Can the Plants You Eat Change Your Genetics?
Plants, your gut and your genes
You’ve heard that eating plants are good for you, but how good, and why are they so good?
Researcher Tang from University of Louisville found something fascinating. When we eat plants, their genetic material is taken in by our gut bacteria.
The genetic plant material is called microsomes. Once the genetic material leaves the plant cell after digestion it’s called exosomes.
What’s key is that after eating plants, their genetic material travels through your gut. It then binds to the cell membrane of your gut bacteria or microbiome.
Your microbiome is composed of 100 trillion organisms that can dictate your good health or facilitate disease development.
This plant genetic material doesn’t just bind to your gut bacteria, it actually inserts itself into your gut bacteria.
The genes of the plants you eat become part of your microbiome
It’s pretty fascinating that the plants you eat, actually insert their genes into your gut bacteria.
Then what? The genes from the plants you eat alter the expression of your gut microbiome.
The research mentioned above proved several things.
- the genetic material of the plants you eat is taken up by your gut bacteria.
- this genetic material goes on to change the composition of your gut bacteria.
- it also changes the physiology or your gut bacteria, or how it, and therefore you, function.
Dr Tang stated: “These findings reveal how plants and their effects on the microbiome may be used to target specific host processes to alleviate disease.”
What you eat can alleviate certain diseases
Wow! This takes the expression you are what you eat to a whole new level.
The study found that the plants you consume influence the genetic expression of your gut bacteria in 3 ways:
- They change its reproductive ability. We want the good guys to survive, but we would similarly like the bad guys to be short-lived. An example is the ones that make the enzyme beta glucoronidase, that put you at risk for breast and colon cancer.
- Changes are also made to the metabolic products your gut bacteria make. An example is BDNF that protects your brain, actually making new brain cells.
- They can change the location of the gut bacteria. We need certain bacteria to cluster around the lining of your gut. An example is the Clostridium species that helps maintain your guts’ integrity, thereby preventing leaky gut.
What types of plants should we eat?
We now appreciate that the plants we eat literally affect the expression of our genes. This happens via the effect on our gut microbiome. While this researcher looked at several different fruits and vegetables, here’s something else to think about.
GMOs are genetically modified organisms implanted in plants. If the genetics of the plants we eat is so vital to our own health, how concerning are GMOs? There are many plants Americans eat that have been altered genertically.
It’s been well established that our immune system reacts poorly to GMOs. How do you feel about them implanting themselves into your genetics?
That’s a little frightening. Would you agree?
As Dr Perlmutter was recently quoted as saying: The health, vitality and diversity of gut bacteria are critical in determining our health destiny.
I agree and it’s time to protect them.
Organic and non-GMO plants seem like the safest alternative.
How’s your health?
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To reclaiming your best health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC, CCN
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the e-Books:
- “Gluten: What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You”
- “5 Simple Ways to Regain Your Health”
- “Hiatal Hernia, Many Symptoms, One Cause”
Teng et al., Plant-Derived Exosomal MicroRNAs Shape the Gut Microbiota, Cell Host & Microbe (2018),