How do comorbidities impact all health
You’ve probably heard how COVID-19 impacted someone with comorbidities and made them more susceptible to it. But, what are comorbidities?
Comorbidities are the presence of two or more conditions in someone, which can increase the risk for conditions and disease, and also make any condition more challenging.
So, what can you do to understand how this happens and prevent yourself from this situation? That is what we are going to discuss here.
Nature or nurture?
It’s common to hear people talk about genetics. You may be thinking that you are likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, or any other condition because your family's genetics has a large percentage of it.
Do your genetics decide everything?
Oxford dictionary defines epigenetics as “the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.”
Epi in Greek means Above, so it means ‘Above Genetics.’ This gives each one of us immense hope. In functional medicine, a phrase is used very often — “Genetics loads the gun, but your lifestyle pulls the trigger” — which means we have the resources to make a huge difference in our health.
What are some of the factors that lead to the onset of disease?
The sad truth is that a large segment of the population begins to alter diet and lifestyle only when there is a crisis with their health. By then, it takes so much more effort to alter the disease state.
All intervention can begin right now, irrespective of the state of health. Some of the triggers that predispose you towards metabolic disease are constant blood sugar imbalance, lack of good quality sleep, nutrient deficiencies, insulin resistance, digestive distress, perpetuating unresolved stress, suboptimal liver function, and lack of exercise.
You have the power to change this by addressing many of these, and you do not need to wait until you are diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, or anything else.
Epigenetics has the power to both negatively and positively impact genes, and it is profound.
Eight things to follow to support positive epigenetics:
- Blood sugar imbalance can be observed in practically anyone who has any symptom or condition, however mild or severe. When blood sugar fluctuates all the time, it allows your body to spike insulin and cortisol frequently. This makes your mood fluctuate, stresses your immune system, and prevents hormonal harmony. Eating to restore blood sugar balance at every single meal — with your choices of food and consistency of mealtimes — is a powerful way to prevent disease. Ensure that every single meal has optimal protein, adequate fats, and plenty of fibre.
- Insulin resistance is another major trigger for disease and not just diabetes. Almost every health condition can be linked to insulin resistance. Insulin is the key that allows your body to take glucose from food and deliver it to your cells. When you eat a diet that has a lot of sugar and starch, you cause your body to constantly release insulin. This makes your body insulin resistant, where your body does not listen to insulin’s message anymore. It is only when you have been insulin resistant for a long time that your fasting blood sugar starts showing high. Suddenly you realise that you are prediabetic or diabetic. Shift insulin resistance starting today with a drastic reduction in starches and sugars. Prioritise the vegetables and proteins in your meal, rather than making the grain the star.
- When it comes to insulin resistance and poor blood sugar balance, your liver plays a key role. When your liver function is impacted, it can block your ability to manage blood sugar. Supporting liver function by reducing or eliminating excess alcohol, caffeine, desserts, and fried foods instantly, improves insulin resistance and reduces your risk factor for disease.
- The fact that we have the technology to monitor movement and exercise is great. As simple as it sounds, the reason that blue zones have less disease is the daily movement. Setting a goal of ensuring a minimum of 10,000 steps anywhere between four and six days a week is another powerful positive epigenetic factor. Just changing that improves liver detoxification, lymph decongestion, immune function, and circulatory health.
- Today, sleep is coming into the forefront of research. It is a strong epigenetic factor. There is a lot of debate on sleep chronotypes, but most ancient wisdom believes that there is no such thing as a night owl. You are meant to sleep and wake to diurnal rhythms to be in sync with day and night. It is not how much you sleep that matters so much as sleeping with this rhythm and getting a good quality of sleep.
- Nutrient deficiencies are not to be ignored. Your body requires macronutrients and micronutrients to stay in optimal health. With restrictive diets, soil quality, and lack of diversity in eating, nutrient deficiencies are very common. Making sure that you are not deficient by consuming a diverse diet filled with colourful plant foods for minerals and vitamins, and supporting your body with good quality nutrients, is necessary to prevent disease.
- Stress is here to stay. Ignoring your tolerance limit to stress and not incorporating tools to help downregulate your stress response can be a negative epigenetic factor. Even if it is just a 10 minutes practice of meditation or breathing, daily practice can be deeply supportive to preventing disease. Take time to just slow down your breathing with your eyes closed.
- You might constantly hear about gut health linked to all disease. Altering the microbiome with frequent antacids and antibiotics can be a risk factor for all disease. Avoid popping antacids like candy. Try to stay clear of taking antibiotics for a simple cold that your body may very well be able to get past. Keep medication for when your body really needs and cannot get past without it.
If genetics is our innate nature, epigenetics is how we nurture. In the age-old fight for supremacy between nature versus nurture, the nurturing power of epigenetics puts the power back in our hands.