Friday, April 13, 2012

Nature vs nurture, focusing on epigenetics

I have a constant need for information, I guess you could say that is the gemini-nature in me.  In my incessant quest for information about how we can change the future of our health, I seem to keep bouncing back to something called epigenetics.  My family has had a never-ending dispute over nature vs. nurture.  What dictates our hair color, our tendency to suck our fingers as babies, and what illnesses we are predisposed to?  Well yes, it's our genes of course, but what about the possibility that you can CHANGE the way your DNA is expressed?

Science is now showing us that it is nature AND nurture that determines our future.  And knowing that you can use your diet, thoughts and environment to change the course of your health puts the ball right where it should be, in YOUR hands!!  I have always said that I believe our health is our responsibility.  We are the only ones who can control how we feel, we are the only ones who can change the course of our path.  In fact, my life as a biomed mother is just that, a quest to change nature.  I'm not willing to accept things as they are, I know there is a way to reverse the hand we were dealt.  Three and a half years ago I set out determined to find that path, and I am proud to say that we are on the right path.

My gut told me the way we are born isn't just IT....that we can change IT.  So yes, we have learned recently that our boys have the MTHFR gene mutations and that makes them predisposed to illnesses like autism, ADHD, Alzheimer's, cancer and early heart disease, among others.  MTHFR stands for methelenetetrahydrofolate reductase, it's an enzyme responsible for converting folate to it's bioactive form.  This causes our boys (and probably us parents too) to have a break in their methylation pathways, limiting their ability to detox.  I now KNOW they don't detox well and I now KNOW they are deficient in folate, as well as B12 due to this gene mutation, but I also now KNOW that I can bypass this gene mutation by supplying them with methylfolate (5-MTHF) and MB12 injections.  We can kick-start their methylation and begin to work around the mutation.  And how did this mutation come to be in the first place?  I certainly don't know that, but what I do know is that somewhere in the line of our families, a gene was mutated by it's environment, diet and/or thoughts....epigenetics.  If we can change them in the first place, common sense would reason that we can also reverse them!!

A friend, who is equally as interested in health, sent me Dr. Mercola's newsletter today and I just love the simple explanation given on epigentics.

Your Emotions Regulate Your Genetic Expression

As if genes changing expression in response to environmental factors such as nutrients wasn't enough, other researchers have demonstrated that this "environment" that your genes respond to also includes your conscious thoughts, emotions, and unconscious beliefs. Cellular biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD., is one of the leading authorities on how emotions can regulate genetic expression, which are explained in-depth in his excellent books The Biology of Belief, and Spontaneous Evolution.
Science has indeed taken us far beyond Newtonian physics, which says you live in a mechanical universe. According to this belief, your body is just a biological machine, so by modifying the parts of the machine, you can modify your health. Also, as a biological machine, your body is thought to respond to physical "things" like the active chemicals in drugs, and by adjusting the drugs that modify your machinery, doctors can modify and control health. However, with the advent of quantum physics, scientists have realized the flaws in Newtonian physics, as quantum physics shows us that the invisible, immaterial realm is actually far more important than the material realm. In fact, your thoughts may shape your environment far more than physical matter!
According to Dr. Lipton, the true secret to life does not lie within your DNA, but rather within the mechanisms of your cell membrane.
Each cell membrane has receptors that pick up various environmental signals, and this mechanism controls the "reading" of the genes inside your cells. Your cells can choose to read or not read the genetic blueprint depending on the signals being received from the environment. So having a "cancer program" in your DNA does not automatically mean you're destined to get cancer. Far from it. This genetic information does not ever have to be expressed...
What this all means is that you are not controlled by your genetic makeup. Instead, your genetic readout (which genes are turned "on" and which are turned "off") is primarily determined by your thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions!
The major problem with believing the myth that your genes control your life is that you become a victim of your heredity. Since you can't change your genes, it essentially means that your life is predetermined, and therefore you have very little control over your health. With any luck, modern medicine will find the gene responsible and be able to alter it, or devise some other form of drug to modify your body's chemistry, but aside from that, you're out of luck… The new science, however, reveals that your perceptions control your biology, and this places you in the driver's seat, because if you can change your perceptions, you can shape and direct your own genetic readout.
This new science also reveals that you are in fact an extension of your environment, which includes everything from your thoughts and belief systems, to toxic exposures and exposure to sunlight, exercise, and, of course, everything you choose to put onto and into your body. As Dr. Lipton is fond of saying, the new biology moves you out of victimhood and into Mastery—mastery over your own health.
It is a supreme confirmation of my favorite saying, "You Can Take Control of Your Health."

A Healthy Lifestyle Supports Healthy Genetic Expression

So the good news is that you are in control of your genes … You can alter them on a regular basis, depending on the foods you eat, the air you breathe, and the thoughts you think. It's your environment and lifestyle that dictates your tendency to express disease, and this new realization is set to make major waves in the future of disease prevention -- including one day educating people on how to fight disease at the epigenetic level. When a disease occurs, the solution, according to epigenetic therapy, is simply to "remind" your affected cells (change its environmental instructions) of its healthy function, so they can go back to being normal cells instead of diseased cells.
You can begin to do this on your own, long before you manifest a disease. By leading a healthy lifestyle, with high quality nutrition, exercise, limited exposure to toxins, and a positive mental attitude, you encourage your genes to express positive, disease-fighting behaviors.
This is what preventive medicine is all about. It's not about taking any one particular nutrient as a supplement to fix one specific "part" of your biological machinery... The more people become willing to embrace this simple truth, the healthier everyone will get.
It's also worth pointing out that epigenetic effects begin before birth.
Epigenetic research from 2009 showed that rat fetuses receiving poor nutrition in the womb become genetically primed for a nutrition-poor environment. As a result of this genetic adaptation, the rats tended to be smaller. They were also at higher risk for a host of health problems throughout their lives, such as diabetes, growth retardation, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and neurodevelopmental delays. Again, while some are tempted to blame such "predispositions" on bad genes, the KEY factor is nutrition, i.e. the cellular environment.
If you're ready to address your dietary choices, read through my comprehensive nutrition plan, which will give you tips and tools for eating healthy, dealing with stress, and living a lifestyle that will support your epigenetic health.
You can also turn your genes off and on with your emotions too. Many, if not most people carry emotional scars; traumas that can adversely affect health. Using techniques like energy psychology, you can go in and correct the trauma and help regulate your genetic expression. My favorite technique for this is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), but there are many others. Choose whichever one appeals to you, and if you don't sense any benefits, try another, until you find what works best for you.
Please, remember that 'You CAN Take Control of Your Health.'
You can find the rest of this article here.

I think what is important to take away from this lesson is that while we now know we can change our genes to our benefit, we can also change them detrimentally, and that is how we pass on the predisposition to diseases like autism, which is an epidemic of gargantuan proportion at 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys.  Our environment, the American diet and our thoughts have turned "on" these awful genes, let's please work on reversing this so that our children can pass on healthier genes to the next generation.

I wasn't very far off.....after all, "you are what you eat"!


Rachel Lewis said...

Wonderful information, thank you! I am so pleased to hear more on this subject, as I heard about this first many years ago in Pottenger's Cats, but then nothing for many years. It is so wonderful to have science empower us to take charge of our health!

Anonymous said...

Jessica, I really have enjoyed reading your blog! I am a facebook person, and dont really know how this blogging stuff works (dont laugh!)...but I was very curious about the probiotics your using. Ive used BioKult and amother kind before w/my son and he has had horrible reactions from it for about 2-3 weeks straight (behavior wise) so I didnt think it was a die-off...i thought it was causing a bad reaction. But i'm eager to try the Body Biotics, but there are so many kinds. Which kind, specifically, did you use w/your boys? thank you and God bless you for blogging this useful info!

Jessica said...

Here is the info on the soil-based probiotics we use