January 23, 2017

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Genes

by Sarah Stanley

Are you under the impression that your inherited genes determine how you must live the rest of your life? Have you ever blamed your parents for the body you have?

Let me ask you one more question. If you knew you could change your genes, would you?

While it’s true that we inherit our genes, it’s also true that we can change our genes! This is what’s so fascinating about epigenetics! Our genes can be switched on and off. They are not hardwired. So if you don’t like what you’ve been given, there is great news for you. You can change your genes starting today!

Here are the four main ways in which you can modify and improve your genes!


Wikipedia defines gene expression “as the process by which possession of a gene leads to the appearance in the phenotype of the corresponding character.” In lay terms, this means that the genes that make up our chromosomes are the blueprint for our development.

Additionally, our genes can be turned on and off (think of a computer or iPhone). The hardware is our genetics and the software is our epigenetics.  To have a healthy body, we need both hardware and software to function. (Thanks to Dr. Richard Denison for explaining this!)

The first way to change your gene expression is through exercise.

I’m sure you know by now that exercise boosts your mood, improves your health, and makes your clothes fit. But the other amazing thing that exercise can change is our muscle and fat cells! Did your ears perk up hearing that?!

Researchers at Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden took sedentary, but healthy men, and sucked out some of their fat cells. They also measured their body composition, aerobic capacity, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other indicators of health.

one single workout can alter DNAAnd then do you know what these scientists asked these men to do? They asked them to start moving their bodies and getting their sweat on (as I like to call it). With the supervision of a trainer, these men worked out for an hour twice a week, doing spin classes and other aerobic exercises. They continued this exercise plan for 6 months.

Not surprisingly, these men lost fat, which resulted in weight loss. They also improved their blood pressure and lowered their cholesterol. All from simply moving their body intentionally and being active! If that’s not motivation to get active, I don’t know what is. 🙂

In addition, this study found that the methylation (a fancy word for the atoms and molecules that make up our DNA) reversed the genes that were previously headed for obesity and diabetes! See how amazing fitness is?!

Other studies have found that…

…A single workout altered gene DNA from unhealthy cells to healthy cells. Click to Tweet.

If you are sitting reading this article you might want to jump up and go for a brisk walk, do some pushups, sign up for a 5k or a half marathon, go for a bike ride or go to yoga tonight. You can start changing the expression of your genes through exercise to live a healthy, disease-proof life!


The color of your eyes, the color of your hair, and your body frame are passed down through generations. Your genes are a result of the lives that your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents led. But only 2% of the genes you inherit cannot be changed. Only 2%! The other 98% can be changed!

This is why living a healthy lifestyle is such an important way to modify your genes. We really are a product of how we live! People used to think that heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke and other disease were hereditary (because of our genes) or growing older. But according to recent findings, that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth!

The way we live our life plays a large part in determining whether we get disease or not. This is because we can live in a way that creates health, longevity, and production of healthy cells (epigenetics). Or, we can live a life of disregard that promotes sickness, disease and illness.

Each one of us has cells that can cause disease (like cancer).

How we take care of our bodies on a daily basis can promote healthy cells that will prevent cancer and disease. Click to Tweet.

Or, our daily lifestyle can condition unhealthy cells to permit cancer and disease to flourish.

We have more power over our health then we realize! This is why making healthy habits a part of our daily life is so important.

As you just read, fitness is crucial to promoting healthy epigenetics cells. Of course, it’s also a no brainer to stop smoking, which only destroys cells. And, of course, the right nutrition is paramount to a thriving and disease-free body.


carcinogen starbucksWhat you eat can either prevent disease – including cancer – or have the opposite effect on your genes.  And because what you eat changes your genes, therefore what you eat changes the genes for future generations, too!

What you eat today will either positively or negatively affect your children, your children’s children and beyond! Click to Tweet.

As you probably know by now, our food system is pretty toxic. As a result, we have to be more diligent than ever to educate ourselves and learn about what we put in our body. Our food system is becoming more and more unsafe not only for our bodies, but our land, our air, and our water.

There are many ingredients in our food supply that are known carcinogens.

  • Coloring dyes, in particular, are linked to tumors, ADHD and ADD.
  • The caramel coloring in popular Starbucks drinks is a known carcinogen (Caramel Coloring IV E150d). This caramel coloring is also used in soft drinks. If you still drink them, now’s a really great time to ditch this unhealthy habit!
  • Pesticides from GMO crops are toxins to the body that will have adverse effects on your DNA. These harsh chemicals are free radicals that will speed up aging (yikes!), wrinkles, and encourage fat cells. Not something I think you want, right?! Choosing to eat organically is another way to help keep your gene expression in tip-top health shape.


I thought (no pun intended) this was really interesting. Even our thoughts have an impact on our genes. You have more control over your health than you think you do! And part of this is how you think. Remember this quote?

What you eat and drink is just as important as what you think. If our thoughts are negative (toxic), then they will have a direct effect on our overall health.

No matter the source of toxicity (food, drink, air, water, thoughts) it will impact us.

Our beliefs about ourselves are ingrained in us and start at a young age. If we’ve grown up in a dysfunctional or a non-nurturing family, unhealthy beliefs can alter our genes. Our beliefs can change our biology, according to Konstantin Eriksen, a biochemist.

So, what you believe about yourself can either help your genes and wellness or cause disease. Click to Tweet.

How can you change your thoughts to improve your health today?

  • Positive self-talk
  • A grateful heart
  • Thanking others
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people
  • Speaking only kind, positive words

And looking for ways to enjoy the moment may all contribute to healthy thinking.


positive thoughts save health

Hasn’t this been an insightful read? I know for me it has! In life, we can’t control everything, but we can control our genes more than we realize. This is incredible! It is so freeing! Because we can positively change our genetic expression, we can change the course of our life.

We can alter our DNA by creating a balanced lifestyle of fitness; eating real, organic food; and thinking positive thoughts.

For some, it may require a total life shift and how you go about your daily life. For others who have scars from childhood, it may require seeking out a reputable counselor/therapist who can help unravel your unhealthy beliefs into healthy, positive beliefs. In turn, we create positive thoughts from negative ones and change our genes into something beautiful.

There is so much we can do to take care of our genes! But it takes diligence to make wise choices daily. Remember, how we live today will impact our future generations.

Cheers to healthy genes!

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SarahStanleySarah Stanley is a wellness educator, endurance athlete, speaker, author, and founder of #wellnesschat & {wellprint}. Passionate about healthy living Sarah lives what she speaks about, practicing a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle that fuels her ultrarunning adventures. Her goal is to empower others to be knowledgeable about what they put in & on their body so they can live healthy, disease-free and happy life. She’s been featured in SELF, SHAPE, Ladies’ Home Journal and Washingtonian. Find Sarah on Twitter (@SarahStanley)G+ (+SarahStanley) and visit SarahStanleyInspired.com to start your wellness journey today.



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