Can You Change Gene Expression?

Written by Lewis Cuthbertson, PhD | Last updated:

How well your genes are expressed can have a profound impact on your health. Read on to find out if you can change gene expression and how understanding your DNA can help guide you to achieve optimal health.

Gene expression definition

So what is gene expression? In simple terms, gene expression is the process used by our body to make functional products from the instructions in our DNA. Once a product has been made, the gene has been ‘expressed’.

While you can’t change your DNA, you can change your gene expression to target specific health issues to improve your overall well-being. This means that just because your DNA make it more likely that you experience certain health conditions, it doesn’t mean you’ll actually have them.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you know how your body works, you can take steps to counteract the negative effects of your genes.

What determines how well a gene is expressed?

Gene expression is a biological process, and like all biological processes, how efficiently it occurs from individual to individual is variable rather than exact.

Some aspects of this variability are predetermined by genetic variation, ultimately some people just have better functioning genes, which is why they are more (or less) prone to things like weight gain or inflammation than others.

For example, let’s consider the FTO gene, the first gene linked to weight gain. One particular gene variant has been linked to things like eating more and higher calorie foods, among other things. However, if you have this variant, a Mediterranean diet may be more beneficial to help you manage your weight.

Another variable that can change gene expression is the environment you’re in, which we’ll explain in more detail below.

How can gene expression impact your health?

So your genetic disposition and your environment can impact gene expression, but why should you care? The answer is simple, because how well our genes function influences how healthy we are. For example, if you have a poorly expressed LCT gene, you will produce less lactase and are therefore be more likely to be lactose intolerant.

This is why if you want to live the best life possible in full health, it’s important to know how well your genes are functioning, so you can make positive changes where necessary to provide your body with the optimal environment to function properly.

The best way to find out how well your genes are functioning is to use a service like SelfDecode, who not only provides you with comprehensive reports on your genetic predispositions but also tells you which environmental changes can counteract the negative genes you may carry.

Unlike other companies who only look at one or two genetic variants, SelfDecode uses AI and machine learning to analyze up to 83 million variants so that you can receive the most accurate and complete information about your health.

What environmental factors affect gene expression?

Certain environmental factors cause changes within our bodies, which influences how well we are able to read the instructions in our DNA. As a result, these environmental factors lead our body to function better or worse.

The number of environmental factors which can impact how well our genes work is pretty high, and scientists are discovering new factors at an increasing rate. That’s why using a tool like SelfDecode can help you understand what can change your gene expression and keep you up to date with the most accurate scientific research. SelfDecode has a team of over 80 highly skilled scientists, MDs, NDs, and software engineers to sift through the research so that you can receive the most precise information.

The most obvious environmental factors when it comes to humans are of course our diet, lifestyle and environment (things like exposure to toxic substances). Still, there are many variables that can affect these three factors alone, so it can feel overwhelming if you want to optimize your health based on your genetic predispositions and don’t use the right tools.

Watch the informative video below to learn more about how your environment can affect your health, and what role your genes play:

Can you change gene expression by altering your environment?

So, if the environment your genes are being expressed in is not optimal, or your genes are functioning poorly and this is contributing to adverse health, can you do something to change this?


Lots of the environmental factors linked to gene expression are within our control. These include things like eating enough essential vitamins and minerals, getting enough exercise, and managing stress. The best way to optimize gene expression is by following personalized recommendations to target specific genes which may be contributing negatively to your health conditions.

Example: Obesity, Gene Expression and Environmental Factors

A working example of how you can influence your own gene expression to optimize your health is the NEGR1 gene. Some variants of this gene are expressed at an increased rate and have been associated with increased rates of obesity.

But there are several environmental changes you can make to counteract carrying one of these genetic variants. The Mediterranean diet for example, which is rich in fruits and vegetables, has been shown to decrease NEGR1 gene expression and could therefore lower your risk of obesity.


Genetic expression is a process in which our bodies create vital components using the instructions written in our DNA. But can you change gene expression? Well, the efficiency of this process is governed by genetic variation and environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle, which are within your control.

Whilst over and under active genetic expression can be a recipe for poor health, the good news is that you can identify any genetic variants which may cause you problems and make targeted changes to your environment to optimize your health by using services such as SelfDecode.

SelfDecode uses AI and machine learning to analyze up to 83 million variants that can have an impact on your health and provides diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations to help you counteract the negative effects of your genes.


About the Author

Lewis Cuthbertson

Lewis completed his PhD in Molecular Microbiology at Northumbria University (UK). Lewis spent several years researching the biodiversity of bacterial communities in the Arctic and Antarctic, whilst also performing research for a DNA sequencing service, where he was involved in several health based microbiome studies. This gave him an insight into how the highly diverse and invisible to the naked eye portion of human health, can potentially impact an individual’s quality of life, driving his desire to help others understand their own complex health needs through the most current scientific research.


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