Believe it or not, the daffodils and crocuses are already poking their heads out of the ground here in Portland. Don’t be fooled, though, we won’t likely see the sun until July. But, in the meantime, we will be enjoying some blooms to remind us that indeed it is spring. This month, I came across an article published in Discover magazine in 2006 that reminded me of some concepts in the book Biology of Belief. Those two publications inspired this month’s health letter.
As naturopathic physicians, we focus primarily on the things that our patients can change to optimize their health. To do this effectively, we study the underlying mechanisms of illness, both acute and chronic. This means that usually we are looking at research illuminating the effects of diet, exercise, breathing, hydration, lifestyle, relationships, and spiritual contentment on overall wellness. In other words, we hold a deep belief that these alterable factors play a major role in your health. On the other hand, conventional medical research has turned more and more over the past decade to looking primarily at the ways in which our DNA dictates the development of various health conditions. The debate is a classic one, nature vs. nurture. Does your physical/mental health depend more on the genetic code you were born with or the life experiences/lifestyle choices you have been exposed to? Medical findings in the past few years have shown that the answer to this debate might not be an “either/or,” but rather “both.”
In the 1980s, scientists completed the Human Genome Project. As genes code for proteins in our bodies and the estimate was that each human being required over 120,000 proteins to perform the daily tasks of life, researchers expected to find a comparable 120,000+ genes. Imagine their surprise when the entire Human Genome Project consisted of no more than 25,000 genes. This figure alone points to a crack in the theory that everything can be explained by DNA. In fact, the body makes an abundance of different proteins from each gene. So, then, how does the body know which protein to make?? The solution is to look at epigenetics. “Epigenetics” is a fancy term for the environment surrounding the DNA. The environment of the cell determines which proteins are necessary and that message is conveyed through complex interactions to trigger the DNA to respond.
The significance of the results of the Human Genome Project has since been confirmed in many studies. In 2000, researchers at Duke University showed that the agouti gene in mice, which usually codes for ravenous, yellow rodents who are more susceptible to diabetes and cancer, can be completely turned off with a simple adjustment in the diet of the pregnant mothers. In addition, this study demonstrated that this effect permeated several of the following generations. Your mother’s lifestyle choices not only can change the expression of your genetic code, but also the genetic code of your children and your grandchildren.
“Michael Meaney, a biologist at McGill University has pursued an equally provocative notion: that some epigenetic changes can be induced after birth, through a mother’s physical behavior toward her newborn.”(DNA is Not Destiny, Discover, Nov 2006) His research showed that mother rats who engaged in nurturing behaviors raised offspring who were relatively brave and calm compared with other rats whose mothers had neglected them. After analyzing brain tissue from both sets of offspring, Meaney discovered that the behavior was the result of a fundamental change to the epigenetic structure of the DNA precipitated by the nurturing behavior. “Nurture” had made its way into “nature”-a phenomenon thought to be impossible.
To read more on this topic, go to “DNA is Not Destiny, the new science of epigenetics rewrites the rules of disease, heredity, and identity” by Ethan Watters, Discover, Vol. 27 No. 11, November 2006.
Knowing that we have the power to alter how our genes express themselves opens a whole new area for empowerment over our health. Try these simple exercises which will undoubtedly change the structure of your own epigenetic code.
- Eat a nutritious, whole foods diet
- Drink clean, healthy water
- Cultivate loving, supportive relationships
- Breathing exercises: 100 deep breaths a day is all it takes. Use the technique that works for you.
- Yoga, Tai chi, Qi gong, meditation: Incorporate mindful, moving meditation or seated prayer into your routine.
For one week, fast from your life. Take the week off work and all other obligations. Eat a simple diet, do a daily prayerful practice, take walks, drink herbal teas, do saunas and other detoxifying rituals, receive some form of loving touch.
The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles by Bruce Lipton, PhD.
With more than 100,000 copies sold of his self-published book, The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton teams up with Hay House to bring his message to an even wider audience. This book is a groundbreaking work in the field of new biology, and it will forever change how you think about thinking. Through the research of Dr. Lipton and other leading-edge scientists, stunning new discoveries have been made about the interaction between your mind and body and the processes by which cells receive information. It shows that genes and DNA do not control our biology, that instead DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell, including the energetic messages emanating from our thoughts. Using simple language, illustrations, humor, and everyday examples, he demonstrates how the new science of Epigenetics is revolutionizing our understanding of the link between mind and matter and the profound effects it has on our personal lives and the collective life of our species.
About the Author
Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized authority in bridging science and spirit and a leading voice in new biology. A cell biologist by training, he taught Cell Biology at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine, and later performed pioneering studies at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. He has been a guest speaker on dozens of TV and radio shows, as well as keynote presenter for national conferences.
We hope you found this information helpful. We strive to help our patients find a healthy way in the world. If you have topics you’d like us to address in future issues, please let us know. We are always available for questions and comments.
The Physicians of Bambú Clinic