Epigenetics: How you can manipulate your genes

The unravelling, mapping and understanding of the human genome (the complete set of our DNA) promised so much for modern medicine. What it delivered, however, was not the great revolution and solution in science we expected. It seems we have fewer genes than a grain of rice or some bacteria. That revelation, of course, was a shock to our human ego as we thought we were the most sophisticated lifeform on the planet.

After the completion of the mapping of the human genome we have begun to realise that the field of epigenetics (the turning on and off of our genes and even the alteration of our genes) is just as important as the genome we were born with.

Yes, we are actually able to alter our genes during our lifetime and even extend the telomeres on the end of our genetic codes that promote longevity.

It seems we are not the prisoners to our genes we thought we were, so genetic outcomes may be influenced. If you have a gene commonly associated with the development of certain cancers it does not mean you will develop that cancer, only that you might.

If your father or mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder it also does not mean you will develop those problems. What it means is that if you have experienced those physical or mental difficulties, you may not always experience them because you are able to change your body and mind.

You are probably not going to be told this by your average GP or psychiatrist because they are rooted in a medical system based on sickness and disease, for which a pill or surgery can be the only answer. They are also bound by their medical associations to prescribe medications often when there are other choices. In fact they may be struck off or even sued if they do not do that.

We can see from many cases people who have overcome cancer, diabetes and many other diseases, including mental illness. That may not be the case for everyone but certainly there are millions of people in the world who have accomplished these recoveries.

Here’s how you can you manipulate your epigenetics, which natural therapies have, by the way, been doing for millennia:

• You need to change your belief system. Stop buying into the belief that you are the victim of your fate and start focusing on what you can do to change your life now, not in some distant future time.

• Focus on your heath each and every day of your life and do not wait until you get sick. Take responsibility that to be well and full of life you need to invest your time and energy in creating your health.

• Accept that if what you have been doing has not been working, you need to try new approaches to the way you live. Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and consider new ways of living.

• Examine very carefully what you put in your mouth. Don’t treat your body like a dustbin. Different foods turn on or off the different genes in your body that change your level of disease or wellness, hormones, immune system, production of muscle, bones and cartilage, the performance of your neurological systems, weight regulation and state of your mental health.

• Spend time exercising your body each day so it works well and stays strong. When you exercise you turn on and off certain genes that promote health.

• Ensure you have quiet time each day where you meditate, pray or practise self-hypnosis and always ensure you get enough sleep and rest.

All the handbags, holidays, big houses or fast cars do not create health and well-being but looking after yourself does. You manipulate your epigenetics by routinely creating and living a healthy life.

Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND, provides naturopathic medicine and mental health services inlcuding genetic testing, lifestyle and dietary planning. Call the clinic on 02 8021 6429 to book your appointment.

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