I’m so pleased to share with you the culmination of years of study and months of preparation and rehearsal… my TEDx performance in Youngstown, Ohio.

The topic? Epigenetics– which is truly the overarching cause-and-effect factor that is the missing piece of our contemporary health puzzle. What we are learning now about epigenetics is showing us that what we do today, in each moment, can have an effect on not only our own gene expression, but even our children and grandchildren’s future gene expression!

My goal was to bring you the most leading-edge information, so we were challenged with coordinating with TED’s main office on what was permissible to meet their guidelines. That situation meant that, unfortunately, I was making changes to my talk literally the night before! Despite that challenge, I am very happy with the outcome and look forward to hearing what you think.

If you are so inclined, it really helps me to get the word out by doing the following:

Thank you! The transcript and all 69 citations given on the slides are here below with links.


I’m two years old, and we’re at Donna’s house, my mom’s best friend, with my baby sister, Laura. Of course, she gets all the attention, but while they’re focused on her, I see it: a sparkling crystal dish on a little wooden cabinet nearby with yummy jellybeans.

Should I or shouldn’t I? I might get in trouble. I’m not usually allowed to have candy. But they’re so focused on Laura, I take my chance.

Mom and Donna are sitting right there, and they can easily see me, but they don’t know about my special hiding trick.

If I can’t see them, they can’t see me! I dig in. Suddenly, I hear laughter, and they’re over there laughing hysterically at me thinking that I have hidden myself.

Now I’m sure none of you have ever misbehaved… but many of us like to see what we can get away with regarding our health. We think if we cover our eyes and pretend, we can behave in any way we want and we won’t suffer any consequences.

That’s what I thought, and it resulted in a life-threatening medical scare at the age of 31 that left me feeling alone and broken. After I recovered, I left a career that I loved as a chemical engineer at IBM to embark on a vigorous quest to create a different kind of medical practice, one where I look for the root cause of illness and use the latest technology and testing and research to help my patients like a detective.

The testing that I use allows me to look at each patient’s unique genetics, the environmental toxin levels, and the intricate ecosystem of the gut microbiome, and so much more. In fact, what I’ve learned from helping my patients and diving into the latest research and testing in genetics is this:

We can influence our genes’ behavior, meaning even though we’re born with our genes, our daily choices can influence the chemical modifications around the genes to either move towards a healthy state or a less healthy one.

Although this may sound surprising, it’s based on an impressive and growing body of research called epigenetics, which is how the chemical modifications around the genes can be influenced and determine how active the genes are.

It’s similar to pixels of the computer monitor. All the pixels have the same potential, yet each pixel acting differently allows the computer monitor to create an infinite array of images, colors, and words. All of this happens because individual pixels are turned on, off, up, or down, and your DNA is regulated in a similar way. A cell from your liver has the same DNA as a cell from your eyeball. Since all the cells in our body have the same DNA, that means there’s other processes that determine how individual cells develop, differentiate, and behave. This is how some cells help us to filter our blood, while others allow us to see. The gene expression in every cell is continuously adjusting to adapt to our current situation and environment.

Lifestyle factors unquestionably alter these pixels, and we can dramatically change the trajectory of our health and move our momentum by knowing which dials to turn, levers to switch. Our genes alone are not our destiny.

As kids, we’re taught, “Mind your manners and tell the truth.” And even though epigenetics is a complex subject, it can be as simple as teaching a child to say please and thank you. We can begin to unlock our genes’ potential with three essential rules.

Rule number one: Chill Out. Stress has been linked to Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and so many degenerative diseases. Managing our stress with meditation, sleep, and exercise, we can collaborate with our genes. And this is critical, because cumulative lifetime stress accelerates epigenetic aging. Meditation used to be considered “woo-woo,” but now, extensive research has been showed to rebuild telomere length onto our genes, influence gene expression involved in inflammation and blood flow, and actually improve the way that our bodies respond to stress.

In a study with recent heart attack survivors, those who chilled out with meditation for six months actually changed their blood vessels and decreased the epigenetic expression of three important inflammatory genes. If there was a drug that did this, it could be a billion-dollar drug, and we’d probably all want to take it. But what if every cardiologist, neurologist, really every physician taught meditation in their office? How much pain and suffering and medical expenses would we save?

Until that happens, let’s start with three simple habits.

Habit number one is to just meditate 12 minutes or more a day, sleep seven to nine hours most nights, and exercise 20 minutes or more a day. Of course, get permission from your physician to start a new exercise program.


And then rule number two: Clean Up. We all know we need to clean up our own messes, but most of us don’t realize the invisible mess that we’ve made inside our cells and organs. Every day, we’re exposed to small amounts of imperceptible toxins that can build up in our bodies, and I see the consequences in my patients and in myself. We think a little bit won’t hurt us, but toxicity is often cumulative. Among other effects, the exposure affects our epigenetics. When I measure these in my medical practice, I see that making lifestyle changes and taking the right nutritional supplements decreases the toxin levels in my patients.

To think that things like pesticides, mold, plastics like BPA, and heavy metals, and other toxins like tobacco smoke, air pollution, and alcohol don’t have lasting consequences on our health is like covering our eyes and pretending it’s not affecting us.

These toxins are extensively studied for epigenetic effects, and testing often reveals that they’re present in my patients. There’s a new test that may become widely available in the future that allows us to see specifically how environmental toxins are affecting specific genes. One of my patients in her sixties was noticing that her memory was declining. When we ran this test, she had a toxin from mold that was attached to a gene that increases the risk for Alzheimer’s. Eight months later, after implementing the recommended nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes, we reran the test, and the toxins were removed, and she was even recalling words more easily.

Every day, we encounter toxic exposures from places and products that we wouldn’t expect, like our mattresses, seafood, food and beverage packaging, and even BPA on grocery receipts. Instead of being alarmed, we can be informed and take action on the things that we can control, and help our bodies to detoxify what we can’t control.

Here are some effective actions that I’ve taken to help myself clean up.

I’m aware of the quality of the air that I breathe, and I filter the air in my home to reduce the outgassing that can happen in my environment. I’m careful about what I put on my skin. I eat and drink the cleanest food that I can, buying organic, high-quality food, and I eat lots of vegetables like broccoli, the cruciferous vegetables, and I pay attention to the food preparation and packaging. And then, several days a month, I restrict my calories to reset important functions, either by intermittent fasting or a new area of research called fasting mimicking that’s heavily funded and getting excellent results. Again, check with your physician to see if fasting is a good option for you.

And finally, rule number three: Play Well with Others. One of our most important relationships is with our own microbiome. It’s like a little army of organisms that either work with us or against us. It’s made up of parasites, bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which some people may think is a bad thing, but really, they’re fighting to keep us healthy. Collectively, they have 100 to 200 times more genetic material than we do, and when they’re friendly and cared for, they really help to keep us healthy. Among other roles, the microbiome helps to provide the resources we need to control our genes, and an imbalanced microbiome can lead to instability in the entire epigenetic process, and that affects many functions in our body.

Fortunately, there are recent advances in testing that allow us to look more deeply into what’s going on in the body and with the microbiome, and because of this, we can measure and correct the imbalances. And my patients often notice improved blood sugar levels, better mood, stronger immune systems, and reduced autoimmunity, and more. These organisms are particularly affected by what we ingest and the toxins we’re exposed to.

We can care for the organisms that benefit us by choosing organic, high-fiber, deeply colored fruits and vegetables and spices with complex phytochemicals, and reinforce them with high-quality probiotics. We can use antibiotics and other medications only when necessary and recommended by our physicians, and we can avoid damaging substances like sugar, artificial sweeteners, mold, pesticides, alcohol, and tobacco.

These habits may be new for you, and consistent practice is key. Research with professional musicians showed that practice increased the genetic expression for their auditory aptitude, meaning their practice helped their genes optimize their hearing, and practice can help you too.

The future is ours to shape. Three simple rules can build momentum and change the trajectory of your health. When you’re committed to chilling out, cleaning up, and playing well with others, you can change the trajectory of your health towards a healthy and vibrant life.

With our eyes wide open now, we can begin to control our environment instead of it controlling us. And in fact, we must, because our health, our happiness, our future depend on our choices today. And the next time you see a sparkling dish of candy, just remember, your genes can see you! Thank you.