How Your Lifestyle Regulates Your Genes, Part 1

DNA-3strandsBy Elaine Ferguson, MD

Many people have been lead to believe that chronic disease is inevitable and irreversible.
This post series will go give you access to this vital, life-giving information and might challenge your beliefs. So many times I’ve heard a patient tell me, “My mother had cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc., and I know I’m going to get it, too! It runs in my family.” You may be surprised to discover that you don’t have to get sick, that your genes aren’t fixed, and that your family’s medical history isn’t your destiny? It is how you live that plays the most significant role in your health; far more important than your access to medical treatment.

Our genes were once thought to be the predetermining factor of our health, but now it appears that even these may be altered by the chemistry of our positive and negative emotions. From the work of molecular cellular biologists, we now know that our DNA is controlled by energetic messages received from sources external to the cells.

The Emergence of Epigenetics
In the last few years, the field of epigenetics has dramatically changed the way we view DNA, the underlying structure of our genes. The Greek-derived prefix epi- means “over” or “above.” Consequently, the literal meaning of epigenetic control is “control above the genes.” The study of epigenetics reveals that we are not the victims of our genes but rather their masters.

Since 1953, when James Watson and Francis Crick (and the usually unacknowledged Rosalind Franklin) discovered DNA, the building blocks of our genes, we’ve been led to believe, without proof, that our DNA is fixed. Meaning they are in a permanent, unchangeable state, and the sole determiner of your cell’s functioning. That’s simply not true, nor has it ever been proven. It was an accepted scientific dogma. As was the belief that the brain can’t create new brain cells. We now know that’s not true either.

Furthermore, we’ve been told that it controls the traits passed to us by our parents, including our likelihood of developing a variety of chronic diseases. As recipients of genetic predeterminations, we’ve been taught, we are naturally powerless to affect our health to any great degree. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The belief that DNA dictates the entire destiny of our cells is simply and fortunately false.

During the late 1980s, coinciding with the launch of the Human Genome Project, the findings of revolutionary research led scientists to begin to develop a new view of how our cells function. These findings are the foundation of the science of epigenetics, which is challenging the traditional views of biology and medicine.

True Gene Regulators Revealed
Our genes contain instructions that tell individual cells how to specialize themselves, such as whether to become a heart cell or a brain cell, and what functions to perform. However, genes by themselves do not control the body. Research has determined that important environmental signals—which include our thoughts, feelings, and emotions—are the primary regulators of our genes! Our cells read and respond to the conditions of their environment by activating different protein switches. The switches that are activated regulate the activity of the genes and control cell behavior. Remarkably, the same genetic blueprint has the capacity to create an excess of 30,000 variations of proteins, which are the body’s molecular building blocks.

The new understanding of our biology includes the fact that perception plays a role in genetic activity. You’re already controlling your genes. Now and always, your mind and your lifestyle have been continuously influencing their expression.

Your Flexible Genes
At the end of every strand of DNA is a caplike structure called a telomere that prevents the aberration or loss of genetic information during cell division. Cell division is how your cells replicate and replace themselves throughout your life span. Your telomeres play a key role in maintaining the stability of your genetic codes. They are long when you are born, but each time your cells divide, the process causes your telomeres to shorten. Only a certain number of replications are possible before cell death occurs. Each time your cell replicates itself, the gene becomes slightly less perfect; that is, your cells are being degraded as you grow older. Over the course of a lifetime, after the telomeres reach a critically short length, usually during the later years of life, your cells will develop the inability to divide again and begin to die without replacement. So they are now considered important markers of aging, chronic disease, and mortality.

Telomeres
A key question under investigation by researchers is whether there is any way to prevent or reverse the shortening of telomeres. Your telomeres are affected by many factors, including your cellular environment. It’s been demonstrated that stress can accelerate telomere shortening and lead to early cellular aging. Telomere length reflects not only the presence of stress but also your body’s response to it at a cellular level. Shorter telomere length is linked to aging, cancer, and heart disease.

To reiterate: our DNA is not the ultimate determinant of our health. For decades we were led to believe that our family genetic inheritance is the best indicator of our future state of health, but we now know better. Our lifestyle—in particular, our emotional lifestyle—plays a significant role in maintain the health of our cells and organs.

In the next post, I’ll share with you some of the latest research on epigenetics and lifestyle, in particular, the role stress plays in shortening telomere length

Source: Superhealing, Chapter 2 Superhealing Mind-Body Research Breakthroughs (www.superhealingbook.com)

Click to read Part 2 of How Your Lifestyle Regulates Your Genes

About the Author:
Elaine smallElaine R Ferguson, MD, is a pioneer in the field of holistic and integrative medicine. She is the author of the international bestseller Superhealing: Engaging Your Mind, Body, and Spirit to Create Optimal Health and Well-Being. For more information visit www.drelaine.com

About these ads

7 thoughts on “How Your Lifestyle Regulates Your Genes, Part 1

  1. Do you believe that with meditation and focused thought on our cells and even on DNA will also help to repair damaged tissues? I did graduate work with microRNAs and their role in colon cancer. Epigenetics is a fascinating field, thanks for this post!

    • I passed along your question to the author and she had this to say:

      Yes, I do. And there’s significant evidence. As a matter of fact Dr. Herbert Benson published a study in 2013 that specifically evaluated the epigenetic effect meditation had on genes. Here’s a link to his study: http://hms.harvard.edu/news/genetics/mind-body-genomics-5-1-13 and also are you familiar with Dr. Bruce Lipton’s book, The Biology of Belief? I’d love to hear more about your graduate work, sounds rather interesting.

      • Thank you.

        I will am reading the link you sent me right now. Thanks for that. I am familiar with Dr. Lipton’s book, but I have not read it, yet. :)

        I started a career path in cancer research (PHD program in physiology), but I soon realized that the politics and cut-throat atmosphere was not for me, I took a Master’s though. Anyway, here are papers from my colleagues’ and I:

        http://www.cancergeneticsjournal.org/article/S2210-7762(13)00091-4/abstract

        file:///C:/Users/RVSInstrument/Downloads/nihms484568.pdf

        I am now a certified clinical master herbalist, and I am trying to learn and teach as much as I can about natural medicine to help black people heal themselves from far-to-common illnesses in our community. That is why I started this talk show Herbal Intellect on nubiahoodradio.com.

        Please, any advice or support for this effort would be greatly appreciated. I respect your opinion.

        In health,
        Hotep!

        J

  2. Pingback: How Your Lifestyle Regulates Your Genes, Part 2 | Holistic Health & Living

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s