I’ve always been interested in what makes people different from each other. This is what initially led me to treat each and every one of my clients as unique individuals by cracking their health code using DNA testing. This testing allows me to use their uniqueness to improve their health, lifestyle and daily life.
We are all the same but, in a way, we are all different from each other. From our physicality to our physiological traits, to our personality, and how we behave.
What produces those variations?
Are we randomly pre-written beings? Do our genes dictate our fate? Or are we designed by our environment?
This is what epigenetic is trying to answer. Indeed, epigenetic put an end to the old debate “Nature vs. Nurture."
So what is Epigenetic?
Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modifications in gene expressions rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. In other words, it is the study of how an organism grows and develops. Chemical reactions activate and deactivate parts of the organism’s genome at strategic times and in specific locations. It is fine-tuned mechanism that is the result of evolution.
We understand that our DNA code is fixed for life, but epigenetics are flexible. “Epi" literally means “around." So, epigenetic can be translated to “around the genes."
Epigenetics demonstrates that our biology reacts to the outside world. There is a constant dialogue between out bodies and our lifestyle, diet, and environment. In essence, epigenetics is revolutionizing biology.
When a change in the environment causes biological alterations that last long after the event itself has ended, we see an epigenetic effect in action.
Initially, these epigenetic changes were believed to occur only during fetal development. However, pioneering studies are showing that molecular bric-a-brac could be added to DNA in adulthood, setting off a cascade of cellular changes. For example, overexposure to certain chemicals could result in cancer.
On the other hand, epigenetic changes with targeted lifestyle or diet recommendations could be used to prevent, and even eradicate, certain types of cancers and other degenerative diseases.
This branch of science explains how different cells, all sharing the same DNA, can perform very different tasks and maintain them for as long as we live.
Furthermore, the link between our genetic profile and those of our ancestors is one of the most surprising aspects of epigenetics.
The latest studies have further shown how the organisms environment can have an effect on their genetic expression as well as their offspring’s genetic expression.
Even the way we think can alter the expression of our genes. Meaning that, not only does your nutrition and lifestyle has an impact on the expression of your genes, but also the mood you are in and the people you socialize with.
Psychology has shown that the power of the mind is a potent tool that can shape us. It doesn’t just affect the genetic expression at one point in your life, but also throughout your life.
You are always changing your biology. We are not human beings but instead human becomings.
I always like to emphasize that your health is your responsibility. It is up to you to build the life you want, using your mindset, lifestyle, and diet.
There are many examples out there that justify this. For example, people that refuse to grow old and can complete the 25 iron man at the age of 85. Also, individuals who self-cure after being diagnosed with terminal diseases.
One of the latest discovery about epigenetics is the changes that could be passed down from parent to child and across generations.
A study from Randy Jirtle of Duke University showed that when female mice are fed a diet rich in methyl groups, the fur pigment of subsequent offspring is permanently altered. Without any change to DNA at all, methyl groups could be added or subtracted, and the changes were inherited much like mutations in a gene.
So we understand now that the experiences of your parents and grandparents have left marks on your genes, just like your experiences will do to your offspring.
So If diet and chemicals can cause epigenetic changes, could individual life experiences such as feelings of happiness and severe stresses also set off epigenetic variations in the DNA?
Welcome to the world of behavioral epigenetics.
The latest discoveries are so profound that it has spawned dozens of studies.
According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetic, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA.
Those who have grandparents or great grandparents that lived through hard times, young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres, adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents, all carry with them more than just scared memories.
It seems that nature has the "duty of memory" well establish as a finely tuned mechanism within our biology.
Behavioural epigenetic suggest that when our DNA remains the same, our psychological and behavioural tendencies are inherited. You might not just have inherited your grandfather's height and strong hands, but also his predisposition toward anxiety or insomnia caused by the suffering he went through during war time.
Or maybe, if your grandmother was lucky and had nurturing parents in a comfortable environment, you might be enjoying the boost she received thanks to their love and support. The mechanisms of behavioural epigenetic underlie not only deficits and weaknesses but strengths and resiliencies, too.
Having learned all this, it is important to understand that all is subject to possible change.
It is your responsibility to alter the expression of your genes by recreating new experiences. You are the designer. It is your choice if you want just to live with something or make the adjustments that could change you.
So, what will you do today to add positive memory to your epigenetic bank?