Episode #93 – Dr. Randy Jirtle On Epigenetics, Diet And Lifestyle

In this week’s episode, our guest is Dr. Randy Jirtle. Dr. Jirtle is a respected scientist working in the field of epigenetics, and he called in to tell us all about that work and how it affects our health and our wellbeing. We take a look at how our body’s DNA can be modified in the pre-natal phase through dietary supplements and how genetic testing can break down more deeply to give us a clearer picture of our individual health.

Dr. Jirtle also talks to us about the influence our diet has on our health and how we need to learn to be flexible, adapting what we eat to our age, our circumstances and our needs. Taking into account our changing needs and striving to maintain a healthy balance is the key to long-term wellbeing. This should also be considered when approaching exercise: small steps build you up and help your body recover, while overdoing things is likely to put you off your quest and leave you feeling demotivated.

We consider how changes to your diet and lifestyle, an understanding of your own genetic structure and a willingness to adapt to what your body needs might help reduce the need for artificial medication and lead to better management of enduring health conditions.

If you’d like to read more on epigenetics, take a look at these links:

Find Dr. Randy Jirtle at randyjirtle.com

Read up on genetics at geneimprint.com

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FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

MELISSA: Welcome,

DR. JIRTLE:. Thanks so much for taking time to be on the program today.

DR. JIRTLE: Thank you very much for inviting me.

MELISSA: Now, I was really excited when I found out that you could spend some time with us today because this is a field, epigenetics, which you are an award-winning scientist in and have done what they term as “groundbreaking” work in and I only learned about this a couple of years ago when I was restoring my own health beginning to anyway. And I think it’s a fascinating field because it seems to open up possibilities that are endless for improving health and restoring health and avoiding and recovering from disease. But I’m sure many people like me a few years ago have no idea what epigenetics actually is. Could you give us kind of a primer on that for the lay person?

DR. JIRTLE: Well, the word epigenetics. This means simply “above genetics.” It’s like epicenter being above the center. And above the genetics, I use an analogy. It’s basically, to me, epigenetics is comparable to the software in your computer that tells the computer when, where and how it will work. So if you think of the DNA as being similar to the hardware, then the epigenetics or epigenome in our cells is comparable to the software that’s telling the computer how to work.

MELISSA: That’s amazing. And a lot of people I think wonder about getting genetic testing done and there’s been several companies now that are offering at a very reasonable price. And so many people say, “Oh well, my genetic makeup is set. There’s no reason to find out anything about it.” What would you say to somebody like that?

DR. JIRTLE: Well, I use another analogy. If your computer, for example, doesn’t work and you’re bringing it to a repair place like I use Mac so I would bring it into a Mac Store, and if the only thing they looked at for example was the hardware, they could find possibly nothing wrong with the computer and give it back to you and say it is perfectly fine, yet you turned it on and it doesn’t work. Well, there’s a whole other thing that’s important in having the complete system of the computer working which is—so that they didn’t share, they’re not going to find bugs potentially in the software etc. that might be there that are making the computer not work that has nothing to do with the hardware. Genetic testing, it’s basically what they’re doing is looking at the DNA and percent of DNA. So in effect, they’re looking at the hardware to see how it’s put together basically. But they’re looking at all in the software. That’s you’ll find some things that are potentially, not actually problematic, but you don’t know anything about the software and what problems it might have. On the other hand, you will software programs that have been established that would negate the negative aspects of the genetics itself. In other words, a software goal on a hardware problem. And that happens—

MELISSA: I was going to say, can you explain that a little-

DR. JIRTLE: So our cells also-

MELISSA:–a little bit further, “a software problem.” We lost you for a second there. A software problem that the hardware?

DR. JIRTLE: It goes around and it negates the problem basically. So in other words, if you look at people, women have bracket 1 and bracket 2 mutations. They’re at high risk of getting breast cancer.

MELISSA: Yes.

DR. JIRTLE: But yet, 20% to 30% of people that have these mutations, women that have these mutations don’t get breast cancer. So then you ask the question, “Why is that the case?” It’s not absolute. One possibility that people say, well, there are other genes that are modifying genes that also have another set of mutations that eliminate that negative effect that the mutation that you have in bracket. But there are other probability is that there are subtler changes that have recurred that allow you to also not have the negative effects of the bracket 1 and bracket 2 mutations. This is where the field is right now. I don’t—I’m not saying this is absolutely the case, but it definitely could be the case and that is maybe one of the reasons women that have mutations, some of them don’t get breast cancer.

MELISSA: Right. I’m glad you picked that topic to talk about. It was on my list and also it’s very prevalent in the news this week, as I know Time Magazine, I’ve seen it in the supermarket, has a feature cover issue about breast cancer and its breast cancer month and all that. And I think so much hoopla was raise when Angelina Jolie went public with her whole situation. And I just want to say, I’m not a medical practitioner. I’m not giving out advice of any kind, but I think a lot of people thought, “Oh, if I have it, I’m doomed to get it.” And what you’ve just said is, “No, you’re not.” You’re not necessarily doomed to get it because something may have changed in your genetic makeup some point, like you said, in the software somewhere, that may not cause you to get it. So the question might be, you know, I think a lot of people would ask, “What should I do?” “Should I wait?” “Should I move forward?” “Should I take drastic measures?”

DR. JIRTLE: It’s a real problem right now because I mean, you don’t say, I’m only estimating because I’m not a medical doctor and I’m not an expert in breast cancer, but 60% to 80% of people, women who have mutations do get breast cancer, so that isn’t 100%. The problem we have right now to determining those 20% or 30% of the people that would get breast cancer even though they have the mutations, there’s some possibility is their modified genes will mutate in a good way or balance or counteract the negative effect of the bracket 1 and bracket 2 mutations. The other possibility is that there are changes in your epigenome in altering the expressions of genes that are also potentially counteracting that effect. Now, if indeed that’s the case, then we have the potential of what to alter the expressions of these without having to go in and eliminating the mutations or introducing the mutation to just by changing that environmental factors. But right now, we don’t know enough about this whole system to be able to do this and to predict accurately. Most people that would benefit from this type of therapy, let’s say, assuming it’s possible, we just don’t know right now.

MELISSA: Right. Now, when you talk about changing the genes, I guess we’ll be changing the gene’s expression is the term, by changing environmental factors. Can you explain that a little bit further because I think people say, “Well, does that mean I drink more water? Does that mean I move from my house?” What would be a significant change in environmental factors that might cause a change in the way the gene expresses?

DR. JIRTLE: Well, first of all, I want to—I just call it, it’s a science of hope because you do have the chance to modify the expressions of genes through your own actions. We know that because we’ve actually done this and looked at this and people do this. I mean, eating too much food is not good for you. Smoking, drinking, those kinds of things are not good. And you know what, particularly when we spend so much in the individual, but we study primarily in the offspring of individuals that do these things. And you see drastic changes in genes that are very, very important in development in their epigenetic piles that you would expect would not be advantageous to the offspring. So there’s no doubt that environment can change not only your makeup, but can even change the epigenome of the offspring, your children when they’re in utero and this is how we really got into this whole field. We were interested in whether they normally could change the epigenome and we use this Agouti mouse model where you could see code colored changes that were dependent upon the doc—phase that the mother had while the offspring in utero and it dramatically altered the offspring’s code color. And in this case, we could have a probability. So that was the first example that indeed environment could affect the epigenome not only in utero but also even in your offspring. And that was published in 2000 which started the whole field which we call “environmental epigenomics,” because it is appears to the mechanisms by which the fetal origins of adult disease susceptibility occurs. In other words, we just don’t get diseases in adulthood. Many of these probabilities or susceptibilities to diseases have already been established early in your development. And every one of us is on slightly different trajectories. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to go along those. You can modify that by your diet and your exercising does—those are two positive ways in changing things, but exactly what to do and how to do this is not known yet because the targets, the epigenetically-modified targets in our genomes have not been precisely defined.

MELISSA: It’s fascinating to listen to you—

DR. JIRTLE: That’s where we are.

MELISSA:–to talk about it because, again, like you said, some of these things are set at birth or before birth. But again-

DR. JIRTLE: Yeah, even before.

MELISSA: I think it’s a good idea for people to think about it’s not a fatalistic result in all cases. It can be changed or a change can be affected by, like you said, environment and by actions you take to improve your own health. I know that for sure. But I also can see what you said reflected in my own health about having things happen to you at a young age or not happen to you at a young age and be susceptible to things like bronchitis, asthma, things like that that I can track back to things that happened to me when I was much younger, like as a young child, and see how those. You know, I didn’t follow that path ad infinitum into my older years, by making changes in things I was doing in terms of diet and in terms of health. And in fact, a lot of things that I may have carried with me over the years were able to be eliminated by again changing diet and changing some exercise and things like that. So to me, it’s like you said, it’s very hopeful. It’s very fascinating and hopeful that it’s a field that, of course, you’re making great strides in but that people can actually look to the future and look to their environment to help things improve, and really in drastic ways, and some improvements can be sort of way more than you thought by just doing a few little things. Now what are the-

DR. JIRTLE: Now, the problem is—well, go ahead.

MELISSA: No, it’s okay. Go ahead yourself.

DR. JIRTLE: As I say, one of the problems we really have right now though is that we don’t know which genes or which areas of the genome to modify when somebody exercises, what areas have you looked at to see whether or not the epigenome is being modified in a good or bad way. That’s where we’re at, at this point. And finally, we’ve got, we, meaning the scientific community, has the sequencing capacity and stuff to be able to actually start teasing out those types of regions within the genome that play critical roles in optimizing our health. And once those are identified, I say when we identify, they will be identified, then you can start monitoring those. And that’s going to build up nicer because then we not only can go and look for genetic alternations correlated, for example, and is still related with, let’s say, breast cancer or diabetes, etc. We can also start collating changes in areas of the genome that are involved, I mean, regulations and look at that epigenome. Those two things together now are going to allow us to be able to optimize our health, just like when you’re bringing in your computer. If you only look at half of the problem, another would be would you look at the hardware, but you would look at the software first. You’re missing a lot of potential problems and a lot of ways to make things better.

MELISSA: Right. I like that analogy. I think that’s a good one to understand because the body is kind of a big computer that—

DR. JIRTLE: I think it is because I come from – background. I think of cells as basically being biological computers, the hardware being the DNA and the epigenome is the software telling you how to work. And those programs in general—because, you know, we have 260 different cell types in our body but yet we only have one genome, half of which came from the mother, and the other half came from the father. So how can you have 260 different cell types if you looked at just the DNA within the cell? You wouldn’t be able to tell a skin cell from an eye cell, but yet when you look at it, you can clearly see there’s a difference. The only thing that’s different between those two cell types is not their DNA, it’s the programs that they’re running. So during early development, you know, right after fertilization, and surely by the time you hit under the first trimester, all those programs have been established, so all the cell types are now established and they’re now just getting bigger. And that’s when we’re born, that’s what we have, all the different parts are there and they just get bigger and bigger until you’re an adult. But yet, the epigenome, though it’s stable, is not absolutely fixed so that’s what you’re saying. You can alter through we know what you eat, for example, what you’re exposed to, toxicological agents, and surely it can also, I think, through exercise.

MELISSA: Right, now-

DR. JIRTLE: But it’s difficult—

MELISSA: You’ve done a lot of work, research work, in the area of supplements and how they—which is sort of a dove tails into what we’re talking about here, how they can help pregnancy and in early development. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

DR. JIRTLE: Well, as I said, yeah, I can. When we did our study in 2003, with the Agouti mice, there’s one mark that’s put directly on the DNA and is one of the basis called cytosine. And it’s in methyl group which is carbon with three hydrogens attached to it and it’s either bound to cytosine or not. And all those methyl groups come in from out diet. So what we did is we loaded the system up with methyl donors which are substances like folic acid, choline, vitamin B12 and B10, I think are the four supplements that we put into the diet, so that they’re in the mother’s diet now so that she had a lot of methyl donors with the thought that if that occurred, you would tend to push the methylation towards being cytosine as being methylated rather than not being methylated. And indeed, that’s what we found because we had a readout system in this unique model system when the animal tended, we have a lot of methyl groups put out to the DNA, especially in one location. The animals turned—offspring turned brown, whereas if there was a lack of them, the animals turned yellow. And when we supplemented the mother’s diet, we found many, many more—much higher incidents of brown offspring than we did in mother’s that ate just the normal diet. And we found that that was absolutely due to increased methylation of a specific region in DNA. So that was the first time that it was demonstrated the environmental factors, in this case, supplements, dietary supplements, that the mother was eating, could affect the offspring’s phenotype as we call it, what the animal look like. And those animals that were brown tended to be smaller, so they’re lean although the right for us, the ones that were yellow became morbidly obese during adulthood. So you change not only code color but also incidents of obesity in this offspring simply by what the mother ate while the animals were in utero. It’s really amazing.

MELISSA: Yeah, that is amazing because you hear today, there’s just a lot in the news, you know, lately about certain foods being, shall I say in quotes, “poison for kids,” as they are consuming them, such as Coke and you know, sugary cereals and things like that. And you think about what would happen if you had the ultimate, you know, the ultimate diet for your mother or whoever, you know, you’re talking about and what sort of super human would be the result if you had this just perfect, perfect diet, perfect environment on some planet somewhere.

DR. JIRTLE: Let me tell you one thing I want to say is I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect diet. For example, a perfect diet for a child may not be a perfect diet, for example, for a person who’s older. So in other words, when you’re laying down all these methyl groups and there’s a lot of cell division, you got to make sure that the diet is full of methyl groups so that anytime you need a little methyl group to be put on, it’s there and it is put on so that it’s optimal for the development of the child. That’s great. But if you have the same of situation where you have a lot of methyl groups in your diet, it could potentially, the ultimate particularly whereas people age, it could lead, for example, to hyper-methylation or increased methylation of genes that we call “tumor suppressors,” which then turn off these tumor suppressors and could give rise to an increased incidence in cancer. The very same level of the methyl donor during the development is positive could potentially be not positive when people are older. And this is the problem when thinking one diet fits all throughout their whole life which is what we’re exposed to now, when we basically base our flour with folic acid. Now, I’m not saying we should get rid of it, but we got to be careful about how much of this we’re exposed to. And as I said, because our susceptibility to hyper-methylation of genes can vary as one ages, or their age changes.

MELISSA: Got it. And so that could, as you said, that could have drastic effects. What would be your overview of how you should adjust your diet as you age?

DR. JIRTLE: I mean, you know this, I’m not a diet-

MELISSA: You’re not a diet doctor, but…

DR. JIRTLE: I’m a nutritionist, but I’m going to give you an answer because people always ask me this.

MELISSA: Yeah.

DR. JIRTLE: And I’m not being totally facetious, I said won’t it be interesting after all the billions of dollars that we put into nutritional research, they optimize this and that, that it comes down to what my mother told me when I was a kid, you’re not getting out of the house unless you eat breakfast. And those green things on your plate, you’re not getting up from the table until they’re gone.

MELISSA: Yeah, I mean, I think-

DR. JIRTLE: Balanced diet is basically on regular basis probably is the best way to optimize your epigenome given that we can’t go in right now and test everybody as to see what would be the absolute.

MELISSA: Right.

DR. JIRTLE: You know what I’m saying? Gold standard for every individual. And I assume there probably would be such a thing, but we can’t do that now so we have to look at it more statistically. And so, what you do is you try to eat well and I don’t think the American diet in general probably is the healthiest.

MELISSA: No, I can pretty much state it as a fact for my own health that it’s not, and that I was able to reverse several things.

DR. JIRTLE: You’re a – person.

MELISSA: Well, pretty easily, actually. No, I have some, you know, just like we’ve been talking about here, I have some long standing injuries and some things that take longer to fix, but I reversed a fatty liver condition, my blood pressure and osteoarthritis pain and all these things by just going to a non-processed food diet. I felt kind of my own version of the paleo diet and I’ve now modified it even more to suit my current health. But I had just amazing results in weeks and then months. And then now, it’s been about two years. And I wasn’t getting anywhere with my health, with my “conventional doctor.” I was getting worse and worse and I came to find out by just eating whole, unprocessed foods as fresh as I could get them, as organic as I could get them, by eating pastured meats, and then tweaking that diet as I began to get better, yielded amazing results. I was able to drop medications. I was able, like I said, become pain-free from osteoarthritis. My doctor was calling for a joint replacement in my shoulder, I no longer need that. I can play golf. I’ve got about 90% range of motion. I can do a plank. I couldn’t do anything like that before. But it was really just doing that and also cleaning up, you know, cleaning up everything around me as far as chemicals in various plastics and things around me, the estrogen boosters that were in everything. Just really doing those steps and not spending a fortune either trying to be pretty frugal about doing it.

DR. JIRTLE: Did you find that it was more difficult to do that, in other words, not more expensive but more difficult time-wise or whether to have it, not a diet, you’re changing your lifestyle, to have a lifestyle like that?

MELISSA: Well, I think there were two challenges, the first one is you have to either be able to cook or learn to—three, I guess three things—you have to either, I guess I would say this first, you have to change your relationship with food. I have been like a chronic, life-long dieter, restricting calories, killing myself with exercise. And you know, same pattern over and over again. And of course, that led to just wrecking my health over time and bringing me to a place where I was really depleted of everything and had a super inflammation level. And one of the things you have to do is say, “Hey. Food is not the enemy here. Food is actually what is going to help my body recover.” So when you do that, you change the way you eat and you have to face cooking. So you have to say, “I’m either going to learn to cook. I’m going to have somebody cook for me, or I’m going to figure out a way where I can prepare the meals I need to have in a very time, economical way.” And I kind of did all of those, although I’ve had some people cook for me, but I pretty much taught myself how to cook better and healthier meals and discover the modern-day Crock Pot which is a very time-saving, efficient device, and changed my relationship with food, looking at it as nourishing rather than enemy. And that’s one of the things a lot of people don’t overcome. And if they don’t address that, I don’t think they can improve their health. Time-wise—

DR. JIRTLE: What about when you—the reason I’m asking, I’ll give two reasons in this—but what about when you go out and you’re traveling for example and eating? How do you—what about that?

MELISSA: One experience with that, well, what I try to do is I realize just for stress purpose that I’m going to, you know, if I’m going to go, like, say, fly to the East Coast or something, from California, I’m not going to be able to control my eating choices maybe as much as I would like to. So I’m not going to stress about it but I am going to take maybe some, you know, nuts or something with me or some sort of a snack that I can take with me on the plane because most of the choices there are not good. I’m going to stick to drinking teas and things like that and make sure I’m well-hydrated while I’m on the flight. And then when I get to the hotel or wherever I’m staying, nowadays, I think we’ve gotten, we’ve taken great leaps and bounds in the last few years, there’s usually always something that I don’t consume gluten or soy or things with those kind of additives. So there’s usually some sort of a baked, a broiled fish, wild-caught item of some kind, or a salad or some green vegetables that you can order. So that’s how I kind of organize myself. And then—

DR. JIRTLE: Right.

MELISSA: There’s a Whole Foods or a similar type. Here in California, we’re really lucky because almost all the markets now have a huge organic section and they also have pastured meats. So I try to organize myself like that. I also often times will stay like at residence inn or someplace where I can do a little cooking on my own. So it means I can actually purchase some things and cook my own meals or at least one meal, or get things I can make, like there’s usually always a blender in a place like that. You can make a shake, although I’m pretty limited on when I do with that. It’s just usually a lot of green vegetables and some pea protein or something-

DR. JIRTLE: Then you go to your friend’s house and they have lasagna.

MELISSA: Right. Well, when I first started to restore my health…

DR. JIRTLE: And a very nice cake for a dessert.

MELISSA: And wine, and booze and everything.

DR. JIRTLE: Yeah.

MELISSA: Yeah, well, when I first started to restore—

DR. JIRTLE: We’re a little off there, I mean, genetically it’s important.

MELISSA: Yeah, it’s important.

DR. JIRTLE: This is where your epigenome is getting established, right?

MELISSA: Yeah. Well, when I first started to restore my health, I’ve told this on the program before, I faced the dreaded Thanksgiving celebration weekend and parties and every kind of a thing, and I was a guest at two Thanksgiving dinners, actually one on Thanksgiving—

DR. JIRTLE: With stuffing.

MELISSA: With everything. I mean, Thanksgiving for me was like, just a field day. But what I found was, of course, I could eat a good many of the things that were being served such as sweet potatoes and the meat—it was a pastured turkey actually, and a lot of the things, but I found when I changed the way I was eating leading up to that time, so I’d started like maybe in August of 2013, then I lost my desire for a lot of things like vodka, wine, yeah. I mean, I had really relished my evening wine or a glass of wine or two or seven. And I found that as I change what I ate I kind of lost my—but I said to myself when I go to this party, I’m going to have a drink, you know, or a glass of wine or something. I’m just going to, you know, go ahead. I mean, one of the rules that I made for myself was never say never. Never say you’re not going to ever eat ice cream, pie, cake like you said or something you really enjoy, just don’t make it, you know, 80% of the time. So I actually, I didn’t, I think I had a bite of pumpkin pie. I didn’t really enjoy it that much. It tasted super sweet to me. And I had my vodka and soda and I really couldn’t finish it because it had lost its appeal.

DR. JIRTLE: Right.

MELISSA: I really wanted a big glass of water and that was pretty satisfying to me. So I found the pressure relieved after that incident and then going forward, I have to go many times to networking meetings or lunches or things like that or get-togethers with business people where, again, you’re not in control. It’s a meal that’s served maybe at a banquet facility or something. So I just try to choose something that’s right for me. It’s usually some sort of chicken, may not be the best chicken, but it’s available. And usually, there’s always a salad and I can put those two together and be fine. And again, if I eat that meal once a week, it’s not going to kill me.

DR. JIRTLE: The hard part about going like that is the breakfast where all you have basically are—when you have breakfast, is served with like meeting or something like that, where you have muffins and, you know, bread.

MELISSA: Right. Well, I found a good breakfast thing you can’t go wrong with it, most hotels, is poached eggs. It’s hard to wreck that and they’re usually always fine. They might not be a pastured poached egg. And then they usually have some sort of breakfast vegetable other than potatoes, like asparagus or something, so that’s kind of my combo there is get, order some poached eggs with asparagus and that’s my breakfast.

DR. JIRTLE: That’s what you can get breakfast by yourself. But I mean, if you’re going to a place where they have a little thing outside of a meeting room, for example, you can get—there will almost always be-

MELISSA: Muffins and…

DR. JIRTLE: Muffins and-

MELISSA: Donuts.

DR. JIRTLE: breads and donuts and things like that. It’s very tough.

MELISSA: Yeah, so…

DR. JIRTLE: The reason I know this is I’ve actually gone through the same kind of thing that you have starting around 2012 or even 2011. And I mean, really, really changed, I lost a lot of weight in six months to a year. And it stayed off.

MELISSA: Right. Yeah, well, the improvements I’ve had in my health are amazing. Yeah, it’s not easy, I think. And then, I’ve had to tweak things as I’ve gone forward because I lost like 58 pounds in about a year and then kind of plateaued off and then I had to adjust based on my blood work and stuff as to what was happening because things were, you know, things were improving rapidly and then I needed to change the diet I was eating to nourish myself even more for what was happening. So it’s not, like you said, it’s not a one-and-done kind of thing. You have to pay attention to what the body is telling you and kind of balance yourself out. I think when you find the correct formula, you know, if you’re feeling like low-energy or craving or things like that, you know you’re out of wax somehow. And I know I interviewed Dr. Jade Teta who works with athletes. And he said once you can get your formula dialed into what your body wants, you won’t have to worry about weight so much because it’ll be on track to do it and he said but that technique requires a lot of body awareness, I think he called it “body sensitivity.” So you have to be listening to the signals that you’re giving them, not sort of ignore them as we’ve been taught to do by the “fitness industry,” just eat less and exercise more, you’ll be fine..

DR. JIRTLE: Now, we get back to epigenetics. It would be interesting to do studies with people that are undergoing these kinds of major changes in what they’re eating, the lifestyle change, really, and monitor the epigenomes in those individuals to see which genes are being altered because I don’t think you’re going to have a lot of them. There’ll be more than a couple of handfuls but it’s not going to be a terrible number of them. You could monitor those genes then occasionally and you could see which genes are actually being altered by what you’re doing and while you’re actually losing weight and having an improved health. But nobody’s done this yet.

MELISSA: I’m available for your study.

DR. JIRTLE: You’re available.

MELISSA: I’m sure you could round up people.

DR. JIRTLE: The technologies there to start doing this with groups particularly in nutrition, people that have strong nutrition departments that can monitor this type of thing and check this, but as I said, it hasn’t been done yet. And this is where we need to go, I think. We started this by, we’re talking about people measuring, looking at their genomes and that, we can do now but what you can’t do right now is also looking at our epigenomes and how those things, that epigenome also changes with the environment that we are exposed to. And that’s the next frontier, I believe, in this whole field because that’s going to give us the complete picture. You’re not going to know the complete picture concerning your susceptibility to diseases or even your ability to have good health just based upon your genome. We have to also factor in our epigenomes and as of right now that is not being done. So as I’m using my analogy, again, it’s similar to bringing a computer that doesn’t work into the repair place and the first thing they do is look at your hardware, i.e. your genome, but they don’t look at your software. And as a consequence, they can’t figure out why your computer doesn’t work.

MELISSA: Yeah, and I think one of the big—certainly going forward, one of the big remedies, I’m pretty sure is going to be tied to, as you say, diet and environment and how those can be—

DR. JIRTLE: And exercise.

MELISSA: And exercise, yes. And I think a lot of people misconstrue what kind of exercise they need to do to get improvement because I had an injury to my shoulder, a broken shoulder. And it had been, it was an old injury and it had become bone-on-bone so that’s why it was called for a joint replacement. And after going through some physical therapy and then continuing to strength train, that’s how I got from a place where I had maybe 60% use of that shoulder and pain to no pain and 90% use of the shoulder. And that was just done in very small increments of physical therapy followed by a little bit of strength training, followed by on-going strength training. But nothing like, you know, bench pressing 500 pounds or doing massive pull-ups or something like that. So it was small steps that led to that recovery.

DR. JIRTLE: I think what we’re going to be able to find is that we’re going to be able to utilize in this approach, looking at people who, varying their lifestyle, and looking at things that are altered dramatically in their epigenomes and therefore the control of gene’s expressions, those genes then can potentially be looked at, for example, when we get bracket 1 and bracket 2 story that we started out with, you know, are there any of those genes that are dramatically regulated through environmental changes that potentially are going to impinge upon the bracket 1 and bracket 2 mutated genes and potentially negate their effect.

MELISSA: That’s the question.

DR. JIRTLE: You see what I’m saying? You use what you’re working in the field you’re working in to defying a subset of genes that are environmentally labeled epigenetically, then you determine whether any of those genes are now involved in a positive way in reducing cancer risk. That’s the way this whole game has to go. And we now have the tools to do it. and I’m hoping that if it’s not me, it’s going to be someone else that’s going to start looking at this problem this way so that we bring in the whole picture and all of the pieces that are involved in the picture which is not just the genome but also the epigenome to basically try to improve human health.

MELISSA: Yeah, well, it’s fascinating what you’ve said because like you said, there’s people available that could be pulled in to do a trial like this and that the result of those studies would be obviously life-altering for other people coming on behind, you know, a younger group that’s just coming along. And also, the solutions that it might offer might be a lot more, I don’t want to say easy, but they might be a lot more simple to implement than what we think.

DR. JIRTLE: Well, they are because the epigenome, though it’s stable, it’s not, it is changeable. Whereas mutations in your genome are not changeable.

MELISSA: Right.

DR. JIRTLE: So we’re going to counteract negative effects of mutations. Our best way of doing it right now is going to be utilizing things like, I would say, alterations in the epigenome to regulate the expression of genes that may be able to negate the negative effects of the mutations in other genes that are causing diseases in our body.

MELISSA: Yeah. It’s fascinating. I could talk to you for about three more hours here, DR. JIRTLE:. But I know—sorry?

DR. JIRTLE: But there’s not that much more time.

MELISSA: I know. I don’t want to keep you any longer because I know you’re super busy. You just came back from a trip and you’re tired and stuff. I’m really so happy that you took some time to come on the show today because, as I said, I think it’s really important that people educate themselves about this and there’s a ton of stuff on your website. You have so many things on there that people could get. Can you give the address of your website?

DR. JIRTLE: Yes, so it’s www.geneimprint.com. That is “G-E-N-E” imprint.com. And once you get on there, you can get a lot of different sites that are available. I wanted to tell you that my trip was to Houston because my daughter just had our third grandchild. And it looks like all the epigenetic programs occurred very nicely.

MELISSA: Yeah.

DR. JIRTLE: He’s a healthy boy, thus far, I mean he looks healthy.

MELISSA: Yeah, well, congratulations on that and we’ll put links in the show notes to your websites and all your web properties and stuff. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff there. I spent like a lot of time reading and looking at things and having questions and so hopefully people will click on those links in our show notes when this goes out and really educate themselves. And you’ve got recommendations there for things to read to which I think is important so that they can ask questions if they’re medical practitioners and just ask questions in general about their own health and what they should be doing. I mean, my thing I always say is become the CEO in health, get involved in it and explore. With people like you, what might be possible and not go down the conventional, I’m just stuck with this in what I call the “illness road,” the ongoing illness road as opposed to the wellness road which is somewhere off to the side of the left turn there.

DR. JIRTLE: Yeah, epigenetics, as I said. It is a science of hope because there is a potential to change things and that I think is advantageous and that’s all I really have to say.

MELISSA: Well, thanks so much, DR. JIRTLE:. It’s been a pleasure to have you on the show and I hope sometime if you have a few minutes in the future, we can get you back on to talk about some of these things again.

DR. JIRTLE: Yeah, maybe I can discuss a little more about what the scientific things are doing because with the general audience, it’s more difficult to do that. That’s why I kept it pretty light and generic, I would say.

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