At this point, you have seen how glycation, AGEs, excess free radicals, oxidative stress and abnormal methylation are key contributors to degenerative disease. You also understand that chronic inflammation is arguably the root cause. This blog addresses two of the remaining three causes--DNA Degradation and Hormonal Imbalances.
DNA and DNA Degradation
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid ref 1) is the chemical inside the nucleus of our cells (some is also stored in the mitochondria), which carries the genetic instructions for making living organisms. Although around 99% of DNA structure is common to all humans, while 1% is unique to each of us. This is why DNA can be used so effectively in crime detection.
Our DNA carries around 30,000 different genes, each one of which serves a specific function in the smooth ‘running’ of our body’s organs and systems.
An important feature of DNA is that it can replicate, or make copies of itself. Each strand of DNA in the double helix can serve as a pattern for duplicating the sequence of bases. This is critical when cells divide because each new cell needs to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell.
What this means is that as your DNA degenerates, its replacement which is an exact copy of the one before, will inherit the degeneration which took place during the previous period.
In other words it will be copy of its predecessor after its deterioration during that cycle. This is the essence of aging itself.
So what causes this DNA degeneration?
DNA degeneration is very closely linked to free radical damage of the cells and DNA. When a cell's DNA changes, the cell becomes mutated. It grows abnormally and reproduces abnormally, and quickly.
An excess of abnormal cells overwhelms the body’s natural free-radical defence systems. This may contribute to a host of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart complications, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
How can this be prevented?
Preventing excess free radical damage with sensible, balanced lifestyle choices, and especially via a diet rich in antioxidants is key. For details on this please see the blog on Excess Free Radicals.
Do you often feel unbalanced, like you’re living out of harmony with your natural biological rhythms?
Sadly, many do. This is likely because small messenger molecules in our body, which we depend on to keep us in balance, are running haywire.
These messenger molecules are the hormones of our endocrine system, and neurotransmitters, the messenger molecules of our brain and nervous system.
Our hormone and neurotransmitter systems work like a symphony. When the tuning is ‘off’, you are likely ‘off’ too!
Let’s see what happens:
The command and control centre for all our endocrine glands is in our brain – the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. They send signals to distant parts of the body to control everything from our stress response through our adrenal glands, our blood sugar balance through our pancreas, our thyroid hormone via our thyroid gland, to our sexual behaviour and function through our reproductive organs. They also control growth, sleep, mood and much more.
The three big epidemics of hormonal problems in many developed countries today are related to:
- Too much insulin (from excess sugar) leading to insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes
- Too much cortisol and adrenalin (from stress)
- Unbalanced thyroid hormones
Probably the biggest of the three is insulin resistance / pre-diabetes, estimated in 2011 to affect approx. 280 million people globally. (ref 2)
Effects of insulin resistance
This is what too much insulin may do to your body and health. Insulin appears to:
- Act like a major switching station, or control hormone, for many processes, and the main fat storage hormone.
- Prompt the brain to increase appetite and specifically, an appetite for sugar. Despite your best efforts, as long as your insulin levels are high you will likely fight a losing weight loss battle.
- Increase LDL cholesterol, lowers HDL cholesterol, raises triglycerides and increases your blood pressure. Insulin resistance contributes to 50% of all reported cases of high blood pressure.
- Make your blood sticky and more likely to clot, leading to heart attacks and strokes.
- Stimulate the growth of cancer cells.
- Increase inflammation, oxidative stress and ages your brain.
- Increase homocysteine because sugar consumption decreases B6 and folate.
- Cause sex hormone problems like irregular, too heavy or spotty menstruation, infertility and supressed libido, hair growth where you don’t want it, hair loss where you don’t want to lose it, acne, and low testosterone in men and more.
- Encourage moodiness.
As you can see, just balancing this one key hormone, insulin, can have wide-ranging effects on all your other hormones and brain chemicals.
How can you address insulin resistance?
Please consider and take these steps:
- Eating refined flour and sugar products, especially high fructose corn syrup. This includes liquid calories – your body doesn’t feel full from them so you tend to eat more all day.
- All processed, junk or packaged foods. If it doesn’t look like the food your great-great grandmother ate, stay away.
- Eating trans or hydrogenated fats.
- Accelerating the rate of sugar uptake from the gut by balancing your meals (low glycemic load) with healthy protein (nuts, seeds, beans, small wild fish, organic chicken), healthy carbs (vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains) and healthy fats (extra virgin olive/coconut oils, raw nuts, seeds, avocadoes, Omega 3 fish oil).
- Eating plenty of soluble fibre (30-50 grams a day).
- Fixing your cell membranes with Omega 3 fats so that they can more readily receive the messages from insulin.
- Regular exercise to improve your cells ability to work better, respond to insulin more effectively and burn sugar faster.
- Learning to relax. Stress reduction also helps improved blood sugar control.
- Taking blood sugar balancing nutrients such as chromium, vanadium, magnesium, vitamin E, biotin, the B vitamins, zinc, bioflavonoids, alpha lipoic acid, arginine, and carnitine. These herbs may help too: panax ginseng, ginkgo biloba, fenugreek and gymnena sylvestre, bitter melon and garlic.
In this instalment you have seen how hormonal imbalances and DNA degradation are multi-causal and multi-functional. And like the other causes, they are greatly influenced by our lifestyle choices.
Similarly, our lifestyle choices are major causes of another process, which when impaired, can wreak havoc on all of the cells that make up your body.
This process is toxicity/impaired detoxification, which will be the focus of the next instalment.
1. DNA definition: http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics/dna
2. Pre-diabetes stats http://www.health24.com/Medical/Diabetes/Who-is-at-risk/Pre-diabetes-could-you-have-it-20120721