How to turn on a gene that helps your body fight cancer, Crohn's disease, and other illnesses

April 16, 2013
Volume 10    |   Issue 16

You may have heard that your genes can determine your health — and your health risks. At first, that can seem discouraging, as though your health is outside of your control. But what if there was a way to control your genes? New research says that may be possible. And it's a lot easier than you might think.

A new study has found that the foods you eat — especially green leafy vegetables — can alter your genes and help them work toward bettering your health. This study found that leafy greens might control an immune cell population in your digestive system that's vital to intestinal health. And these cells directly impact your genes.

These immune cells, called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), live in the lining of your digestive system. Their main function is to protect you from "bad" bacteria in the intestine, but research suggests they're also key to controlling food allergies, inflammatory diseases, and obesity. They might even help prevent the development of bowel cancers.

These are definitely cells you want to keep healthy and active! Researchers have recently discovered the gene that produces these cells for us — T-bet. And the good news is T-bet responds to signals in our food to produce these ILCs. In particular, T-bet responds to green leafy vegetables because proteins in these foods interact with a cell surface reception that switches the gene on.

Scientists are very interested in turning the T-bet gene on to make ILCs because ILCs are so vital to digestive health. They're critical for maintaining the delicate balance between tolerance, immunity, and inflammation, and they produce a hormone called interleukin-22 that protects our bodies from invading bacteria. Without T-bet and the ILCs it produces, we run a much higher risk of bacterial infections.

The healthy environment ILCs promote helps wounds and abrasions in gut tissues heal. The cells may even help remove cancerous lesions and have implications for gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn's disease.  Their discovery has gone a long way towards our understanding of gut biology and its implications for our health.

The more researchers learn about ILCs, the more benefits they discover. You definitely want your genes to crank these cells out! This is one way your genes will certainly influence your health for the better. And you can control whether your T-bet gene helps you out — just fill up on your leafy greens! If you struggle to eat enough greens, then consider taking a formula like Advanced Greens Formula that contains high concentrations of these greens.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


Lucille C Rankin, Joanna R Groom, Michaël Chopin, Marco J Herold, Jennifer A Walker, Lisa A Mielke, Andrew N J McKenzie, Sebastian Carotta, Stephen L Nutt, Gabrielle T Belz. The transcription factor T-bet is essential for the development of NKp46 innate lymphocytes via the Notch pathway. Nature Immunology, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ni.2545.

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