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Hi, pod fam!

This season of the podcast, I’ve been working hard to define vitality and well-being through a framework I call the “10 Pillars of Health,” which includes: 

  1. Deficiencies
  2. Excesses
  3. Blood sugar dysregulation
  4. Gut and oral microbiome
  5. Movement and muscle composition 
  6. Sunlight and blue light exposure  
  7. Social connection
  8. Sleep quality 
  9. Chronic stress management
  10. Spiritual health

While many health experts boast a profound sense of knowledge in one or two pillars specifically, my next guest — the acclaimed Dr. Kara Fitzgerald — is incredibly well-versed in all 10. In fact, Dr. Fitzgerald’s latest book, “Younger You: Reduce Your Bio Age and Live Longer, Better,” explores the science behind longevity and her discovery of a three-year reversal of biological aging, so you know I had to get the deets. Tune into our revelatory conservation now, and feel free to reference my simplified guide below as you listen in. I can’t wait to hear what you think!


What is aging, and what is it driven by?

Aging is the breakdown of our physiological capabilities and concurrent rise in susceptibility to disease. There’s a deterioration process that happens in our bodies, and there’s a lot of debate as to why it happens. 

One that’s radical but I think holds a lot of truth is “programmed aging,” which refers to the idea that senescence is purposely caused by evolved biological mechanisms to obtain an evolutionary advantage. Recent research suggests that it’s happening in the epigenome, so it’s around gene expression and specifically it seems that DNA methylation and demethylation play a key role. 

What is DNA methylation, exactly?

It’s one of the chief epigenetic marks. Epi = above, genetics = DNA. So it’s about what’s happening above the DNA. When we first mapped out the human genome, we had a lot less genes than we anticipated. That means our genes really aren’t our destiny (devastating to scientists), so we had to discover what truly drives our genetic expression (ie epigenetics). How we eat, how we live — these all influence which genes are on and which ones are off, and DNA methylation and demethylation have offered the best way to study this. 

So, what can change or improve our DNA methylation?

We want to be bathing our body in methyl-donor nutrients, but we want to get those from whole foods as much as possible, like:

  • Beets
  • Eggs
  • Leafy greens
  • Mushrooms
  • Seeds (particularly pumpkin seeds)
  • Nuts
  • Liver 

And then there’s this whole catalog of phytochemicals (ie polyphenols) that seem to direct where DNA methylation actually happens on the gene. We’re not just throwing supplements at our body and hoping for the best — we’re directing traffic with these smart nutrients. 

Can you tell us more about the eight-week trial you led? 

The diet for our participants was rich in methyl-donor nutrients (including those mentioned above) and methylation adaptogens (polyphenols like quercetin, resveratrol, circumin, green tea, etc.). We also removed inflammatory foods and processed foods, and encouraged participants to go organic as often as possible. We also kept grains, legumes, dairy out of the trial; it was a keto-leaning, higher-fat diet with some protein, but not in huge amounts. Of note, we did want our participants to avoid these food groups forever; this was just for the eight-week intensive. 

I also read there are certain lifestyle practices that can contribute to healthy DNA. Can you expand on that?

There’s a gene type called tumor-suppressor genes that produce proteins to protect the body from developing cancer. As we age, these genes become hypermethylated and turn off. Amazingly, exercise and integrating methylation adaptogens (like those listed above) can turn the genes back on. And what’s interesting is that the older we are, the more efficiently these genes will be turned back on. 

Further, sleep is critical for gene expression. Chronic insomnia is a pro-aging phenomenon, PERIOD. Social connection is also important; the chemical release of oxytocin is proven to improve longevity, which can come from acts as simple as cuddling. Overall, whatever you can do to limit stress, DO IT. Stress drives aging almost aggressively as smoking. 

It’s also important to note that certain habits we have (exercising, not exercising, etc) can also be handed down epigenetically. That’s why it behooves us to work on shifting these habits pre-conception. If you clean up your own genetic expression, you can pass this transformation along to your offspring. This goes for both women and men. Simply put, what you do now and even when you’re young (the foods you eat, the stress levels your experience) matter for the next generation.

By and large, you have the opportunity to change your epigenome. I did not anticipate being able to reverse biological age as profoundly as we did during this trail. It’s as simple as whole foods, stress management, and exercise. Start now, and start where you can.

Lastly, what’s one good thing you’ve done for your microbiome today?

I had a really awesome curry packed with veggies, herbs, and spices 🙂 


As always, tune into the episode to dive deeper into these essential nuggets of information. And be sure to share your thoughts with me on IG: @shoporganicolivia.

Lots of Love,


Connect with Dr. Fitzgerald:




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