Your Genes are NOT your destiny – what is Epigenetics?
There is research showing how we likely express more of our father’s genes than our moms, which was great news for those of us with awesome dads…
But what if your dad was a deadbeat, deviant, or less than an amazing individual? Are you doomed for the same fate? Of course not!! By the way, my dad is awesome!
Does having a family history or a chronic health condition mean that you are doomed to a less than optimal life? The short answer is, no.
While there is definitely a genetic component to some of our character traits, as well as chronic disease such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, autoimmunity, depression or diabetes, your genes do NOT determine your destiny.
It is so important not to adopt a fatalistic attitude where you think, “Well, you know, my dad had this condition” or “My grandmother had the same thing” or “all the women in my family struggled with [insert condition here]” and then conclude, “therefore, I’m gonna struggle too.”
The truth is, there is so much you can do, starting today, to ensure that you do not suffer the same fate. Even if the signs are already surfacing, there is still time to turn things around.
Let’s take something like autoimmunity and diabetes and endometriosis for example, your genes are not your destiny.
In other words, let’s say you have an autoimmune disease that runs in your family. Let’s say for this example it is Autoimmune Thyroid, Hashimotos Thyroiditis…
Even if the autoimmune risk gene is passed onto you from your mom or dad, who may have a long history of autoimmunity and thyroid disease, having that gene by itself does not automatically mean that you are going to get Hashimotos Thyroiditis, or any other autoimmune disease.
It does mean, however, that there’s a genetic predisposition that puts you at risk for that disease, given certain environmental and lifestyle influences, such as a nutrient-poor diet, toxic exposure, chronic stress, lack of exercise or very poor sleep.
The key word here is “risk”.
Think of it like a sport that has a high risk of injury. Snowboarding, Football, Rock Climbing, Mountain Biking. Participating in any of those sports puts you in a higher risk category. There is a risk, but not everyone who participates in these sports gets injured. Factors such as skill level, strength, awareness of surroundings, weather conditions, teams, and competition, all play a role in whether or not the injury will occur.
Similarly, having a genetic risk is simply a risk and is NOT a guarantee that a condition will surface. Those lifestyle and environmental factors are what truly determine your fate.
When you pair certain environmental and lifestyle conditions with the genetic predisposition, then it becomes more or less likely that the genes will express. But, remember the genetic predisposition by itself is just a very small part of the equation. Most experts agree that genetic risk is less than 33 percent of the equation. That’s a big deal because that means the other 66 percent is within our control!
This is the science Epigenetics. Epigenetics is the science of all of the things above or around the gene that influences whether it turns on or off and at what degree, if any, the gene is expressed.
So, one of the reasons I’m so passionate about this topic is that there is so much we can do to leverage your genetics to play out in your favor.
ApoE4 is a famous gene that’s studied both for high cholesterol and for Alzheimer’s risk…
Even if you have two risk alleles of this ApoE gene, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to get Alzheimer’s or cardiovascular disease…
It does mean your risk is greatly increased, so it becomes MUCH more important to understand your risk and the dietary and lifestyle practices that will reduce or neutralize this risk. In the case of ApoE 4, we recommend less than 6% saturated fat in the diet, regular exercise, quality sleep and lowering your toxic burden. Knowing this will help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s if you have this gene.
You may be wondering, if genetics don’t determine your fate, then why do so many conditions run in families? Well, that’s simple, because what’s common to the parents and the grandparents isn’t just the genetics but also the environmental circumstances. Families tend to consume similar diets, have similar world views, posses similar sleep habits and live in a manner that produces similar stress levels.
It can become easy to confuse genetics with environmental influence. The point I am trying to make is that we can control our own genetic destinies, and we can influence the fate of our children and grandchildren. We now have the power to break the cycle of family disease history and use nature and technology to live our best lives.
This knowledge is power, not just for you, but for generations to come.
This is one reason why, as a health coach, I look beyond DNA and look to Epigenetics, which is the science of how the body is using your DNA. Ask me how Epigenetics can go to work for you!
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