In this podcast I’ll be exploring Epigenetics:
- I’ll explain the difference between genetics and epigenetics
- I’ll talk about how your environment impacts the activation and expression of your genes
- Finally, I’ll give a few holistic tips on how to activate and express health-boosting and life-affirming genes
The study of how genes control life is called genetics. Genetic looks at genetic differences, mutations, heredity, and of course of lot of today’s genetic research looks into genetic diseases. Genetics and the study of genes is a very important and valid science, but the belief behind genetics is outdated old-school thinking and that belief is that genes control life.
This belief came from the hypothesis that there is a gene for every protein. The more complex an organism, the more cells and proteins there are, the more genes there would be. That was the idea. This idea turns out to be incorrect.
The Human Genome Project, which started back in the late 1980s, was setup to uncover the entire sequence of genetic information found in human DNA with the side benefit of discovering the genetics of every disease and how to prevent and cure them. The human body has about 100,000 protein molecules, so science expected to find about 100,000 genes. Fast forward 15 years and guess how many genes they found at the end of the project in 2001 – only 35,000. Fast forward another 15 years to today and after further study and research that initial number has shrunk to about 20,000 genes.
There was a lot of hype in the science community about the Human Genome Project, but funnily enough when the scientist’s expectations proved to be wrong, very wrong, there was no big deal made about the unexpected results. This massively incorrect assumption about a gene coding for a protein fell off the radar. Science tends to work this way unfortunately where the good news is reported and the bad news is swept under the rug.
So now we know that there are only 20,000 genes in the human genome and these 20,000 genes code for over 100,000 proteins and alongside this fact is the news that the largest number of genes found in a single animal is 31,000 genes and that animal is the near-microscopic water flea Daphnia. Imagine that, a near-microscopic simple organism with hardly any cells and proteins compared to the 35 trillion cells and 100,000 proteins in your human body and yet this tiny little life form has 11,000 more genes than humans do.
What this shows you is that genes do not control life. No matter the complexity of an organism the number of genes present will vary a lot. It’s not the genes that say how life will be from birth to death. It’s the life that is lived that will determine which genes get expressed or activated or switched on and which genes don’t. Say goodbye to the old belief that your genes control your life and hello to the new way of thinking – that your life controls your genes.
This new way of thinking is actually 50 years old and is called the science of epigenetics, which looks at how environmental signals affect gene expression.
Epigenetics means above the genes and studies how your environment affects the biochemical and physiological processes that are happening outside of your genetic code, but have a direct effect on which sequence of your genetic code to read and which genes to express or not.
Remember the old way of thinking says that genes are in control like a foreman of a construction site. Genes dictate what gets built and so decide the health or disease of your cells.
The new way of thinking, epigenetics, says genes are actually just simple blueprints. They don’t do anything at all. It’s all the proteins and enzymes and cellular signals and every other process that’s going on in and outside of your cell that dictate which blueprints to read (gene expression), which parts of those blueprints to create proteins from (gene variation), and whether or not those blueprints need updating (gene mutation).
What this means is that epigenetics has actually shown that some genes will lay dormant and may never get expressed while other genes will be switched on and switched off and that other genes may undergo spontaneous mutation and transform into a brand new gene all based on your environment, on your surroundings.
So how does your environment impact your genetic expression? How does the environment influence your biochemistry and physiology and determine which genes to read or not, which parts of that gene to express and make proteins from, and which genes to mutate or leave unchanged?
Let me give a little background information first. Your genetic code is one long sequence of molecules like the alphabet is a sequence of letters. Your genes are subsets or small groupings of these molecules like words are groupings of the alphabet. This long sequence of your genetic code is called DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid. Your DNA is covered in a protein sheath. Altogether the proteins surrounding your DNA and the genes contained in your DNA this is called a chromosome. You have 23 pairs or 46 strands of chromosomes in your body. Chromosomes are found inside the nucleus of your cells.
Remember your genes don’t do anything; literally they don’t perform any physical action or function. Everything that happens with genes happens to the gene and is entirely dependent and reliant on signals that come from outside the chromosomes. So your genes are merely blueprints and blueprints don’t build structures.
The life your parents and grandparents lived designed and created your blueprints, your DNA, your genes. You had little say in the matter, but the expression or activation of your genes is all on you.
How epigenetics work can get pretty complex and I’m just going to give a summary here, but I will put a link to a video in the blog post for this episode which will give you more detail and a visual on what I’m talking about.
Your genes get read, expressed or activated, and mutated via signalling, that is the transmission and reception of information that come from your environment and go right down into your cells and ultimately reaching your genes. These environmental signals include everything that your six senses can perceive. Examples of these signals include your thoughts and feelings like fear or love, a physical threat or loving embrace, or digested nutrients from food. These environmental signals are the primary signal the first signal you receive.
Your brain, your heart, and your gut all have nerve centres and communicate with each other and they can be thought of as the primary organs that make up your conscious and subconscious mind. They receive this primary signal from your environment and then based on your beliefs and perceptions about life they interpret and translate this primary signal into a secondary signal, and it’s this secondary signal that is sent to other organs and cells in the form of hormones and neurotransmitters.
When this secondary signal is delivered to your cells it is picked up by a protein receptor in the cell membrane. Once this secondary signal is received this sets of a chain of events where a number of proteins and enzymes in the cell membrane and within the cell itself they bind to each other performing specific functions until eventually they either create a tertiary signal within the cell or they allow a tertiary signal to enter the cell through the cell membrane. This tertiary signal is the last signal that will bind to other proteins within the cell to perform a specific function.
Alright so you get a primary signal from the environment. Your conscious and subconscious mind changes that primary signal into a secondary signal. Your cells take the secondary signal in and they transform that into a tertiary signal and then there’s a function that is performed in the cell.
Now if that tertiary signal is unable to perform its function because the specific protein its wanting to bind to is missing, the signal molecule will enter the nucleus of the cell where your chromosomes are. It will bind to a specific regulatory protein on one of your chromosomes and when it does this that regulatory protein releases itself from the chromosome uncovering a specific sequence of your DNA of your genetic code. This exposes the gene that codes for the missing protein. The gene is then transcribed and copied and finally converted into that missing protein. The regulatory protein returns and covers up the DNA, and the tertiary signal can now bind to this newly created protein to perform its original function. This transcription, copying, and conversion process is called gene expression, gene activation, or a gene being switched on.
Here’s where it gets very interesting. If the tertiary signal is unable to perform its function due to a missing protein and it cannot locate the specific gene for that protein in your DNA, guess what happens next? The tertiary signal will activate a specific genetic engineering gene, which in turn will rewrite another gene in a different part of your DNA. Meaning the signal is now causing a genetic mutation. With the newly mutated gene now in place this tertiary signal can now activate the new gene, creating the missing protein and the signal will bind itself to the new protein and finally perform its function.
There’s nothing random about these mutations at all. It’s the environmental signal creating specific mutations to perform a specific function.
That may have been a lot to take in, so please watch the video for a visual detailed representation of what I just discussed.
Let me give you a real world example of how this works.
Let’s say you’re scared of spiders and you see a spider. Or let’s say you’re prone to road rage and you get cut off in traffic. Or let’s say your body is sensitive to dairy, but you don’t know it and you’ve been drinking dairy for a long time, for years and you’ve just had another glass of milk. Seeing the spider, getting cut off in traffic and drinking the milk are examples of a primary signal from your environment.
Since you have a belief that spiders are scary, and that bad drivers are a valid reason to get mad, and your body perceives dairy as indigestible and a possible toxin you transform the primary signal to an emotion of fear, an emotion of anger, and your body’s immune system gets activated yet again – this is the secondary signal. These secondary signals, which are now a bunch of hormones and neurotransmitters like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, are sent to your cells.
When your cells receive these secondary signals they activate proteins and enzymes that allow negative tertiary signals to enter the cell activating genes that stop growth, repair, reproduction, digestion and elimination; that cause muscle breakdown and fat storage, and your immune system to go crazy. These negative tertiary signals can also cause gene mutations and enhance cancerous cell growth.
Alright time to flip this around. We’re going to change your beliefs and your perceptions. The primary signals don’t change. You still see a spider, you still get cut off in traffic, and you still drink a glass of milk. But this time you love spiders, you are a calm and relaxed driver, and your body is not sensitive to dairy and can digest it without any issues.
So again the primary signals don’t change, however, because you’re now smiling at the spider, giving gratitude for not getting into an accident, and your body is nourished from the milk you get secondary signals like oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, feel good hormones are now being received by your cells.
When your cells receive these secondary signals they activate proteins and enzymes that allow positive tertiary signals to enter the cell and activate genes that promote growth, repair, reproduction, digestion and elimination; they promote muscle-building and fat-burning, and regulate your immune system. These positive tertiary signals can also activate genes that suppress cancer growth and cause cancer cells to die.
So what is this showing you? What this is showing you is that it’s not the primary signal from your environment that affects your genes. It is the secondary signal that comes from your conscious and subconscious mind that affects the tertiary signal and your genes. Whatever situation or event happens in the real world, in reality, it is you, your beliefs and your perception of that situation, of that event, that has the final say on which genes to activate and which genes to leave switched off.
It is your thoughts, your feelings, what you eat and drink, how you move, how you breathe, the toxicity of your environment, the quality of your sleep, the quality of your relationships, all of these control your genes.
Your mood, your health, your life these are the stimulus to your genes and your genes simply respond to that stimulus. If you have a sucky mood and are depressed about life then your genes will simply reflect this fact. So if you want to feel awesome and love the life you have it all begins by changing your beliefs about your life, positively changing your perceptions about life itself, which will change your behaviour and change your genes, eventually making the inside of your bodymind reflect the outside world that you positively perceive.
Now I’m not saying the goal is to think positive and live a naturally holistic healthy lifestyle 100% of the time. That’s impossible. What I’m saying is when you are aware, when you are conscious of your surroundings and of what’s going on around you, know that you have a choice in that moment to choose either a positive or a negative experience. I suggest you make the kind choose for yourself.
Here are three kind choices you can make to positively impact your health and to express health-boosting and life-affirming genes.
First, get rid of your ANTs – Automatic Negative Thoughts. Do this through critical thinking and questioning yourself, your beliefs, and asking yourself are your thoughts and beliefs true? For example is it true that you’re worthless, or that you’re not smart enough, or that no one will ever love you, or that you’ll get cancer because of your genes? Really, is that true? I highly recommend doing The Work by Byron Katie. She takes you through a powerful process of inquiry that’ll show you whether or not your current way of thinking is actually worth paying attention to.
Secondly, practise some form of daily meditation. Mindfulness meditation, movement mediation like Qi-gong or even walking meditation, any task that has you focused on one thing is a form of meditation. Meditation has been shown to boost your immune function, reduce stress levels and inflammation, reduce depression, and improve your mood and your outlook on life.
Third kind choice is to choose to live a holistic healthy lifestyle and you can do this by following the 7 Holistic Health Principles as I outlined in episode 30.
- Eat real food
- Drink natural water
- Move often
- Breathe properly
- Purify your environment
- Get quality restorative sleep and
- Form positive relationships with nature, with yourself, and with others
These 7 principles bring your bodymind back into sync with the rhythm and flow of Mother Nature and these principles give happy and healing epigenetic signals to your genes.
Okay I’m going to give a quick recap on epigenetics because I really want you to get that your genes are not your destiny.
“Genes DO NOT control your biology! Your beliefs about your life control your biology.”
It’s your habitat and environment, your habits and behaviour, your feelings and emotions, your thoughts and beliefs that influence your genes.
It is your beliefs that change the biochemistry of your blood and your blood carries the signals sent to your cells, and ultimately these signals determine the expression of your genes.
Perceive love and you get feel good hormones in your blood, sending positive signals to your cells where they read and express healthy genes.
Perceive fear and you get stress hormones in your blood, sending negative signals to your cells where they ignore healthy genes and may read and express disease-promoting genes.
Dr Joseph Mercola creator of the number one natural health website mercola.com says:
“Epigenetics shatters the idea that you are a victim of your genes, and shows that you have tremendous power to shape and direct your physical health.”
Meaning the power to live an awesome happy and healthy life lies within you. Take ownership and responsibility for your thoughts and your beliefs about life and you will no longer be the victim, but the victor in the beautiful story that is your wonderful life.
Links and Resources
- Video — Dr Bruce Lipton Presenting on Epigenetics
- The Biology of Belief — Bruce H. Lipton PhD
- The Work — Bryon Katie
- WGP 030: Want the Good Life? These 7 Holistic Health Principles Will Guide You There