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Image by Elias from Pixabay

Image by Elias from Pixabay

This one ticked me off a little. Or maybe a lot because I have not been able to shake it. This blog might verge on a rant. Enjoy!

As most of you know we are in the midst of the sports physical season, which is a great time of year. We get to see kids from the community that are hopefully embarking on a lifelong journey of physical fitness. Being physically fit and active for a lifetime pays huge dividends for the individual and society.

So in the midst of the hustle to get these kids all signed off to participate, we had a young man, maybe seventh grade, who weighed in at about 240. I looked at his health history and noticed he was taking the prescription drug, Metformin. 13 years old. Prescription drug to prevent diabetes as barely a teen. I wanted to ring someone’s neck! I calmly asked mom. She said the doctor had prescribed it as a preventative because it (diabetes), drum roll please…”runs in the family.”

If I have heard this once, I have heard it a million times. But really it is just an excuse. I’m not blaming mom or the kid, but the doctor who did this to the poor kid, at 13, she is to be blamed.

Blamed for what? Taking action to “prevent”? Come on Ken, wise up!

Take note folks. Here is where the rant begins!!

Just because it runs in the family DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO RUN WITH IT!!! Hello folks, type 2 diabetes, which is what metformin is commonly prescribed for, is not hereditary. It is almost overwhelmingly lifestyle induced.

A little science for you. Every cell in your body has genes. And if you assume, like most people, that genes are hardwired, you are to be forgiven. The fact of the matter is that most genes, (I have read as high as 95%) can be altered. Depending on the environment acting on them, they act like off and on switches and are expressed at the whim of the environment they are placed in. This is known as epigenetics; meaning genetic expression can be influenced. Read that again. Genetic expression can be influenced. And because only 5% of your genes are hardwired, we have a lot more control over our health than we have been led to believe.

According to the CDC-

Your genes play an important role in your health, but so do your behaviors and environment, such as what you eat and how physically active you are. Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence…  Since your environment and behaviors, such as diet and exercise, can result in epigenetic changes, it is easy to see the connection between your genes and your behaviors and environment.

I don’t typically consult the CDC on matters of health, after all it is disease control, not health promotion. But in this case they actually provide an excellent definition, one that stacks with the 20 years that I have been looking at epigenetics. Diet and exercise matter at a genetic level. This is a big deal because it means you and I are really in charge of how healthy we are. We are responsible for our level of health.

Does that mean that there are no exceptions? Of course not. Some diseases are genetic. But they are the exception, not the rule. As much as we want to think of ourselves as special, most of us are really just ordinary and the rules of physiology apply to us, which includes epigenetic influences like diet and exercise.

Back to my story.

So the mother says, “I told him he needs to exercise, that is why he is going out for the football team.” Of course she told him this. We all know intuitively that this is true. She is a good mom and she wanted to talk about diet too. Which we did.

My question is why is this kid on metformin before he gets a chance to slim up healthfully? Why is the mother giving better advice than the health care provider? Two great questions!

Why indeed?

Next time you are tempted to go with the “it runs in my family” routine, stop and look at your lifestyle first.

Then let’s make some changes. Simple ones.

We are here to help.





6 Join the Conversation

  1. Susan says
    Aug 17, 2023 at 2:20 AM

    Awesome Ken! Bravo! Truth is, it's hard to make lifestyle changes, and so easy to swallow a pill. Despite being popular, pharmaceuticals mess with other functions of the body and you can easily end up with more problems than when you started. Have patience with your body, honor what it what needs naturally, and thrive.

    • says
      Aug 17, 2023 at 4:23 PM

      Thank you for the encouragement Susan. And you are absolutely right on all accounts. Thanks for chiming in. Cheers, ks

  2. Rebecca says
    Aug 18, 2023 at 4:22 AM

    Dr. Swaim: Thank you for educating us on epigenetics. I have to admit I thought family history had an influence, but do not believe it is a given I will have a certain condition. Our minds are very powerful, and our bodies are very much influenced by what we believe in our hearts and speak with our mouths. There is no room for the negative. I also believe our medical community has lost their way. Medical care is not about finding the cause of an issue and curing it through natural remedies or behavioral changes - it is about keeping people sick and making more money. We need not blindly follow a diagnosis or treatment. Do the research, read, and ask questions.

    • says
      Aug 18, 2023 at 6:50 AM

      Thank you Rebecca. Epigenetics has been a priority study of mine since chiropractic school and I have done my best to stay on top of it. You are spot on with how we can do our part in staying healthy! And yes, with diagnoses, prognoses and treatments: question, question, question, due diligence is imperative. Cheers, ks

  3. Marion says
    Aug 19, 2023 at 2:30 AM

    Thank you, Dr. Swaim! This is one of the reasons, I love you so much and trust you. That poor child! Metformin tore up my system. I found Berberine, exercise, intermittent fasting,and eating low carb, is key to controlling my blood sugar and insulin resistance. Lifestyle changes are a challenge, but it's the healthiest way to go. I'm not fond of pharmaceuticals and their side effects. Like you, I have found that lifestyle and food choices are the biggest things that determine our health. I read that most dis-eases that run in families are linked to the eating and lifestyle choices of the family. Children usually follow the choices of their parents and grandparents. Thank you for these lovely posts!

    • says
      Aug 21, 2023 at 1:24 PM

      Marion, It is a delight to hear your voice in this discussion. Thank you for chiming in and sharing some of your own story. Wow! For others to hear first hand experience, is such a bonus to my rantings. I invite you to comment by sharing your same message on our Facebook page if care to. We would welcome your experience and thoughts so that others may learn. Again, thank you for responding!

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