Nothing in life is set in stone...
Posted on 22nd March 2023 at 07:35
It’s easy to think that science, and modern medicine in particular, has all the answers. Fuelled in large part by the almost daily announcements about the latest scientific or medical breakthrough. Which are usually accompanied with the pronouncement of how it will radically change our lives – or the planet – for the better.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of genetics and the mapping of the human genome in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. This, we were promised, would herald a new era in modern medicine with diseases being identified years – or decades – before symptoms ever started to appear, allowing pre-emptive treatment to occur.
However, despite this fanfare, this isn’t quite what seems to have happened in practice.
Why is this?
Well, to start with, linking particular diseases to specific parts of the genome has proved to be more difficult than anticipated. Then, to complicate matters further, even when this could be done it didn’t automatically mean that the person would go on to develop that particular disease. “A” didn’t automatically lead to “B” so far as genetics was concerned. Or, put another way, it seems that nothing in life is set in stone or pre ordained.
So, genetics, rather than providing quick and simple answers, simply opened up more questions.
Why did some people, despite having the particular gene(s), develop the disease and others didn’t? Develop some of the symptoms but not the full disease? As well as at different ages, progressing at different rates and in different ways. And many more questions besides.
Perhaps genetics wasn’t going to quickly and easily provide all the answers. Other factors must be at play, the question was how to find out what they were…
Well, one is easily identified and relates to a fundamental mis understanding about genetics itself. This is that if a particular gene is present, then it must be switched “on” and so has an effect on our body and health. However, this simply isn’t the case.
Just as a light switch can be turned “on” or “off” so can a gene. So, like a light switch, just because a gene is present, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s been switched “on.” Which quickly clears up the seeming anomaly of some people having a particular gene but not developing the associated symptoms or disease.
However, it didn’t stop there, with it being possible for the gene to be switched “on” or “off” at different times during a person’s life. In other words, it being “on” – or “off” – at a particular time didn’t mean it would automatically remain that way...
Which brings us on to the really interesting question. What switches genes “on” or “off” AND how can this be used to improve our health?
The study of this fascinating subject is known as “Epigenetics” – from Greek meaning “above and beyond” the gene – which looks at how our environment and behaviour can turn particular genes “on” and “off.” What it found was that genes can be affected by many different things, with the majority of these coming under the “Lifestyle” heading. In other words the small choices we make every day about how we live our lives – and usually don’t give a second thought to. What we eat, how active we are, our sleep, stress levels, whether we drink or smoke. We’re sure you get the idea…
And, while we’re talking about the things we do control, our thoughts, feelings and beliefs also affect our genes too. In other words, what’s going on in our heads, aided in large part by the Little Monster in our Head. Our beliefs that something is “true” or “going to happen” play a huge part in helping to create that exact scenario, which can be a very bitter pill to swallow. However, just as our lifestyle can be changed, so can what happens in our heads, which is the reason why Mindset features so prominently in our blog posts and in discussions with Clients.
It doesn't stop there though. Not only is it the things we do every day, but the environment in which we live. So, things like pollution, EMF’s and the like. But, just because we don’t directly control them, doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do to help reduce their impact on us.
Then, there are things that aren’t immediately obvious, but can still influence whether particular genes are switched “on” or “off.” For example, our Mother’s health and lifestyle during pregnancy or the infections we’ve been exposed to during our lives.
At first glance this may feel rather overwhelming. However, the good news is that many of the Epigenetic factors can, at least, be improved if not reversed by making small changes to our lifestyles. The things we do every day without thinking about them. In other words, all the things we talk about in this blog. Even better, they’ll also help improve our overall health too.
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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