I love to figure out how things work. I have always been like this…I remember getting into big trouble on my 11th Christmas when I completely dismantled the transistor radio that was my “special present” to figure out how it worked. (Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to put it back together again.) My love of understanding the nuts and bolts of how something works is one of the most appealing things for me about being a clinical nutritionist.
This Christmas I gave myself a “special present”…a five and a half hour webinar by Dr. Ben Lynch on the complete genetic pathways of the Methylation Cycle. “What in the heck is the methylation cycle”, you may ask…I like to define it as the “cellular engine”. Without the biochemical activities of the methylation cycle in each one of our ten trillion cells, we would not be alive. Understanding the genetic underpinnings of the methylation cycle is the ultimate in “dismantling” metabolic function in the body.
For me, the five hours of learning about this complex subject was like savoring a piece of Christmas fudge (you know my love of chocolate…if not, see one of my first blogs), but when I was finished with the class, I realized that there was one big takeaway: the hardwiring of your DNA does not matter very much. What does matter is what we do to the DNA hardwiring that we are given.
From the moment we are conceived, we are installing software on to our brand new DNA ‘computer’. It starts as soon as our little egg begins to transform into a multi-celled zygote. The lifestyle habits of your parents (Did they smoke? Drink? Eat their veggies?) are the first bit of information used to influence your DNA potential. Did you grow up in the middle of L.A. or on a farm in Iowa? Did you have a stressful childhood? Party too much in college? Avoid the expense of organic food once you had a family? The list of things that affect your DNA negatively goes on and on. But so does the list of things that can positively affect it.
I am a good example of this…I did not have healthy parents; they both smoked and drank way too much. My mom thought TV dinners were haute cuisine. I grew up in southern California near an Air Force base. I was on the birth control pill for most of my adult life. I lived under the burden of extreme stress for most of my middle age. The list of assaults to my rather poor DNA profile is long. But so is the list of beneficial lifestyle factors. I have always been very athletic and exercise has been a priority in my life. I am also a good sleeper and have enjoyed quality and restful sleep since I was a kid. I would prefer a bowl of broccoli to a bowl of ice cream any day. I have multiple ways to modulate the stressors in my life. After tallying up the good and the bad influences to my DNA, the good have won out. I am a very healthy 63-year-old with great energy and zest for life.
So back to the main takeaway from my Lynch webinar…a healthy lifestyle matters.
If you didn’t do these things in the past, make the switch and work on doing them now. By the way, there is a fancy word for this concept: epigenetics. You may have heard this term before, but were confused by what it meant. In the next few posts, I will continue to explain how healthy lifestyle habits can positively affect your DNA and tell you more about what I have learned from the good Dr. Lynch.
Kathy Westover January 11th, 2017
You know what I realized the other day…I don’t think I have ever written about who I am and why I do what I do. My passion in life is to help middle-aged women feel as vibrant and look as fabulous as they did in their thirties. I am “62 years young” and I feel as energetic and as able to tackle life as I did before I went through menopause. It wasn’t always this way for me, however…Ten years ago, I was learning to live on my own again, going back to school, and fighting fatigue, weight gain, and brain fog the whole time. So, believe me, I feel your pain. But I am also here to tell you it can be different. At the end of this article, I will give you five quick secrets to help you regain some of your youthful energy and radiance (and a few other goodies as well).
So let me start by telling you a little bit about myself. I am a Nationally Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist® with a private clinical practice in Fort Collins, Colorado (I work with people all over the country and the world using Skype and phone). This is my third career; for 18 years I was an elementary school teacher and then owned a busy and profitable bookstore in the mountains of Colorado. A few years into my life as a bookseller, my stud-muffin husband, Dan, suddenly became a vent-dependent quadriplegic when a growth burst in his spinal cord. I was only 44 at the time and my good health and youth supported me through the initial few years of taking care of him and running my busy bookstore. But eventually the stress began to take its toll and I went through a very miserable and symptom-filled menopause. I gained weight, became depressed, lost my cognitive edge, and suffered from debilitating fatigue.
I started researching how to improve both my health and Dan’s through reading just about anything on healthy lifestyle and nutrition that I could get my hands on. (I actually read Michael Murray’s 946-page tome, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, from cover to cover.) I began changing our diets, our sleep patterns, and our toxic exposure. I made sure we both had some stress relief every day and I instituted a supplement regimen that complemented our new nutritional habits. Both Dan I began to feel the difference and I started the long journey to the vibrant health I have today. I also decided to sell my wonderful bookstore and go back to school for my nutrition degree.
After years of fighting pneumonia and kidney and bladder infections, Dan passed away peacefully one day while taking a nap. It was a sadness and a blessing all in one. I miss him terribly and think about him daily, but if it was not for that long painful journey, I would not be as happy and as healthy as I am today. And I would not have the absolutely amazing job of helping women like myself become happy and healthy also!
I specialize in helping women (and men, too) navigate the waters of middle age. It is neither natural nor normal for us to feel tired, depressed, overweight, and sleep-deprived as we move into our later years. In fact, with the kids out of the house, financial stability, and the gift of experience we should be having the best years of our life. But for many, this is not the case. Well, I am living proof that you can go through hell and come out smelling like a rose.
Here are five quick tips for menopause treatment and to turn your “MenoPause into MenoGo” as I have done:
1. Make sleep a priority – Don’t let menopause turn you into a night owl! This will create an imbalance in your hormones and neurotransmitters making you grouchy, fat, and sleepy. Sleep is your fountain of youth! Click here for my Sleep Worksheet, Rejuvenate Your Sleep Naturally.
2. Don’t diet…just eat real, whole foods as nature intended – As menopause looms, the hormones that regulate weight, appetite, and energy begin to go offline. The best way to rebalance them is to eat three meals a day of natural, whole food…very nutrient dense and full of the building blocks the body needs. No need to count calories if this is your “diet”.
3. Do three things every day to give you stress resilience – Stress affects all aspects of our life and, unfortunately, there is no way to remove all the stressors from our world. The best way to deal with stress is build resiliency. The way to be resilient is to spend as much time in “rest and digest” (R&D) and as little time in “flight or flight” as possible. One way I do this is to go into R&D as many times in a day as I can. I have just taken up coloring (yes, just like when I was a kid, but with adult coloring books and fancy colored pencils…this is my favorite coloring book, The Secret Garden). This is a great activity to help slow breath, put your mind in the moment, and improve hand-eye coordination. Two of my other favorite R&D activities are listening to music and picking weeds in my garden.
4. Reduce sitting and move everyday – Sitting is the new smoking. Our bodies were just not made to sit in a chair all day long. Try using a standing desk, a timer for the computer, and taking short walks throughout the day. Take a look at this amazing infographic illustrating some of the health issues related to Sitting.
5. Reduce multi-tasking and focus on one task at a time – The more things we try to do at once, the less we actually get done. This is a proven fact shown by numerous studies on productivity. Many of my clients complain they are overwhelmed by the amount of things that they have to do and they just can’t seem to get to the bottom of the pile. This takes its toll on our energy and our well being. I suggest working on one task at a time…try not to look at email, answer the phone, or let out the dog out while working on something. Having said that, you will improve your productivity if you take a break every 45 minutes or so then go back to the same activity.
Try one or two of these tips and notice the difference in how you feel. Don’t get frustrated if you fall back into some old habits, just get back on the horse…It can take up to 15 times before a new activity becomes a habit. One small change can make a huge effect on how you feel.
Kathy Westover July 25th, 2015
Nutrition Counseling is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, prescription, or cure for any disease, mental or physical, and is not intended as a substitute for regular medical care.
Nutrition Counseling does provide nutritional evaluation, balanced diet planning, nutritional supplement suggestions, and lifestyle recommendations for the purpose of enhancing health.
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