To some, it may seem silly to explore genes and health. Outdated science told us that our genes were our destiny. The human genome project and the explosion around epigenetic research have unlocked important secrets about our genes. Turns out, genes are not simply a hand of cards that we get dealt.
I am not an expert in genetic research and theory, but I do have a fairly firm grasp on genetics and how they influence our health. And there is some great news about genetics that can empower you in your health and well-being journey.
Do You Have Blue Genes?
Not blue jeans, as in our go-to clothing item for our bottom half. But blue GENES, as in genetics that make us sad. I know! I just couldn’t resist the fun play on words. Thank you for tolerating my weird sense of humor.
My client conversations, in relation to genes and health, often hinge around concern about a familial genetic predisposition. A health issue that repeatedly crops up in our family history. The client experiences nagging fears about ending up with that same health issue that Grandma Millie had, or that their dad plus two paternal uncles have.
For the purposes of this discussion, what most folks are concerned about is something like, “My family history is peppered with ______ (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders, etc.). Am I going to have that too?”
The answer is: “It’s possible. But not definite.” Hmmmmm.
What ARE genes?
Genetics are fascinating, complex and mysterious. To date, we seem to understand less than 3% of what goes on with genetics.
What are genes? The simple definition is that a gene is one unit of DNA. It is usually located on a chromosome that influences the development of one or more of our traits. A gene is the basic unit via which genetic information gets passed from parent to offspring. This is the case whether it’s a person, armadillo, fruit fly or daisy.
Genes comprise DNA sequences that contain and transmit complex “instructions.”
But these “instructions” are not always hard and fast. Someone might have zero familial history of heart disease and succumb to a heart attack when they’re 41 years old. Yet someone who has loads of familial history of heart issues (like me) may be 55 and continually receive reports of her heart being in top-notch shape.
But what folks seem most concerned with is PROBABILITY. And a familial history does increase the probability of us having genetic components that lend to the weaknesses (and strengths) of our ancestors. But the plot thickens. Let’s explore.
Genes and health
As we discussed above, many of us feel that our genes are a deck of cards that we get dealt in utero, and that we are victim of whatever happens to be coded in our chromosomes. This is old science and is not true. More recent genetic science is much more empowering about genes and health.
Think of genetics as one of those fuse boxes in your basement, with all the switches that turn electricity on and off in various areas of your home. Epigenetics is the study of what—in the environment of our BodyMindSpirit—flips the genetic switch. It turns out that our genetic expression is deeply and profoundly influenced by our choices.
The environment that a plant grows in—sunlight, soil composition, pests, rain, temperature—affects the health of the plant. The environment that your genes live in, inside your body, have massive influence on whether or not genetic information gets turned on or not.
Let’s say you have a familial history of type 2 diabetes, which is (typically) lifestyle-induced insulin resistance that leads to blood sugar dysregulation. Your mom and dad both have it, your great aunt Petunia had it, and three of your cousins have it. So maybe diabetes is, indeed, one of the switches in your genetic fuse box. The question is what environment will you have that genetic switch living in?
Will it be a food lifestyle high in empty carbs, low in fats and low in exercise? Will it be a mental environment of stress and negativity? (Yes, thoughts and beliefs are part of the environment of your body and influence genetic expression, among other things.) If so, you’re increasing the probability that you’ll trip the type 2 diabetes fuse.
Yet, if you do the opposite of all of those things (or even a few of them), you are greatly decreasing the likelihood of that particular switch getting triggered, by keeping your genetic material in a healthy, low-stress environment.
Genetics are powerful and the study of epigenetics empowers us around our genes and health. Which is great news!
Epigenetics and Empowered Well-Being
Understanding the power of epigenetics can help take us out of the…
Victim Mindset (from my book Wild World, Joyful Heart): “Lots of people in my family have type 2 diabetes, so it doesn’t matter what choices I make, since I’m genetically programmed to get diabetes.”
…and into the…
Creator Mindset (also from WWJH): “I may have a genetic predisposition for type 2 diabetes, but I’m going to create health for myself. I’m going to embrace a Food Sass® Lifestyle, commit to joyful exercise 5 days a week, and begin and end my day with reading/listening to positive, empowering messaging. Maybe I’ll even adopt intermittent fasting, in some form, to support my insulin health. I’m going to do what I can to stay healthy despite potential genetic influences.”
YOU ARE A POWERFUL CREATOR. You can make intentional choices that support the very best expression of your genetic material. Your genes and health are not hand of cards that you’re dealt. You’ve got a genetic fuse box that has switches that are influenced by many, many factors in your body, mind, emotions and spirit.
The efforts that you make on a daily basis—with regards to your health and well-being— MATTER, in many ways. I invite you to create your health with intention. Need help? Let’s get to work.
Create Vibrant Health: BodyMindSpirit®
With love and genetic sass,