Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

If you’re using a different device, our show is available on the following platforms.

View all Platforms
Episode 485
The Doctor's Farmacy

The Power Of Epigenetics To Transform Your Healthspan And Lifespan

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

If you’re using a different device, our show is available on the following platforms.

View all Platforms

You might have heard the word “epigenetics” and wondered what the heck it means. Well to sum it up shorthand, epigenetics is how everything you’re exposed to throughout your life—your environment, your social relationships, your diet, etc.—impacts how your genes are expressed.

Think of it like this: genes are our hardware and epigenetics are like software. Our software is something that can be changed and upgraded, it doesn’t have to be static.

If you want to learn more about understanding, demystifying, and harnessing epigenetics, then this is the podcast episode for you. Today’s guest on The Doctor’s Farmacy is my good friend, mentor, and the reason my health and career are where they are: Dr. Jeffrey Bland. We talk all about epigenetics and unpack what can be a complicated topic in terms you can actually understand.

If you want to learn how to prevent disease and reverse aging, at any stage of life, then listen closely to this episode. Epigenetics is an incredible area of research that can help us do this and more.

Using the Functional Medicine framework, we look at genetics as well as the various areas of our lives that are constantly modifying them. Dr. Bland explains the nuances of the epigenome and how research has evolved our understanding that genetics aren’t set in stone, even if we’re already well into adulthood.

Social connections, sleep, and exercise can all have epigenetic influences, along with the powerful influence of diet. Dr. Bland and I discuss the amazing benefits of plant phytochemicals for health and aging, beyond their antioxidant properties, and how to get more of these in your meals.

Trauma and stress are two more epigenetic influences that we get into in this episode, including their impacts on future generations. We explore how we can lessen their impact, through things like meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy.

This is a relatively new area of research that provides tremendous hope for changing the operating system of our biology. Listen in to learn how to upgrade your software, today.

This episode is brought to you by Rupa Health, Eight Sleep, and ButcherBox.

Rupa Health is a place for Functional Medicine practitioners to access more than 2,000 specialty lab tests from over 20 labs like DUTCH, Vibrant America, Genova, Great Plains, and more. You can check out a free live demo with a Q&A or create an account at RupaHealth.com

Eight Sleep’s Pod Pro mattress is so smart that it adjusts your temperature and also gives you individualized recommendations on how to sleep better the next night. To get yours, go to eightsleep.com/mark to check out the Pod Pro mattress or mattress cover and save $150 at checkout.

For a limited time, new subscribers to ButcherBox will receive ground beef FOR LIFE. When you sign up today, ButcherBox will send you 2 lbs of 100% grass-fed, grass finished beef free in every box for the life of your subscription. To receive this offer, go to ButcherBox.com/farmacy.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

Here are more of the details from our interview (audio):

  1. The paradigm shift away from siloed medicine towards systems biology
    (7:42 )
  2. New understandings about how our genes can be modified to reverse disease and aging
    (10:02)
  3. Early research that led to our understanding of how epigenetics works
    (12:02 )
  4. Genes that can be imprinted and modified even into adulthood
    (19:27)
  5. Reversing our biological age
    (21:35 )
  6. The influence of our external environment and experiences over our genes
    (27:03)
  7. How what we eat, how we love, how much stress we’re under, and more impacts our genes, our health, and the process of aging
    (35:08 )
  8. The amazing benefits of phytochemicals in plants for human health
    (38:38)
  9. Trauma, PTSD, and our genes
    (51:05)
  10. Our ability to control the operating system of our biology
    (56:13)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Dr. Jeffrey Bland

Dr. Bland’s career in health spans more than 40 years. A lifelong educator, Jeff has traveled the world many times over in his role as the “father of Functional Medicine.” In 1991, he and his wife, Susan, founded The Institute for Functional Medicine. In 2012, Jeff founded another educational nonprofit called the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute. He is the author of The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life, as well as countless additional books and research papers.

Show Notes

  1. Learn more about Dr. Bland’s work with Big Bold Health

Transcript

Introduction:
Coming up on this episode of the Doctor’s Farmacy.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
When you put all this together, this transforms all of healthcare. This transforms all of medicine. This to me is the thing that we’ve been looking for.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to the Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, that’s Farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. And today I think this conversation should be when we all pay attention to because it’s about how to change our life and how to change everything about us, through our biology and a particular thing called epigenetics, which you might have heard about, but maybe confusing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And today we’re going to demystify, clarify and help you understand the way your biology, your genes, and your lifestyle, and your environment, and your social interactions, and your relationships, and everything that you’re exposed to throughout your life actually can impact how your genes work and the course of your life, the course of your health, the course of disease, and your longevity.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And today, our guest is none other than my personal favorite human, my mentor, the guy responsible for me in a sense, because without him, I wouldn’t be here. I would be sick probably in a nursing home, somewhere having not solved all of my health crises through functional medicine. It is none other than Dr. Jeffrey Bland. Jeff is an extraordinary guy. I’ve had him on the podcast.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think he’s been on a bunch of times. And his background is unique because he’s one of those brilliant minds who synthesizes massive amounts of data, and sees the patterns in the data way before everybody else. And for the last 40 years, he’s been teaching physicians and healthcare providers around the world, how to think differently about health and disease through the lens of systems, biology and functional medicine.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And for me, it’s changed everything about my life, about my own personal health, about my practice, my work in the world. Without Jeff’s pioneering work, I wouldn’t have been able to do the work I do. I literally am standing on his shoulders, on his head, on his hands, on his feet. I’m standing everywhere. And I just think Jeff is just one of the most compassionate, kind, tireless, hardworking guys. He’s now in his eighth decade and he has not slowed down.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’m trying to slow down and he’s like, why are you slowing down? I’m like, because. Jeff now is focused on an amazing project called Big Bold Health, a company that’s on a mission to transform the way people think about one of our greatest innovations of biology, the immune system, and through Big Bold Health, Jeff is advocating the power of immuno rejuvenation to enhance immunity at a global level through the rediscovery of ancient food crops and super foods.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We’re going to get talking about that a little bit, but Jeff actually has also worked on building a small network of farms and suppliers throughout the US to take a position on regenerative agriculture and use regenerative agriculture to actually help fix our climate crisis to help environment and planetary health.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So he’s the author of many, many books, including the, Disease Delusion, Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer and Happier Life. He also is a founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine with his wife, Susan Bland, and I’ve known Jeff for more than three decades. And I’m just so happy to have you again on the podcast Jeff, so welcome.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Well, Mark, thank you so much. And I think this is for both of us an epic time that we’re both experiencing and participating in, and we’re finding how to transform ourselves and the world in which we live through this remarkable period of global social, cultural, political, economic, and science change.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
It’s a really remarkable time to be alive. And it’s remarkable to have friends and individuals with a powerful relationship that you and I have shared over these many decades, because we need all the resources we can get to push through a lot of the things that we’re going through right now.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Thanks Jeff. That’s true. So let’s just appreciate that. And I’d like to get into this conversation by just bringing up a conversation I had with my daughter last night, who just came home for the holidays. She finished her first semester medical school and we were having a conversation about assistance biology, and the paradigm shift that’s happening, and the that she’s probably learning 19th century medicine.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And there’s a whole new field merging that is so far away from what we now have as our traditional paradigm of disease based silo specialty medicine. And it’s the field of systems biology. It’s the field of the Omic revolution. It’s the field of understanding how our genes and environment interact. And it was really interesting to hear her beginning to start to incorporate some of these concepts because it is very reductase what we do in traditional science and medicine.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And yet what we’ve tried to do in this new field of systems, biology and systems medicine, network medicine, functional medicine, whatever you want to call it, it’s the same thing, is to paint a different view of how the body works. It’s actually in a sense discovering the natural laws of biology. And biology’s so infinitely complex. We haven’t actually been able to divine the nature of these fundamental laws before, because unlike physics, there are just so many, so many variables and there’s only billions of chemical reactions happening in your body every minute.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And how do we even start to think about looking at that, measuring it, looking at all the different influences. I mean, think about it. How does even one molecule let’s say vitamin C or anything that you eat, find its natural receptor? I mean, in the sea of masses amounts of blood vessels and tissues and cells, how does it even know where to go? So there’s a whole miracle of systems biology that we haven’t really begun to apply clinically except in the field of functional medicine.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And so what we’re learning now is helping us to rethink our approach to disease in a powerful way. And Jeff, you wrote a recent paper published in a scientific journal about the imprintome, which is a really important concept that we’re going to get deep into that talks about how our genes are not fixed. And I’m just going to, before I get Jeff talking, I just want to lay the groundwork a little bit. Historically, we believed that our genes are pretty fixed, that our genes are destiny.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That we evolve through natural selection and have pretty hardwired genetic traits that are not movable. Darwin helped establish that. And so did Gregory Mendel who read peas who was a monk. And that’s how he got to understand traits like dominant and recessive and so forth. Those were important, terminal moments in medical history, but they kind of missed the reality of what are learning now, which is that our genes, the hardware’s fixed. In other words, the actual code is not changeable, except by gene editing or CRISPR.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But the expression of those genes is highly influenced by everything around us, our entire environment. And that’s what we’re going to get on today. And that’s called the imprintome. How do we modify those to either drive us towards health? Or how are they being modified to drive us toward disease? And you’re going to learn some pretty surprising things about how that works.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And why is it important to you is because, and this is why I want you to listen carefully this podcast is because you can modify your genes and reverse disease and even reverse biological aging at any age, which is an extraordinary breakthrough. So Jeff, welcome to the Doctor’s Farmacy podcast again. And tell us about at a high level, then we’re going to go down there, but tell us about how epigenetics works.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What is it? How does it work? Explain it and unpack it for us in an understandable way that I might have to translate because I speak blandese. And sometimes I mean is like Bob had his anger translated around Jeff. [inaudible 00:08:39] So tell us Jeff, how can we understand this whole field of epigenetics? And take us down that rabbit hole?

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Well, I think Mark, for both you and me, we had a shared common experience that introduced us into this new era. And that experience actually occurred at one of the Institute for functional medicine’s annual conference. In 2006, we were both in attendance and I was working with you and others to define who our annual Linus Pauling Award winner would be the quintessential award we give each year.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh yes.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Which you were at one of those award winners. And in 2006, we made the decision to give the award to Randy Jirtle from Baylor University who had published a paper that had rocked the world some few years earlier that was to a lot of people, very esoteric, what he had done with Bob Waterland. His postoc at the time is they had taken a goodie mouse and I won’t go into a great detail, but this is a little mouse that’s used for a lot of research for diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And it’s a mouse that gets genetically ill and it doesn’t live as long as most mice. And so you study this as a disease model for diet and lifestyle related diseases like obesity. And what they did is they fed the pregnant mother dam mouse, a dose of very high levels of specific nutrients of vitamin B12, cholin, or vitamin B6, folic acid and what they did, and this was a super high level of those nutrients that they gave the mother when she was pregnant.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And the mice that were then born from that mother were like no other goodie mice that had ever been seen before. In fact, it was so different that the color of their fur was entirely different than the mother. But more importantly, as they grew older, they didn’t get obese. They didn’t get the diseases that their parents got. They lived almost 35% longer and everyone just scratched their head and said, what the heck is going on here?

Dr. Jeff Bland:
So he started to do studies on what was going on and found out that by feeding this high level of these nutrients, which are sometimes called methylating nutrients, that they were able to imprint with these nutrients, the genome, the genes of the mother and that of the offspring, so that they then did not express those carry characteristics that were locked into the genes of the mother that had produced years of generations of a goodie mice that led short that suddenly [crosstalk 00:11:26].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You were yellow and obese and got all these terrible diseases and it was programmed into their genes. And that’s how we actually studied these conditions. We developed these mice who were tended to be fat and sick and the unhealthy, and yet by giving them these B vitamins, which are activators of certain pathways, we call methylation, it was able to change which genes were turned on and off.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And actually by giving them these nutrients, it seems like they actually shut off all the disease genes and turn on all the health and longevity genes, which is pretty, really remarkable. And we’re talking about Penn’s a day of vitamins, right?

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Exactly. And now I think we need to be cautious not to think that we’re a goodie mice, well, humans are obviously more complex, but maybe the goodie mice, but I think the important takeaway you’re saying is that for the first time, the discovery was made that a series of nutrients could actually reprogram how the genes were expressed.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And in fact, interestingly, and I’ve gotten to know Randy Jirtle very well as a colleague and friend over the decades now since we gave him that award, he had wrote an article saying, oh, this shows how nutritional supplements might be dangerous because he got concerned-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What? Because they might make you healthy.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
… that this might be a sign of something bad, but over the course of the now two decades, since that article was published, extraordinary amounts of work has been done not only in his laboratory, but many now hundreds of other laboratories in which it’s been the mechanism by which this occurred has been really much more precisely been discovered. And that led me then into once your mind is open to something, this is like, oh, past year concept of chance favors of prepared mind.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
So once I was open to that concept, it was a life changer for me. And now I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with and being influenced by many, literally hundreds of investigators around the world that are studying this concept of modulation of the epigenome, because that’s what they determined was going on that the above the genes, as you said, are the executive centers that control how the genes are expressed, how they actually appear in how we look at and feel.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And that is that up above the genes, epi, above epigenome is now where all the action is. It’s the [crosstalk 00:13:59] that allows us to regulate our function based on the experiences that we have in our lives at imprint. And I want to emphasize the word imprint our genes, and that’s called the imprintome. Now, let me say one last thing before I toss it back over to you. When I spoke with Dr. Jirtle, because we had him come back some 10 years later to the IFM, and by that time, much more work had been done. And he was now on site saying, wow, this is really transformative of how we think about how we can improve people’s health. He [crosstalk 00:14:30].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s just funny just how people are so reductionist. They don’t actually see the big picture. They actually make some breakthrough discovery and how it connects everything. having his

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Exactly. And [crosstalk 00:14:38]. In fact, my middle son, Kyle was so impressed with what Randy was doing, that he actually went and visited him in North Carolina and he stayed in his house. Randy was very nice. And he spent three days talking with Randy about this whole concept of how this is going to transform all of healthcare, this concept of the imprintome. Now let me just say one last thing.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
In 2016 then, some 10 years after I had first met him, I then asked him, I said, so we now know clearly that this modulation of the way that our genes are expressed can be imprinted when we are in fetal development or we’re in infancy. That’s clearly been identified. But the question is, do we have those same capabilities as a later adult where our genes can be still modulated through the epigenome?

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And he said, well, Jeff, that’s really the secret sauce. That’s really the question of our age. And right now we have no data yet to say that in the adult, we still have the same capability of epigenetically modifying our genes as we do when we’re in infant. Now here’s the good news.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So basically the original study was like on prenatal influences.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Right. Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then the question is, well, if we could change our genes in utero can maybe changed once we’re born?

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Oh, beautiful. Yes. And does it go away as we get older? And so now this is why the article that you were describing that I just recently written, I had such a probably dramatic title. I titled that article, A Discovery that Reframes the Whole of Global Healthcare in the 21st century. [crosstalk 00:16:24]

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I saw that. I was like, oh boy, that’s bold.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Yes, it is a bold title. So, and why did I say that? It’s because over those years now, what has happened is it has been discovered that even in the adult, there are still a series of genes and these are genes in very important positions that regulate many other genes. So they’re upstream of a lot of other genes that can still be imprinted and can be modulated, epigenetically by experiences that we have, meaning throughout all of our life now. Not just in fetal development or in infancy.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
We have a degree of plasticity, as you said, in your introduction, in which we can put on and take off messages on the epigenome that regulate how we look at and feel. Now that is the big, huge new discovery. These are called metastable epialleles. That’s the long term for them.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
But basically it was originally found that maybe there was tens of these, but now that more research is going on in the field of epigenetics, and in fact, we’re part of that. We have an IRB approved study that we’re now actually doing in humans. It’s been found that there are literally maybe hundreds of these genes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, that’s amazing Jeff, it’s really quite a story that changes the whole paradigm of how we need to think about our lives. Because if our genes are not our destiny and we can actually make choices in our life and get treatments, medical treatments, nutraceutical treatments, lifestyle treatments, that influence the course of that, it’s super empowering as opposed to, oh geez. I’m going to get Alzheimer’s. Oh, geez, I’m going to get heart disease.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Or I’m using my… Everybody in my family’s got diabetes. It doesn’t have to be like that. Like these mice. Right? And what I want to do is start with the punchline and then wind our way back. And the punchline is there was a couple of studies that you mentioned that article a new, I think it was a new age study and it was a Mediterranean diet implemented in a large population showing reversal of biological age.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then our colleague Kara Fitzgerald did another study using lifestyle intervention, showing a reversal biological age of up to three years, which is pretty staggering, using a simple lifestyle intervention. And other studies show that using various kinds of medication that effect aging like Metformin or various kinds of mitochondrial regulators can actually influence the biological age as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So whether we’re looking at diet or a multimodal intervention from functional medicine, or pharmacological interventions, there’s increasing evidence that we can actually not only stop, but actually reverse our biological age, which is, determines our health, right? We’re only as healthy as our biological age. The single biggest risk factor for every disease is age, right? Heart disease, because with the smoking is high blood pressure, cholesterol, no it’s age. So how do we start to think about how those things are working?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So take us down the biology, if you can, how these changes in diet, or these various supplements, or the various medications can actually influence the epigenome and explain as you do that a little bit about this idea of the methylation of, because you mentioned that word, it’s basically a big word, but essentially it’s the key that turns on and off the genome epigenome, it regulates the epigenome and determines which genes get red and which proteins get made, which affects, which part of your body’s working or not working because proteins in your body are the things that DNA does.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s what DNA is. It actually is just an assembly line for new proteins. That’s all DNA is. So if you look at the effect on proteins, and the changes in proteins that happen with epigenomes, that seems to be where the money is. So tell us how about how all that works, and take us down that road.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
So like you meeting with your daughter, I met with my granddaughters and their friends last weekend. We had this deep conversation. I was very impressed till about 1:30 in the morning about how they see their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors influencing how they want to be as women of influence growing up. And so it led us into this discussion of epigenetics.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
That then reminded me to have a discussion with them about this concept that the energy that we are involved with, that we’re exposed to, and the energy that we give off as human beings to others, is an energy that transforms itself into the material influence on the molecular actions of our body and how our genes are expressed. Now, this sounds a little like Einstein with equals MC squared, energy and mass, or inter converted that our energy field influences the mass of molecules.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
It influences our genes and how they’re expressed. And that’s what I picked up from Dr. Nettleman’s work in which I talked to them. And I said, so you are then finding that our environment of our social determinants, the people we interact with, the sense of fulfillment, our being loved, our appreciation of being alive, our feeling of being supported, our feeling of being in a community that these all then are signals that go in and are picked up by our genes and ultimately epigenetically modify our genes.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And you can actually measure that by looking at these methylation patterns and genes, he says, absolutely. So that sent me onto a trail the last four years, that is unrelenting for me. Because I feel this is the wild card. This is the secret sauce. This is what connects socialization and the feeling of anthropology, sociology, psychology. It hardwires itself into biology systems thinking. And ultimately how we look at and feel is, and it is all modifiable.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
That’s the beautiful thing. This is not esoterism. This is executable by practicing the right things. We can send the right signals to our genes that modulate these epigenetic patterns in such a ways to favorably express what I call our bliss genes, our goodness genes, our happiness genes, our fulfillness genes. And they can down regulate the expression of our danger genes.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Are genes that are impair that feeling like we’re not safe, that we’re at risk, and that we need to fight back and be alarmed against the world. Which is what happens in places of impoverishment. It happens in people that have social isolation. It happens in people that feel culturally disenfranchised. So we have, for all these years, all these decades, we have thought, oh, these people that live in these various areas we might consider impoverished areas, oh, they just don’t have the genetic potential that other people have.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
No, it’s not that at all. They have a incredible genetic potential that’s been suppressed by the imprinting of their genes with experiences of self denial by… And then I went and I said, well, hold on, does that also relate to food deserts?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Of course.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
A topic that you have been so eloquent in bringing up to us. And now there’s research showing that people that live in food deserts have epigenetic module of their expression patterns that then produces an outcome that we call inflammaging, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jeff Bland:
They’re in an inflamed state because their genes feel they have to fight back against the hostile environment because they’re not safe. And when you put all this together, this transforms all of healthcare. This transforms all of medicine. This to me, is the thing that we’ve been looking for that connects together all of these areas into a scientific whole field theory that you can actually measure and improve.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
We can measure methylation patterns before and after people involved with lifestyle changes. We can measure the effect that diet has. We can measure the effect of exercise. We can measure their sleep effects on their epigenome. We can measure what happens when a person is loved versus unloved. In fact, it’s interesting that Dr. Appelle at UCSF Medical School, working with Dr. Blackburn originally on the development of the Nobel prize on this whole-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Telomeres.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
… concept of the telomeres, she has found that the same thing holds through with the chromosomal ends the telomeres that shorten under conditions of social deprivation, and it’s tied to epigenetic alteration. In fact, I was then introduced to Anthony Zannas, who we got to speak at our Personalized Lifestyle Medicine annual conference this November, Dr. Zannas has traveled the world as an MD PhD in many different institutions.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And now at the University of North Carolina medical school in psychiatry, but also in the field of molecular genetics. And he has been publishing papers Mark that are just truly revolutionary showing that under control conditions in both animal models and in humans, that social deprivation, anxiety, stress, fear, all sends signals to the epigenome that completely modulates. Then the hormonal patterns like cortisol and like the flight and fried hormones epinephrine.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
So the interface between what you said, [inaudible 00:26:09] psychoneuroimmunology, and the epigenome are now singularly being defined as being mechanistically connected. And this to me is a revolution that now brings all of the field of healthcare, not just knowing more and more, about less and less in specialty medicine until you know everything about nothing.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Now we’re talking about a field theory that combines all these disciplines of thinking into a whole way that we’re going to treat the whole person to modulate their genes to be performing at its optimal enlightenment fun bliss [crosstalk 00:26:42].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. It’s usually a huge conversation, Jeff, because it’s an empowering conversation. It lifts us up from the possibility that we don’t have to succumb to all the ravages of chronic disease that maybe traits or tendencies in our family, but we can actually modify how those all happen. And we can also, it seems to me from what I’m learning from literature, that we can actually change harmful epigenetic tags, even after we’re born by doing modifications in our life and lifestyle.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So it’s not just like you get these tags when you’re young and then boom, you’re stuck, but it’s also true. And I think you mentioned this in your article that these tags can be transgenerational. So for example, children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are actually imprinted with changes to their epigenome that lead to increase in anxiety, and psychosocial stresses, and a whole series of health consequences that are really staggering.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
When you look at well, how does that even happen? How does a grandmother get insulted by a toxin or a psychological stress? How does that get programmed on the genes? How does that get passed transgenerationally? It’s just fascinating. And then it can be untagged. And then you also see that the whole idea of epigenetics helps to crystallize the mechanism, as you said, by which our lifestyle and environment, and external influences and our relationships and our feelings, everything, actually affects our health.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We’ve known for years that stress causes illness, but how? How does it work? And well, now it seems like we’ve figured it out and then we’ve figured out a way to undo it, which is really pretty remarkable. And so what you’re basically saying is that there’s this control system on our genes over our genes, the epigenome, which can be modified through various types of interventions to improve the kinds of genes that are being expressed that create health as the ones that create disease. And the things that modified are everything.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
That is so powerful what you’re saying Mark.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it’s big.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
It lights me up with, just to hear you say that, because that is why I said, this is the discovery that reframes the whole of the global healthcare, because healthcare as disease care is built around the premise that medicine is there to rescue people from their bad genes, that there’s nothing you can do about it. So whatever we can do with drugs or surgery, this is a whole different model.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And in fact, I got introduced again, because once you start traveling in this environment, you meet all sorts of other people that are doing work in this area. So Dr. [Chantelle 00:29:33], Martin and his group, ironically also at the University of North Carolina, they’ve been looking at the socialization factors in the epigenome.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, this is the thing, I just want to break down what you said a little bit more because some people really get it. So what you’re saying is that every bite of food we eat influences our genes through this mechanism, our nutrient status, our activity and exercise, sleep, stress of all kinds, our relationships, our love, or lack of love, all modify the epigenome in ways that are remarkable and actionable and changeable.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And that the process of aging is driven by adverse effects on our genome that we can change. And that we can literally not only stop aging and stop these chronic diseases, but we can literally reverse them. And that’s what some of these new studies are so remarkable and showing through the DNA methylation patterns that change with interventions.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So Jeff given that we now know this mechanism, that we now understand that how our relationships, and our thoughts, and our feelings, and our toxic exposures, and our activity, and our sleep, and our diet, and everything influence our genes, how does that change medicine for us? And how do we think differently about what we’re doing? And what is the potential?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And talk about specifically this whole unified theory, because one of the things I’ve learned from you is that there is a unified theory of medicine. That the whole idea of specialty medicine, all these diseases, they’re all linked by a very few common mechanisms and systems in the body, a few common laws of biology.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And when those underlying systems are dysregulated and disturbed in the ways that we’re talking about, through the genome regulating inflammation, and mitochondrial function, and detoxification, and hormonal regulation, and all the ways that our gut function… I mean, our microbes in our gut are listening to our thoughts. I mean, get that, right? I mean, you got to be nice those little bugs in there because they’re affecting how you feel and what you think, and your disease risks and everything else.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So we have this amazing opportunity now to rethink disease from the bottom up. And it’s really the ultimate upstream medicine instead of Whack-A-Mole medicine where we honestly dealing with all the downstream effects, how do we get to the upstream causes and create a unified field theory? So then when we’re looking at aging, we’re like, let’s find the cure for cancer, and find the cure for Alzheimer’s, and find the cure for heart disease, and find the cure for diabetes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s nonsense because if you get to the root, you get to see how these are all not different as diseases. They’re all different manifestations of the same underlying phenomena in biology, which is what functional medicine and systems biology speaks to. So how are we then going to look at aging and even disease differently because we now understand that there’s this imprintome that regulates everything about our health.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And how do we start to think about the excitement that I feel as a 62 year old getting older every minute of the possibility of reversing biological agent. By the way, everybody, I literally just ordered, I’m writing a new book on longevity, I just recently ordered every single DNA methylation kit and longevity kit on the market. I have it on my dining room table and my plan is to do them all and see what’s going on. But and I’ll report back on that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But I think that how… And I want to see how those things can change with actual changing things that I do. Well what’s so fascinating Jeff is that we all learned that there are essential amino acids that you had to get from diet. There are essential fatty acids that we have to get from fats like omega threes, but there’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate that we don’t actually need them to live. And that’s why people who can go on a ketogenic diet.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
However, I think that there’s a piece that’s been missed in that, which is that the actual starch itself is not essential, but the components that come with carbohydrates, the phytochemicals in plants are actually very essential. And you’re going to love this, Jeff because I was at a conference recently and I got to meet the chairman of Mar, Mr. Mars, literally. And he was on fire about polyphenols in cocoa, particularly, what we get in chocolate and the research they’ve done on it and what he said, I wish you could have been there to hear it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Because it was like, how do we get the chairman of one of the biggest food companies out there, which is out making a lot of not so great stuff, start to shift his thinking and talk about how these phytochemicals are actually essential for health. They’re not just, oh, well it’s nice if you get them that if you don’t get them that it leads to through chronic disease.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So we’ve talked about this before the long latency deficiency diseases. It’s not just vitamins and minerals. It’s also a deficiency of the phytochemicals, what we call the phytochemical richness of our diet. I wrote in my book once years ago, [inaudible 00:34:58] talked about the phytochemical index. How do you start to think about the phytochemicals compared to the amount of calories and the food you’re eating, and all that is so important.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And so it kind of shifts our thinking to go, wow, gee, maybe these aren’t optional. Maybe we want to actually regulate our gene properly. We need to include these phytochemicals every single day. And I’m a phytochemical [inaudible 00:35:22] at my house. And I think he’ll actually would be surprised at all the [inaudible 00:35:27] I put in my smoothie and also the things that I eat.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And I’m just determined when I’m eating to actually sample from this phytochemical cornucopia of medicines that are regulating our immune system, our microbiome, our brain chemistry, our hormones, our structural system, everything is controlled by these phytochemicals. So, and it’s something I learned from you. I never heard of phytochemicals before I met Jeff Bland, or food is medicine, or food is information. These are all ideas that came out of you.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And I think they’re now becoming mainstream, and they’re now becoming understood from a mechanistic point of view in ways that we just never heard before. And one of the things I want you to talk about is actually some of the work you’re doing in Big Bold Health, particularly around immuno rejuvenation, and epigenetics, and biological clocks, and how all that connects because we were actually looking at a DNA methylation in immune cells and white blood cells, which is hopefully a good proxy for your other organs.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I don’t think we know that for sure. But how has your work illuminated this ways in which we, as providers, as individual can change our diet? Or take supplements to actually help improve and regulate the epigenome to create health and longevity and a long health span? Or as I say, how to die young as late as possible.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Yeah. So I think Mark, you’re hitting really again, as you do so eloquently the tip of the spear. What is this really all distill itself down to? And to me, this is the aha of my life.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
This is kind of like, wow. Crossing the Rubicon and because what we’ve just been talking about here, if we were to specifically think about phytochemicals, how have they been described by food scientists? And by even the CEO of Mars? How would they talk about these polyphenols found in cocoa? They would talk of them as antioxidants and-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, he actually had a very different perspective. It was so enlightened that I literally fell off my chair. I was like, what? Who are you Mr. Mars really? But it was staggering. And he was [crosstalk 00:37:45] incensed. He was incensed about the fact that medicine is ignoring this. He was just furious. And he was like, this has to be front and center and everything we’re doing. And they’re putting their Mars muscle behind it, which is exciting.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Well, I think that’s good, but again, it’s not the point I’m trying to make.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, I understand.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Let me remake my point. I think we need absolutely to be advocating for phytochemicals as an important component of our diet that have been trivialized and marginalized for decades, not even having pages described in textbooks of nutrition that people studied and became dieticians from or whatever. So I absolutely agree with you, but the question of how they work, that’s the aha. Over time, the dominant way that people describe them in hundreds of studies, hundreds, is antioxidants.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And I have been saying to myself and lectures over the years, that’s a very trivial way of describing them. That’s not how they work. They’re not just anti acidity factors. They are specific targeted molecules that signal the messages to our genes in unique ways to modulate how our genes express their function. That is a much more powerful, directed, natural pharmacology than antioxidants. And therefore, different bioflavonoids, or different members of the polyphenol family have different effects on different cells to produce different outcomes.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Resveratrol is different than EGCG, which is different than curcumin, which is different than quercetin. They have different impacts upon cell biology, but the basic new aha discovery is that all of these regulate in the epigenome such that they can help put on and put off messages to clear up and rejuvenate our cellular function and give us the full potential of our genetic arsenal of goodness. And that construct of cleaning up a mess in our epigenome is a really powerful concept.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And so when we started into this Big Bold Health advocacy to look at the immune system, and we happen to fall into this Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat, which has the highest level of these immune active phytochemicals of any food that we’ve been able to discover, and we now find that actually the portfolio of those flavonoids influence these epigenetic modulation of the expression of our goodness genes.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Now we start to see how you can demonstrate lowering biological age and reducing the clocks that people are measuring to determine whether they’re older than their years of birthdays or younger than their years of birthdays. This is a powerful new science. It puts all this together to say, we are part of how we eat. We are part of the way those plants were growing. We are part of the soil in which those plants were nourished. We are part of the relationship of the planetary immune system to our immune system.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
This is a holistic view of how we achieve in our own body’s health while also renourishing the planet simultaneously because they’re all signaling together in this process. This is the most powerful orchestration you can ever imagine. So the plants have this ability to respond to their environmental stress could be either biological stress from organisms like infection, or it could be environmental stress like too hot, too cold, not enough water, radiation, whatever, activating these genes, then epigenetically that produce these phytochemicals.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And now here is the big aha for us because these phytochemicals that they produce, are within the family called polyphenol or flavonoids and they’re members in this family, which we’re all very familiar with that you’ve spoken a lot about in your shows over the years. And that’s things like quercetin, resveratrol, epigallocatechin Gallate, and curcumin and those particular phytochemicals.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And here’s the closing of the loop now, have been found to modulate the specific controlling features of the methylation patterns of our genome, the Tat and the DMT that we talked about earlier, they actually signal into those hub genes to regulate then how the genes are methylated or demethylated to produce the ability of the genes to express themselves in a healthy fashion under those conditions.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And I think this is so powerful because it ties plant health to soil health, to human health. When you eat the right plant that have those messenger molecules that create in our body the same exact effects. This is the whole thing that we’ve been doing with our Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s phenomenal. And when you think about the epigenetic regulation and the doorways to it, there’s so many, right? There’s enhancing the phytochemicals that we eat. It’s changing our exposure to toxins. It’s dealing with our mindset and beliefs and attitudes. It’s learning how to love and be loved. It’s so infinite in terms of the doorways to actually regulate this.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And what’s really important for people to understand is that these epigenetic marks are so important in determining our outcomes in terms of health and disease in our life that we now understand actually how to modify them is a massive breakthrough. We know, for example, that if a baby, mother grandmother rat is exposed to glyphosate then two generations down those marks from the glyphosate are going to cause cancer and endocrine disruption and all sorts of problems.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But we also know we can undo those marks through various interventions that we’ve been talking about. Lifestyle, which is primary lifestyle, but there are medications being explored and other things that can actually regulate some of these pathways. The biological clock thing is fascinating to me because for the first time, it seems like we have a way to start to measure the impact of things, not in a theoretical way, and not in a way that is necessarily impossible to do, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If we really wanted to be smart about this, we would get 100,000 people in one arm, 100,000 people in another arm of a study, we’d control the variables and we’d provide these different inputs and we’d see what happens over 50 or 60 or 70 years of their life, but that’s not going to happen. So we have to look at other intermediate ways of seeing how our biology is affected.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And so whether it’s work on the DNA methylation, epigenome through white blood cells, or whether it’s through looking at our immune age, work that David Furman’s doing at Stanford, various analytes that are highly correlated with immune aging or looking at the, for example, microbiome markers, they may be able to be able to do a liquid blood test to actually look at what’s happening with the metabolites of your microbiome that are determining your age or risk of disease.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So, and there’s other levels that we can influence. So at every point of our life, we have the potential to stop and reverse a lot of these changes. And the question now is what are the implications if just a few simple things like in Kara Fitzgerald study could actually turn back your biological age by three years in just a short period of time. It was a very short study.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean, what if we took a more comprehensive approach? And how does the future look? So before we close, tell us how the future looks, what are doctors going to be testing? What are they going to be doing? What are they going to be recommending? And how is that going to impact the trajectory of chronic illness and death?

Dr. Jeff Bland:
So I think you have done such an eloquent job in your podcast, in the Doctor’s Farmacy, over the years in developing this new model. And I want to go back to something that we all have experienced in our life. Every human being has a shared experience of some trauma. There is no person that escapes living without trauma. Now some traumas are much more extreme than others.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
So if we think about post traumatic stress syndrome, that’s a condition where the genes have been imprinted so strongly by a traumatic event that they’re locked into a feed forward cycle of hyper vigilance, as it relates to their activation of their immune response, and their adrenaline, and their cortisol response.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
So if you go to that, which is the extreme edge, and you say, could we modify people with PTSD? Could we, those people that have had those extreme examples of acute stress that have then marked their genes very heavily with marks that create alarm responses in their daily living, no matter what environment they find themselves. So this is one of the things that Anthony Zannas is involved with his group. And looking at I’ve been very impressed with this work because he’s been looking at a hub gene, which is abbreviated F-K-B-P-5.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
This hub gene is controlling the activity, the glucocorticoid receptor, which relates to cortisol responses. And it’s activated in states of posttraumatic stress. So the question is, how does that get turned on and regulated in a hyper functioning way? And it does so because it gets epigenetically modified, and it gets the things that would suppress its activity get turned off.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
So it just goes wild. It goes rogue. And so can you then modify the epigenetic control of the FKBP5 gene through reprogramming the epigenome? And the answer appears to be, yes, we can.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And what we’ve learned is the more traumatic something happens that the stickiness of our epigenome becomes more imprinted-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s hard to change.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
… [crosstalk 00:47:52] more threat that probably we need to be to repattern the epigenome. Some things can be put on and off fairly easily.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So just let me stop you for a sec. So you said something huge, which is that there’s this epidemic of trauma in our society and it’s along a spectrum, right? From severe rape and sexual abuse to just being yelled at, and belittled when you’re a little kid, and all that gets affected, all of that affects us and imprints on us. How is the sign showing that we can undo those imprints? What are the techniques? Tools? Systems? Mechanisms? What it is it? It’s not eating just a vitamin? How is this working?

Dr. Jeff Bland:
Yeah. I think that’s why I’m so excited about this, because it brings the whole arsenal of the tools that you and I and so many others have been advocating that have been marginalized in medicine, meditation, stress reduction, behavioral, cognitive therapy, exercise, kind of things that at repattern our view of ourselves, all sorts of things that BJ Fogg talks about with regard to behavior modification, the things, these are all factors that are now signaling to our genes to reestablish a different imprint on these genes that regulate posttraumatic stress.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And so you need to use the full arsenal of tools. You can’t just give antidepressives, antidepressives are only like a small part of the bigger picture of imprinting these genes that regulate these responses that give us this heightened stand of alarm that prevent us from sleeping, that keep us wired, that make us angry, that steal from us our humanness that we want to be joyful, happy people. And so we’re seeing emerge right now, I believe, the understanding of the biology that locks us into these feed forward cycles of dysfunction and steals from us our ability to be totally human in all the ways that we’d like to be.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
And then allows us to find ways to actually progress forward with different integrated therapies. And I want to use the term integrated functional medicine therapies, because it’s not just out of a pill, that are going to beat the solutions to these problems, but it’s all the things you talked about, the microbiome, the toxins load, the toxic relationships, the things that are all impinging upon our epigenome to create an expression pattern of continued alarm.

Dr. Jeff Bland:
When you’re in a hostile state, you feel like you’re in jeopardy at every moment your body does what it’s supposed to do. It’s fighting back all the time. And it’s armored against life. And those conditions produce all the behavior patterns that we’re seeing right now with the fear of SARS-CoVid-2 and all the people isolating themselves. And all these things are like the test, the experiment of what happens when your epigenome is not getting the right message.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, it’s true. Well, Jeff, this has been such an encyclopedic conversation. And just to recap for everybody, this field of epigenetics is relatively new, and it gives us though tremendous hope for changing the operating system of a biology. And the way I think about it is genes are our hardware, and our software is basically like our Microsoft Word, or Google Docs, or whatever program you have.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
When you actually have Microsoft Word open, every different feature of Microsoft is not being expressed. It’s only which keys you’re punching. And the same thing with your biology, you actually can learn how to play the keys of your biology, through your lifestyle, through all the things we talk about in functional medicine. And it’s going open up a new era of understanding. And I am so excited to be alive right now because in being medicine right now because we now actually have cracked a little bit of the code of longevity, and disease, and aging in a way that goes right to the root of the problem.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And that’s so exciting. And we’ve been aware of it. We’ve been talking about it, but we’ve never had the degree of discrimination and the degree of detail about how the mechanisms work as we do now. And your work is so important around that Jeff. And I encourage everybody to check out Big Bold Health. I encourage everybody to get some of the Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat flour. It makes great pancakes, dumplings, Soba noodles, I made them all.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Again, it’s superfood that contains a lot of the phytochemicals that we’re talking about today that actually drive immuno rejuvenation, that help your epigenome and so many other things. And it just tastes good. So I encourage you to check that out and some of the other products they have there around fish oil, and HTB Rejuvenate, which is essentially is the Buckwheat flour in a pill. And Jeff, I encourage you to continue to work. I can’t wait to keep following how this is all turning out with respect to biological aging.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And again, thank you for all your inspiration for millions of people around the world to bring functional medicine into the center of healthcare which is now. So thanks so much, Jeff, and everybody listening if you love this podcast, please share with your friends and family. Leave a comment we’d love to hear from you. Leave a review, we’d love to know what you think, makes a difference and subscribe every year your podcast, and we’ll see you next week on the Doctor’s Farmacy.

Closing: 
Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor, or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner.

If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search there, find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes especially when it comes to your health.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

Send this to a friend