Nature vs. Nurture: Using Epigenetics to Empower

Maybe 20 to 30 years ago, we believed that your genes had more of an influence then your environment, as I have watched that number go down during my 30 year career, from 50/50 to 70/30, and now 95/5 according to doctors like Bruce Lipton and Depak Chopra, based on our latest scientific research.  Roughly translated, that means 95% of your health is determined by your environment, most of which is a choice, and 5% is your genetics.  According to Dr. Bruce Lipton “Epigenetics is the study of cellular and physiological traits, or the external and environmental factors, that turn our genes on and off, and in turn, define how our cells actually read those genes.  It works to see the true potential of the human mind, and the cells in our body”.

Those numbers are very empowering so let’s talk about environment so you can understand and empower yourself, family and friends to be healthier.  Stress, as you learned in past posts, is probably one of the biggest factors and can feel very “out of control” for most people.  While you cannot control many of the things that cause stress,  you can control your reactions or at least mitigate the effects.  If you have not read last my blog on the stress response, please do as it explains the whole physiological stress response and the toxic effects on your body.

The next major environmental factors are food and activity.  You are what you eat so don’t be cheap, fake, or unhealthy!  Hot Cheetos and many processed foods  are not actually food but chemicals mixed with some food that are designed to stay on a shelf indefinitely and get you hooked through the bliss point (a magical combination of sweet, salt and spice that causes addictive behavior with processed foods).  Any time you see a numbered dye in a food, it is made from petroleum by products, which is not digestible and can cause many adverse reactions in the body. Rather than “dieting”, try eating whole, unprocessed foods and avoid anything in a box, can or package.  If you want a sweet, make something from scratch which will cut down on the amount you consume. 

 Activity has become more of an issue because of modern technology and lifestyles that require minimal physical activity.  You do not need to run a marathon to be a healthy/ fit person, but you should be shooting for 10,000 steps a day to maintain a normal activity level (that equals 5 miles/ day).  The more sedentary your lifestyle, the more activity you are going to have to do through exercise or changing your activities of daily living (cleaning house, running errands, etc).  Things you can do to work up to 10,000 steps could include walking to run errands, talking the long way or parking at the back of a parking lot, doing quick 20 minute walks after lunch and dinner, and taking the stairs whenever possible. 

Chemical exposure is another very complicated subject, but it is why I am so passionate about eating organic,  as so many of the chemicals that are affecting our health, are from our food system.  Approximately 75% of all antibiotics used in the US come from the food system, mostly in factory farming methods for animals.  In addition, chemicals like Round Up are everywhere in our environment including our drinking water, rain water, and it also used a desiccant on non-organic wheat, oats, corn and soy. Household cleaning products, plastics, and cosmetics/ personal care products are significant sources of chemicals like phytates and plasticizers that often have properties that disrupt hormone actions in the body.  If you are interested in decreasing your exposure to some of these chemicals, I recommend looking at the Environmental Working Group’s website! 

Lastly, and possibly one of the most important factors in your health is how you think, which is often known as the placebo effect.  While the placebo effect is often thought as a “fake” treatment, it is demonstrating the power of the mind to create your own reality.  Some studies show that the placebo outperforms the drug in clinical trials anywhere from 5 to 100% for an average of 70%!!  In addition, studies also show that people who think they are getting a placebo but are actually getting the real medication have up to a 4 fold decrease in effectiveness of the medication.  While ideas like the Law of Attraction have been around for a long time, the latest science in quantum physics and healing support that our thoughts do create our physical reality in both a positive and negative way, making us much more powerful in controlling our health then most Western models acknowledge.   

For me, the takeaway from this information is you are much more empowered with regards to your health, then most modern medical models suggest.  Regardless of the area you chose to focus on, you cannot lose when you take steps to improve your health in any of these areas.  In the near future, I will also be including a very important factor in epigenetics that was not covered here, sleep, because of its complexity as well as importance in our overall health.