Wonder where your crazy immune system comes from? Before you start poking around your family tree, a new study is suggesting the environment you’re exposed to plays a major role. Not genetics.

Published in the latest issue of Cell, researchers compared 78 identical twins, who are genetically the same, and 27 pairs of nonidentical twins – who have 50 percent of their genes in common.

The findings? Mind your environment. Over three-quarters of immune systems variance was attributed to environmental factors. Exposures to various microbes and toxins played a role. A person’s vaccination record, diet and dental hygiene also factored into their overall immune system.

The study definitely backs the idea of a healthy lifestyle. Sure, you may not be able to control the microbes and toxins, but you can control your diet and dental hygiene.

Age played a factor in the study at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Twins older than 60 saw environmental factors play a bigger role over twins younger than 20. That makes sense. Longer exposure to toxin and microbes. Plus, the older twins had their entire life on various diets and hygiene regimens.

Mark Davis, a lead researcher and professor of Immunology at Stanford, explained the role environment plays in your immune system. “Nonheritable influences, particularly microbes, seem to play a huge role in driving immune variation.”

“At least for the first 20 or so years of your life, when your immune system is maturing, this amazing system appears able to adapt to wildly different environmental conditions. A healthy human immune system continually adapts to its encounters with hostile pathogens, friendly gut microbes, nutritional components and more, overshadowing the influences of most heritable factors.”

So, next time you want to blame your genes on your wild immune system, try changing your environment for a bit. We could all stand to eat a bit better and probably floss.

Read the full study over at Cell.

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