In my last post I briefly talked about my family’s long history of autoimmune diseases. Once I myself developed both Type 1 DM and Hashimoto’s ( which was discovered very shortly after the DM) I began to comprehend what part I unwittingly played in the expression of these genes. As I reflected back on my childhood I began to connect the dots and see just how I came to this point .
I was born in the very early 1970’s into a Hispanic family that lived in a socioeconomically diminished neighborhood in NYC. The importance of knowing is this is it relevant to understanding my disease process which stemmed from a certain mindset. In that place and at that time there was a belief that children should be encouraged to eat irregardless of actual hunger. I believe that there are a number of reasons for this. To start there was, and still is, a belief that babies and children should have an increased amount of added plumpness to them . Perhaps that implied an increased ability to withstand illness, but it certainly was perceived as being “healthier”. I know for sure with my own family there was the constant feeling of being Blessed we had plenty to eat. This was very important especially to my father as he had grown up on a Caribbean island at the latter part of the Great Depression and had been born into poverty. As one of seven children he would relay that there was never enough food to go around his house and he felt a certain pride in making sure there was plenty at ours. However , due to our community’s economic situation and lack of readily available health education resources, there was a prevalent consumption of high glycemic food intake between meals. These were often of poor nutritional quality. The meals themselves included foods that back on the island where people were much more active while out in the sun did not have the same effect on their waistlines as they did here.
This was not unique to my community. This difference has been studied before in other cultures. For example the Pima Indians from Mexico were studied in comparison to their families that immigrated to Arizona. Because of differences between lifestyle and diet , a significant portion of the population that resided in Arizona developed leptin resistance and obesity. I came to realize that although I had long since grown up and moved out of the place of my origins, and was now an educated healthcare provider, I still habitually fell back to the ways of my upbringing especially during times of stress. Within all of us is what I refer to as the “Book of life” in which culture , relationships and lifestyle have a strong influence on us. Even as we intellectually grow , it will often take a centennial event before we commit to make permanent and positive changes for the sake of our own health. The reality is that only about 5% of all diseases have a dominant gene abnormality as the root cause. For the rest of us it is a dynamic combination of our environment which includes stressors, relationships, and lifestyles, coupled with the expression of our epigenomes, and perhaps most surprisingly – our Gut’s microbiome .
I believe that , as with myself, people who have a true desire to do so can absolutely begin to turn the course of their own health through coaching and education. In the future posts I will write more in-depth about discovering the root causes what really makes us ill, and the journey that need to take place to bring us back to a place of Wellness.