(Health Secrets) Genes are protein sequences in the body’s cells that are segments of DNA. They form a biological code, a map for a person’s hereditary life plan. Will you have blue eyes or brown? Your DNA, your cellular code, holds this genetic information. But DNA isn’t everything according to emerging research in the science of Epigenetics. The synergy of mind, body and spirit is also an important factor in the creation of a person’s physical reality, and is at work creating vibrant health and wellness, or the lack of it.
If mom had breast cancer and dad had high blood pressure, is it inevitable that you’re headed for both? A layperson’s understanding of genome mapping might lead us to think so and to take drastic action, such as Angelina Jolie having a double mastectomy and her ovaries removed because she carries a gene mutation linked to breast and ovarian cancers. Of course Ms. Jolie has a right to personal choice. Hopefully the choice she made was not based on fear and a misunderstanding of gene mutation.
A woman has a 12 percent chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer and only a 1.4 percent risk of ovarian cancer in her lifetime, according to Amy Norton, reporter for medicinenet. She states that most breast cancers are not inherited, and gene mutations, primarily of the BRCA genes, account for only 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers. Only 1 in 500 women manifest breast cancer due to a BRCA gene mutation.
The body has within it processes for eliminating mutated genes. Writing for Nature Education, Suzanne Clancy, Ph.D., reports mutations in an organisms’ DNA are a part of life. Our genetic code is exposed to a variety of insults that threaten its integrity. But, a rigorous system of checks and balances is in place through the DNA repair machinery.
Should you care about your genetic make up? Yes and no. What is important is to have the knowledge that allows you to make informed choices. Two important pieces of information are:
- Not all your genes will express themselves (become active) in your life
- We switch genes off and on (or create gene mutations) based on the biochemical environment within the body
This means we can change and adapt in our lifetime, rather that waiting for Darwinian evolution to take place over eons. Gene mutation may be useful as a process for adapting to environmental change.
Epigenetics goes beyond Darwin’s inevitability
H. Waddington coined the word epigenetics in 1942 as a conceptual model of how genes might interact with their surroundings (environment) to produce a set of expressed physical traits and biological development. Currently, epigenetics is the study of molecular mechanisms by which our environment controls or initiates gene activity.
There is a book out titled The Genie in Your Genes written by Dawson Church, PhD. This book is grounded in research and discusses the exciting possibilities of a medical model that links soul to body and mind. Church uses insights from the science of epigenetics and applies these to healing. He cites hundreds of scientific studies that demonstrate how beliefs and emotions can trigger the expression of DNA strands.
He has created the idea of epigenetic medicine to describe techniques which will heal at the cellular level. His book also discusses the science behind energy psychology and energy medicine.
Epigenetic science examines the factors and patterns that influence whether our genes are turned on or off, are active or dormant. Signals come from inside the cell, from neighboring cells or from the outside world.
Signals also come from lifestyle factors like diet, stress and prenatal nutrition. While we are made up of a unique, unchangeable genetic code, it is epigenetic factors such as these that can radically change what our genes do.
Less than 2 percent of our genetic makeup cannot be modified. Research shows we have more control over our health than we realize. For better or worse, lifestyle can cause changes in gene expression. Factors such as stress, behavior, hormonal status, mental and spiritual outlook, and toxic load can activate chemical switches to turn genes on or off, regulating gene expression. Our genetic codes may predispose us to certain chronic disease but this is not fate or destiny.
Epigenetic changes can be passed down for many generations. The lifestyle choices we make affect our present wellbeing, and the well being of our children, and grandchildren. Genes that have mutated can be brought back to normal, and defective epigenetic coding, created by environmental stresses, may be reprogrammed, reestablishing a healthy pattern and function.
Dr. Frank Lipman, expert in integrative medicine, has developed the concept of sustainable wellness utilizing a customized blend of Western medicine, acupuncture, nutritional counseling, vitamins and herbs, relaxation techniques, physical therapy and bodywork.
Church’s book tells us that when we take control of our consciousness and thoughts, we can influence our genetic expression. He discusses techniques and strategies that may be able to bypass years of harmful drugs, and invasive surgeries to affect genetic engineering in our own bodies. We can create immediate relief from long-standing anxieties and neuroses, as well as achieve ‘miraculous’ healing of chronic health conditions– especially autoimmune diseases.
The research is in. We are shaping our brains and genetic expression, at least in part, by the nature of our thoughts. We can improve emotional and physical health as well as chronic health issues. Epigenetic science offers us hope, knowledge and insight into the how to use the healing power of mind, body, and spirit.