Epigentics: Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny
The development and maintenance of the cells of your body are orchestrated by a set of chemical reactions that switch parts of the genome off and on at strategic times and locations. A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells that have a nucleus (brain). Epigenetics is the study of these reactions and the factors that influence them.
What genes do
Individual genes provide codes for the many thousands of proteins, including enzymes, that are found in the human body.
If I have a gene for cancer or heart disease, won’t I get sick no matter what I do?
Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., a former cell biologist and professor, in his book The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, clearly shows that genes are totally at the mercy of their environment – having a gene related to a disease does not in the least predict that one will get such a disease. Other researchers and medical writers have confirmed this premise.
Several environmental factors may limit or change the expression of genetic information, notably dietary manipulations. There was an experiment done with “agouti” mice, which have a genetic abnormality that makes them yellow, fat, and diabetic from birth. But when “agouti” mothers were given a nutritionally enriched diet, their children turned out with the normal brown coat, thin, and healthy. Interestingly, the healthy offspring still had the “agouti” gene, they just didn’t express it.
This experiment seems to show that nutrition can indeed influence genetic expression. Your nutritional choices can override genetics.
Research is emerging demonstrating the facts that lifestyle can affect gene expression in pregnant women. What a woman eats and is exposed to during pregnancy impacts not only the future health of her child, but also that of her grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.
For example, if a woman is exposed to chemicals or foods that raise estrogen levels during pregnancy, they can produce daughters that have a higher than normal risk for breast cancer. The risk is also passed on to the next two generations. It is not genetic mutations that were passed on, but rather epigenetic alterations (environmental factors) that can affect the “read out” of the gene’s blueprints.
No question – lifestyle matters
What we are learning is that most of the time, the majority of people do not get a disease merely because of defective genes, but by the bad expression of the genes due to lifestyle and environmental influences. Even if you inherit a certain increased disease risk from your mother or grandmother, you can change it using dietary and other natural strategies.
The truth is, our genes alone do not determine if we will develop diseases.
What we eat, our physical activity levels and our ability to handle psychological stressors determine whether some of these genes will be turned on or off, and how they function when they are in the “on” position.
The truth is, our genes alone do not determine if we will develop diseases. Lifestyle factors that interact with our inherited genetic material overwhelmingly determine if we will develop coronary artery disease, cancer, diabetes or obesity. Understanding the relationship between genes and lifestyle is becoming so critical, that soon it will not be possible to interpret the role of genes in the development and progression of disease without taking into account the lifestyle habits of carriers of those genes.
We have so many chronic diseases afflicting our society that are epidemic. Genes have not changed at all over the last 40,000 years. What’s changed then? Our lifestyle, especially over the last 60 years.
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