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The Evolution of Truly Personalized Medicine: Epigenetics, Food, and Fitness

Most would not argue that there is ongoing transition in how our healthcare is being delivered. This article will examine some of these transitions as a result of breakthroughs in technology, as well as how genetic information, exercise, and diet will play an increasingly greater role.

When medical science was first getting its start, a more holistic philosophy was taken on how to treat illness and maintain health. Hippocrates is often deemed the father of modern medicine, and even today the allopathic physicians (M.D.s) take the Hippocratic Oath – to do no harm to their patients. Hippocrates knew, even in 400 B.C., that the best healer of the body is the body itself. For the most part, the best treatment is to create a strong body and get out of the way. Five guiding principles used in his philosophy for treatment include:

  1. Walking is man’s best medicine.
  2. Know what person the disease has, rather than what disease the person has.
  3. Let food be thy medicine.
  4. Everything in moderation.
  5. To do nothing is also a good remedy.

The second and fifth principles emphasize the power of knowing the individual and getting out of the way! The first and third principles show the power of exercise and food for healthy living. Even the genius, Thomas Edison, realized that a health maintenance organization (HMO) approach was the best method of healthcare both practically and financially. His quote, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease,” is evidence that a holistic, preventative approach is what he advocated. He is also quoted, “…you can’t improve on nature.”

One size does not fit all

Personalized medicine is now on the forefront and it utilizes the genetic and epigenetic data of a person to guide medicines and treatment plans. Cancer drugs have probably harnessed this advantage to the greatest extent, thus far. Former President Jimmy Carter received Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for his brain cancer and it boosted his immune system and beat the cancer. While most of America (71%), still doesn’t even know about personalized medicine, those who were familiar with it did not know it would yield better results with fewer side effects. The different directions of personalized medicine are still being realized, but the field of pharmacogenetics is the first to really jump on the bandwagon of highly effective, precision-based treatment.

The reasons some drugs work for some people and not for others, or why side effects occur in some individuals and not others, is due to individual variability in metabolism. Why are some people lactose tolerant, or some can drink alcohol with no problem, and others have severe issues? It is usually because of enzyme differences, which are under the control of our genes. Interestingly, our enzyme genes can often be turned on or off by “inducible sequences” known as promoters or suppressors of operons, respectively. These “switches” can be repressed or induced depending on our environmental stimuli. Thus, we actually have some control over our gene expression, and this field is known as epigenetics.

Knowing what gene variants someone possess or not will guide the personalized medicine physician on which drug to use or not. By knowing allergic reactions in advance or which medicines may have side effects will help physicians to not make a bad situation worse. Unfortunately, the cost of personalized medicine drugs is much higher than alternative treatments. There is still a lot of exploration to be done on all the various applications of this technology, but the bottom line is that understanding individual variations and enabling the body to do what it is designed to do is a very good thing! Companies like Toolbox Genomics is one of many companies that use your genetic information to then tell you what foods and supplements to eat or avoid, and which exercises may help you the most, and ones that you may not respond to so well. The reason physicians do an intake on family history, or run various tests is to collect information that will guide their treatment. A genetic test on certain gene variants is simply taking this a step further.

How does exercise and diet apply to our epigenetics?

Did you know that exercise is highly beneficial to not only help with fighting cancer once it is already present, but also to never getting it? Physical exercise or movement in general will shift the epigenetics so that genes that suppress tumors are increased, and genes that cause cancer (oncogenes) are decreased. It does this by changing the amount of certain reactions called methylations. Things go wrong when there is too much or too few methylation reactions. Exercise has been shown to reduce or even reverse the epigenetic mutations that often result in tumorigenesis or tumor production. Exercise has also been shown to reduce genetic factors associated with aging like telomere length.

The fields of proteomics and metabolomics as well as pharmacogenomics, are all emerging because of the knowledge on how our genetics affects proteins, metabolism, and reactions to drugs, respectively. The field of nutrigenomics is rapidly expanding, and several companies are capitalizing on studying the relationship of how our genes affect how we process and utilize foods, as well as how food can affect our genes. Vitamins A and D, certain fatty acids, especially medium and short chain, some sterols (derived from cholesterol) and zinc have been shown to directly influence gene transcription. In direct effects include how diet affects gut bacteria, which in turn influences gene expression. Soon when nutritional recommendations are given, it will likely be “for this individual.”

The future of medicine will be taking our genetic information to a whole new level. Soon “smart” watches, clothes, hats, and other common devices will collect information that can benefit our health in many ways as the way healthcare is delivered continually evolves.

This article was featured in MedFit Professional Magazine summer 2019 issue.

Subscribe to MedFit Professional Magazine to read more great content like this!


Dr. Mark P. Kelly has been involved with the health and fitness field for more than 30 years. He has been a research scientist for universities and many infomercial projects. He has spoken nationally and internationally on a wide variety of topics and currently speaks on the use of exercise for clinical purposes and exercise’s impact on the brain. Mark is a teacher in colleges and universities in Orange County, CA., where Principle-Centered Health- Corporate Wellness & Safety operates.

Dementia Brain Problems

Alzheimer’s Disease

Although there are natural physiological changes that occur with age, memory loss is neither normal nor a natural process of aging. It is important to take a proactive role in retaining the strength, resiliency, and vitality of the brain. Research has shown that just as the body needs strength-building exercises to maintain muscle strength, so does the brain.

trainer-and-senior-woman-gym

Specialize and Thrive: Working with Individuals with Osteoarthritis and Joint Replacements

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the world.3 Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, has led to a dramatic increase in the incidence of hip and knee replacements in recent years. The rate of total hip replacements has almost doubled between the years 2000-20101 and approximately 7.2 million Americans are now living with hip and/or knee replacements. 6 While these rates have nearly doubled in recent years, the number of younger individuals (ages 45-54) having these replacement surgeries is increasing.5

The rapid and dramatic increase in individuals living with osteoarthritis and/or joint replacements has created a massive void between the number of people living with these issues and the number of qualified individuals to help them safely and effectively accomplish their functional goals. This void, however, has created an incredible opportunity for fitness professionals to align themselves with allied health professionals to become part of the solution. This article will discuss some recent changes in the thought process about how osteoarthritis develops, how fitness professionals are an important part of the solution, and why this is the most opportune time for fitness professionals to specialize and align themselves with health professionals.

Why do so many individuals experience osteoarthritis and what can be done about it?

While injury, overuse, age, obesity, genetics, and race have been given as possible causes, there has been a lack of solid evidence to explain why the incidence rate of osteoarthritis continues to skyrocket. 2,3,5 However, recently there have been suggestions that osteoarthritis is not as previously suggested, due only to old age or genetics. Dr. Ian Wallace, a postdoctoral researcher who has studied more than 2,000 skeletons, believes the recent dramatic increase in osteoarthritis isn’t an inevitable consequence of living longer. He believes it is more attributable to the modern decline of physical activity and is quoted as follows: “Dr. Wallace thinks the most obvious candidate to explain the increase in knee osteoarthritis is the modern decline in physical activity.” 8

Nevertheless, it is not just about people needing more quantity of activity; it’s also about the quality of the exercise.10,11 If exercise is performed without optimal joint alignment and control, the individual is at risk for developing degenerative joint changes.10,11 Therefore, it’s imperative that fitness professionals specializing in working with individuals that have osteoarthritis or joint replacements are able to properly assess for non-optimal and inefficient posture and movement habits and from these results, develop an appropriate exercise program. Additionally, fitness professions specializing in this niche must also be able to instruct proper exercise form and understand what exercises or activities are contraindicated with these populations. 10,11

A well-designed exercise program that includes flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular exercise is required to appropriately address the postural and movement habits that contributed to the development of osteoarthritis. Likewise, many individuals will have developed compensatory patterns as a result of joint pain or loss of mobility and subsequently developed non-optimal posture and movement habits that need to be addressed.

Several organizations including the Arthritis Foundation, Center for Disease Control, and American College of Sports Medicine have created guidelines for working with individuals that present with arthritis. General recommendations include improving joint mobility/flexibility, aerobic conditioning, resistance training, maintaining a healthy weight, and consulting with a medical doctor.2,3,13

Helping individuals develop a more optimal and efficient posture and movement strategy is one of the most effective strategies for safely working with individuals with osteoarthritis and joint replacements.9,10,11 An approach that includes using the most appropriate soft tissue release, mobilization, stretching, neuromuscular activation strategies, and appropriately progressing the individual through the fundamental movement patterns has been shown to improve joint mobility and strength in individuals with osteoarthritis as well as joint replacements. 9,10,11 Additional strategies that have been shown to be helpful in improving strength and mobility and managing the symptoms of osteoarthritis include three-dimensional breathing7,9,10,11, proper nutrition featuring a whole-foods, plant-based diet4, and meditation.14

The future

The great news is that there is a growing need for qualified fitness professionals to work with the increasing numbers of individuals that have osteoarthritis and/or joint replacements. However, this requires that the fitness professional have both the right education and the appropriate skillset as many of these individuals will require a thorough approach to address their specific needs and to provide them with the best functional outcomes. Organizations such as the MedFit Network, The Institute for Integrative Health and Fitness Education, and the Functional Aging Institute are helping to create the education necessary for health and fitness professionals to develop specializations in working with special populations including the older adult populations experiencing osteoarthritis and joint replacements. Additionally, through their educational platforms and live course work, they provide fitness professionals with strategies for aligning and working with allied health professionals.

For many individuals experiencing pain or loss of function secondary to osteoarthritic changes, seamless integration between medical procedures, rehabilitation, and functional fitness is becoming a viable and necessary alternative to narcotics and surgery. Hence, the birth of the medical fitness space where fitness professionals work either in collaboration with or in the actual physical location of medical doctors, physical therapists, chiropractic physicians, and massage therapists. Clinics such as Rejuv Medical have provided a model for how to improve patient outcomes by combining the benefits of regenerative medicine procedures (Plasma Rich Protein and Stem Cell Therapy), physical therapy, and personal/group training.

Specialization in working with individuals that have osteoarthritis and/or joint replacements and working in the medical fitness space is the future. The fitness professional that acquires the appropriate education and develops a working relationship with allied health professionals will be able to attract more individuals that need, want, and will pay for their expertise. By providing a more integrated and effective approach to helping individuals accomplish their health and fitness goals, these fitness professionals will continue to thrive in the coming years.

This article was featured in MedFit Professional Magazine summer 2019 issue.

Subscribe to MedFit Professional Magazine to read more great content like this!


Dr. Evan Osar is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and expert on assessment, corrective exercise, and functional movement. Dr. Osar is committed to educating and empowering fitness professionals while helping them develop relationships with allied health professionals. He is author of the Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Hip and Shoulder Dysfunction and has developed the industry’s most complete training certification, the Integrative Movement Specialist™. With his wife Jenice Mattek, he created the on-line educational resource www.IIHFE.com

 

References:

  1. American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons. NCHS Releases Hip Replacement Data. Retrieved from http://www.aahks.org/nchs-releases-hip-replacement-data/
  2. Arthritis Foundation. Osteoarthritis Treatment. Retrieved from http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoarthritis/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Osteoarthritis. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/osteoarthritis.htm
  4. Clinton, C., O’Brien, S., Law, J., Reiner, C., Wendt, M.R. (2015). Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet Alleviates the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis. Arthritis. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4359818/
  5. Dotinga, R. (2015). Number of Hip Replacements Has Skyrocketed, U.S. Report Shows. Retrieved from https://consumer.healthday.com/senior-citizen-information-31/demographic-arthritis-news-37/number-of-hip-replacements-has-skyrocketed-u-s-report-shows-696419.html
  6. Mayo Clinic. First nationwide prevalence study of hip and knee arthroplasty shows 7.2 million Americans living with implants. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/clinical-updates/orthopedic-surgery/study-hip-knee-arthroplasty-shows-7-2-million-americans-living-with-implants
  7. Mattek, J. and Fisher, S. (2017). What Lies Beneath: The under-realized effects of breast, abdominal, and pelvic surgeries. St. Bernardino, CA: Niche Pressworks.
  8. McDonald, B. (2017). Skeletons say arthritis isn’t about aging – it’s about activity. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/august-19-2017-1.4252722/skeletons-say-arthritis-isn-t-about-aging-it-s-about-activity-1.4252755
  9. Osar, E. (2012). Corrective Exercise Solutions for Common Hip and Shoulder Dysfunction. Chinchester, UK: Lotus Publishing.
  10. Osar, E. (2017). Integrative Corrective Exercise Instructor Certification Program: Training the Older Client. Chicago, IL: Institute for Integrative Health and Fitness Education course handouts.
  11. Osar, E. (2018). The Fundamentals for Training the Older Client with Osteoarthritis. Retrieved from https://www.ptonthenet.com/remote-learning
  12. Pagnano, M., Wolfort, M., Berovitz, A. 2015. U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Data brief; National Center for Health Statistics.
  13. Riebe, D., Ehrman, J., Liguori, G., Magal, M. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 10th Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.
  14. Selfe, TK., Innes, KE. 2013. Effects of Meditation on Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis. Alternative Complementary Therapies; 19(3): 139-146.

 

kettlebell-sneakers

The Three R’s: Reset. Reload. Reinforce.

Before you can begin checking the boxes off above a baseline needs to be established. What is the best way to set a baseline that isn’t time-consuming? A Physical Therapist can test physical capacity, but will that give them the total picture? What if you are a health care provider such as a Massage Practitioner or a Chiropractor, or a doctor of an individual who wants to start an exercise program? How do you set-up a baseline of indicators to capture dysfunction at the level of the movement pattern, not just muscles/tissues that are weak or injured?

The quickest and easiest way I know of is a Functional Movement Screening and a Movement Assessment Screening. It is a ranking and grading system to measure asymmetries. If there is a pain in any of the movement patterns the activity is stopped and a referral is made. As a Functional Movement Specialist, I can do the movement screening with a printed report and corrective strategy exercises to reinforce quality movement patterns. This establishes a baseline to work from and retesting is done periodically.

The way this effective approach works: Each box needs to be checked off before you move to the next box.

The meaning of the three Rs is…

Reset

When a patient/client goes into a Physical Therapist for treatment, or Massage Practitioner for manual manipulation of muscles/tissues, or Chiropractor for a muscular skeletal adjustment. After the procedure the next step is usually, rest, ice, maybe some stretches and to review or start an exercise program. Ok, if this is the standard procedure followed, what is missing from this picture?

Reinforce

This next step is where I as a Fitness Trainer am highly effective, first with myself and now others. I took my twisted muscular-skeletal frame from a seat belt injury and started retraining the correct movement patterns by reinforcement. It takes about 7,000 repetitions of a movement pattern before it becomes spontaneous. What do I mean by reinforce? Reinforce means you either go back to what you were doing with the same faulty movement pattern and setting yourself up for needing another reset, instead of going in for a maintenance appointment. Keeping the cycle of dysfunction and asymmetries going that lead to dysfunction, pain and injury.

Reload

A combination of corrective exercises and conditioning work, such as using supersets to establish better hip hinging and then doing deadlifts, and then maybe add some kettlebell swings.

Reload the frame with the right resistance that maintains the right movement pattern exercises. I use a wide variety of tools based on the client’s needs and preferences.

Reset, reinforce and reload can be applied to both rehabilitation and exercise. In rehabilitation, Physical Therapist/Health Care Provider is working with pain and dysfunction. Exercise professionals work with dysfunction by setting up a baseline and reinforce correctives and conditioning to help prepare the individuals to return to a full active life.

I have successfully retrained my body after a seat belt injury that caused asymmetry imbalances, and now successfully use these remedial corrective strategies with my clients. I give my clients enough practice to learn how to move efficiently, and believe in open communication, taking after hour calls and making home visits.

Move well, move often, stay fit, live!


The Kettlebell Lady – Leanne Wylet, BA, ACE -NCCA, specializes in Orthopedic Exercise, Functional Movement, Hard Style/High Intensity Kettlebell Fitness, Silver Sneakers FLEX & Tai Chi Instructor works with the aging population. She has come back from a seat built injury that left her disabled and two major illnesses; her body is now restored. Taking the skills she’s developed, plus academic training, she works with individuals in all walks of life from youth to those in their golden years. Visit her website, kettlebelllady.com