Since the time of mapping out the genome in 2000, we’ve continued to connect the dots between generational experiences, particularly trauma and in utero exposures, and the development of health and disease. We’ve seen, for instance, from survivors of the Dutch Hunger Winter or the Holocaust, epigenetic changes that are passed on to future generations. My guest in this podcast, best-selling author and former journalist Judith Finlayson, discusses the fascinating history that led to our current understanding of epigenetic expression. She shares research from her book, You Are What Your Grandparents Ate: What You Need to Know About Nutrition, Experience, Epigenetics and the Origins of Chronic Disease, and dives into the dietary and lifestyle choices she prioritizes to support optimal genetic expression. Listen, learn, and leave a review/rating wherever you’re listening to New Frontiers! Thanks ~DrKF
Nutrition’s Role in the Epigenetic Origins of Health and Disease with Judith Finlayson with Judith Finlayson
How do generational experiences, such as the Dutch Hunger Winter or the Holocaust, impact epigenetic expression and the development of health and disease? In this episode of New Frontiers, we are joined with Judith Finlayson, a best-selling author on a variety of subjects from personal well-being and women’s history to food and nutrition, including You Are What Your Grandparents Ate: What You Need to Know About Nutrition, Experience, Epigenetics and the Origins of Chronic Disease. Judith discusses the rich epidemiological origins of epigenetic expression, including the research of David Barker, the Omics revolution, and her favorite ways to optimize healthy genetic expression. Stay tuned as shares her journalistic investigation into the history of nutrition and epigenetics.
In this episode of New Frontiers, learn about:
- David Barker, epidemiology, and epigenetics
- The Atlas of Mortality
- In utero influences on genetics
- The Omics revolution
- The epidemiological origins of the Barker Hypothesis
- The Dutch Hunger Winter
- Developmental origins of health and disease
- Contributions of GrowBaby Health
- Health risks of under and over-nutrition in utero and children
- Generational changes to gene expression
- How to influence optimal epigenetic expression
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Hi everybody. Welcome to a New Frontiers in Functional Medicine, where we are interviewing the best minds in functional medicine and today is absolutely no exception. I am very excited to be sitting here with Judith Finlayson. She is a best-selling author who has written books on a variety of subjects from personal well-being and women’s history to food and nutrition. She’s a former national newspaper columnist for The Globe and Mail, magazine journalist, political speech writer. She’s also the author of over a dozen cookbooks. Her most recent book and the topic of our conversation today, You Are What Your Grandparents Ate, has been translated into German, French, Spanish, Slovenian and Japanese. Judith lives in Toronto, Canada. And Judith, welcome to New Frontiers.
Judith Finlayson: Thank you for having me, Kara. I’m so pleased to be here today.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Now, some of you will know from the title You Are What Your Grandparents Ate, if you’re following the epigenetic science these days, that probably this is where Judith is going with this title. And I have to say, I stumbled upon this fabulous book. It was released in 2019. I stumbled upon it last year. And Judith and I connected because I posted it on Instagram. And I was reading it while I was getting a reflexology workup, and absolutely, absolutely enthralled with the story that Judith told. And I’m just beyond grateful that you were willing to jump on and share this amazing work that you’ve chronicled, again. So I want to start at the beginning, how you were charged with writing the body of knowledge and what it is. I’ll let you fill everybody in, and then we’ll dive into the heart of this important work.
Judith Finlayson: Okay. Well, as you said, I’m a journalist, basically, that’s what I do. And I’ve had careers as a speech writer, and communications consultant, and various related aspects. But all my life I’ve loved to cook. Cooking has always been my passion and my hobby, and whatever. And around the year 2000, I had an opportunity to write a cookbook. I did that, it became very successful. And I thought, “Maybe it’s time for me to think about a career change. And what a great idea to be able to make your hobby, your livelihood.” So I started writing cookbooks. But being me, I wasn’t just happy doing cookbooks, and I got really interested in the whole field of nutrition. And food is medicine and health, and all of that stuff. My basic motto is, just because it’s nutritious doesn’t mean that it can’t be delicious. And in fact, I think the two things are they really go together.
So in 2008, I published a book on whole grains. I really went into researching the health benefits of whole grains and developing recipes around that. And through that connection, over a period of years, I’m condensing this, took quite a long time. I got to know Bob Moore, who you will probably know as being the face on the package of Bob’s Red Mill whole grains. And if there is one person that I interact with, often or who shares my real passion for food and nutrition, it is Bob Moore, we are on exactly the same page. And so Bob, got me interested. Actually, he’s given me about three copies of a book called Nutrition in the Womb by David Barker. And he said, “You should read this.” And so I did and I got very interested in it. And he knew who David Barker was. David Barker was a British epidemiologist. Because David Barker had ended up at the end of his career working at or he spent… (Cut off a section on audio)
So by the end of his career, he had been invited to become a member of the staff or whatever, at the Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland. And he was doing a lot of work with Kent Thornburg, who is also one of the experts on developmental health. Kent, and I’ve asked him if I can say this, and he says, “Yes, you can,” is probably the world expert on the placenta. And that’s a whole other subject. I’m sure you know the placenta is a very understudied area of research. And my theory is because of course, it’s women. So it doesn’t get studied as thoroughly as it should. But anyway, all of which is to say that through all of these connections, I became very interested in David Barker.
And started doing research. Asking people like my doctor, my naturopath, whatever, what they knew about David Barker, and the developmental origins of health and disease, and nobody had ever heard of it. So at that point, I thought, “Wow, this is a message that really needs to get out there.” And so I wrote, You Are What Your Grandparents Ate. It wasn’t quite that simple. But that’s the short form story of it.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: So first of all, I just want to say for housekeeping, people are going to wonder about your cookbooks. And so I just wanted to assure folks that I know you’re curious. I’m actually curious, too. And we’ll make sure we put links on our show notes. Because you’ve convinced me really, quite readily that they are probably really good. And it sounds like you have some delicious recipes. But then anyway. Yeah. So your world unfolds. And you were given this body of information that I didn’t know. And that’s kind of how our conversation started like, Dr. David Barker he’s talking about the science of epigenetics. He is connecting the dots about influences heritable and in utero influences that have profound implications over the course of our life, and into our offspring and subsequent generations lives.
It’s absolutely extraordinary what he did. And I feel like you were also charged with conveying the importance of this work that I certainly didn’t come across in any of my training. So talk about that. Just talk about who David Barker is, and really what he did for epidemiology and the Omics revolution, and just some of the juicy stories that you and I were talking about, that are like a scientific detective story.
Judith Finlayson: Yes, it is a scientific detective story, that’s for sure. Before we get to epigenetics, we really have to talk about the field of science known as epidemiology, which is what David Barker was, he was an epidemiologist. And for your audience, in case they don’t know, epidemiologists are scientists that study the disease patterns in populations of people. And David Barker had been doing that for years. His big work, or one of his big works was the Atlas of Mortality, which I think he started publishing in the 1970s. And in that original epidemiological work, he started noticing that heart disease was more prevalent in areas of Britain and Wales that were less affluent. Now, that may not seem like a great insight at this point. But in those days, you have to remember that heart disease was really thought to be a disease of affluence. It was linked with eating too much expensive red meat.
But his statistics were showing connections between being poor, and higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, and heart disease later in life. What he didn’t have was an explanation for how this happened in individuals, but he was a very, very intuitive person. And his gut was telling him that the link between heart disease and poverty had something to do with what happened in pregnancy. He knew that he needed data to establish these biological links. So over the next decade or so, and it took that long to get the information he needed. And he was able to do that, thanks to three primary sources. And the first significant source was the Hertfordshire ledgers.
These records were compiled in the early 20th century by midwives in Hertfordshire, a country in England. And they recorded the birth weight of newborns and how much they weighed on their first birthday. And we have this information thanks to one of the most delightful characters in the book. And that’s E. Margaret Burnside, whose title was something like the Chief Inspector of health visitors and midwives. And she was apparently quite a formidable character, I got really interested in her as a person. And she was quite tall, and I gather rather imposing, and she managed to, I think, basically scare some of the public officials into spending more money on this exercise.
And they might have been giving her things like baby scales that she could give to her health visitors. And she rode all over England, on her bicycle, visiting these people and taking down this information, which I think is really, really… When you just think about it, it’s cutting edge, it’s led to these cutting-edge findings, and this new science of epigenetics. And if we didn’t have Margaret Burnside on her bicycle, we never would have gotten there. So it’s a lovely image that really.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: And that’s way, but it is such a cool image. I actually have in my notes, she was also referred to as the Lady Inspector of Midwives, and 1911 is it seems like when she was doing her work. But how did Dr. Barker happen upon this incredibly valuable data from this extraordinary record keeper?
Judith Finlayson: Well, that’s another story. And there are a couple of examples of real just luck, sheer luck. He found out about them. And I can’t quite remember how, I’ve actually seen them. And they’re fascinating. They look like something out of Dickens. They’re big ledgers, and they’re written in these pen and ink, fountain pen script and whatever. But he learned about them, and then was told that he couldn’t have access to them because they contained too much personal information. So they were really, what they were getting at in some of the comments was what we would now describe as the social determinants of health like poverty, cleanliness, trauma, those kinds of things. But anyway, this was considered personal private information.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: And she was capturing that and having the nurses that were working?
Judith Finlayson: Quick little note, yes. Not extensive details or psychotherapy or whatever, but quick little notes that would signal certain things. So, anyway, he was told that he could not see the records because they contain personal information. Well, you will know if you know anything about the history of the Second World War, that children were evacuated from London to the countryside to protect them from the bombing, mothers and children. And David Barker was one of those children with his mother, and his sister was born in a town in Hertfordshire. I forget the name of Mad Hatter I think it was. And because of that, her birth was recorded in these records, which we’re continuing to that point. And Dr. Barker was able to get access to the records because he was a family member of someone whose information contained therein.
So because of that information, or that data that he got from those ledgers, he was able to show that if you weigh 5.5 pounds or less at birth, you are three to five times more as likely to develop heart disease than a newborn who weighed eight pounds. So that was the beginning of the developmental origins of health that identified the link between pregnancy and later health. Health as an adult. And he published that in 1986. In it was called then called the Barker Hypothesis in the Lancet.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: And how was it… Yeah. Go ahead.
Judith Finlayson: And they thought he was crazy. He was just dismissed as a crazy person.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Let me just ask you. Do you know in your research, what kind of recommendations were… It wasn’t that long ago, the ’80s. Actually, it’s a little bit mind blowing that it was dismissed. That’s well into my lifetime. Do you-
Judith Finlayson: He just made the link between what happens in pregnancy. And things like poor nutrition, low birth weight, which was linked to poor nutrition, he was starting to make the links with nutrition. But it was really just that marker of low birth weight, and the [increase rank] risk of heart disease as an adult. And of course, there was the link what he had seen originally with the heart disease and poverty, which he was finding out from his epidemiological studies. Next, he moved on to Holland, he heard about the maternity records that were kept during what is known as the Dutch Hunger Winter. And interestingly, these also had almost disappeared. They had ended up under a staircase in a building that was demolished as I recall.
And were just found by accident and retained. And the Dutch Hunger Winter refers to a period during the Second World War, when the Germans blocked food shipments to parts of the Netherlands. The people were on the brink of starvation for the entire winter, if you’ve read anything about that, you will know they talked about eating tulip bulbs. That was all they had to eat. The data, the Dutch kept very, very detailed records, the Dutch are very detail oriented. And I can say that because my husband is a Dutch extraction. His grandparents immigrated from Holland. And they are very well organized. That’s one of their strengths. And so they have these very detailed records, the statistics of which show that the offspring of women who were pregnant during that period, were especially vulnerable to developing chronic illnesses that were metabolic in origin. They were twice as likely to have heart disease, more likely to be obese or to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, than those whose mothers had been pregnant in normal conditions.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Wasn’t schizophrenia increased in that population too?
Judith Finlayson: Not in those studies. They really, and then they went back and you will be interested in this. When they went back later, once they could start doing epigenetic studies, they could show the changes in methylation. So his third, treasure trove was the Helsinki birth cohort study. And the Finns began in 1934 to keep very detailed health records on groups of people, which included their weight as newborns. But they went beyond what Margaret Burnside did. They continued to track the weight and growth patterns of children until they turned 11. And that additional information turned out to be very valuable because it showed for the first time that people who developed some types of chronic illness grow and develop differently from others. So hypertension was one of the key examples. We know that it’s linked with low birth weight. And thanks to the childhood tracking that David Barker could use based on the Helsinki birth cohort information.
We also know that when children’s body mass index increases rapidly between the ages of three and 15, it increases their vulnerability to developing hypertension. So, thanks to epidemiologists and David Barker, we learned that what happens in the womb doesn’t stay in the womb. And the risk for many chronic diseases originates in fetal life, and that early childhood experiences have an impact as well. We’re seeing some of this now. There’s so much out there that supports us like adverse childhood experiences, social determinants of health and disease, that are really in the background and have been for some time, but they really can coalesce around the developmental origins of health and disease information.
I will say a couple of other things. I went to Holland, I met with Tessa Roseboom who does the Dutch Hunger Winter things. And also with… I’ve just forgotten his first name, Ericksson, Dr. Ericksson, who was the Helsinki person. He and David Barker became great friends. But the interesting thing, when he first met Barker, and they met at a conference, he too thought Barker was bonkers. But he knew that he had this huge database back in Helsinki that he could use, and he initially decided that he was going to use it, to prove that David Barker was wrong. And of course, he didn’t prove that. But the two became great friends, and all of these people are now collaborating with him. Or were collaborating with him, he died a few years ago. But producing a huge body of research under the umbrella of developmental origins of health and disease.
So it’s really an interesting story. He knew he came home and told his wife, when he first had that realization that it was linked, that chronic illness was really linked to what happened in the womb. He knew what he was in for in terms of being not accepted by the medical and research profession. And he thought long and hard about it. And he then proceeded to carry on. And over the years, he was accepted. I’m told by Kent Thornburg, that really in terms of his acceptance in the US, it was around the year 2000, when he was invited to speak to the National Institutes of Health. And that that is really a marker of, “Now you’ve arrived.” But it took a long time for him to arrive at that point.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: And just holding steady with this truth that he had identified. And certainly the climb. There’s a great deal of pressure in our profession to conform, even into prescribe to a certain body of beliefs. Even as a naturopathic doctor, but I think this exists in those lone voices who have the courage to walk the truth, especially something as incredibly important as this. I’m just still blown away that he was being ousted back in the, well when he was published in the ’80s in The Lancet. And this is so obvious to us today. And I know my obstetrician colleagues are certainly they’re thinking about what’s happening in utero all the time. And they’re recognizing small for gestational age and the implications and health of the baby.
So I’m just curious, my progressive colleagues, the Stones out in Ashland, Oregon and their daughter, Emily Rydbom. I just want to give a shout out to their GrowBaby Health work and the amazing work that they’re doing in their clinic. In fact, they have a great publication. Two publications, actually, where they mentioned, David Barker in one of them and I’ll just pop those on the show notes for people who are curious because they’re actually they’re thinking about this body of work, and I know his work really influenced them. But I’m curious what other people, what other obstetricians, gynecologists, internal medicine folks, whether Barker has made it into mainstream medical school. He wasn’t in my training. I just have a couple of questions from the data sets that you just spoke to. One is, did they recognize breastfeeding? Were they thinking about breastfeeding? I suppose in the early there was an alternative. But yeah.
Judith Finlayson: Good question. I don’t know to be honest. I haven’t seen it mentioned. I think for most breastfeeding would have been the standard.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Sure. Yeah.
Judith Finlayson: Certainly, for the Margaret Burnside data.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Right.
Judith Finlayson: During the war, if they weren’t having food, sure they would have.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: But it would be a given until whenever formula was developed.
Judith Finlayson: Yeah. That’s right. So that was the origins of the developmental origins of health and disease were really epidemiological. And then around the year 2000, around the time that it was beginning to get just a little bit of traction in mainstream health and medicine, the science of epigenetics came on the forum. And that explores how factors like nutrition influence health, by affecting a process known as gene expression. And just for your audience, we know that the genes you inherited from your parents remain constant. But what you may not know is that certain things like nutrition can spark reactions that change how those genes express themselves.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: I just want to underscore the point that you made talking about the different data sets. The Burnside data set, the Early London data set, and then I think it was the Helsinki data set, was it? On one hand, we’re looking at in utero, lack of adequate nourishment in utero and outcomes associated with that, but you actually talked about the early childhood and pre puberty time as excess nourishment resulted in almost a similar fallout.
Judith Finlayson: Yeah. They talk about a J curve, in some of that, and it’s linked with in some cases diabetes, where you get over nutrition, and you get babies that are born too large. So it’s not necessarily the best nutrition but you do have an out of whack result that also can predispose to chronic conditions. The under our poor nutrition is the better studied or the most closely studied, but they are looking now at the other end of the spectrum.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: So, in 2000, so we map out the genome, and we start to, I think maybe it was a little bit it was disappointing, right? Not one gene, one disease. We realized that wasn’t the case. In fact, it was infinitely more complex and there wasn’t going to be easy answers, I think. And then that ushered in the whole era of Omics, including epigenomics. And how epi on top of the gene, how influencing genetic expression is by environmental exposures is where the rubber meets the road, I think in a lot of ways. And I guess so my next question to you as you unfold the story, is what was David Barker thinking about? Like, he’s an epidemiologist, so he’s connecting these dots and showing, “Here’s A and then here’s outcome B, C, and D.” But was he thinking mechanistically? And was he thinking about epigenetics at that time in the early 2000s? Can you just connect those dots? Because that’s certainly where you went.
Judith Finlayson: Yes. Well, no, he was too. He was really a very advanced thinker and a very intuitive thinker to everyone who I’ve met who, who knows him or knew him. Absolutely brilliant man, in many ways the odd scientist. He and his wife were very, very, they were lovely. She’s still alive. But lovely, lovely people. And everybody speaks very positively on them who knew them. But they used to have everybody over to their house to stay. When the researchers would come, they’d work together and they stay, and… I think it’s just terrible that I can’t remember his name because I first name, but Dr. Ericksson. I’m just having a mental block today. Told me a funny story about going to be-
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Johan…
Judith Finlayson: Yeah. And so thank you. And staying with them near Southampton, where they lived, and they were in the countryside, and there was a river that ran through the property. And he had the guestroom and he got up one morning and looked out the window. And he saw this man in a suit with his back to him, fishing, throwing a fishing rod into the river. And anyway, he caught a fish and he turned around and it was David. And David had caught the fish that they were going to eat for dinner and his wife was a wonderful cook. And Johan and David both loved to eat and cook. And whenever he went to Helsinki, the two of them would have a merry old time eating their way around the city, and sampling lots of good wine. But anyway there he was fishing in his suit and they had fish for dinner. And then he brought the fish into the house and put it in the fridge and went off to work in his three piece suit.
But he was that kind of person. And often kind of somewhere else, Kent Thornburg told me a story about taking, if you’ve ever been to OHSU, they have a cable car that goes up the hill and the campus on the main grounds. And he and David were riding in the cable car one day, and one day and a woman came up and said to David something about his sweater. And he said I don’t know what she was talking about. Johan said, “Well, David, you have it on inside out.” So his life was a constant one after another, these kinds of stories, but he did get interested in epigenetics. And thanks to that they were beginning to see or we’re starting to be able to show that when a pregnant woman doesn’t get for instance, enough nutrition, that it sparks changes in gene expression that affect how the fetus develops and grows.
So you know about the epigenetic landscape, and how we develop, how we go from the two little reproductive cells that meet. And we develop brain cells and liver cells, and heart cells and all of that. And become this complex human. And that’s really epigenetics. And so when you don’t get the proper input, while all of these processes are going on, of course, it affects things at the cellular level. And it creates these biological memories is the term I like to use because I think it’s easy to understand. It’s really changes in gene expression that are epigenetic modulations, that these memories go into your body and stay there. And they become a potential sources of chronic illness, a wide range of chronic illnesses. And we’re now seeing more and more as the research advances from heart disease and diabetes, to some types of cancer.
And we’re also seeing that some of these changes to gene expression may be passed on to future generations. So we have key factors like poor nutrition. Kent Thornburg says that now the research is showing that chronic stress can be as powerful in terms of really implementing these epigenetic changes as poor nutrition as well. And those changes in gene expression are passed on to future generations. And one of the key researchers in that area is Rachel Yehuda, in New York City, and she started by looking at the children of Holocaust survivors, and how they were showing symptoms of the trauma that their parents had experienced. And then when she measured cortisol levels in women who were pregnant at the time of 9/11, she found changes there, in those that were susceptible to post traumatic stress disorder that some were, and some weren’t. And those that were passed, those susceptibilities or vulnerabilities on to the babies that they were carrying.
So that’s why we can say with some confidence that you are what your grandparents ate because these changes, leave imprints on reproductive cells, and are passed on through the generations. I don’t know if you want to talk in a little bit more detail about that for your audience. About how both the sperm, we’re now seeing that men have a much larger role than we might have thought, in the past, and the female egg carry biological memories. And those are transmitted through what are known as epigenetic modifications.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yeah. This is an incredibly interesting area for me. And one that I’ve spent some time also looking at and I just appreciate the background that you’re providing. I can say that I know from DNA methylation that, well, as you said, we’re using it to define the fate of our pluripotent stem cells, so is it going to be a liver cell or an eye cell and on and on retinal cell. But that we do inherit about… The DNA methylation is basically scrubbed clean on the embryo, from our parents, with the exception of what I’ve read is about 30%. And it’s that little remaining methylation that I think is the heritable region, at least of that epigenetic mark.
Judith Finlayson: Yeah. Yes. And you’re dead on there. And you’re also that other histone things are also-
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yes.
Judith Finlayson: … passed on too.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Right. Those are the proteins that the DNA is wound around. Yep.
Judith Finlayson: I think the easiest image to grasp is out of a fetus forming in its mother’s belly. So it’s not hard to see, or to think about the fact that the food she eats, the air she breathes, the toxin she’s exposed to, are going to have some impact on that baby. And women don’t drink now, when they’re pregnant. They don’t drink alcohol. And that’s why.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yes.
Judith Finlayson: So it’s not a big leap from that to the science of epigenetics, and how those changes are transmitted at the cellular level. With females, what we tend not to think about is that if the fetus is a female, her eggs, that woman’s eggs are forming, while she is still a fetus, in her mother’s tummy. So all of the things that are happening to her mother are also having an impact on her eggs, which are transmitted to the next generation. So if you can really isolate it and look at those components, it’s not a big stretch to make those connections. But it’s fascinating how long it took us to get started. And how much complicated science had to evolve before we could begin to really accepted it as true.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: And embrace it, right? And so in your work and in your book, you make a lot of recommendations about what we need to think about to influence optimal epigenetic expression. And I would just love to hear some of your top thoughts, I guess both from your book, but also maybe things that have… How have you changed from writing this book and learning this story?
Judith Finlayson: Well, I think some people would say, I was kind of a zealot because I don’t eat processed foods. I’m really very keen. I’m a whole foods person. I really look after probably my microbiome is the thing. That’s really, as that science has advanced, I’ve become very, very involved with my bacteria, my little microorganisms. I think about. I don’t really talk to them in the morning, but I have been known to say that I do. Because they’re really there with me. But what I say is that it’s really a lot of common sense. We have all this high-tech science, like epigenetics and so on. And when you start reading the microbiome stuff that’s coming out, it’s pretty dazzling. But it’s basically just a lot of what your grandmother probably knew.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yes.
Judith Finlayson: And that is the three things are eat well, good whole foods. Michael Pollan said it best I couldn’t do it any better than him. Real foods with no ingredients that you’re… No eat foods, mostly plants, and nothing that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. So none of those food like substances or whatever. Physical activity, that’s been shown to have a really strong benefit on your epigenome. It changes, genetics. Things like mindfulness, have also been shown to improve gene expression. And of course, avoiding toxins, that’s a little trickier because they’re everywhere.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Right.
Judith Finlayson: And we don’t have a huge amount of control over that. But if you do those things, you’re really well on the way to promoting health in a very research supported way.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yeah. That’s right. The one other thing I would add, just from our own work is sleep.
Judith Finlayson: Yeah.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: I’m sure you would agree. Yeah.
Judith Finlayson: Yeah.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: I want you to just connect the dots on… And I absolutely agree with you, too. I’ve said on this podcast, before I did my background, I did a post doctorate in laboratory science, and we were the first clinical lab to release a microbiome, a PCR DNA analysis of the stool, and to clinical outside of the research setting. And I remember feeling so excited back then. And we would find precision probiotics, and maybe we would use medication in a new way. And it would just be very advanced and next generation. And so with this new powerful technology, my major aha was, “Well, you need to chew your food, and you need to eat a whole foods diet and rest and digest.” And it’s exactly what you said this advancing technology almost forces us to look at how we evolved.
Judith Finlayson: Yeah. It takes you back to where you began.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Amazing. It really does. And I remember my advisor and mentor would take a nap, just a little brief nap after he had lunch and let himself digest. He really practiced what he preached. What about the microbiome and the epigenome? You do focus on that, and you’re obviously interested in it in your own life. Any comments there on the interface between the two?
Judith Finlayson: Between the microbiome and?
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Epigenome?
Judith Finlayson: Epigenetics? Well, yes that those little microbes do signal to each other, across your genome, and they do. The Mediterranean diet, for instance, has been shown to improve gene expression. So it all dovetails and it’s kind of what goes around comes around, and to come back to processed foods. We know that you don’t have to what? Just after a couple of days, your microbiome goes south on a diet of processed foods, inflammation soars, you can end up getting endotoxins in your bloodstream.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yeah.
Judith Finlayson: So, it’s just really back to the old ways works best.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: Yes. With that lovely ending, down to earth ending, I want to thank you again, Judith, for joining me, and just sharing this very interesting, scientific mystery that really helped move us forward in how we approach care. So again, everybody Judith Finlayson, You Are What Your Grandparents Ate: What You Need to Know About Nutrition, Experience, Epigenetics and the Origins of Chronic Disease. Thank you so much for joining me today on New Frontiers, Judith.
Judith Finlayson: Thank you so much for having me. It was a real pleasure.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald: And that wraps up another amazing conversation with a great mind in functional medicine. I am so glad that you could join me. None of this would be possible, through the years, without our generous, wonderful sponsors, including Integrative Therapeutics, Metagenics, and Biotics. These are companies that I trust, and I use with my patients, every single day. Visit them at IntegativePro.com, BioticsResearch.com, and Metagenics.com. Please tell them that I sent you and thank them for making New Frontiers in Functional Medicine possible.
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Judith Finlayson is a best-selling author who has written books on a variety of subjects, from personal well-being and women’s history to food and nutrition. A formers national newspaper columnist for The Globe and Mail, magazine journalist and political speech writer, she is also the author of over a dozen cookbooks. Her most recent book You Are What Your Grandparents Ate has been translated into German, French, Spanish, Slovenian and Japanese. Judith lives in Toronto, Canada.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald FxMed Resources
Clinician Professional Development: DrKF FxMed Clinic Immersion