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Lifestyle behaviors are daily choices that powerfully affect our health. For decades medical research has demonstrated a positive association between healthy lifestyle behaviors and improved health.
Lifestyle behaviors include:
- Food choices and weight maintenance
- Sleep quality and quantity
- Habits, such as smoking, alcohol, and drug use
- Exercise or lack of physical activity
- Stress management
- Relaxation time
- Social and family connections.
What is known about the importance of lifestyle behaviors?
The Human Genome Project began to reveal the codes for the genes in our 46 chromosomes in 2001. Since then, a growing body of research has looked at the connection between lifestyle behaviors, gene expression, and inflammation. This research reveals how profoundly lifestyle behaviors can impact genes that affect inflammatory responses in the body.
Chronic inflammation underlies most chronic diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and many forms of cancer. Research shows that healthy lifestyle behaviors stimulate activity in anti-inflammatory genes that can reduce or even reverse chronic inflammation.
Not all inflammation is harmful. For example, acute inflammation, which occurs immediately after an injury, is a necessary part of healing. Once the acute inflammatory response has cleaned up tissue damage from the injury, healing repair processes are activated and the acute inflammation gradually resolves.
Drinking a sugary soda, eating deep-fried or charred foods, or smoking a cigarette also provoke an acute inflammatory response. If our lifestyle behaviors are chronically unhealthy, that self-protective acute inflammatory response doesn’t diminish. Instead, it becomes chronic.
Most medications in use today, including anti-inflammatories, do not act at the level of our genes. Instead, they target symptoms and abnormal physiologic effects that result from unhealthy gene expression associated with the disease process. While medications can certainly help reduce chronic disease symptoms and complications, at best, they only slow their progression.
The functional medicine approach is unique because it stresses the importance of identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic health conditions and symptoms, including unhealthy lifestyle choices. Functional medicine practitioners use an integrative approach to address those root causes. They promote healthy lifestyle behaviors that enable gene activity to promote health and reduce inflammation naturally.
Replacing harmful behaviors with healthful ones creates positive changes in our bodies at the genetic and cellular level that can impact our health in positive and profound ways. That’s powerful!
Our goal is always to support the body’s innate ability to heal.