December 16, 2017

Epigenetics: A New Approach to Health

“Your genetics load the gun. Your lifestyle pulls the trigger.”

– Mehmet Oz

For years, we have been taught that genes control our destiny. If a certain illness runs in the epigenetics-dr-nathalie-beauchampfamily, we automatically believe that it’s bound to happen to us. The media reinforces this way of thinking, repeatedly suggesting that genes are the root cause of our health conditions and diseases. We have been programmed to think that we are victims of our genetic makeup, that our genes are what influence our health, well-being and personalities.

Just think, how many times have you heard someone say: “It’s not my fault, I have bad genes. There is nothing I can do about my {insert health condition or disease here}. Well, according to recent research, this is not quite true. We indeed have the ability to change the expression of our genes at any age and at any time. This emerging field of study is called epigenetics.

What are “Epigenetics”?

Epigenetics literally means “above” or “on top of” genetics. It refers to external modifications to DNA through lifestyle changes that turn genes “on” or “off”, so to speak. These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, affect how cells interpret genes and how they are reflected in us.

Surprisingly, research shows that only about 5 percent of people are actually born with legitimate genetic conditions. That leaves the other 95 percent to lifestyle and behaviors, which means that the majority of our health conditions and diseases can be blamed on our lifestyle choices.

The Human Genome Project

In 2003, researchers announced the successful completion of the Human Genome Project (genome refers to our complete set of genes). The goal of the project was to determine the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up human DNA, as well as identify and map all of the genes of the human genome.

Surprisingly, the project revealed that there are only 23,688 human genes. Prior to then, the research scientists believed that there would be closer to 140,000 genes, as that is the amount of proteins we have in our body.

The findings showed that it is the combination of the genes that are turned on at any one time that produce the different proteins we depend on for life. This means that we have way more control over the expression of our health than it was once thought.

DNA according to Epigenetics

According to epigenetics, our DNA is nothing more than a blueprint. Just like an architect uses a blueprint to build a building, we use DNA to produce protein.

Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of the book The Biology of Belief, says that our bodies are in fact, protein-producing machines. He argues that proteins are the expression of life NOT genes, which is GREAT news. It means we can stop blaming our genes and actually figure out how to produce the RIGHT protein to create who we WANT to be.

Examples of Epigenetics

A study done at the Spanish National Cancer Centre in Madrid, looked at 40 pairs of identical twins (born with the exact same DNA).

What they discovered is that the young identical twins had very similar epigenetic patterns. However, as these twins aged and accumulated distinctive experiences, their epigenetic states diverged.

At the time of the study, the older twins led different lifestyles and spent the majority of their lives living apart. Due to this, their epigenetic patterns were notably different. Essentially, the experiences we live leave a mark on our DNA, and these marks greatly impact how our genes are expressed.

Let’s clarify a bit. In his book, You are the Placebo, Dr. Joe Dispenza talks about epigenetic variations using the analogy of a computer.

Imagine you buy two identical computers (one for you and one for your spouse). The computers have identical hard drives and the same basic software. You need your computer for work, while your spouse just wants to surf the internet. You download several programs and your spouse leaves their computer the same. Within no time, the once identical computers become very different. This is representative of epigenetic variation.

Even if a computer (or twin) might start off the same, any new software (or difference in habits, environments, etc.) will affect what the computer (body) does and what it is able to do.

Ask Yourself

What software are you downloading on your hard drive? Are you downloading an advantageous or disadvantageous software?

Every bit of information you feed yourself, whether it is through your food, your thoughts, your activities, your hobbies, even the people you hang around, helps to engineer your cells and outcomes. If you know you have a family background or predisposition to a negative health outcome, you can take charge of it. Eat well, move, keep stress to a minimum, and foster a positive mindset. We control our own destiny.

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