“It all started with the Human Genome Project,” Ashley said as Jessica eyeballed the bottle of shiraz proudly standing next to the silver waiter corkscrew on the kitchen island.
“The human what?” Jessica asked like she was a hundred miles away.
“The Human Genome Project. Back in 1990 a bunch of scientists decided to map out every single human gene in order to isolate the ones that lead to chronic diseases and eradicate them.”
“Wow, tall order,” Jessica said breaking down to temptation as she got up and went to her beloved wine.
“Yeah,” Ashley said as she gazed at her glass of ice water, “it was one of the largest and most significant scientific endeavors every attempted; it took 13 years for the results of the project to be fully realized.”
“So what’d they find?” Jessica asked twisting the screw into the cork.”
“A lot of disappointment actually.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, they discovered that genes weren’t what scientists thought they were – or needed them to be. For starters, they were expecting to find over 150,000 genes, but instead they got around 20,500. And to add insult to injury, they found out that we only have 300 genes that are unique from a mouse.”
“Okay… so is this bad?” Jessica asked as she pulled the cork out.”
“No, it’s not bad. It’s just that the genes the scientists were looking for didn’t really exist. Now, to be sure, there are, in fact, a couple of genes that are directly associated with a disorder, but most genes are only loosely connected to physical and mental conditions and do not cause disease.”
“And this means…?” Jessica asked.
“It means that the answers to curing diseases weren’t as simple as the scientists had hoped.”
“Wow, bummer,” Jessica said as she poured wine into a glass.
Ashley took a sip of water,
“yeah, if there was only a single oily skin gene we could seek and destroy…”
“Or a hangover gene,” Jessica grinned as she held up her glass.
Ashley rolled her eyes, “Or a hangover gene, Jess. But what they did find were that genes were responsible for multiple functions, meaning they don’t just control one aspect of us.”
“So even if we did blowup the hangover gene, odds are it would affect some other part of us in a negative way,” Jessica said sitting back down at the table.
“You got it.”
“Well, it’s okay. I was only kidding about the cure for a hangover, I already know it – don’t drink as many as these as I’ve been,” she said as she tapped a freshly painted peach colored fingernail against the glass.
“That’s obvious, Jess,” Ashley said looking over at the bottle of wine and then back at her friend, “But the biggest revelation of the project was that our genes do not lock us into diseases or conditions like oily skin. We have the full ability to influence our problems and make them better.”
“But you did say some conditions are genetic…”
“Some are, yes. But NIH speculates that 70-90% are not. It’s really the environment that manipulates are bodies and most people never realize that because we’re constantly fed the ‘it’s genetic’ line like we’re preprogrammed robots. But we’re not robots, and the reality is there’s A LOT we can do about our issues.
Jessica took a sip of wine and ran her hand through her hair like she’d entered her ‘I’m mellow now’ zone, “But I’m sure I’ve heard before that oily skin is genetic.”
She picked up her phone and started tapping the screen, “there’s a study of people that have acne that I flagged to show you. Okay, here it is: ‘they conducted a study of identical and non-identical twins and observed sebum output and acne of the course of a couple of months. While the acne varied in both sets of twins, the sebum only varied in the non-identical twins, but not the identical twins. This means the identical twins had the same genetic information that made their skin oily, despite having a different amount of acne’.”
Ashley rubbed her hands together, “Sure, I get that. But it still doesn’t mean that sebum output is controlled by a gene you can’t influence; all that study means is that the genes are being expressed in both of the twins.”
“How do you know that?” Jessica asked swirling her glass in the air like a magic wand.
Ashley breathed deep, silently counted to three and let it out. “Look, if sebum output were a genetic trait like hair or eye color, then yeah, naturally there’s nothing you can do to make your body change that. But when it comes to genes, if the trait changes from time to time, it means it's a gene expression that’s influenced by your environment.”
“But has anyone actually changed their oily skin through environment?” Jessica asked setting the glass down.
“Of course, countless people have, both for better and worse. The problem is that getting genes to express properly isn’t something our heroic scientists have figured out yet, so without trying to sound cute, the science of gene expression isn’t an exact science.”
“Hmm… Okay…I’m sure this is a dumb question, but what do you actually mean by “environment”?
Ashley smiled, “Nothing you say is dumb, Jess, – except when you cross the 2 glass threshold. Basically our environment is a product of our thoughts, stress, social connections, what we eat, our level of physical and mental activity and our exposure to microbes and environmental toxins.”
“So you just have to stop thinking oily thoughts!” Jessica laughed.
“Ha-ha, okay, just listen to what this other site I brought up on my phone adds, ‘What’s even more striking is that if your DNA is tagged by an environmental factor, such as a pesticide, the impact this factor has on your genes can be passed down through generations. The epigenome becomes inheritable; this means if you grandmother ate too much sugar, or smoked or was exposed to mercury from eating too much sushi, the genetic modifications she incurred from the exposure could affect you. Her epigenome would carry an increased risk of disease that could be passed down from generation to generation.’”
Jessica’s eyes brightened and she pushed her glass to the side, “So we’re influenced by our past history, but not necessarily destined to repeat it if we can figure out what influences those genes.”
“Exactly, Jess,” Ashley knew she had her friend’s total interest when she was ignoring a perfectly good glass of Shiraz, “All it took to get this thing going was for one person to effect their oily skin and the door was open for an environmental solution - although the solutions aren’t simple.”
“Okay, I’m getting it know - still sounds a little science fictiony though.”
“Well, it’s not like anyone completely understands all of this. All scientists can do is look to see what genes you have and try to figure out patterns as to what causes those genes to activate or deactivate.”
Jessica tapped her chin with her finger, “can you give me an example?”
“Sure, that’s easy. Look at exercise. Genes are affected by a ton of things, right? So the way people tested what impact exercise had on someone’s genes was to have a group of testers ride a bike using only one leg. After 3 months of this, they looked at each tester’s legs and while it wasn’t exactly a shock to see one leg way more in shape that the other leg, what was a surprise was that the exercised leg now had thousands of good genes activated and its bad ones had been turned off.”
“You’re kidding?” Jessica said.
“Nope, and no changes were observed to the genes in the other leg.”
“Wow, that is mind blowing. If only they had exercises for your face…”
“Well,” Ashley nodded, “speaking of that, this one guy, Tom Hagerty, actually created a facial exercise regimen for himself and has done it for the past 50 years.”
“Oh, don’t tell me…” Jessica said wrapping her hand around the wine glass.
Ashley raised her glass to her lips, “Not a single wrinkle on his face!”
Jessica sipped her wine like she was making up for lost time and set the glass down, “That is so crazy! Does he look like this when he does it?” Jessica’s eyes gleamed as she started twisting and pulling her cheeks like they were clumps of play-doh.
“Funny Jess. Actually, he does say to practice his techniques with the door closed and no one around…”
“Well,” Jessica wrapped her hand around her wrist leaned back and stretched her arms forward, “I’m sure the daily yelling I do at my kids gives my face a pretty good workout.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” Ashley said finishing off her water, “I wonder what that does to our genes?”
Jessica stretched her arms wide and looked at the ceiling, “So everything affects everything about us – that’s a lot to pay attention to.”
Ashley picked up her phone again, “Yeah, as this website says, ‘The question then is how do we measure and change our “exposome” – or the totality of the impact of the environment on your genes. We must address not just one factor, but the whole collection of interacting factors that determine health and disease – toxins, food, microbes, internal chemicals – including all the biologically active molecules that control inflammation, oxidative stress, gut flora, and other natural processes.”
“Wow, pretty daunting,” Jessica said as she shifted her body upright again.
“Yeah, well, that’s why you look for the patterns. Like there was this one study that examined global sensitive skin rates and it said that throughout the world, mild to severe sensitive skin is reported in about 80% of people. But there’s one big exception-"
“Antarctica?” Jessica asked lifting her glass.
“No, China; their sensitive skin rate is around 20%. That’s a massive difference!”
“Wow again,” Jessica said as she amazingly set the glass down without taking a drink, “Why is that?”
“That’s the big mystery. But it appears that their lifestyles throughout the generations have actually had enough impact on their genes that they don’t deal with sensitive skin like we do here.”
Jessica tapped her nails against the table, “Hmm…”
“Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re not capable of experiencing sensitive skin, it just means that the genes that contribute to sensitive skin are effectively turned off for them – as opposed to being turned on for most other people around the world. So with that info, the trick is to search for patterns to figure out why we get the big difference.”
Jessica scrunched her nose and picked up the glass, “Patterns… so like who exercises and who doesn’t?”
Ashley tilted her head as her friend finished off her wine; Jessica wasn’t going to be competing in any ironman triathlons anytime soon, “Well, there might be an exercise connection, but it could also be the culture, the Chinese tend to solve problems through detoxing teas rather than skincare.”
“Shame they don’t problem-solve with wine,” Jessica said setting the glass down.
“Yeah, well these teas don’t actually cure sensitive skin, but they do turn on the specific genes that allow the body to protect itself from sensitive skin – but as I said, this takes time.”
“So it's a cure, but not a cure like we know it. Interesting. So what have you found for oily skin?”
“Not a lot of hard science on it actually, but I’ve started collecting possible influencers from a lot of people with positive feedback from the following: Zinc, Vitamin A, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Vitamin D, Magnesium and Selenium. These all play roles in how our genes influence body functions, meaning if we don't get enough of these, it may be harder to positively influence the gene expressions we're trying to change. It’s just common sense really, if I want my genes to behave, I need to have sufficient amounts of the right vitamins and minerals in my body.”
Jessica snapped her fingers and pointed at Ashley, “Remember when I told you to take your vitamins?”
“I do, and I should have listened, but at the time I just didn’t understand how it all worked in the bigger picture.”
“Fiber’s a big deal too,” Jessica said sharply.
“Yes,” Jessica said, she got back up and headed to the island, very proud of herself, “when I was surfing around the health sites last night, I read that you need fiber to get toxic fats out of your body or you just end up recycling them. I was so impressed with that tidbit that I burned it into my memory just for you!”
“Thanks, Jess,” Ashley said as she watched her semi-lush friend pour another glass of Shiraz – she wasn’t sure if Jessica got smarter or dumber when she drank but her enthusiasm level always spiked up. Ashely entered the info into her detox.
Oily Skin Detox Rule #12: Daily Fiber To Expel Toxic Fats
“So it really seems like general healthy practices are what you need to get back on track,” Jessica said sitting back down.
“Yep, that’s what I’m looking at, but at a certain point, the small details start to matter. Take zinc, for example. Just small amounts of zinc daily can turn off genes associated with a lot of troubling conditions. It's possible I'm not getting enough, and the chain reaction of that along with other nutrients I'm missing create the gene expressions that lead to oily skin. That's what I'm on a mission to find,” Ashley said making an additional note in her detox -
Oily Skin Detox Rule #13: Focus On Vitamins And Minerals That Help Positive Gene Expression
“But it’s still nice to know that all the hard work I’m doing now will be passed down to my kid- well, I guess it’s too late for that!”
Jessica raised her glass like she was toasting the room, “Yep, too late for that. But not too late for some of these!” her goofy friend said as she scrunched her face up and resumed her skin twisting play-doh face workout.
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