and the Glucocorticoid Receptor Gene

Social Connection is critical to the methylation patterns. Child abuse disrupts methylation patterns and cortisol signalling function. Whereas bonding with children creates a different epigenetic pattern [of love].

Stamatis Moraitis left America after being told he had six months to live. He moved with his wife back to his ancestor's home on the isle of Ikaria. Almost four decades after the lung cancer diagnosis, he outlived the doctors who predicted his imminent death back in the 1970's. Ikaria is located in The Blue Zone, a geographical area known for the longevity of its inhabitants. The BBC made this heart-warming video of Stamatis in his olive orchard. Living there in the sunshine with healthy food and social connections kept Stamatis Moraitis busy, and very much alive.

"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”  Thomas A. Edison

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