How many times do we hear “it’s all in the genes” and we then seem somewhat uncomfortably content with accepting that we therefore cannot change such outcomes?
Well, not anymore. Increasing evidence is emerging about the role of epigenetics. “Epi” from the Greek meaning of “over, on top of”.
This means that there are regulatory factors that control our genes, on top of the information that is held within them.
Let’s talk basic DNA biochemistry. DNA resides within a cell nucleus. It is made up of neatly organized nucleotide bases. There are four bases: adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. These bases are wrapped around molecules called histone. This look like beads on a necklace, wrapped into a double helix ladder.
DNA is “read” by various forms of RNA. Methyl groups make DNA tighter and Acetyl groups cause DNA to be further apart. If the “beads” are tightly wrapped, it is harder to read. If the “beads” are more loose, it is easier to read.
What does epigenetics actually mean to you?
DNA is simply the “road map” that controls the information. The way in which this information is read actually depends on your environment. We now know that the environment in which these genes sit directly affect which parts are read and expressed. The good news is that you are in complete control of this environment! It is affected by everything you do. It changes according to what foods you eat, your nutritional status, the amount you move and the quality of your breath, the chemicals and pollutants you are exposed to.
Emotions and stress also regulate our genes. A very interesting study out of North Carolina University measured the length of telomeres (the molecules at the end of DNA that are linked to ageing) and sense of contentment. They discovered that feeling happy from nice events eg play, has a positive effect on gene expression. They also discovered that those who had a strong sense of connection to self and others had an even more positive effect on gene expression. So, the more you give and receive love, the better this if for your genes too! Cool!
Here is an example. Many of my patients are interested in MTHFR. This is a new area of genetic testing that is becoming increasingly popular. MTHFR is just one of many enzymes that sit within the methylation cycle. While, in our experience, symptoms associated with MTHFR dysfunction can sometimes be alleviated by appropriate vitamin supplementation, this is only a very small piece of the puzzle. Once again, the environment that this gene that expresses this enzyme sits in, has an even greater effect on its function.
So, you don’t have to be victim to your genes. Eating a whole food diet, moving more, loving and laughing, having tools to manage stress and cleaning up your environment are just a few things you can do to change their expression!
If you are interested in more information watch this you tube video by the Epigenetic demi-god, Bruce Lipton