We attribute much of who we are as individuals to our genes; our hair and eye colour, height, shoe size, and even temperament and intelligence!
In recent years there has also been a growing interest in the role our genes may play in our health with the rather unsettling, and perhaps pessimistic suggestion that we are simply ‘doomed’ to develop certain conditions purely based on our cellular code.
Certainly the Human Genome project prompted great excitement in the scientific and medical worlds when it commenced in 1990 with many heralding the identification of all human genes as a breakthrough in future medical practice. Once we knew the potential defective genes behind disease then treatments would be straightforward.
Unfortunately excitement proved to be short-lived as the number of genes a human has turned out to be relatively small by expectations and certainly not enough to link one, or even combinations of defective genes, to each and every condition, symptom or disease. So at this point attention turned towards the possible role of epigenetics.
It has become clear that our DNA is in fact like an alphabet.
So just as a relatively small number of letters in an alphabet can be combined in numerous ways to create thousands of different words so our smallish number of genes can be ‘read’ in endless different formations to create millions of instructions as to how a human body is built and, equally importantly, maintained. Whilst obviously having a full set of ‘letters’ is essential to creating instructions, actually being able to read these instructions properly is equally important. Epigenetics is all about what may be interfering with that reading process.
As we move through life we come into contact with many different substances, both good and otherwise.
Gradually, over time, some of these make their way into our cells and start to ‘coat’ our DNA. It is this layer of contamination that can affect how well our DNA is read which in turn results in the way our bodies function (or not) – rather like water getting spilt on a book so some of the words become obscured or blurred.
So how does this impact on your health?
A set of written instructions can become hard to follow if sections are missing or are unreadable, and your gene created instructions as to how to maintain the body on a day to day basis, in other words how to stay healthy, are no different. So just as those set of drawers you are trying to put together may not turn out quite as planned if you can’t actually read the instructions properly, neither will your body’s maintenance, repair and self-regulation! And the problems that ensue can be different for everyone as it all depends on which part of your instructions are unreadable.
And what is making those instructions unreadable?
Well it will come as no surprise to you to learn that much of it is due, in the main, to our modern lifestyles; chemicals, toxins, the effects of EMFs and yes even stress!
So can you blame your genes and are we really doomed to suffer from certain illness?
Well not entirely. As with everything in the body nothing works in isolation so whereas undoubtedly genes have a part to play in our overall well being so does how we look after those genes; how clean and readable we keep those all important instructions. Perhaps yet another reason why being aware of how our lifestyles and environment impact on our health is so important to our future well being.