Epigenetics: How The Environment Shapes Our Genes

I’m sure you’ve heard people say “it's no use fighting it, it's in your Genes!” Well, until quite recently the common scientific view held this to be true. But as with all things, science is changing, and because of that, our understanding of what determines one’s health has changed with the emerging field of Epigenetics: how the environment shapes our genes.

Specifically, what part our genetic makeup plays, and what part the stimulation and activation of said genetic material play on the health of an individual. The effect that environmental stimulus has on the activation and therefore manifestation of genetic attributes is the focus of this paradigm-shifting new branch of Genetic science.

What are Genes?

Our Genes or what is known as DNA is the blueprint that our cells use to fix themselves when internal things break down and replicate themselves when their time is up. This blueprint is passed down from parent to child, from generation to generation. But what is important to understand, is that DNA is only a blueprint.

It is basically a reference encyclopedia listing all the physical “possibilities” your body is capable of. What colour your skin can be, how your organs can function, how long your legs can be, how you could age, etc.

However, because your cells are constantly dying off and being regenerated, each time a cell replicates itself there is a chance for change. This is because external stimuli determine how your cells read that “blueprint”. Although the body has roughly 50 trillion cells, there are only 25 thousand genes responsible for their creation. That means each gene can make many different kinds of cells depending on what part of that blueprint is read by the cell.

What is the relationship between genes and the environment?


Now, if the environmental influences are positive and nurturing, the healthiest and most efficient DNA program for replication and regeneration is read by the cell. However, if the environmental influences are negative or toxic, the cell can end up reading subsections and amendments to the usual program which can lead to any number of dysfunction and disease.

All Cellular life on the planet has two basic states of functional existence. The first is Growth, and the other is Protection. In essence, the cell either opens itself up to the environment, allowing it to take in nutrients, heal and grow, or closes itself off from the outside world in an attempt to stay safe. These two states can never be achieved at the same time.

Whether you are a virus, bacteria, plant or animal, every cellular organism fluctuates between these two states. So the question is, what determines which state the cell chooses to adopt? The answer is… the contact with, and the effect of, the external environment.

Because the human body is really not a singular organism, but rather a community of 37 trillion individual living cells, the functioning and health of our body is basically a macrocosmic representation of the state of our immense microscopic community.

That being said, if our cells are in a constant state of “Protection”, the resulting human-level equivalent is stimulation of the Sympathetic Nervous System or the state of “Fight or flight”. This mode of functioning is all about short-term survival from a source of external stress.

Your body diverts blood and nutrients away from your internal organs and redirects them to your peripheral limbs and muscles. At the same time, it diverts blood from your forebrain where conscious thought takes place and relegates it to the more efficient reflex centres where instinctive and subconscious programming can take over.

This process proves to be an amazing evolutionary advantage if the source of stress is “short term”. As in some large animal chasing you for its lunch! However, in today's modern age when unnatural and seemingly never-ending stress and toxic pollutants are a staple of daily life, this process proves to be a major problem.

uman nervous system. Sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves anatomy and functions. Spinal cord controls body internal organs vector diagram. Illustration anatomy biology nerve. Pin

Why is Epigenetics important?

A state of perpetual protection is detrimental over the long term because it means that its opposite cellular state, “Growth” never gets to take precedence. At the human level, the activation of the Parasympathetic Nervous System, or the state of “Rest and Digest” is chronically turned off. This being the case, all the blood and nutrients that are being selectively redirected to the arms and legs are no longer nourishing the digestive system and internal organs.

Inflammation, malfunction, mutation and eventual disease and degeneration are unfortunate and inevitable results of the lack of nourishment and resulting altered chemical and functional state of the internal body. All of these macrocosmic disharmonies are in truth, simple combinations of trillions of individual cells reacting to toxic chemical stimuli on the cellular level.

Today we live in a world where we are surrounded by a soup of toxic stimuli. We sleep lying on sheets made and sprayed with toxic chemicals. Those sheets decorate a bed that is constantly off-gassing toxic chemicals. We get in the shower and wash our bodies in water that is treated with toxic chemicals. We use soap and cleansers that are filled with toxic chemicals.

We walk to the kitchen and make ourselves breakfast made from food that was unfortunately grown, sprayed and processed with toxic chemicals. Just look at all of these incredibly powerful toxic stressors and we haven't even left the house yet. Is it really any wonder why our society is riddled with diseases of toxic mutation, degeneration and chronic inflammation?

Our ace up our sleeve is “change”. The fact that our cells are constantly dying and regenerating, is the place where healing or sickness begins and ends. It doesn’t matter what problems “run” in your family.

What matters is how you live. What you come in contact with. Who and what you surround yourself with. What you eat. Even what you think and feel, all have an impact on those trillions of individual cells, and how they function. Disease is a product of behaviour, but so is HEALTH.

How do our thoughts affect our Genes?

Now here is where things get really interesting. Toxic stressors can be real or perceived. Meaning that, in addition to physical reality, it is also the perception of reality that dictates the activation of the resulting state. Chemical contaminants and toxins that are present in cleaning products, indoor and outdoor air pollution, chemicals in the water we drink, or food we eat, all will result in the engagement of the cellular Protection state, but so will mental and emotional stress and anxiety.

A toxic mind is able to produce all the same illnesses that environmental toxins can create. The cells don’t know the difference, stress is stress, real or perceived. All that being said, the answer is simple. Just like the environment, we don’t have to SAVE it, we just have to stop polluting it, and its natural functioning will bring it back into harmony and balance.

Whether it's internal or external, our environment shapes our genes. To be healthy in mind and body it is necessary to lower your toxic load. Ask yourself “does this thing, job, person, or food, make me feel nourished like a Tonic, or does it make me feel sick and Toxic?” If the answer is the latter it’s time for it to say goodbye….think about it!

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