Muhdo Health is pioneering to improve health and wellbeing in the workplace, through DNA testing and understanding your individual genetic code.
The following article is a fly on the wall account of working in the city, and the stress it will place on you from both a physiological and psychological point of view.
We will be looking at the day-to-day stressors, nutrition exercise and how to stay fit and healthy whilst trying to find that perfect work-life balance.
Monday morning 5.00am
“Alarm goes off, still feeling slightly tired from Saturday night but busy week ahead and deadlines to meet all week.
I need a coffee before I start feeling remotely human, then a quick shower and bite to eat”!?
“Quick bowl of cereal, and some toast with my coffee, then dash to the station to get the 6:15 to London Bridge”.
With breakfast supposedly being the most important meal of the day, this is unfortunately where the majority of people will make their first mistake.
Seemingly now with the new “Coffee culture” us Brits have moved away from cups of tea, to now religiously immersing ourselves with vast quantities of coffee.
And, for what reason?
Is the new coffee culture mirroring that of smoking back in the 1950’s?
Do people now feel that they need a cup of coffee to fit in to society and be part of the crowd!
You can pretty much judge how sick a society actually is by the number of coffee shops and pharmacies it has.
Whilst every morning watching the army of sleep-deprived zombies heading into London each day, that can’t function without their morning fix of Columbia’s finest.
And, which in some instances can cause more harm than good, and for a variety of reasons.
Are you actually genetically geared up to being part of the coffee revolution?
Firstly, caffeine inhibits the amylase enzyme, which is located in our mouth and gut, and is responsible for breaking down starchy carbohydrates.
Scientific studies have shown that variations in the human salivary amylase gene (AMY1) differ based on populations, which have traditionally eaten high starch diets, compared to those who have traditionally eaten low starch diets.
Variations within the AMY1 gene influence how well your body can break down and process starch, meaning that some people can tolerate these carbohydrates better than others.
The major of sources of dietary starches that people consume for breakfast are processed foods including breakfast cereals, breads and refined grains that are high starch carbohydrates where the starch and carbohydrate is readily available to the body due to its “a cellular” form.
How can you increase amylase?
Citric Acid can increase your own production of amylase in the most activated form – glycosylated amylase.
So perhaps having a hot water and lemon before breakfast could be one option, the other would be to obviously have a more beneifical breakfast containing more protein and fats, such as scrambled eggs or salmon with avocado, and avoiding starchy carbohydrates altogether.
The second reason why having a cup of coffee each morning may actually be doing more harm than good, is that it may be affecting your mental health, and increasing your anxiety levels at the start of each day.
Are you a Worrier or Warrior in the work place?
The COMT gene can encode for a predisposition for having naturally higher adrenaline, and means you may have increased sensitivity to even the smallest stressor, aka a Worrier.
As dopamine levels rise, your body tries to create homeostasis by stopping the production of dopamine rapidly, causing a rapid shift in hormone response and one of the reasons for the extreme highs and lows of low COMT AA individuals.
So cups of coffee in this instance could be the worst possible way to start each day.
“Out the door and brisk 15 minute walk to the station to then roll the dice with getting a seat or being stood the whole way into London”.
Having a quick walk first thing could be one of the most beneficial ways to start your day, and does wonders at a genetic level.
Walking helps to increase anti-inflammatory markers that are extremely soothing, and will help to lower high cortisol levels first thing in the morning.
Inflammation is a bit of a buzzword at the moment, with systemic inflammation leading to whole host array of health concerns.
High stress levels can obviously fluctuate and be a bit of a roller coaster throughout the day.
Starting off with the commute into London, then reaching a crescendo just after lunch when you’ve had a thousand emails hit your desk all at once and all needing a reply in the next 60 seconds!
Chronic stressors and stress hormones (Catecholamine’s), can directly provoke long-term changes in pro-inflammatory cytokine production, as well as indirectly, by promoting oxidative stress that activates the NF-kB pathway, which can lead to a whole array of illnesses.
“The train was packed as per usual, and spending an hour stood up on a boiling train isn’t ideal but what can you do?
Coffee is wearing off rapidly, and in need of some water ASAP!”
A little tip that I think would be extremely useful, and help to improve your energy levels first thing in the morning as well as throughout the day is hydrating correctly!
If you only take away one message from today this would be it.
The vast majority of people are chronically dehydrated, and no more so than first thing in the morning, and especially after being sat on the train for the best part of an hour.
This is a fairly low-tech solution, but weighing yourself before bed and again first thing in the morning, then for every 1lb lost aiming to drink around 500ml.
Ideally you’d try to rehydrate first thing as soon as you’ve woken up, but this may cause a few issues with needing to go to the toilet as soon as you’ve stepped foot on the train, which is best avoided in my opinion.
So tackling this as soon as you’ve got to the office would probably be more beneifical.
People seem to forget that we are made from 60% water, with every metabolic reaction dependant on sufficient water levels.
So if you are dehydrated then nothing will be working effectively, and you will basically be under performing in everything that you do, not to mention your health suffering tremendously.
“Just got to work, and what do you know everyone seems to have a cold!
It’s going to be a mission avoiding everyone coughing and sneezing on me today, and the air conditioning redistributing everyone’s germs isn’t going to be helpful”.
A healthy immune system is obviously extremely important to us all, helping to fight off any bugs floating around at work.
Every minute of every day your body is either under attack from bacteria and viruses or producing Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), also referred to as free radicals.
Research is demonstrating that free radicals cause oxidative stress and damage your DNA, which leads to aging and underlies all disease processes, including cardiovascular disease, dementia and diabetes, premature aging and plays a role in the development of cancer.
Poor liver health, inflammation, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, environmental toxins, chemotherapy, radiation, and smoking will all increase free radical production and can lead to DNA damage.
Your body produces antioxidant enzymes, which remove these ROS. Genetically, some people do not produce good levels of these antioxidant enzymes and are at risk of increased oxidative damage.
Your body’s own antioxidant enzymes are far more powerful than any antioxidant supplement, so to decrease oxidative stress you need to enhance your ability to produce these antioxidant enzymes.
So what can you do?
Adding either tomatoes or spinach to your lunch, which contain lycopene can really help to boost a variety of antioxidant genes. Epidemiological studies reported that regular consumption of lycopene significantly induced antioxidant enzymes SOD and GSH-Px.
“Absolutely starving, time for the usual sandwich, packet of crisps, chocolate bar and maybe a cheeky can of diet coke”!
Now the vast majority of lunches are dictated by a mixture of 3 things, convenience, cravings and work colleagues, with the latter being the most dangerous factor in staying on course with any health or dietary goal!
Or the danger health triangle as I call it
We’ve all got that work colleague that isn’t content until they’ve arm-wrestled you for a pub lunch, or sabotaged your Quinoa salad with a packet of crisps and some Maltesers
If we look at the average lunch it will consist of one major nutrient…. Carbs
And usually in the form of bread, pasta, crisps and chocolate …oh and the occasional fruit juice, which you should never drink on the account of all the beneficial vitamins and minerals being oxidised and lost, and is now pure sugar water.
You need a blend of protein and healthy fats, with an abundance of colourful vegetables.
The majority of convenience foods contain large amounts refined sugars (Sucrose) which are normally a combination of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, with the fructose not getting absorbed by the cells as it only gets metabolised by the liver.
Fructose is responsible for a process called ATP trapping, which is when ATP (the source of energy within the cell) gets blocked. The body then sends a signal through the vagal nerve looking for energy so you don’t fell satiated.
Hence why you can eat large amounts of refined sugars without feeling full.
“Nice to get some fresh air…well, as fresh as it can possibly be in the centre of town.
And feeling the sun on my face for even 15 minutes recharges the batteries for the rest of the day”
Two major factors that will be in short supply when working in the City will be fresh clean air and the sunshine hormone Vitamin D.
As we’ve had an abundance of sun so far this summer, I thought I’d briefly explain how your genes will affect your ability to absorb, convert and utilise the summers sun.
Ok, there are 2 ways to get Vitamin D.
Either firstly from our diet or by taking a supplement.
And secondly from the sun, when it’s synthesised beneath the skin from the ultra violet light.
Vitamin D controls around 900 of your genes and has many important roles to play within your body, from regulating your calcium levels for healthy bones and teeth, to possibly slowing the aging process and reducing inflammation
One of the genes that Muhdo analyse is called CYP2R1, which encodes for an enzyme that is located in your liver, and converts Vitamin D3 into the main circulatory form known as 1-25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
It then gets transported to the intestines where it gets absorbed by gene VDR
Now depending on which genetic variant of CYP2R1 and VDR you have will affect your ability to convert and absorb vitamin D effectively, and so increases your chances of being vitamin D deficient.
My tip for increasing vitamin D absorption would be to incorporate more cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, as they contain a phytochemical called sulforaphane, which can increase and modify certain genes associated within the vitamin D cycle
Now why do we feel better when the suns out.
Well one reason is that there are a couple of genes named TCN1 and TNC2, meaning Tryptophan hydroxylase 1 and 2, which are genes associated with mental health that converts tryptophan found in most protein sources into serotonin.
Serotonin has a wide variety of functions, from regulating your mood, happiness and anxiety, as well as learning skills and memory. It’s also extremely important in appetite control as well as regulating the body’s sleep cycle and internal clock.
We are gradually discovering that Vitamin D is essential for regulating physiological and psychological health and wellbeing.
With it also having a critical role to play in the aging process.
The chromosomes inside our DNA have a protective cap called telomeres, which protect the chromosomes from becoming damaged from free radicals, toxins and inflammation that may lead to your DNA being affected, damaged and possibly mutating.
The telomere length is a direct indicator and biomarker for aging, as when we age our telomeres will become shorter and shorter.
I’ve had a banging headache since lunch, now I’ve got a lovely commute home and hopefully be back home before 8.
A nice glass or 2 of wine with something quick and simple for dinner”
“Arrived home, absolutely starving and my heads pounding from the mother of all headaches…
Firstly pour a generous glass of wine then jump in the shower.
….then secondly what’s for dinner?
The week always starts well with something healthy like a stir fry, then rapidly goes downhill with something like beans or cheese on toast”
Stir-fry’s seem to be the evening meal of choice for the masses due to being extremely easy to prepare after a long day at work.
Simplicity and nutrition at a drop of a hat, and getting a great portion of fresh vegetables at the end of the day . . . . . What could possibly go wrong?
Well there are a couple of issues with regards to stir-frying
Firstly, using olive or vegetable oils is a complete no no
The vast majority of olive oil is fake and usually rapeseed oil, then even if you do in fact have real olive oil it is more than likely to have been oxidised from being sat in a bottle for months on end.
Vegetable oil is possibly one of the worst things you could ever consume, as it’s laden with pro-inflammatory omega 6 polyunsaturated fats, as well as being completely oxidised.
And if that wasn’t bad enough they are usually sold in plastic bottles, which are completely permeable by fat.
Meaning that the plastic is literally leaking into the oil… yummy!
Another reason why stir-frying with oil is probably not a great idea, is that you will be breathing in the oil vapour whilst cooking.
These fumes where found to be genotoxic, meaning that they are destructive to cells, DNA and RNA, containing Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) that are carcinogens.
Using water would be a far better option, and whilst this isn’t technically frying, it will be far healthier for you.
“Glass number 2 is well on its way, and scrolling through a few emails with a bit of Blue Planet on BBC.
Unfortunately the crisps have also made a cameo appearance this evening, which seems to be a reoccurring theme lately”
That much needed glass of wine once we’ve arrived home and decided to de-stress and unwind for the day is usually the route that the vast majority of us take.
But unfortunately much to the detriment to our sleep and wellbeing
We must remember that whilst alcohol is a sedative and can put us to sleep in the short term, sedation is not actually sleeping and will dramatically affect your sleep cycle.
There are a whole variety of health connotations associated with poor sleep quality, so below I will be briefly touching on a few of the main ones, to hopefully shine some light on the issue.
Firstly, an interesting study from the University of Chicago looked at individuals looking to lose weight following a calorie-restricted diet at the same time as monitoring their sleep.
One group was sleep deprived, only gaining 5.5 hours sleep.
The other group on exactly the same diet but getting 8.5 hours sleep found that at the end of the study they’d lost 55% more body fat simply from sleeping more.
Now this goes against the modern day dogma of doing more to achieve your goals and in many ways sounds counterintuitive, as how does doing less (i.e sleeping) actually give you more in terms of burning fat.
Now this isn’t just a question of sleeping more!
We need to sleep smarter.
What actually happens whilst we sleep that enhances everything that we do, and becomes some kind of elixir to our health, fitness and longevity?
So for today let’s talk about a few hormones that may be having an effect on your sleep and health.
HGH (Human Growth Hormone) is an extremely powerful hormone that you produce during the first part of your sleep cycle, and helps to produce more lean muscle.
It’s also muscle sparing, and helps to protect the muscle that you already have.
HGH also helps to increase energy levels, and is known as the “Fountain of Youth” as you will have naturally higher levels during childhood.
Sleep is the key here, as you wont increase your levels from a silly supplement that claims to “Increase HGH by 555%” BOOM, but you will increase levels by getting a good nights sleep.
The second hormone that we need to look at is Cortisol, which has become a bit of a buzzword and bogeyman of late.
Cortisol is responsible for a whole variety of metabolic functions such as helping to regulate your thyroid hormone.
The thyroid regulates nearly every major metabolic function in your body, and as such, a poor functioning thyroid can have a detrimental effect on nearly every area of your health.
For instance, weight gain, reduced metabolic rate, fatigue, feeling depressed or moody, dry hair and skin and much more.
Cortisol is our friend for most of the time; it only becomes an issue if it’s produced at the wrong time and in the wrong amount.
Sleep deprivation has an immediate effect with an increase in cortisol levels and a decrease in HGH production.
So if you’re staying up late, and burning the midnight oil checking your emails then your cortisol levels will be through the roof, and you will literally be breaking down your muscle tissue for energy at an evaluated rate.
This process is called gluconeogenesis, where you will be breaking down your valuable muscle tissue into sugar (glucose)
The next hormone in the sleep equation is melatonin, or the “Sleep hormone” as its been labelled of late.
Melatonin has been shown to have a great effect on fat lose, as it helps to increase Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT), which functions in many ways like muscle in regards to burning White Adipose Tissue (WAT)
So increasing your levels of BAT fat will help to increase your metabolic rate, with melatonin having a direct correlation to increasing your levels of BAT fat.
Then we have Leptin, which is your body’s satiety hormone (Feeling full)
An interesting study at Stanford University discovered that just one night of sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality leads to quite a server suppression of your leptin levels.
This is one of the reasons that you will eat everything insight following a late night, as your “Feeling full” hormone isn’t firing on all cylinders.
Now the last hormone we will be looking at is Ghrelin, which is your body’s “Hunger hormone”……which one of my work colleagues…Richard! seems to have an abundance of…seriously the guys got hollow legs!
Another interesting study showed that just one night of poor quality of sleep leads to a 20% increase in Ghrelin levels.
So again, this may be one reason as to why your appetite goes through the roof following a late night, or continually going to bed late.
Briefly delving into the world of genetics now
During our sleep is when we repair damage to our DNA.
One of the ways that this is done is by releasing one of our previously mentioned hormones “Melatonin” at night, which is inhibited by blue light during the day and our phones, laptops and tablets at night and activates and regulates over 500 genes that are involved in repair and antioxidant function.
So sleeping is obviously very important to repair a lot of the damage done during the day. It also activates the Glymphatic system, which is a complex network of blood vessels that extends from the spinal fluid all the way throughout the brain.
During our sleep we will actually release cerebral spinal fluid up into the brain to wash out all the cellular waste products that have built up during the day. So getting a good nights sleep has many positive health connotations, from repairing your DNA, increasing your antioxidants… to improving the length of your telomeres, which slow the aging process, and are mother natures stopwatch.
“Finally getting in to bed, but need to get out of the habit of taking my phone to bed with me each night”
Well hopefully I’ve helped explain a few areas that may of resonated with you?
Trying to explain our day to day lives with a sprinkling of genetics seems to be having a good response, and thank you for the positive messages.
I think I’m going to have a crack at cutting through the ridiculous and quite frankly ill informed statement made by most “Joe Six packs” and self proclaimed Instagram experts that…
“All that you need to do when trying to lose weight is be in a caloric deficit”
Well yeah!! thats not entirely true now is it?
There are a whole host of reasons as to why obese and over weight people cannot lose weight.
With many predisposing factors not being considered.
Why aren’t we taking inflammation, hormones and metabolic pathways into account.
That should rattle the cage slightly as I’ve never been great at sitting on the fence…which you may have noticed by now?
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