But she died at 63, after a lifetime of health problems brought on by a winter of near starvation (Hunger Winter) as a teenager in the occupied Netherlands during WWII.Â Doctors think her genes were disrupted during the seven months she spent hiding in a cellar, subsisting on tulip bulbs and grass.
According to the new science of epigenetics, genetic messaging can be turned on or off, or changed, by our environment and diet. Basically: your genes aren’t set in stone. They can be altered.
What’s more, poor nutrition – too little food or too much – can hurt your health, whether it happened in your life, or your parents’, or even your grandparents.
This is pretty startling and can leave you feeling as if your health is predetermined. If I get cancer because my grandmother was malnourished, or my grandkids will get depression because I ate too much takeout, isn’t that a bit too big to do anything about? It could make you want to give up.
But epigenetics holds promise. It’s clear that we can change it for the worse if we’re faced with hard times, but it’s also becoming clear that we can change it for the better.
We can change our programming.
That’s a pretty powerful realization.Â We know women can benefit their children’s health by what they eat while pregnant.Â We can even change the programming of the kids and grandkids we might someday eventually have.
And consider a corollary. Just as we could make things happen by how we eat – doesn’t it then follow that we could make things not happen?
Health isn’t predetermined. You’ve got to make it happen.