Having had the same family doctor since I was a child, a few years back and for a number of reasons, I decided to change to another.
The initial visit was something therefore, that I was completely not used to. There was a slew of questions and they all revolved around my family’s health history.
I was not asked what I eat, how much I sleep, how I think or how much I exercise. Instead, the main focus was on whether anyone had heart disease, cancer and the list goes on, in my family.
I thought to myself, this can’t be right. You mean, I am going to be judged by my family’s habits, which are completely different from mine? There has got to be a better way. And there is.
At this point in time, I was lucky that I had some experience with the work of Dr. Bruce Lipton and did not fall for being classified into a neat little “bucket” of heart disease risk, cancer risk, etc.
Needless to say I am not with the new doctor any more either, and am today actually very happy without a family physician. I would rather have none and wait to find one that resonates with my views on health, than one who is not in tune with how our health really works. Besides there are always ample naturopaths available, and there is nothing like personal preventative, care habits.
Ultimately, I am not here today to talk about how to choose a family doctor. What I wanted to share with you is some of the latest research, where modern medicine is finally catching up to, in understanding the power of our environment on gene expression and disease formation.
Past Beliefs About Genes and Health
For many of us, knowing that a parent, sibling or other relative had a certain disease with a genetic link, like heart disease, cancer or diabetes, is enough to dampen the mood on one’s own future health prospects.
Most of us grew up with the belief, that the genes we are born with, dictate the state of our health. Thus, if we are meant to be overweight, we will be. If a certain cancer is in our genetic code, we will probably get it. And things like high blood pressure, or cholesterol and heart disease really can’t be helped, because they are in your genes.
There is nothing perhaps more dis-empowering than being told that you are your genes. And nothing better to make people give up on health habits, or lack personal accountability if they feel that their fate is already sealed.
Yet this has been the belief, that has been propagated in our society, and in the past and present medical field.
A New Theory on Genes Emerges
In the 1980’s as Dr. Bruce Lipton was teaching students to become medical doctors, he was running his own tests, as most university professors do. He was ingrained in the traditional medical field and was thus passing along what he knew to his students, in that genes determine one’s health, and that basically each one of us is the victim of our genes.
It wasn’t until a series of experiments that he ran on simple organisms with the same genetic makeup, that he was completely blown out of the water! To summarize, when he put the genetically identical species in separate dishes, to watch for some other behavior, he found they had different responses. How could this be, if they were all genetically identical?
After years of research and tearing apart everything he learned to open his mind to new possibilities, the conclusion was obvious. The environment changed the expression of the genes. Thus, even with identical DNA, the expression of the genes depends on the environment they are subjected to. To read more about his work check out, his fascinating book The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles.
This field of research today is called epigenetics, and it is the science of the new genetics, where non-genetic factors, namely environmental, cause the organism’s genes to express themselves differently.
As for Dr. Bruce Lipton, thanks to a passionate thirst for knowledge and a very open mind, he has continued with more ground-breaking research in the field of health, and is today considered a leader in bridging the gap between science and spirit. His latest book is Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a Way to Get There from Here).
Latest Research Reveals Shocking Conclusions About Our Genes
The latest trend in the medical field, as we learn more and more about our genes and how they function is personalized medicine. The doctors of the future know very well that one size does not fit all, and that to remedy a health problem most appropriately, each person needs a personalized approach, based on their needs, habits, genes, etc.
Personalized medicine centers work on the principle of being able to predict the risk of disease or response to a drug, based on a person’s genetic makeup. However, a study by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, shows that for most common diseases, genes alone only tell part of the story.
The reason for this, as the scientists have discovered, is that the environment interacts with the DNA, and to add to this, it is in ways that are difficult to predict, even in simple organisms like single-celled yeast.
Dr. Barak Cohen, PhD, a geneticist and senior author, was quoted as saying “The effects of a person’s genes – and, therefore, their risk of disease – are greatly influenced by their environment. So, if personalized medicine is going to work, we need to find a way to measure a human’s environment.”
The researchers ran many studies with single-celled yeast, and in each case the conclusions were startling in that, in even slight environmental changes, there are big differences in gene expression. The research is available online in PLoS Genetics.
Thus, the new research raises many questions, some of which are as follows:
- What is a human’s environment and how can it be measured?
- Is the environment a person lived in during childhood important or the environment he lives in now?
Dr. Cohen goes on to say that:
Measuring the environment becomes crucial when we try to understand how it interacts with genetics. Having a particular genetic variant may not have much of an effect, but combined with a person’s environment, it may have a huge effect.
What else the study found shocking is that environmental variants always played a larger together role when present together, than the sum of their individual effects.
Applying the Gene and Environment Saga to Your Health
So what does this mean for you and I?
It means first and foremost that we are not victims of our genetics. The biggest things we as humans inherit from our parents and subsequent family members, are not their genes, but their habits. This involves things like eating, sleeping, exercise, and most importantly thinking patterns. How we view life, money, love, happiness, disease, etc., and how we deal with stress, plays the biggest role in shaping our environment, and thus our genes.
Therefore, if you know that there is a disease prevalent in your family’s history, like a cancer or heart disease, re-evaluate the environment that was set for those genes to express themselves, and change your environment to not reflect that. Each of our genes have a multitude of ways in which they can express themselves. It all depends on the environment we provide, and whether it fosters good health, or not.
The second very important lesson that we should take away from this, is regarding the last conclusion the researchers reached. One bad habit may not have a huge effect, but several bad habits together, compound the effect on our genes, and put us at a greater risk of an unfavorable expression.
Therefore, it is not “silly”, “obsessive”, “neurotic”, or “extreme” to take your lifestyle habits seriously. It is the best life and health insurance one can offer themselves. It is the best investment one will ever make.
Your health is truly in your hands, and thus we need to own up to that, and start taking more responsibility and accountability for it, by making smarter lifestyle choices.
We know today enough about smoking, alcohol, chemical personal care products, pesticides, fast food, processed food, negative thinking, stress, and even dairy, to make better decisions. We can continue to live with our heads in the sand, claiming we didn’t know any better when disease strikes, or we can embrace the information available and use it to make the best choices for us and our families.
Just as you shape your environment with the choices you make, so in the same way, you shape your health.
I wish you a beautiful and empowering journey!