How to Become a Jedi of Your Genes
Average Read Time: 5 minutes
Q & A with Dr. Ben Lynch
Author of DIRTY GENES: A Breakthrough Program to Treat the Root Cause of Illness and Optimize Your Health
If you think that health issues are simply in your genetic cards and there’s nothing you can do about it, Dr. Ben Lynch is about to tell you otherwise. He is at the forefront of a mass awakening to the power of epigenetics.
Dr. Lynch describes epigenetics as “the many, many factors that can influence how our genes are expressed.” In other words, WE can influence our genetics!
He is on a mission to empower patients with the knowledge and understanding of how to take the reins of our so-called genetic destiny, including our thyroid health. Care to guess how? With diet and lifestyle changes like detoxification, sleep, and stress relief. This is right up our alley, guys, and so brilliantly simple. We reached out to Dr. Ben and asked him to share some of his abundant knowledge with you.
How did you decide to become a doctor and why did you focus on epigenetics?
My dad used to call me ‘Hawkeye’ because I could always find things, and I enjoyed solving complex riddles and identifying patterns. Using these skills to help people overcome years of being ‘stuck’ feels pretty incredible. I switched to focusing on epigenetics because it made solving the complex riddles easier. The combination of knowing what our genes want and don’t want is powerful. Simply put: Genes perform all functions of life, so if we optimize our genetic expression, then we optimize our life.
What made you choose the title Dirty Genes for your first book?
There is so much fear, confusion and frustration around genetics and genetic testing. The concept of Dirty Genes is simple—a dirty gene is one that is not functioning optimally. If something is dirty, and you know how to clean it, you can make it shine and it can continue serving you to its fullest potential.
What we eat, drink, touch, taste, hear or smell all either clean our genes—or dirty them. Each action in your life does one of two things: 1) cleans your genes, or 2) dirties them. As long as 70-80% of our actions are cleaning our genes or supporting them, we’re solid. If this ratio is flipped and 70-80% of your actions dirty your genes, well, you’re going to get symptoms. Symptoms are merely dirty genes asking for help.
Some of us are born with genes that get dirtier more easily and some of us are born with genes that are ‘maintenance free’. By listening to your body, you tune in to how your genes are acting. All throughout Dirty Genes, I let you know what symptoms are a result of which dirty genes. Once you know this, I teach you how to clean them up. Result? Clean genes and symptom-free.
How can “dirty genes” affect someone with thyroid disease?
Dirty genes impact everyone, with any symptom or any disease. No symptom or disease is ‘spared’ if dirty genes are present. None. The conventional concept of breaking the body apart into various organs or systems has to stop.
Thyroid disease is not a result of ‘dirty thyroid genes’. Thyroid disease is a result of dirty genes—period. If one has thyroid disease, they have multiple dirty genes that must be attended to. Our body is inherently brilliant and each day it does its best to serve us. If our actions dirty our genes, we will get thyroid disease. Please keep in mind that thyroid disease is not a ‘broken body’. It’s a sign of dirty genes. Your genes have adjusted their focus on something else and as a result, thyroid function has been altered. We call that ‘disease’ but it’s really ‘altered priorities’.
Think of it this way: You’re driving down a gorgeous road, cruising at 60 mph, windows down, fresh air coming in, your favorite song on and having a fantastic moment. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a flat tire. BLAM!! Your car pulls sharply to the left and almost sends you over the cliff. Thankfully, you react appropriately, which saves you and everyone else in the car. What happened? Your role changed. You went from calm and collected to dealing with a threat. Your genes do the same thing. If your genes are dealing with a threat, their roles change as well. Thyroid disease can set in when the roles of many genes change (and oftentimes, the roles change because of dirty genes). Fix the flat tire and away you go again. Continue driving with a flat and struggle.
The key is finding what the altered priorities are. Many times, we all know, issues are caused by us not acting as we should.
How does someone with thyroid disease know if their genes are dirty? Is that assumed?
If disease is present, their genes are dirty. If symptoms are present, their genes are dirty. It’s not assumed. It’s proven.
We know that bromide and fluoride alter our thyroid’s function. Why? Because iodide cannot bind to the enzymes our genes make. Why? Because bromide and fluoride are blocking the thyroid enzymes and iodide cannot get in there to do its job. We also know that phthalates, organophosphates, cortisol, and aluminum also alter thyroid function. Why? Because these things interfere with our genetic expression. Genetic expression is what gets things done in our body. Why? Because genetic expression provides enzymes and enzymes do work on our behalf. There’s tons of research on this to prove it.
Are there certain gene mutations that are more prominent in thyroid disease?
Thyroid disease is not really a genetic problem. It’s more epigenetic. This means that thyroid disease is more environmental. That said, some genes are more sensitive to environmental exposures. Some genes are more reactive to infections. Some genes are more sensitive to environmental cues that can trigger inflammation, stress, anxiety, insomnia, and others. All of these gene types may increase susceptibility to thyroid disease.
All the genes discussed in Dirty Genes play a role in thyroid disease. If they are dirty, any one of them, then one’s risk for thyroid disease is higher. The seven genes discussed in Dirty Genes are: MTHFR, COMT, GST / GPX, MAOA, DAO, PEMT, and NOS3.
Why is MTHFR such a big deal? Should patients with thyroid disease be focused on MTHFR?
MTHFR is a big deal. If MTHFR is dirty, then you can bank that 200 other key systems in your body are dirty. That’s why MTHFR is so hugely important. Think of MTHFR as the first domino to fall in a long row of set up dominos. If the first domino is not positioned right, the entire stack won’t fall over. MTHFR triggers production of methylfolate and this feeds into methylation – which handles over 200 other dominoes.
Everyone should be aware of MTHFR. I wouldn’t say they should be focused on it, no. If someone is focused on MTHFR only, they are going to miss other key things and not improve. Frustration sets in and so does a long hunt of finding someone to ‘fix my MTHFR’, when it is far more than that. Again, Dirty Genes helps set this straight and really empowers the reader. All throughout the book, the reader will say, “Ahhhhh….that explains sooo much.”
Can cleaning up “dirty genes” help prevent and/or treat thyroid disease?
Both. Genes are malleable. Think of them like Play-Doh. You can mold them how you want by your actions. Yes, sometimes Play-Doh gets hard, but as long as you rehydrate it and store it in a supportive environment, you can play with it for years and years. If you don’t care for it over time, and mix it with other things like dirt, dust, food bits, or juice, and keep it out of its ideal environment, then it’s not going to perform for you despite your best efforts. A bit of dirt, dust, or food bits is okay. You can even remove some of them and you’re good to go.
You can also think of cleaning up dirty genes like you do dishes. If you rinse your dish at the time, it’s easier to clean. Say you expose your gene to a chemical and then sauna the next day or supplement with liposomal glutathione, you can clean your genes up quite quickly. On the flip side, if you don’t rinse your plate after you eat, the food bits sit there getting caked on. It’s harder to clean and you actually require not just turning on the faucet to wash off the food. You have to bring in the sponge, soap and hot water. Perhaps you even have to soak it a bit.
If you go through life ignoring your exposures and ‘shutting up’ your symptoms with over-the-counter meds, it’s going to take some time to clean up your genes. Why? Not just one gene got dirty, but many others as well. Just like you had to bring in more tools to deal with the dirty plate, your genes have to call in more support as well.
How can mindset affect how our genes express? What are important takeaways on mindset for patients with thyroid disease?
This, I believe, is fundamental. Mindset is massively important. I’d say it’s the first place to start. If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.
Put it this way—what happens when you think you can? You take actions to help you achieve it. What happens here? You trigger—you—your genes to act in a way that is favorable. If you think you can’t, you trigger—you—your genes to act in a way that prevents you from accomplishing whatever it is. Ultimately it is you that triggers how your genes fire, and step one in how your genes fire is mindset.
As a coach and a parent, I instill this in my boys. I’ve coached multiple soccer teams to undefeated seasons. Did I have the most talented players? No. I had boys with the strongest mindset. It wasn’t fake either. I didn’t tell them, “You’re awesome.” I told them they can become better each day, and that requires work and the belief that you can get better. That’s one big factor that I believe is missing in coaching – and in medicine. Mindset.
I don’t have any statistics, but I bet that most individuals with thyroid disease have a significant block in mindset. I’ve been told that the thyroid sits over the throat chakra. If people do not speak their mind or speak honestly, their throat chakra struggles and, thus, so does their thyroid. Speak your truth. Speak your values. Act your values. Do you even know your values? What’s your purpose in life? Are you living to your values or are you compromising them in order to serve someone else? Are you living a life that is purposeful and joyful? If not, you’re also struggling. I highly recommend The Values Factor to dive deeper into this. It’s so key.
What are the top 3 lifestyle changes that you recommend for someone with thyroid disease?
1) Mindset. Shift to thinking you can. Shift your life to serving your values. Serving others is awesome, but you have to – have to – serve yourself first.
2) Avoid. Instead of looking for things to add to your life, look for things to remove and stop doing. Stop saying yes to everything. Headaches are not a deficiency of aspirin, it’s avoiding loud noises and chemicals. Thyroid disease is not just a deficiency of iodine, it’s avoiding stressors (infections, chemicals, negative people).
3) Breathe. Learn how to breathe properly. Most of us don’t – including me. We go through life not breathing because we take it for granted. Stop taking breathing for granted. Tune into it. I just did and I found I was breathing incredibly shallow. I switched to belly breathing instantly and my hands immediately warmed up and I had a sense of calm. Try it. You’ll be stunned. Believe me, your doctor is not going to ask, “How is your breathing?” That’s on you to identify and improve. It’s a life skill and one that should be cherished. Breathing is a gift. Low oxygen environments dirty all your genes. Clean up all of your genes with breathing.
up next: Heal Yourself with Breathwork: A Guided Exercise