For a sneak peek of Dr. Jennifer Stagg’s Unzip Your Genes: 5 Choices to Reveal A Radically Radiant You and learn how to put your health in your own hands, check out the excerpt below!
Technological advances have dramatically impacted almost every aspect of daily life, from how we communicate to how we buy things to how we bank. Now, there’s a high-tech and scientific revolution underway in health care that can transform patient care. I’m not referring to a new treatment for one disease but rather something that can help both physicians and patients.
Genomics. If you’re a science geek or you remember your Biology 101, you know that our bodies contain DNA, which is the so-called building block of life. Genomics goes beyond genetics. The genome is the entire DNA content in one cell of an organism. Scientists study the complete DNA sequences and perform genetic mapping to help understand what causes disease. Genomics allows us to see how variations in our DNA can interact with one another and impact our growth, development and overall health. You’ve probably heard of genetic testing for the BRCA gene which can cause breast cancer. While it’s true that genomics allows people to find out if they are genetically predisposed to a particular disease, there’s much more to this science. By understanding your unique gene structure, you can view your body in an innovative way that allows you to take control of your health and your future.
You should be reassured by the following two facts:
- There are more genes associated with resilience and the ability to keep your body in balance or homeostasis than there are for disease.
- Your genes are not your destiny. The way your genes get expressed is affected by what we call “genetic modifiers,” including your lifestyle and environmental and psychosocial factors.
Each of you is unique and there are specific actionable steps you can take that can lead to wellness. With guided personalized help, or what I like to call “precision prevention,” you can get the most out of your genes.
For me, after practicing medicine for 15 years, providing patients with individualized plans to meet their nutritional needs based on the latest research combined with clinical data, genomics has allowed me to take a quantum leap. I can custom design my patient’s lifestyle medicine program by utilizing genetic testing and other personalized evaluation tools that reveal each person’s “unique code.” This is a cutting-edge field of health care that I refer to as Precision Lifestyle Medicine. As part of this new type of medicine, you-the-patient become an active participant in unlocking your perfect combination, or “code,” of practices for your body, mind, and spirit. I’m not simply treating you for high cholesterol or weight management. I look at every aspect of your body to help you make changes so you can experience a fuller, happier, and more rewarding life. If you want to feel your best, function at your highest level, and live your life to the fullest extent, this book is for you!
The patients in my practice vary widely in terms of their wellness. Unfortunately, over the years, I see more and more patients who have multiple chronic health problems including heart disease, mood disorders, hormonal imbalance, gastrointestinal complaints, and obesity. As a physician trained to understand and treat the root cause of illness and identify what is preventing someone from being healthy, I always examine the link between a patient’s lifestyle and his or her unique body chemistry.
My approach differs dramatically from that of many of my peers in the medical community who follow the traditional disease-focused model of health care. In fact, I believe that the healthcare crisis we are facing in this country is the result of concentrating on the treatment of disease states, rather than what makes us healthy. This, in my opinion, is what constitutes true health care. For the first time, we are seeing scientists studying the genes that can keep people healthy, even when they are exposed to a host of environmental and genetic factors that would make someone else quite sick. This is called the study of resilience. By cataloging the DNA of a large number of people, scientists can identify these “resilience genes” and through extensive study of the subjects’ genetics, epigenetics and metabolism, help us understand why some people overcome an illness or remain healthy while others get sick.
For the majority of my patients, by using advanced clinical diagnostic skills and relying on proven nutritional and lifestyle strategies, we can, over time, restore them to a state of health and help them achieve balance. However, for a subset of patients, this plan of treatment just doesn’t work. These patients appear to be doing everything right. They are compliant with treatment protocols and follow the outlined program, but it produces minimal results or just doesn’t work at all. This “failed treatment” occurs more often with patients (especially women) who are overweight or obese and suffer from many chronic health problems. Sound familiar?
I commonly hear this complaint from patients in my office and others in social settings (especially when people find out what I do for a living): “My friends eat the same way as I do and they are not overweight. I promise, I don’t go home and eat half a chocolate cake at night. I just don’t understand why I can’t lose this weight?”
I sometimes feel like a detective trying to solve a mystery. I begin with a comprehensive evaluation which starts the moment I meet patients. I take a thorough medical and family history, finding out what previous treatments worked or failed, to get clues to the underlying obstacles preventing them from their true state of health. I then move on to laboratory assessments including basic tests for metabolic function, lipids, insulin sensitivity, hemoglobin A1C, and hormones (thyroid, adrenal, sex). Investigating digestive function, detoxification, cellular metabolism, and neurotransmitters is an additional requirement for some people. And, of course, now I utilize genomic testing.
Genomic testing provides information that was not clinically available just a few years ago. I can now reply to patient questions such as, “It seems like I get fat when I weight-train. Is that possible?” or “I’ve tried every low-carb diet and it doesn’t work. How could that be?” It is really quite simple. A patient’s saliva sample can provide answers. “Mrs. Smith, genetically you may be more likely to gain fat mass with an intensive strength training program” and “Ms. Morgan, with your genetic makeup, you will do better on a Mediterranean diet.”
But, as we all know, there is more to a healthy, well-balanced life than diet and exercise. I have been a practicing physician long enough to a have gained a deep understanding of the connection of mind, body, and spirit—all of which impact our DNA. Clinically, I see patients who are following the right diet and exercise program, practicing stress reduction, yoga, and socializing, but there is still a missing connection.
One patient was feeling unbalanced about her children leaving for college. Some physicians might say she was suffering from “empty nest syndrome” and perhaps refer her to counseling and advise her to pick up a hobby or start volunteering. She had been a stay-at-home mother and even some friends were criticizing her, wondering how she would keep busy without her children at home. She was feeling overwhelmed and even starting to question her purpose in life. I simply asked her, “What if your purpose in life is just to be happy?” She seemed intrigued and left the office saying she was going to spend some time thinking about that. Two months later, she returned to my office and appeared completely different. She told me that what I had said at her last visit had changed her life. She also explained that she felt she had experienced a spiritual awakening. She approached each day, and even each moment in life, from a new perspective. She now asked herself, “Does this make me happy?” and made decisions from that space. This is a clear example of the complex interplay of mind, body, and spirit that impacts function and creates a state of wellness and vitality.
You may have noticed that some people have figured out, on their own, how to achieve the perfect balance of health and well-being (and those people usually don’t present in my office!). My patients often ask what I eat, what type of exercise I do, how I manage stress, and even which products I use on my skin! People are intrigued by what makes others healthy and mistakenly think that what works for one person could work for them. This is the essence of genomics—you are unique and what allows you to manifest your true state of health is also unique. So, yes, personally, as a happily married working mother of three, who has been searching for the “code” since I began my professional career more than 20 years ago, I thought I had figured it out for myself through a combination of educated guess and trial and error. But, by applying the information I discovered about my genomics, I feel I have finally deciphered my code for a healthy and, most importantly, happy life. In this book, I will help you do the same—but I’ll save you the two decades of discovery that it took me!
I know you want to find out the important stuff—how to get the body you always wanted, how to sleep longer, how not to feel stressed all the time and more. I will discuss these issues, but I believe it’s very important you understand the basics of genomics. Even if you hated high school biology class, I encourage you to read about the scientific studies. Knowing what your genetic makeup reveals about your body provides added motivation to make, as well as maintain, lifestyle changes. That is the key to becoming healthier.
This book is divided into three parts. Part I introduces you to the basics of genomics and the five areas that impact your health. Part II examines epigenetics, the science of nurturing and how your DNA interacts with the environment. Part III is the Precision Health Program which focuses on improving your mind, body and spirit, according to your individual genetic profile.
I would never suggest to you that I have all the answers. In fact, I can say confidently that I do not know it all. This field and our knowledge about human health and wellness, in general, are still expanding. And, as I learn more, sometimes I find that the way I thought things worked is actually not the case. Being open to new ideas and having a willingness to adopt novel concepts in light of compelling evidence is a fundamental value I committed to a long time ago. Incorporating DNA testing and applying the results in a lifestyle approach is a huge paradigm shift in the healthcare industry. A more significant shift is the concept of promoting health and empowering individuals, instead of the disease treatment model.
I feel we are really just at the tip of the iceberg in the transformation of health care and wellness. The key to moving forward is continuing to assimilate the constant flow of incoming information, while embracing our own unique potential and personal power. I believe that is the pathway to health, abundance, and prosperity.
Loving Dr. Jennifer Stagg’s Unzip Your Genes so far? Order a copy today!
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