Contrary to popular belief, your genes don’t necessarily determine your destiny. While many genes are static and determine our sex, eye and skin color, others need to be turned on or off to express a genetic trait. The on or off switch lies on top of the genome or genetic material and is the basis of the study of “epigenetics” (the prefix epi-, means above). The most basic definition of epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that do not involve changing the genetic code. These changes get passed down to at least one successive generation. It does not changing the gene, it changes the activity or expression of the gene. The expression of a gene can not only modulate on off but can change enzyme activity, protein production, cellular division and many other biological activities to make more or less of something and do it faster or slower. It’s not always a have or have not or an all or none phenomenon.
So think of a hardware and software analogy. You can have the same computer hardware (genes) but load different software (epigenes) and have different operator (individual lifestyle and environment). While the genes are the same, the outcome can be entirely different. Environmental factors like diet, stress and nutrition can make an imprint on genes that is passed from one generation to the next (epigenetic marks). Lifestyle choices like smoking and eating too much can also change the epigenetic marks atop your DNA. These changes can cause the genes for obesity to express itself, turn a cancer gene on or decrease your longevity. On the contrary, healthy lifestyle choices can quiet the expression of these genes and you can enjoy better health. What is now becoming apparent is that those same bad behaviors can also predispose your kids by passing on these epigenes to them before birth.
Epigenetic changes come from a response to an environmental stressor and can be inherited. The good news is, if you remove the environmental stressors and change your lifestyle, the epigenetic marks will eventually fade, and over time, the DNA code will revert to its original programming. Some genetic variants can be modulated with supplements, nutrition, and limiting toxic exposures and other environmental factors. Seek professional advice to be sure your genes don’t make you blue. Your destiny lies in your lifestyle choices – will they sustain you or drain you?