Hacking the Genes

Sara Gottfried, M.D. on Hacking the Genes That Impact Weight Loss & Metabolism

Hacking the Genes

I used to be able to shed weight when I needed to, but I feel like my metabolism has stalled. Is there anything I can do to counteract this? — DW

There are a few things I do every day to improve the environment for my genes and support the health of my metabolism. The scientific term for your environment—the external exposures and their internal effects on the body—is the exposome. Your genes produce specific biomarkers that can be detected in your blood, urine, and hair. Biomarkers may indicate the effect of an exposure and susceptibility factors (including genetic susceptibility). Biomarkers help health professionals accurately measure exposures and their effect, although it’s not necessary to perform expensive testing before you start the inexpensive cleanup of your body.

You control your exposome by your daily habits of body and mind, both conscious and unconscious, including how often you move and what form that movement takes, what environmental exposures you have in your home and office, what you eat and drink, and how you manage or mismanage your hormones.

Daily Habits to Adopt

Address Your Stress We must program regular downtime to relax, unplug, slow down, and digest life. I’m a huge proponent of meditation. There are various styles, like focused attention, open monitoring, transcendental meditation, and movement meditation. Try out yoga, mindfulness, prayer, and other relaxation modalities—as long as you are working to improve how your body responds to stress, the options are limitless.

Sauna I frequently recommend dry saunas, infrared, and heat (hot tubs or steam rooms)—they all improve your exposome. (There’s the most evidence showing that dry saunas help you age well, but infrared is not far behind.) Sauna bathing is also relaxing; it eases stress while adding to your healthspan.

Supplement Berberine, an herbal therapy, is one of the most proven supplements for supporting a healthy metabolism, with over thirty randomized trials showing its efficacy. Other ingredients that I’ve found to be effective when used together to support healthy metabolism include: copper, zinc, and selenium; B vitamins; decaffeinated green tea, chromium and cinnamon.

Movement Targeted exercise can lead to huge benefits, not just for weight loss, but also for improving your healthspan. My advice is to stop exercising so hard in an obsessive desire to burn calories, and start exercising smarter. Practice yoga, or go to barre class. Add burst training, also known as high intensity interval training, to your routine. Burst training involves short periods of high intensity exercise with moderate-level exercise as recovery. Avoid overly aggressive exercise like CrossFit or chronic cardio (i.e. training for a half marathon)—these popular regimens put too much stress on the body. Overall, I recommend 30 minutes of moderate-type exercise four to six days each week. If you can manage 1-2 hours, five or six days each week, you will see an even greater benefit to your healthspan.

Eat More Detoxifying Foods When you eat foods that detoxify your body, such as cruciferous vegetables, broccoli sprouts, fruits, Brazil nuts, or walnuts, you turn on nutrigenomic pathways—the interactions between your individual genetic makeup and dietary components that result in modulation of genetic expression.

Sip on Tea In the morning, drink hot water with lemon or nettle tea. About half the population are “slow metabolizers” of caffeine and cannot tolerate more than 200 mg of caffeine without side effects (including stress, jitters, a higher risk of heart disease). But if you’re not sensitive to caffeine, a little green tea works—the phytochemicals in tea interact in a profound way that reduces the risk of cancer and weight gain, with the effect being most profound in the half of the population with fast caffeine metabolisms.

—Sara Gottfried, M.D.

Sara Gottfried, M.D. is the New York Times bestselling author of Younger, The Hormone Reset Diet, and The Hormone Cure. She’s a graduate of Harvard Medical School and MIT. You can read more of her articles on hormones and weight-loss resistance here, and learn more about her here.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of goop, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.