Marion Institute Blog
The genetic DNA that we are born with may not change, but the growing field of epigenetics is looking at the factors that influence how our genes are expressed. Researchers have found that the on and off switches on genes, which we may be able to influence with diet and lifestyle modifications, including limiting our exposure to toxins, have a real impact on our ability to prevent chronic disease, reduce mortality and increase longevity.
"The cells of the body contain DNA, which contains genes. We inherit our genes and they cannot be changed. The genes, however, have 'methyl groups' attached which affect what is known as 'gene expression' -- whether the genes are activated or deactivated. The methyl groups can be influenced in various ways, through exercise, diet and lifestyle, in a process known as 'DNA methylation'" (source).
One of these major factors in gene expression is exercise and a recent study has shown that even a small amount of daily exercise changes the fat storage levels of cells.The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied the epigenetics of exercise by having 23 healthy men and women bicycle using just one leg for three months. Because there are so many potential factors contributing to the methylation patterns, they used the non-exercised leg as a control for exercise, and compared the individual’s responses using a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy.
"Not surprisingly, the volunteers’ exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements. But the changes within the muscle cells’ DNA were more intriguing. Using sophisticated genomic analysis, the researchers determined that more than 5,000 sites on the genome of muscle cells from the exercised leg now featured new methylation patterns. Some showed more methyl groups; some fewer. But the changes were significant and not found in the unexercised leg. Interestingly, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied. Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles" (source).
This research leaves hope for understanding epigenetic factors that influence the gene expression of so-called "inherited" diseases. Just because you carry the gene, does not mean that your body will express it. Mapping your DNA and finding genetic markers of disease, once a dismal prediction for a future chronic illness or disease, may soon give you the opportunity to understand the epigenetic factors and empower you to take control over your own health!
How Exercise Changes our DNA, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times Blog, December 17, 2014
Exercise: putting action into our epigenome., Sports Med., February 2014
Epigenetic changes to fat cells following exercise, Science Daily, July 13, 2014
This easy and cost-efficient recipe is a great addition to your weeknight dinner schedule. It's also great to make in a crockpot or on a Sunday to have lunches for the week. Black beans are high in protein, fiber, antioxidants and contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
1(1 lb) bag of dried black beans
6 cups water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1lb 12oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp liquid aminos (or 1 tsp salt)
1 tbsp chili powder (less if you prefer)
Siracha sauce, to taste
Soak beans for 2 hours in large pot. Drain, then add water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 2-3 hours.
Saute onion, pepper, garlic in coconut oil in frying pan (preferably cast iron or stainless steel). Add vegetable mixture to pot of cooked beans. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Serve with avacado, cilantro or Greek yogurt as garnish.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, our health is greatly impacted by the earth’s cycle and so it is important that we live in harmony with our environment. As the months get colder, it is vital that we stay warm, look inward and provide nourishment to our mind and body. Tending to our inner garden in the winter allows us to prepare for spring’s rapid growth in a few months’ time.
Meditation is a powerful tool to align ourselves with our environment get in touch with our inner self. It is when we take time to slow down and be quiet that we sometimes realize how busy our minds have been. In this dark season, it is easy to get in a routine of looking for light through electronic devices. Our minds are racing and processing quickly without purpose or satiation. Have you ever been watching a television program and reached for your phone or tablet during a commercial break – or even during the program? A recent NPR story covered the phenomenon of how inspiration and creativity frequently occurs during states of relative boredom and the impact of our tendencies to use electronic devices when feeling bored. (Click here for the full article.) While we would not necessarily call meditation and journaling boring, it is worth noting that without a quiet mind, our capacity for creativity is limited.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the winter season is associated with the element of water and influences the health of the kidneys, bladder, adrenal glands, bones (including bone marrow), hair and teeth. The kidneys are said to be the source of energy and the essence of our body (Qi). When our bodies are experiencing change or under stress, we rely on the kidney’s reserve of energy to help us heal, prevent illness and age gracefully. Our energy can be easily depleted in the winter, when we have less access to sunlight and fresh air as well as eating rich and unhealthy foods and possibly experiencing additional feelings of stress, anxiety or depression due to the holidays. To keep our bodies healthy this season, we must nurture and nourish our kidneys.
What We Can Do:
Dr. Isaac Eliaz provides some great options to help support our health with our Qi in mind (summarized below):
- Supplement with Vitamin D-3.
- Open your curtains during the day to allow any sunlight to come in.
- Take brisk walks (in the sunshine if possible) to improve circulation and blood flow.
- Avoid too many raw foods during winter because they tend to cool the body and can deplete our digestive “fire” which is the ability to assimilate food efficiently. I recommend eating warming foods, while cooking them longer and at lower temperatures with less water. Emphasize soups and stews, root vegetables, plenty of dark leafy greens, kidney and black beans, walnuts, black sesame seeds, whole grains, and seaweeds. These specific foods help to fortify the kidneys, uplift the emotions, nourish the body, keep you warm and help you to conserve energy.
From the Swiss Secret to Optimal Health by Dr. Thomas Rau with Susan Wyler:
A subtle hint of curry seasoning enlivened with fresh ginger makes this pretty orange soup a fine way to start a meal. It keeps well for up to three days.
MAKES ABOUT 4-6 SERVINGS
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced white of leek
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Pinch of sea salt
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or flameproof caserole dish over medium-low heat. Add the leek and ginger, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and curry powder, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
2. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the carrots are very tender. Remove from the heat, uncover, and let the soup cool for 15 minutes.
3. Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion stick blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. Rehear the soup and season with salt to taste before serving.
The Marion Institute (MI) in Marion, MA, seeks an Executive Director. The job description appears below.
The Marion Institute:
Mission: The Marion Institute is an incubator of innovative models for positive change.
The Marion Institute was founded in 1993 by a small group of individuals interested in exploring different approaches to looking at the world and seeking solutions to the most pressing local and international environmental and social justice problems.
Now, the Marion Institute acts as an incubator for a diverse array of programs and projects that delve into the root causes of issues, working with individuals, schools and communities to inspire change in the areas of, among others, health and healing, sustainability, green economics, environmental education and spirituality.
The Institute's local programs include:
• Connecting for Change, an annual solution-based conference with a focus on social justice and the environment, now in its tenth year.
• The Biological Medicine Network, dedicated to advancing biological medicine in North America via education, networking, and patient referral.
• Grow Education, cultivating edible school gardens in New Bedford public schools with the goal of connecting teachers to community support systems and resources, and empowering them to increase nutrition and sustainability initiatives in their classrooms.
The Institute also is a fiscal sponsor for its eleven ‘Serendipity’ projects in seven countries, providing administrative support for these external organizations as part of the overall portfolio. For example, Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement received early support from the Marion Institute prior to being recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Marion Institute has an operating budget of $1M per year and is staffed by a team of nine employees, aided by hundreds of volunteers and supported by many generous donors.
The Executive Director:
The Executive Director is responsible for the professional leadership and management of the Marion Institute, working in concert with the founders and board, staff team, and community of support to achieve its annual goals and objectives. In particular, the Executive Director provides overall leadership for strategies related to fundraising, organizational development, financial oversight and supervision of programmatic implementation. The Executive Director will be a “co-creator” with the founders and Board of the next era of the Institute.
• Ambassador: S/he will ensure the organization is well-represented to relevant stakeholders, including at all appropriate public functions. S/he will establish and maintain contacts and cultivate collaborations with key individuals in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. S/he will oversee marketing and outreach to raise the visibility of the organization among its various constituencies.
• Manager and leader of MI’s staff and volunteer team: S/he will facilitate an organizational culture that fosters the team’s passion for the mission and vision, open and frequent communication, teamwork and collaboration with community partners. S/he will manage, inspire, motivate, and empower MI’s team by providing leadership in goal setting, supervision, and problem-solving. S/he will support an inclusive annual planning and review process to set staff’s goals and objectives. S/he will monitor capacity as MI prepares for anticipated organizational and infrastructure growth, ensuring that evolving responsibilities are manageable and clear. S/he will effectively manage the organization according to authorized personnel policies and procedures that fully conform to current laws and regulations.
• Board/Founder Relations: S/he will serve as the primary liaison with the founders and Board of Directors, and is responsible for overseeing the staffing of all committees.
• Fundraising: S/he will be responsible for increasing, strengthening and diversifying the organization's funding sources. Emphasis will be on strengthening the individual donor base, corporate and foundation giving, and growing the annual fundraising goals (including the Annual Fund, capital campaigns, endowment and bequests).
• Financial and Facilities Management: S/he will ensure sound fiscal accountability and sustainability, and direct financial activities and decisions based on plans and policies developed in concert with the Board of Directors. S/he will work with the MI team and Board to create and recommend the yearly budget for board approval, and prudently manage resources within those budget guidelines according to current laws and regulations and rigorous accountability standards. S/he will oversee all bookkeeping, accounting and financial activities.
The ideal candidate will
• lead and unite staff, Board and founders with flair, intellectual depth and clarity about roles and responsibilities
• have strong operational, administrative and interpersonal skills,
• set and implement strategy
• proactively seek out opportunities to bring new great ideas to the region
• promote the MI as an innovative resource and model
• have the capacity to build collaborative relationships with diverse community constituencies
• have a passion for the organization’s mission
• possess cultural humility and sensitivity and international awareness and connections
• evaluate and consolidate lessons learned
• be a persuasive and gifted communicator
• have a sense of humor.
and have extensive experience in the following areas
• managing growth and change
• building an independent sustainable organization
• promoting healthy organizational growth and culture
• overseeing complicated financial and organizational operations
• working with a Board of Directors
• sustainability and social justice
• public speaking
The new Executive Director could come from an NGO, public sector, corporate or academic background. At least ten years of successful experience demonstrating advancement in management ability and leadership skill – preferably including experience in a volunteer-based membership organization, and with a large-scale event – is preferred. An undergraduate degree is required. Advanced degree preferred. Without exception any prospect for the job must be local to the Marion area and/or willing to re-locate.
To apply: email a resume and a one-page cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for application: February 2, 2015.
MI is an equal opportunity employer and actively seeks a diverse pool of candidates in this search. www.marioninstitute.org
By Dr. David A. Jernigan | Hansa Center for Optimum Health
How many times do you wolf-down your meal in a mad rush to finish before getting back to work?
How many times are you eating out of obligation to just eat?
How many times do you see undigested food in your stool?
Do you have food allergies?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions it is likely you need to retrain yourself in how to eat on purpose.
1. Maintain regular and consistent mealtimes. It is better to eat five smaller meals than three large meals.
2. Before eating, relax momentarily for 10 seconds, then begin eating. (Blessing your food in prayer – science has shown that this cleans the food, makes it more bio-available, more digestible, and consequently tastes better)
3. Smell each item on your plate before you take your first bite, like sniffing your wine before drinking, which will awaken the taste centers in your brain. Your food will magically have more flavors if you do this simple action.
4. Pay attention to what you are eating. Chew until each bite is smooth and easily swallowed. Seek to feel the energy and taste the subtle flavors of the food. If you have food allergies and/or see undigested food in your BM then you definitely are not chewing your food well enough before swallowing. No food should be swallowed whole.
5. Force yourself to slow down, this will aid digestion and appetite satisfaction. Eating should not be a chore. Many times food is eaten without much awareness to what is eaten, much like driving a car for miles and suddenly realizing you don’t recall anything about the journey.
6. Eating by candlelight and calming music can assist in setting a relaxing tone to the evening meal.
7. Avoid alternating between hot and cold foods on a frequent basis.
8. Eat most of your daily protein in the morning or at lunch time (Stomach acid is highest early in the day which allows for better digestion of proteins…the bi-product of incomplete protein digestion is called nitrosamines and are very carcinogenic).
9. Drink body temperature, purified water (a minimum of 8, eight-ounce glasses per day). Cold water requires more work by your body to bring it up to body temperature. This can be a problem when so many people nowadays are suffering from low body temperature. Don’t drink tap water as it often contains herbicides, pesticides, chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals. Do not drink much during the meal as this dilutes the stomach digestive juices. Do not drink over a gallon per day.
For more information, please contact the Hansa Center for Optimum Health.
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