Did you know that, for the most part, your genes do not determine your destiny? Even if you have genes that increase your probability of certain diseases, through lifestyle modifications, you may be able to influence whether those genes express; in other words, turn on, or do what they are supposed to do.
What is Epigenetics?
Epigenetics refers to changes in gene expression that occur without altering the actual genetic code. Our gene expression can be changed through dietary, environmental, and various lifestyle factors.
For instance, exercise has been shown to change the expression of nearly 7000 genes. When we consider that our genes code for only 23,000 genes, this effect is profound.
So, how do genes get turned on and off? Epigenetic markers are little molecules like methylation groups and acetylation groups that sit on top DNA strands and turn genes off or on.
These epigenetic markers are regulated by diet, exercise, stress, sleep quality, our beliefs and emotions, and environmental toxins.
These epigenetic markers hitchhike on to sperm and egg DNA and get passed on to future generations as well. So you can live in a way that will positively impact your children and grandchildren.
Researchers at Duke University studied mice with the Agouti gene. This gene increases the probability that a mouse will have beautiful yellow fur, but will
also be predisposed to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Researchers gave female Agouti mice folate and B-12 before they were impregnated. We know that these nutrients help the body synthesize and repair DNA.
These female mice had offspring with the Agouti gene. However, the troublesome gene was silenced by epigenetic markers that were influenced by folate and B-12. The offspring did not express the Agouti gene traits – they did not have yellow fur, cancer, type 2 diabetes, nor obesity.
Research published in Journal of Neuroscience has also shown that something as complex as learning and memory can be epigenetically impacted. In one study, mice who were genetically engineered to get neurodegenerative diseases were placed in a living environment full of stimulating toys.
These mice scored well on learning and memory tests. The researchers found that the enriched environment stimulated neurogenesis, despite the genetic propensity towards neurodegeneration.
In another phase of this study, the offspring of these mice, who were also genetically predisposed to get neurodegenerative diseases, were deprived of a stimulating living environment and placed in plain cages.
The good news is that even though these offspring lacked the enriched environment, the genes that increased the potential for neurodegenerative diseases were still silenced. The parents who lived in an enriched environment passed on their epigenetic markers that prevented the potentially harmful genes from expressing.
What does this mean for humans?
By looking at our genetic code, we can identify factors that can guide us to the most ideal lifestyle factors to optimize our health and well-being. This is epigenetic coaching.
We are complex creatures, so there are no guarantees or simplistic outcomes to be touted here. However, we are growing in our ability to look at someone’s genome, gather information about their ancestral history and their life experiences, and work towards optimizing lifestyle choices to enhance positive genetic expression while suppressing negative gene expression.
We all know through experience that no diet, exercise, sleep enhancement, or stress reduction program works for everyone. Even though we share around 99.6% of the same DNA, that less than 1% creates vast differences among us that rule out one-size-fits-all approaches to wellness.
In an attempt to individualize our approaches to wellness, there are many companies offering direct to consumer genetics reports. However, once you get that genetic information, you are still missing a great deal of important information about how your genes influence your health. Additionally, these reports lack clear, individualized information as to what steps you might take to optimize your gene expression, therefore, your wellness.
This is where an Epigenetic Coach trained in a System’s Approach comes in handy.
Epigenetic Coaching from a Systems perspective
Apeiron Academy is the only Systems Based Epigenetic Coach Training Program of its kind.
Those of us who are part of this program are not only trained how to interpret genetic reports, but we are trained to do so from a System’s Perspective. This means that we consider how all areas of a client’s life affect their well-being: genetics, sleep, stressors, economics, cultural factors, social support, belief structures, emotional, cognitive, and psychophysiological habits, as well as environment, diet, and exercise.
There is no magic bullet in this life – no magic diet, exercise program, or supplement that will optimize someone’s health. We are complex and dynamic creatures interacting within a complex and dynamic environment. Any approach that might be effective in optimizing an individual’s health will account for and capitalize on that complexity.
It is no longer a nature vs. nurture world, it is the dynamic interaction of nature and nurture that we must take into consideration.
To optimize your health and thrive as we age, one should work with a System’s Based Epigenetic Coach who can help you create a truly individualized wellness plan based upon your genes, your ancestry, your life experiences, your preferences and goals, and your environment.
Enhance your chances of living the most vibrant and abundant life you can by investing in yourself through Epigenetic Coaching.
About the Author
Lee Ann Foster, MS, co-owner of NeuroSource, trained Epigenetics Coach
At NeuroSource, Dr. Dale and Lee Ann offer personalized brain training, coaching and treatment options for optimal brain and body performance. Give us a call at (901) 624-0100 for a free phone consult to see which of our programs would help you reach your wellness goals.