In one sentence: your internal environment will determine how you respond to outside stimuli.
The result of the Human Genome Project concluded in astonishment as it was discovered that we only have 22,000 genes that we inherit from our parents. All these genes do not necessarily turn on at the same time; some don’t turn on at all. Epigenetics is essentially influencing which genes turn on, turn off, or remain dormant. Genes are essentially, “just there”. Genes ultimately tell the cells how to behave(2) . Regulatory genes are what turn genes on and off. Determining how to control regulatory genes can guide us towards better health by expressing genes that contribute to better health (regulatory genes are controlled mainly by nutrients (3,4) as well as environmental chemical exposure, sleep, stress, thought patterns, NRF2 pathway, and exercise). A gene will not express itself until the surrounding environment becomes favorable to that expression. An individual who harnesses a “sprinter” gene will not express those genes unless they sprint! This makes us wonder how many people never had the environment to express their truly unique talent. How many people were the “right environment” away from being great? Genes + Environment (5) = Expression (6,7). The choices we make during our life tell our genes how to express themselves and, thus, how our cells behave. We may be born with genes that make us prone to a specific condition or a higher susceptibility towards weight gain but those genes need the opportunity to express themselves. Disease is the manifestation of genes, lifestyle decisions, and environmental factors. Diseases, such as cancer, flourish in cases where a defective gene becomes cancerous and create more rogue cells that multiply and divide uncontrollably. It is worth mentioning here that cancer is not something that someone “gets”, as we all have cancer cells inside of us all the time. Cancer (8) overwhelming the body and expressing itself is a result of something that the body does with its own cells; meaning we don’t “get” cancer cells. “Epigenetics plays a role in the formation and maintenance of memories, the effectiveness of your immune response, levels and responses to hormones, and levels and quality of sperm (The Super Human Organism, 87)”.
- “Epigenetics helps us understand that the genome is more like a dynamic, living being – growing, learning, and adapting constantly. If you need glasses or get cancer or age faster than you should, you very well may have perfectly normal genes. What’s gone wrong is how they function, what scientists call genetic expression. Epigenetic researchers study how our genes react to our behavior, and they have found that just about everything we eat, think, breathe, or do can, directly or indirectly, trickle down to touch the gene and affect its performance in some way. These effects are carried forward into the next generation, where they can be magnified (Deep Nutrition, 5). Epigenetic researchers investigate how genes get turned on and off. This is how the body modulates genes in response to our environment, and it is how two twins with identical DNA can develop different traits (Deep Nutrition, 22).”
- “Our genes make their day-to-day decisions based on chemical information they receive from the food we eat, information encoded in our food and carried from that food item’s original source, a microenvironment of land or sea. (Deep Nutrition, 8)”
- “The thing to consider here is that our genes reside within the cells, and the nutrients that best protect them from mutation or undesirable influences are those that are best able to cross the cellular membrane into the matrix of the cell. For this, fat-soluble nutrients and antioxidants are critical as well as being long overlooked and underestimated in importance and value (Primal Body, Primal Mind 23)”.
- Also, nutrient deficiencies, missing vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids or altered through toxic industrial oils, sugars, and processed foods.
- Environment, as used here, is the regulatory genes that are influenced by nutrients as well as environmental chemical exposure, sleep, stress, thought patterns, and exercise.
- Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an example of an inherited disorder that causes an amino acid called phenylalanine to build up in your blood. People with this mutation have a defect in the gene that helps create the enzyme needed to break down the substance. Unless you know you have the defect, you wouldn’t know to avoid foods/drinks that contain phenylalanine. Omega-3, for example, turn on genes that are involved with fat-burning while turning off the genes that store fat in the body.
- People who are genetically predisposed to diabetes would never be stricken if they lived in a world without sugar. Sugar, in this example, is the requisite ingredient that triggers the genetic predisposition and turns an otherwise healthy diet into a harmful one.
- “Cancer develops in cells that have misunderstood their role as part of a cooperative enterprise and lost their ability to play nice in the body. The DNA running a cancer cell essentially becomes confused, believing its job is to instruct the cell it operates to divide and keep dividing without regard for neighboring cells until the growing mass of clones begins to kill its neighbors. This is an example of how epigenetics works against us (Deep Nutrition, 24)”.