FAQs on Epigenetics

What is Epigenetics?

Epigenetics is the study of molecular mechanisms by which the environment controls gene activity. It is a new scientific field and it shows that DNA blueprints passed down through genes are not set in stone at birth. Each of us inherits our own unique variation of the genetic code. We can’t change the hardwiring of our genetic code, but epigenetic factors such as lifestyle and diet can radically change what our genes do.

What’s the significance of this?

It means that you have a lot more control over your health than you think.
We have always assumed that age-related diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, stroke and cancer are inevitable consequences of aging or because of our genes. But we now know through our understanding of epigenetics that this is not true. It is not about your genes but how you communicate with your genes through your diet, lifestyle & the environment you bathe your genes in. In other words, you can change how your genes are expressed. Several studies have shown that changing lifestyle causes changes in gene expression. Stress, diet, behavior, toxins and other factors activate chemical switches that turn genes on and off and regulate gene expression.

What do you mean you can change how your Genes are Expressed?

There are thousands of genes that render you susceptible to the many chronic diseases so many people are experiencing today, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. But whether or not these genes are expressed as diseases is determined by how you live your life…your diet, how many toxins you are exposed to, what supplements you take, your beliefs and how you handle stress. That means you may be susceptible to heart disease or diabetes, but you do not necessarily have to succumb to them. That is, your genes are a predisposition, not a fate. This is extremely empowering because you are in control.

For the most part you do not manifest disease merely by a defective gene, but by the regulation or expression of your genes, and the expression of your genes is much more dynamic and modifiable than had previously been realized.

I always thought there was nothing you can do about your Genes. Is this true?

We have all been taught that we are stuck with our genes. But this is a huge myth… most genes are not set in stone or fixed, but rather modifiable.

We are born with a set of genes, which are inherited, which we can’t change, like body frame or the color of your eyes or hair. There are also certain genes that if you are born with, you will be crippled, retarded or have some serious childhood disease and die early. But these genes that can’t be changed are less than 2%. Most of our genes are actually modifiable and can be turned on or off. In fact, you ARE changing your genetics daily and perhaps even hourly from the foods you eat, the air you breathe, and even by the thoughts you think.

What do you mean you can turn Genes On and Off?

Bathing your genes in the right environment (good nutrients, food, love and thoughts), will turn the genes for health on and the “disease” genes off.

You can “turn on” genes that prevent chronic diseases and “turn off” oncogenes that promote breast cancer and prostate cancer as well as turn off genes that cause inflammation and oxidative stress. Your genes are controlled by epigenetic coding that tells them to be expressed or not expressed — which is completely controlled by your environment and lifestyle.

Are these Epigenetic changes passed on to future generations like the Genetic Code?

YES, it’s called epigenetic inheritance!! For many years we were secure in our beliefs that, no matter what we did to damage ourselves in terms of poor lifestyle choices, it only affected us. Our children would be born with a genetic clean slate. But now we are learning that this is not true, and epigenetic changes can be passed down for many generations. So, the lifestyle choices you make today affect not only you but also your children and grandchildren. In other words, each of us has far greater responsibility than we ever imagined!

  • BernadetteDTelfare

    Finally someone said it!

  • Elaine Springer

    Excellent article, extremely empowering and true. Many thanks for holding and sharing positive knowledge and vision.

  • Doreen Agostino

    Dr. Bruce Lipton is in San Francisco May May 18.11 He is a gift to all who are willing to listen. Listen with an open mind. Leave with an open heart!.http://www.commonwealthclub.or

  • LW

    Twin studies seem to contradict this. What's your thoughts on this.

  • Nilima Jain

    This can be related to body-constitution analysis as described in Ayurveda wherein individuals have their particular set of genes which are responsible for their behaviour, appearance, likes/dislikes, immunity, disease… and all the other details. Proper analysis of these helps the indiviuals in many ways. I've given a glimpse of this analysis in a presentation which can be viewed on my profile on linked-in or my blog.

  • This is a very good article on Epigenetics for the physical body yet it is missing one important aspect when it comes to the “environment”, its effect on the Mind, Emotional/Mental self. Dr. Lipton demonstrated very clearly in his lectures that our genes/cells and body are also affected by our “perceptions” of the environment (family dynamics, belief system, peers, communities, etc..) we live in. The sets of beliefs or truths that emerge from our “perceptions” about our life’s circumstances have also biological and biochemical responses on our genes. Simply put…the flight/fight stress response…further ..when you “perceive” that something is “hurtful, painful, negative” your mind response with thoughts and feelings. And our Ego tend to look for solution to suppress or avoid negative feelings. Repetitive exposure to these negative events lead to “behaviors” and health issues. The longer  these thoughts/feelings occurs in your life the more your body will show sign of “unbalance” manifested as pain, illness, inflammatory symptoms, rashes, digestive issues, and eating disorders, addictions, negative behaviors….

  • ben David

    With regard to twins, this actually accounts for the many and varied differences in identical twins who share the same exact DNA.

    This accounts for placebo studies in medicine, both explaining placebo operation, as well as previous knowledge of the placebo affect in myriads of varied scientific studies supporting the mind/body relationship which some are not seeing as simply and easily as others. Remember, if I tell you a joke that your mind ‘gets’ your brain will release host-originating endorphins into your blood stream that will affect your epigenetics as much, if not more than, your diet or more external factors.

    People are often, and certainly need not be, limited by their perceptions, yet your perception is easiest to change, and requires not even action, if only to generate momentum.

  • Fatima Tokhmafshan

    I was directed to this site through a prominent researcher at the Mcgill University Health Centre. I am in utter shock of the amount of scientific inaccuracy written here. As a scientist it is my duty to inform you that 99.99% of everything written here is inaccurate; the only reason I didn’t say 100% is because they managed to spell “epigenetic” correctly!

  • Kfir Luzzatto

    I have to take issue with the statement that we can’t change the color of our hair. An experiment that I have been running for the past six months shows the opposite (see:http://tinyurl.com/k5tbwhk). I have been able to restore color to gray hair and also to grow hair darker than their original color. While I can’t say for sure that one can change the color of his hair from, say black to blond, I cannot rule it out since it all boils down to the activity of the genes that produce the sub-type of melanin that gives hair its color. Children, for instance, often have blond hair that becomes darker when they grow older, due to an increased production of eumelanin.

    We have much more control over our body than we thought, as you point out, and that includes control over the growth of our hair and its color.