Our inherited DNA does not alter over our lifetime but, surprisingly, the outcome of the genes is not a “given”; as chemical “switches” turn on and off the expression of genes according to developmental stages and environmental cues. It is now widely known that epigenetic changes are strongly heritable and people can be affected generationally by a combination of environmental factors which cause inherited genes to be activated or not.
For example, “Researchers studying the off-spring of Holocaust survivors find they have higher rates of PTDS, possibly due to epigenetic modifications in their stress hormone system” (Yehuda, 2015).
“During the course of human life, we are exposed to an environment that abounds with a potent and dynamic milieu capable of triggering chemical changes that activate or silence genes. There is constant interaction between the external and internal environments that is required for normal development and health maintenance as well as for influencing disease load and resistance. For example, exposure to pharmaceutical and toxic chemicals, diet, stress, exercise, and other environmental factors are capable of eliciting positive or negative epigenetic modifications with lasting effects on development, metabolism and health” Kanherkar, 2014).
There are some simple lifestyle factors that have been proved to be effective in ensuring that the emotional and physical environments are optimal for wellbeing. One important aspect is the reduction of harmful stress (and, therefore, stress hormones).
Chronic stress has been identified as a major cause of inflammation in the body and inflammation is the underlying cause of many diseases.
“Researchers found that chronic exposure to a stress hormone causes modifications to DNA in the brains of mice, prompting changes in gene expression … They examined the expression levels of 5 HPA axis genes in the hippocampus, hypothalamus and blood” (Wein, 2010).
This may be frightening as stress in our lives is a given…we all experience it as life involves constant adaptation to changing circumstances and the different developmental stages we all must negotiate our way through.
The good news, though, is that now we know that epigenetics and the cellular and emotional environment we give ourselves are closely entwined, we can make lifestyle choices that will enhance well-being. We can work on the mechanisms and create positive epigenetic modifications…not just for our own benefit but for generations to come.
Know that we know that there is an open and dynamic, interactive system that we can affect, positively, the ball is in our court!
Pauline Skeates has been compiling some excellent teaching on the subject of epigenetics and has just presented the findings at her latest seminar in Schladming, Austria. Participants have loved the material and how this new science is so relevant to the way we do life…living an epigenetic life is of utmost importance for us all and the generations to come.
If you are interested in this topic or finding out more please get in touch with us. https://insight-international.org/contact-us/