What does genetic susceptibility mean? And what can you do about it? Have you heard the saying: Genes load the gun but the environment pulls the trigger?

Learn about some amazing epigenetic foods that can modulate genetic expression, and listen to the second part of Dr. Erica Peirson’s interview where she discusses her two non-negotiables.

To check out Autism Supports that Actually Work, click HERE. Go beyond the genes, and explore how to affect the immediate world of epigenetics.



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Disclaimer: The information in this Podcast is for educational purposes only. Vaishnavi Sarathy, Ph.D. is an educator, not a doctor, specifically not your child’s doctor. Please consult your physician before implementing any supplement or diet recommendations.

Audio Transcription: 


How does food Trump genetics? How can diet and lifestyle affect genetic predisposition? You’re listening to functional nutrition for kids where the topic of this season of 12 podcasts is focused, hyperactivity, and picky eating many of the signs classically associated with a diagnosis of a DD and ADHD. I’m your host, Vaishnavi Sarathy. Weisz, and we are six episodes into the season.

Today is the seventh. I want to talk about questions that you have. So in order to keep this podcast relevant to you do write to me by either posting at facebook.com/functionalnutritionforkids, or by emailing me at Vaish@functionalnutritionforkids.com. Nutrigenomics is the broad study of how our environment and our genes interact. For the longest time perhaps even since the discovery of genes, heredity, etc, we have thought that our entire biochemistry is determined by our genes.

There are a number of fantastic researchers currently looking into the genes involved in autism, Down Syndrome, and even ADHD. This often encourages a thought process that once you are genetically susceptible to a disease or disorder, dysfunction or syndrome, there is nothing that can be done about it. Perhaps you have heard about mutations in the BRCA gene that is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, or the apiary polymorphism that is associated with Alzheimer’s.

This is where the signs of nutrigenomics come in. One subsection of this field is called Nutrigenetics. Nutri genetics talks about how food or diet affects the risk of a certain condition. A really good example is if you have for example, a genetically determined food reaction allergy or sensitivity, you’re really not going to develop the reaction if you’re not exposed to the food. But more interesting to me is what is known as nutritional epigenetics, which is the study of how food influences the expression of genes. In other words, it turns some genes on and off. How does this happen?

One of the most quoted examples in this regard is the role of omega-three fatty acids in reducing inflammation. A 2017 review of omega-three fatty acids in their ability to affect genes, says that there is evidence that omega-three PU fats polyunsaturated fatty acids exert these effects. These effects in the sense modulate inflammation through changes in genetic expression. To go into how the genetic expression is altered is beyond the scope of this podcast, the short podcast, I’ve always found it fascinating that these bioactive components of food can exert such profound effects on the expression of our very sacred genetic code, something that we had thought to be unchangeable.

This paper goes on to define epigenetics as heritable chemical modifications to the genome independent of the DNA sequence. And this is the key phrase independent of the DNA sequence. That these can be impacted by the environment, particularly through the diet. They can be a target for therapeutic intervention, whether we’re looking to target neuroinflammation in autism, focus in ADHD, or memory and Alzheimer’s. One of my favorites super bioactive, other than omega threes is the compound EGCG found in green tea.

A recent 2017 paper by Italian scientists talks about how EGCG can act as an epigenetic modulator to inhibit prostate cancer.
Now, perhaps all of us know about the antioxidant properties of green tea. And I can tell you the same about EGCG. And there’s more research that I will post on my Facebook page that I just mentioned, facebook.com/functionalnutritionforkids.

This research says that EGCG has acute neurocognitive effects, and this was quoted by a 2012 Australian paper, especially significant relaxation and increased attention. Can you imagine how fantastic that would be for a child having to deal with hyperactivity or focus issues? But before you go hunting for your favorite EGCG supplement, let us pause to remind ourselves that there are other bioactive components in green tea, including moderate amounts of caffeine and l theanine.

The latter l theanine has actually been shown to help focus and has significant effects on improved quality of sleep. Guess what a boon improving the quality of life for diagnosing children diagnosed with DD or ADHD. And therefore, I love the idea of green tea as a whole food, such as let’s say a matcha latte. Many of you perhaps know that much as powdered green tea. And you can read up more about much and the studies are numerous and positive impacting everything from cancer to focus. My son gets a teaspoon of matcha every day in the morning with almond milk, MCT oil, collagen protein, and stevia as a therapeutic drink.

On the other hand for my daughter, I would simply give her give matcha with almond milk and raw honey. That’s the story of epigenetic and nutritional properties of green tea bought and I’ve we’ve already talked about omega-three fatty acids to even getting started on them is daunting because there is so much information. But for now, it’s important to know that it is one of the most anti-inflammatory foods studied perhaps I would say second only to curcumin, which is bioactive in turmeric, and maybe ginger. omega three fats have more roles in the body, they’ve actually been known to increase focus, reduce the risk of heart disease, affect depression, even improve vision in combination with other nutrients, helping and of course, inflammation, even modulate blood sugar how many of these have been talked about in the past few episodes as potential factors in focus and hyperactivity, even in picky eating right. And I could of course keep going that there are numerous studies.

This is a case where experts recommend including supplements to achieve therapeutic results in addition to or in lieu of consuming wild-caught coldwater fish. Now sources of Omega threes or indirectly plant foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax and directly fish, and some algae. I wanted to ask Erica Pearson. And you heard the first part of our interview with Dr. Erica Pearson last week about her thoughts on the importance of genetics and epigenetics.

Dr. Pearson is an accomplished pediatric naturopathic doctor, well known and respected for her work in advocacy with children, especially with Down syndrome or Trisomy 21. She sees kids from all over the world is in a unique functional approach that focuses on root cause symptoms, including gut health. In fact, if you’ve not heard the first part of her interview, I would highly recommend that you go and listen to her talk about gut health, constipation, etc. But for now, listen to what she says about genetics versus epigenetics. So the change tracks a little bit. So we were I feel like we’re at the intersection like the world, the medical world is at the intersection of two thought processes.

The general like genetic origin and, and the epigenetic stories, right. So there is I don’t want to make this like a clean divide, because I know that Western medicine practitioners also give importance to epigenetics, but it seems to be that a lot of the research in the Lord a lot of the focus is genetic causes. I mean, there’s so much funding for like I have so much of autism research is based on what are the genes that cause this, right? And my mentor Andrea Nakashima, calls these three routes, and her three routes are genetics, inflammation, and digestion. But what do you think is more important than genetic epigenetics?

Dr. Erica:

Yeah, no, that’s the age-old question of nature versus nurture. Right? Nature is our genetics and nurture is our environment and diet and sort of everything else. And so yeah, so it’s the old age-old question, which is more important nature-nurture, which creates, you know, who we are.

If I were to lean towards one, I would certainly lean towards epigenetics, right? While our genetics certainly cannot be ignored, absolutely right, it does play a significant role in who we are and our bodies and our predisposition for certain health conditions, right? Epigenetics absolutely cannot be ignored. And I want to separate out two different kinds of ways of looking at epigenetics here. One is on kind of the biochemical level, right, epigenetics being methylation, most listeners are probably familiar with methylation absolutely impacts how I just wanted to go into details there, but I won’t.

How DNA is transcribed and coded. acetylation is another form, phosphorylation, I think there are others like SUMOylation ones that I can speak about, yeah, so many kinds of biochemical ways that our DNA is, is transcribed or not, right control of that code, right, because your DNA is the blueprint of your house, and that’s all right. But to build that home from that blueprint, you need epigenetics. So there’s the biochemical forum on a very much new level. And then on a larger level epigenetics more generally is referred to as diet, lifestyle, sleep, and environment. Love relationships, right? Many stress, right, all the other things. So I see that epigenetics is on two levels. And because epigenetics is so broad and there are so many levels and layers to it, it’s it certainly, I think, can play a much bigger role, in who we are and our health than maybe even genetics. Yeah, for sure.


And, and epigenetics Can I mean, like, all of those processes that you mentioned, the biochemical processes can turn certain genes on and off, correct?

Dr. Erica:

Yeah, absolutely. 100%? Yeah, there’s a lot of research looking at our microbiome and the genetics of our microbiome and how that interplays with the genetics of the cells of our body. There’s a lot of communication going on there. And so, yeah, our DNA is definitely impacted by many things. Yeah. Right.


Okay, I’m going to ask you, if you have any takeaways for our audience if there’s anything, any action items, and anything they can do by themselves? I totally, especially if they’re dealing with a child that has focus issues that has hyperactivity, that’s either low energy or at least appears to be very high in energy. I know you mentioned the wired but tired.

They’re dealing with picky eaters, and we’re dealing with this section of symptoms in this season of my podcast, what are your big takeaways?

Dr. Erica:

I think that I think the two areas I would focus on most when helping a child with, you know, focus, hyperactivity, etc. As you mentioned, our sleep and diet, what are the two areas that we can, although it’s very difficult, that we can work I’ll say, control and our children, right? While their children, right, let’s do it now, instead of when they’re teenagers when it becomes much more difficult. Sleep for sure. I don’t know, in my home, sleep is absolutely sacred. It’s only now that my son is just turned 12, that we will go out and maybe stay out till 10 or, you know, a little bit later on the weekends. But during the school day, school week, and even weekends on a regular basis, certainly when he was younger, bedtime was sacred.

It was you know, very regular, very circadian, we’ve kept to a rhythm. And so focusing on sleep, but not only the rhythm of sleep but also all the factors that can impact sleep, you know, we were looking at histamine for him. And we’ve seen great improvements when working on some allergies. For him, palate expansion has helped greatly, which impacts how a child breathes. And so doing everything we can to help optimize sleep, which again, will be perhaps another whole podcast that you’ll do. Yeah. And then the other area is diet, which, again, we could, that’s such a huge topic, but boy, it’s really I want, I hope that parents take it very seriously.

That is what we put into our children not only impacts their health now, but I see it as impacting their health in the future. Setting up their, their own kind of desire to be healthy and eat healthy foods is going to take them into the future, you know, and so, like sugar, for example, right? I was at a conference recently, and I have parents and I said to them, I did go on my high horse for just a moment. And I said, we can have a happy childhood, we can bond with our children, we can do wonderful things with our children that don’t involve sugar. Right?


Well, I think that’s such an important message because I feel that that’s the single biggest thing that’s holding people back and I’ve heard from many people about actually both sleep and diet because the way that our society is structured is that the fun things are done later in the evening or in the night and the fun things involve food so it’s very hard so it feels like you’re making this huge sacrifice on a social level when you tighten up the screws on sleep and diet, but it’s a non-negotiable, right? Right. Right.

Dr. Erica:

You know it’s to me it’s a matter of prioritizing right I’m prioritizing my son’s you know, to speak personally my son’s health over you know, uh, staying out late at a party or, or going out for that ice cream cone. But look, but look, we have our share treats now and then, but they’re very, you know, I’m very selective. They’re healthy versions of those treats. And we bond by hiking and we bond by going to museums and we bond. We don’t bond over food right in my family. And if we do bond over food, it’s because we’re making something healthy from scratch in the kitchen. Right? Yeah, yeah.

Yeah. So so I get it. I know the world that we live in, we have birthday parties, we have, you know, fun fast food places and but the food that we put into our children, you know, to me it is the medicine that we are, you know, in many cases using for our children. And so, so important, you know, organic, right? Always organic. I would rather personally in some cases not eat than if I’m out somewhere where I can’t get something healthy and organic. I’ll forego not eating for a few hours so I can get to something. You know, that’s a little healthier. Personally, as an adult, I wouldn’t do that to a child. But eating organic for sure.


And I often say that this isn’t some elitist high horse that we’re on, it’s just that we’ve seen the impact of foods that are not organic. And we’ve read research about chemicals about pesticides that are present and about the not just the inflammatory nature, but I mean, some of them even just behave as our as hormones. Right?

Dr. Erica:

Right, right. Absolutely. Yeah, they can absolutely change. Change your children’s food dyes and colorings in food. Food coloring alone, if you go on an if you’re, you know, on a processed diet with your child, at the very least pull food dyes and colorings first, and then you and some children, you can see a remarkable shift in their behavior and ability to focus. I believe that’s the fine gold diet, I think does that. Yeah.


Yeah. salicylates and including food dyes diets. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Right. Yeah, but you’re right. Every diet should be doing that.

Dr. Erica:

Yeah, absolutely.

Those are to me, those are the basics. Right. You know, low sugar low dies. You know, no, don’t grab the, you know, craft processed, so I should name brands foods. But yes, yeah, making giving your children Whole Foods and then starting them as early as possible on those things. Or if you have a child that isn’t in this way, just incorporate them slowly and right. But that’s a whole nother topic on how to do it. Yeah, but a diet for sure. Yeah.


So sleep and diet is your non-negotiables. And, and awesome. And they. That’s great. I love that. Okay, great. So those are my questions.

Thank you so much for being here. I loved everything that you said. And I think just your mini talk about constipation is should be a life-changer for many people like other things but especially that part. And is there anything you’d like to share? Where can people reach you if they want to work with you? I often recommend a lot of anybody who comes to work with me, especially when any deeper got work. I always send them to Dr. Pearson. How can people find wonderful Yeah, um,

Dr. Erica:

Our website is www.Peirsoncenter.com. We have a Facebook page. Of course, I put as much as I can on our first Facebook page to share with families how to work in the way that we do with our patients. I hold nothing secret that we do. So I certainly put a lot out on Facebook. And yeah, they can reach us that way. For sure. Yeah.


Okay. I would highly recommend checking out Dr. Erica Pearson’s Facebook page, I’m on it. And I constantly learn something new every time she posts so thank you for being so generous with your time and knowledge.

Dr. Erica:

Thank you. Vaish Bye.


Yeah. And you’re listening to functional nutrition for kids. Thank you for joining us and I will see you next Thursday with a brand new podcast. Bye.


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