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DGP: What is a Dirty Gene? [Episode 5]

DGP: What is a Dirty Gene? [Episode 5]

Welcome to this week’s SNPit. This is where we get down and dirty on a specific topic about your health. Today’s topic answers the question: What is a dirty gene?

I'm Dr. Ben Lynch— welcome to the Dirty Genes Podcast. I hope you enjoy the episode! If you do, be sure to give a thumbs-up, rate it, leave a comment, and Subscribe here

Table of Contents 

Episode 5 Transcript: What is a Dirty Gene?

Welcome to this week's SNPit. This is where we get down and dirty on a specific topic. And today's topic, what is a dirty gene? I'm Dr. Ben Lynch, and this is the Dirty Genes podcast. 

Dr. Ben Lynch’s Definition of a “Dirty Gene”

A dirty gene is a gene that is not performing at its best. It's not optimal. It's struggling.

The original book title for my national bestseller book Dirty Genes was supposed to be called The Seven Deadly Genes. And that did not resonate well with me at all, frankly, because they're not deadly genes. There are genetic variations that absolutely do cause some serious harm, and they can kill you. Even in utero, if a developing baby has certain genetic variations, they can't even survive. By writing a book called The Seven Deadly Genes, and that you can change them through diet and lifestyle, that would not be good. I ended up naming the book: Dirty Genes: A Breakthrough Program to Treat the Root Cause of Illness.

What I'm trying to convey is that your choices are going to either clean your genes or dirty them. So the concept of a dirty gene is simply a gene that is not performing at its best because of a variety of reasons. But don’t worry - you can clean your genes, maximize your genetic potential, and change your genetic destiny with the power of epigenetics. First, let’s talk about how genes get dirty.


Genes Can Be Born Dirty

One, you can be born with a dirty gene, meaning that you are born with a gene that has a specific genetic variant, which either slows it down considerably, like the MTHFR gene, for example. Many people are born with a dirty MTHFR gene. This gene makes your body's number one form of folate called methylfolate, which is critical for proper methylation. If you inherited a genetic variant for MTHFR, its function can be reduced by upwards of 70%!

If you have a gene that is 70% less responsive than a gene without that variant, that's pretty significant. If you know that you've inherited a born dirty gene, like the MTHFR genetic variant, like I have personally, and I went through a lifetime of issues until I realized that I needed to put more love and support toward my dirty MTHFR gene. And if I was doing things that made my gene MTHFR even dirtier, like consuming folic acid or using nitrous oxide at the dentist, both of which I did growing up, then I would be really struggling, and I did, growing up.

Genes Can Become Dirty

So, you can inherit dirty genes from your parents. You can also develop dirty genes from lifestyle things that you are doing. You might be thinking that they're good, but they might not be good for you as an individual. While some lifestyle factors can be fine for others, they can also dirty your genes.

I remember when I was given nitrous oxide at the dentist. I still remember today what it was like. I was lying back in that chair, as we all did, and I just remember feeling extremely weird and not good because that nitrous oxide was dirtying my MTHFR gene.

So, let's talk about the things which can dirty your genes: drugs, medications like nitrous oxide can dirty your genes, meaning it reduces its ability to function for various reasons. For nitrous oxide, the specific reason is it damages vitamin B12. It just literally destroys it. So if nitrous oxide, i.e., laughing gas, that you get at the dentist or in labor wards for pregnancy now, they're using it, which is crazy because it's damaging vitamin B12. And then if it's damaging vitamin B12 and you have a genetic variance, or your MTHFR gene is dirty, then your homocysteine levels can go up.

And that causes all sorts of problems like cardiovascular problems, mental problems, neurological problems, detoxification problems; you name it, it's a problem. And so medications are an issue.

Green Tea & COMT

Foods can also be an issue. Even healthy foods can dirty your genes and cause health issues because they demand your genes to function. For example, if you're drinking green tea, it can slow down certain genes. Is that bad? Well, it's not bad, but it's important to know. If you're drinking green tea, it can slow down a gene called COMT. Is that dirtying your COMT? Well, I wouldn't necessarily say it's dirtying your COMT gene, but it's slowing it down, which is maybe predisposing you to irritability, anxiety, insomnia, PMS or higher estrogen levels, and so on.

Let’s say you're sucking down a whole bunch of green tea, or you're taking supplements of green tea extract. Maybe you were fine at the beginning and you actually noticed it picked up your mood and you did well. So you continued taking it because you heard in the news or you heard from someone how awesome it is. But now you're starting to notice some health're more anxious lately, or you're more irritable, your mental health is suffering, or your sleep is becoming a problem, well, you've dirtied your COMT gene. Meaning, you put too much work onto it because your COMT gene has to break down those catechols in green tea. It's a compound that tea has, and your body uses your COMT gene and enzymes to break catechols down.

And if your genes are busy doing one thing like helping reduce or balance your dopamine levels, your estrogen levels, but you're bombarding it with another (i.e. tea), then it can only do one of two things. So if you're sucking down a bunch of green tea or taking green tea or EGCG supplements, then your dopamine and your estrogen levels are not going to be tended to, and potentially be increased ... so a dirty gene basically has too much work to do. Sometimes it doesn't have enough work if you don't give it anything to do.

Dopamine & Protein

Let’s say, for example, you have a genetic variation that reduces your ability to transport dopamine, but you also have a reduced ability to make dopamine. So you can't make dopamine very well. You can't even carry it very well, and these genes are just kind of sitting there waiting, but you're not eating protein. You have to make dopamine, and there are genes that help you make dopamine, but in order to do that, you have to need enough protein. If you're not eating enough protein, maybe you're doing intermittent fasting. Maybe you're doing a ketogenic diet, maybe you're just fasting in general and you notice your mood and your focus and your concentration has gone down the toilet. Well, you've made yourself a dirty gene. Why? Because you haven't given that gene enough tools in order for it to do its job.

Your Genes Need Tools to Work

If you hire someone to come and mow your lawn and they don't have a lawnmower, you were supposed to provide it for them because they don't have a truck, but they're willing to come over. It's a 10- year-old kid, right? And they want to mow it for 20 bucks. So it was like, "Cool, all right, come and mow my lawn." But the 10-year-old kid's standing there; the grass is growing. You come home from work. You get mad. "My grass is long." And the kid is like, "You're supposed to give me the mower, and you didn't give me the mower." And you're like, "Oh, sorry, I'll have it out for you next time." It's the same thing. Your genes need the tools in order to provide service for you, but you're in control of that with your mouth, your eyes, your nose, your ears, and your sense of touch.

We All Have Dirty Genes

Everything is waiting for you in your body, typically for an impulse because otherwise, it's just going to rest and repair. And you know what?

We all have dirty genes. I have dirty genes. You have dirty genes, everyone. Yes, you inherit them, but you also create them.

If you make a choice to stay up late and have a party, go for it; just know that you've overwhelmed certain genes, and it's good to know which genes you dirtied. And if you have the tools to understand which genes you dirtied and what you need to do in order to clean them up, then you can party and have fun and then focus the next day on supporting wellness in those specific genes.


MTHFR, Folate & Homocysteine

To give you an example, I went to an amazing restaurant in Texas when I was there at a conference, and it was a Brazilian steakhouse. And at this Brazilian steakhouse, they have basically an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of amazing meats. I was like, "Yeah." I was there for four hours. Four hours. And as mentioned earlier, I was born with a dirty MTHFR gene.

And this particular gene is really, really important in producing the body's primary form of folate, methylfolate. I was not eating salad. I was not eating liver. I was eating massive amounts of protein, meat. And when you are doing that, and you are not consuming enough folate, then what happens is that protein breaks down into components called amino acids. One of these amino acids that's high in protein is called methionine, which turns into a compound called homocysteine.

And if you aren't measuring your homocysteine levels at your doctor, you should be. I can tell you right now, after sitting there for four hours, eating meat, my homocysteine levels were through the roof, sky-high. I had the meat sweats, cognitive dysfunction, I felt terrible, and I had to take literally seven to 10 milligrams of methylfolate in order to clean up my dirty MTHFR gene, because I didn't get enough folate. I pounded it with a bunch of protein. And so if you're on a high-protein GAPS or Paleo diet, or you just go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, well, sometimes you splurge...I sure struggled the next day, but I knew how to clean it up. And that's exactly what I’ll teach you in the Dirty Genes podcast - how to clean up your genes. Until next time, take care, and I'll see you at next week's SNPit!

In health,

Dr. Ben LynchFounder of Seeking Health

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