I have always found it interesting how genes are always to blame for today’s common chronic diseases when they did not exist as a common condition less than 100 years ago. What is even funnier to me is you have had the same genes your entire life and then years later you have a chronic health condition and yet your genes are still to blame. Well your genes did not change but your lifestyle did. However, your lifestyle may be healthier than someone who frustratingly does not have any health issues and yet you do.
So what is the difference you ask? “Oh it must be my genes!” Interesting enough blaming it on the genes is too simplistic and not the entire story. “Oh but of course not Erin, we all know it is my lifestyle I have heard this all before!” Well my dear friend this too is also just a portion of the story but not the full story.
In fact what really makes us more vulnerable than one another to these health conditions start in the womb. The lifestyle of your mother prior to and during pregnancy determines whether or not and under what circumstance your genes either turn “on” or “off” resulting in having or not having a chronic health condition. If your mind is not blown yet it will be 😉
In 1989 a man by the name of Dr. David Barker first published his findings showing a relationship with low birth weight and the development of coronary artery disease in adulthood. Today his research is known as the “Barker Hypothesis”. His study identified how a mother’s nutrition prior to and especially during pregnancy influences the baby’s growth before birth and in early childhood. When the mother is malnourished, meaning not eating a balanced diet resulting in being too thin or overweight it alters the development of the baby’s heart.
Dr. Barker’s research soon discovered it wasn’t just the heart that was at risk from the effects of malnourishment but other organs as well resulting in an increased risk of these babies’ having heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and even certain cancers when they are older. If there are not enough nutrients for all tissues and systems to develop fully in the womb there is a lifetime of susceptibility.
In the womb the baby’s little body sees the brain as the top and more immediate priority to use nutrients for development. Other organs such as the lungs and kidneys are secondary because the mother is actually performing these functions for them until birth. This is often termed as an organ “trade-off”. The baby now uses these organs for survival and not relying on their mother for these functions. As the baby gets older and then becomes an adult they may or may not be more susceptible to chronic health conditions depending on the development and functionality of their body’s systems. It does not just stop with the organs being affected. Hormonal profiles and metabolisms are involved in the chain reaction as well.
The Barker Foundation states, “Chronic disease is a legacy from malnutrition and poor living conditions among previous generations of girls and young women. The geography of diabetes, heart disease and stroke within any country was laid down by the malnourished mothers of the past. The composition of a good diet was widely agreed many years ago but today the diets of many girls and young women remain unbalanced and monotonous.”
I know this can seem daunting and a bit scary. However, I find it is actually more empowering than scary. YOU have a chance to turn this all around for your family. Before today you probably had no idea that your nutrition prior to and during pregnancy had this much of an impact.
Every moment is another chance to turn this all around whether you are planning a pregnancy or are currently pregnant. There is no such thing as perfection in anything but there is such a thing as doing your best. Each day your best will be different based on how you feel and where you are.
If you already have children and they are a few years from putting this information to use have no fear! You can still teach your family how eating healthy actually tastes good and you can still have all the foods you love. You can still teach them that being active is not just to be in shape but to feel alive, energetic, and it can be fun. See, once again every moment is another chance to turn this all around.
If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy and want to make health a family legacy you pass down send me a message on my business Facebook page!
To read more about the Barker Foundation go here