Use of the word honor in this case should be read as having a high degree of respect. The path that your ancestors travelled is built into you in mysterious ways molded from the challenges they received from the environment. These crafted you in perfectly unique ways, such that you are unique and beautiful.
Epigenetic influences from the environment can turn genes on and off like a switch. There are however, certain genes that code for enzymes that are your unique fingerprint and don’t change. The funny thing is that while CURRENT influences (food availability and choice, stress, hormonal levels etc) won’t significantly change some of these in your life, over many generations they can change. Let me explain with an example.
There are enzymes, FADS1 and FADS2 that convert plant based fatty acids to become long chain fatty acids found naturally in seafood, what you might know as omega 3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA found in an omega 3 supplement. It is hypothesized that as populations started eating more plants genetic pressure led to individuals who could convert better, the plant based fatty acids into the long chain fatty acids. Certain Inuits in Greenland who were eating nothing but seafood and land animals had the opposite pressure. They didn’t need any more of these long chain fatty acids as they were already getting the final product without having to convert plant based fatty acids to long chain fatty acids already found in the seafood and organ meats they ate.
Ancestral cultures even had some knowledge of supplemental importance of these for pregnancy and brain development. Reference needed but I was told by a mentor of mine that there were certain tribes that would send the young men hundreds of miles to the sea to gather fish eggs for the women of the tribe who were pregnant. The basic science of brain development demonstrates the critical need for DHA and is the reason why DHA is incorporated into baby formula.
Similar adaptations, of course, can be found in the genes responsible for processing dairy, which arose due to the need by some communities to rely on dairy as a critical source of calories in certain historical periods. Unfortunately, due to the diet wars, I have to state the obvious, that even if you have the gene to encode for digestion of dairy, doesn’t mean it is healthy for you, it just means that you can digest it better than someone who doesn’t. If you lived a thousand years ago and didn’t have access to Whole Foods and you had to rely on dairy and didn’t possess lactase, it is likely you would have been quite ill. The main difference is of course, that DHA and EPA are what are called conditionally essential nutrients meaning you do need to have them in your body whereas there is nothing in dairy uniquely needed for the body.
As I have discussed at length on my youtube channel and briefly here, there is a very specific difference in physicians like myself who love personalized medicine catered to the beautiful uniqueness that is you and those physicians who advocate for a specific diet for the the masses. As an example, there are doctors who feel that since there is no common absolute disease state from avoiding seafood or omega 3 supplements, that there is no need for even the discussion of supplementation. (Of course, an Greenland Inuit on a vegan diet would absolutely need an omega 3 supplement) One flaw with that logic among many is that as we have learned thus far in other posts, while an overt disease state with a specific ICD-10 code and a chapter in an internal medicine textbook to describe it might not exist for the common individual with even poor conversion rates and a low omega 3 index, failing to thrive, depressive symptomatology, and not functioning at your optimal capacity is also a disease / dis-ease state that can be seen as a result, even if it is not in the majority.
It is why I love personalized medicine and love the evolving field of genomics and advanced diagnostic blood testing. You need to become your own authority in health and for the advanced thriver getting a genomic analysis done (or in this example, an micronutrient analysis also that includes essential fatty acids) and having a sincere conversation with someone who has guided others in understanding the results can be so wonderful. Incidentally, I do these for free, maybe when I hit 300 or 400 of these genomic analyses and feel myself an expert I might charge for the time 🙂 This knowledge can turn for example, non thriving vegans into thriving vegans due to this analysis and yes, one of the many interventions could just be a DHA supplement based on genetics and symptomatology. There are other genes that impact beta-carotone and vitamin a as well as genes that would influence the choice of which specific type of b12 supplement to take and many others. The field is growing by the day and data shows that changes made as a result of this analysis “stick” more than kind hearted suggestions from a well meaning doctor 🙂
And yet, those with a population wide mindset will look at these suggestions and say, you are working with such a small population as to be insignificant!! And that even I state that the suggestion for supplemental omega 3’s is very narrow! And to that I would say, each individual needs to be honored, and one person who goes from merely feeling good to great and now thrives can change the world! When you can take a person who is feeling fine and is now feeling great, most never realized that they could feel the way they feel now. There are levels of wellness that most people have no clue about. This, of course also pertains to people who are omnivores like myself. A vegan poster on twitter influenced this post and so I am using this very narrow example to illustrate a point. Population wide suggestions are very important but they intend to move people over the finish line but they often fall short even if major societal health statistics improve. To bring a person over the finish line, though, they need to be empowered to work with their own uniqueness and it is my job to empower them. This is where the magic of medicine starts in my opinion. Once they pass that finish line, new horizons of wellness and achievement open up and quite frankly they start empowering others. Being a part of this process is my path in life.