Thursday, 10 January 2013

Why Biology isn't Set in Stone


In my post on The Cancer Gene we saw that a healthy lifestyle can potentially silence genes before they manifest as disease. What if I told you that healthy living may also silence a gene inherited by your unborn children? The idea was mind boggling when I first heard it. Is it even possible? 

Though we cannot change our DNA sequence; research indicates that living a healthy lifestyle can put genes for certain illnesses into sleep mode. These exciting findings are part of a new branch of science known as epigenetics, which coincidentally explains why living a healthy lifestyle reduces the genetic risk of illness in the 1st place. Most of us are familiar with the human genome, the DNA spiral that sits at the core of every last cell in your body. It holds an infinite number of possible physical traits: mom’s blue eyes, dad’s full head of hair, grandpa’s receding hairline, grandma’s gene for obesity, the list goes on and on. How do our cells know which genes to express? This is where the epigenome comes into play; a thin layer of data that coats the DNA spiral.

The epigenome is full of chemical markers that tell the DNA in each particular cell what to become. For example, it might tell a cell in the eye and that it will be part of the yellow speck in an otherwise blue iris. The human body is constantly replenishing cells; new cells inherit the old cell’s epigenetic markers ensuring consistence and continuity in the body. This lesson in genetics is relevant to healing because environmental and lifestyle factors such as stress, diet, alcohol and cigarettes also leave a mark on the epigenome. Logically, it would follow that increasing stress levels will have a cumulative effect on the epigenome. How that translates to cell replication has yet to be seen, though intuitively you would think that reducing stress levels will have a positive impact. 

Research indicates that epigenetic markers are also passed down from parent to child. A study tracking Swedish families over several decades indicated that the stress induced by childhood famine wreaks havoc on the health of future generations [Ref 2].  

The pharmaceutical industry has been quick to test drugs that may block cancer genes though the epigenome. This is particularly relevant today, given the rise in preventive mastectomies since DNA sequencing has become accessible. If these drugs are approved they will give women with breast cancer genes Brca1 and Brca2 more options  to consider (within the parameters of conventional medicine). 

Drugs aside, what can we do in the meantime? My intuition tells me to start by modifying lifestyle factors known to leave a mark: follow a healthy diet, exercise, cut back on alcohol and cigarette smoking. The other big culprit is stress; relaxation techniques may have a direct impact on your physical health as well as boosting your state of mind. Find a relaxation technique you enjoy, there are plenty to choose from including meditation, conscious breathing, yoga and of course Reiki and Energy Healing. 


Let’s not forget that we can also act on the stress triggers. Stress is linked to fear of failure: fear of missing a deadline or not being able to pay the rent. Working on your organization skills and being proactive will also reduce stress levels. You may even wind up enjoying yourself in the process!



Note: I'm researching these ideas and will include an update in my book when it is published in 2013. Please stay tuned for Self-Healing, Cancer & Love. 


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Reiki hugs, Regina





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