Listen up! Here is a word you will be hearing and reading a lot more about in the years ahead. I promise you that. Epigenetics. Literally, it means "on top of the genome." This study of gene activity could affect you, someone close and even your future grandchildren! Rather important and rather exciting, indeed! Read on to get the basics.
It turns out our genes are not so uncompromising as we once thought. There are ways we can express them or deactivate them. How genes can be activated and deactivated by life experiences is what epigenetics is all about. It is a somewhat new scientific field that shows us how at birth our inherited genetic code can be affected positively and negatively by the choices we make and how we experience life.
What it Means for You
We have a say in how most of our genes perform. So, for for all you control freaks out there (and I am proudly among you - in some areas), this is great news! The science is there now illustrating how stress and how we react to it as well as food choices and exercise levels activate chemical switches in our bodies that give our genes the green or red light.
Disease of all kinds does not occur only because of a defective gene but by how it is regulated. This regulation is not static but much more complex and dynamic than previously thought. It is true, we can not change our inherited DNA and there are a very small percentage of genes that can not be changed, but the choices that you make each day, right now, are affecting the direction your genes will take and possibly your health.
In addition to this promising revelation of how we can affect our health, some current research is showing that epigenetic drugs could enhance current cancer treatments or even replace them creating tumor suppression, inhibiting formation and progression. It may even be possible to reverse it altogether.
It's Not Just About You Anymore
Here is a biggie: Epigenetic inheritance. Unfortunately, that smoking habit of yours or your mate's, all those beers at those frat parties in college and those trips through the drive through could possibly affect your grandchildren. That is quite a reach, certainly, but some studies are pointing to the fact that future generations to your family tree can be affected by how you express your genes that they inherit, not just the DNA itself. Perhaps, then, the layers you add to the code count, too. The epigenetic changes that we make could be passed down - for better or for worse. Even more reason to clean up our act and keep it that way!
A Path to Installing Better Software
Many experts on the topic explain epigenetics as our genomes being the computer hardware and the epigenome being the software. So, I say, it is up to us what kind of software we want to install. And, here is a book I read a while ago that can do just that. It is an easy to understand "how to" regarding epigenetics. Five to Thrive, written by naturopathic oncologist, Dr. Lise Alschuler, and health writer, Karolyn Gazella, offer a clear path to better gene expression illustrating specifically how to affect body cells behavior towards optimal health. Nothing in the book is too radical or difficult to incorporate into your life. It takes the study of epigenetics and gives it some applicability for our lives.
For Even More
It is such a fascinating topic, so to learn a bit more, link below:
- For more epigenetic 101, click here.
- A great video on the study of epigenetics on twins is seen here.
- Research on epigenetic inheritance at the University of Cambridge can be read here.