Traumas that happened to your recent ancestors could be affecting your health today —new research shows “epigenetic memory” can be passed down to as many as four generations. Epigenetics is the study of factors that can switch genes on and off. These factors can have played a role in your Hashimoto’s low thyroid and that of your yet-conceived children.
The CDC estimates genetics only represent a mere 10 percent of what causes disease. Epigenetics account for the remaining 90 percent thanks to environmental variables.
Consider the following:
In pregnant rats exposed to chemicals that disrupt reproduction, male infertility in offspring was passed down through four subsequent generations.
Our internal responses to traumatic experiences can also be passed down multiple generations; it’s believed this is a survival adaptation.
For instance, mice who learned to fear a scent related to a traumatic experience passed that response down to two generations, even though the progeny never experienced the same situation.
This also has been observed in humans:
Starvation during pregnancy is associated with poor health outcomes for offspring, including:
- Lower mental health and quality of life
- Mood disorders
- Antisocial personality disorders
- Decreased intracranial volume
- Congenital central nervous system disorders
- More cardiovascular disease
Descendants of Holocaust survivors show abnormal stress hormone profiles and low cortisol production, increasing their risk for PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
Children of women exposed to domestic partner violence during pregnancy are more at risk for mental illness, behavioral problems, and psychological abnormalities.
Epigenetics explains how our lifestyle, diet, environment, and experiences affect the expression of our genes over multiple generations, but it does not account for actual changes to our genetic code.
It’s easy to see how these factors can raise our risk of Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
Factors that affect epigenetics
The following factors can turn genes on or off via epigenetics:
- Sleep habits
- Where you live
- Who you interact with
- Exercise habits
- Environmental toxins
- Heavy metals
- Stress level
- Social support (or lack of it)
- Method of birth (cesarean vs. vaginal)
- And more
Broader sociocultural and ecological factors include:
- Socioeconomic status
- Geopolitical factors
- Psychological stress
- Education status
- Urban or rural residence
We inherit one gene variant from each parent. Epigenetics turns these genes on or off.
This can cause a negative health outcome if the other gene variant is defective or increases health risk for disorders such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
Using epigenetics for good
Some factors we have no control over, such as environmental toxins, our birth, and exposure to some level of stress. However, we can positively affect our epigenetics through these methods:
- Anti-inflammatory diet
- Daily exercise
- Stress-relief activities
- Good sleep habits
- Who we interact with
- Antioxidant status
- Not smoking
- Social support
- Addressing food intolerances
- Mediating autoimmunity
These factors are also foundational to managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid as well.
Functional medicine offers many avenues to support healthy epigenetic expression. If you seek ways to help your body express its genes in the best ways possible, contact my office for help and for help managing your Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office.
About Dr. Josh Redd, Chiropractic Physician — Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto’s, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here.