Diet Genetics And Your Immune System

April 2011

A new study by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Texas at Austin You Are What Your Father Eats explores the influence of adult diets on genetic expression in future generations.

Epigenetics is the study of the chemical reactions that turn genes on or off and the factors that influence this activity. The study’s main conclusions provide support for something that seems intuitively obvious: what you eat affects your kids’ genetic composition.  Now consider how much more profound these findings become in light of our adulterated food supply.  I’ve been reviewing Dr. Jeffrey Smith’s Seeds of Deception a 2003 book that chronicles the dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods and Big Food’s attempt to pull political levers often successfully to further their goals at the expense of our health.  In short GM foods lead to unknown effects parents’ choices already influence their children’s genes and when you throw in the other toxins we process starting before we’re born it’s a recipe for potential disaster.  For example the CDC now recommends 14 antigens administered by over 28 injections before age two compared to 7 antigens in the early 1980’s.  That’s quite a bit of additional stress to put on a developing body and immune system.

Also consider the skyrocketing rates of autism and other childhood disorders we’ve seen in recent years.  For some of these the jury is out over the precise causes or whether we’re merely experiencing high correlations whereas in some cases it’s been clear.  Without re-living those debates at the moment what’s it going to take to stop turning out bodies into experiments?  What consequences will we be forced to deal with in fifty years?  Not everyone is idly standing by.  There is substantial momentum in the other direction—look at the countless nonprofits documentaries and the recently passed Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.  In 2009 the Executive Committee of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine approved the organization’s position on calling for a moratorium on GM foods.  As the AAEM notes

“several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility immune dysregulation accelerated aging dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis insulin regulation cell signaling and protein formation and changes in the liver kidney spleen and gastrointestinal system.”

Yikes.  The AAEM page is worth a read if only to establish the point that no one really knows the long term effect of this stuff and we are continuing to see studies confirming this Franken-phenomenon.  For now we’re already seeing an increase in the dysfunction of our immune systems. Just when I thought we were making progress along came GMO salmon yikes! Do people really believe we are going to solve world hunger that way?

Our Already-Taxed Immune Systems

10 Warning Signs of Primary Immunodeficiency (PI) is a useful checklist to make sure you or your child isn’t succumbing to PI.  PI is a disorder that causes 1:500 persons to have recurring or unusually hard to cure infections.  However I would not be surprised to see GM foods (and GM everything else) affecting the rise in cases. If our guts have trouble with GM foods and a weak gut can lead to immune deficiencies it is only a matter of time before we see a study demonstrating that a causal link between GM foods and PI exists. PI is thought to be primarily a genetic disorder.  One possibility is that our understanding of genetics has improved allowing us to diagnose PI.  Another is that the more we tweak our genes and the more we learn about how we’re affecting those genes via GM foods the more we’re playing “Genetic Roulette” as Dr. Smith’s book of the same name suggests.

For now let’s take a look at the ways diet can be a useful way of boosting your immune system.  Over the years I’ve helped many patients young and old who have to struggle with PI or similar deficiencies.   Here are ways my patients have found success via diet changes and nutritional care plans in dealing with PI:

  1. Eliminating and or rotating certain foods.
  2. Implementing an individualized antioxidant and supplement regimen to support the gastrointestinal track and ultimately immune system.
  3. Supporting detoxification pathways to help nutritionally mitigate side effects from environmental assaults.

On top of this many patients are given antibiotics and immuno-suppressants by their physician to deal with PI.  As part of an integrative approach towards wellness nutritional considerations must be examined to help prevent the occurrence of side effects from these medications. Working collaboratively with physicians has resulted in many beneficial outcomes. Many patients experience success with this combined approach. Also many are diagnosed with allergies or intolerances because of or related to their PI diagnosis.  In this situation it’s best to review an individual’s entire history to chart a safe and effective course of treatment in conjunction with their doctors.

To sum it all up:  what we eat is who we are who our kids are and what literally makes us.  Let’s get back to basics and listen to our bodies rather than drowning them in a sea of things that don’t belong.  A conversation to be continued...