What if I told you have control over your genes? What if I told you that you had control over which diseases would or would not be expressed in your body? What if I told you that just because your parents’ health was a mess as they aged doesn’t mean that yours will be as well?
Most people are inspired when they hear these questions. Most people are excited to be able to control the destiny of their health. But that excitement is also balanced with a bit of overwhelm.
You are in Control of Your Health
You see, when you realize that you have control over your health, you also realize that you have control over your health. Yes, that was not a typo. I meant to write that twice.
It is easier to not have control over your health. There is no personal responsibility. It does not matter what you do because you have no control. Your genetic make-up controls you.
When you realize that you have control over your health, you now have the personal responsibility to do something about it. Or not. But if you don’t do anything about it, that is still a decision of which you have to live with the consequences.
How do Genes Work?
To understand what I mean by “control” over your genes, it is important to understand how genes work.
Your genes hold all of the material that makes you – you. And we all have almost the same genes. Our genes have not changed for the most part for tens of thousands of years or more!
Are We Getting Sicker?
So why do we have more chronic disease now than ever before? One argument is that it is because we are living longer. That’s not exactly the complete picture. If we remove the people who died from trauma, infection, and maternal and infant death, our ancient ancestors lived as long, if not longer than we live.
So the question remains, “Why do we have more chronic disease like cancer, heart disease, strong, diabetes, etc. now than ever before?”
What is Epigenetics?
Epigenetics provides us with a very viable and elegant theory to answer that question.
I want you to think of the genetic code as your local Barnes and Noble. Everybody that lives in your area has access to the same Barnes and Noble – the same books and the same knowledge. That is our genetic code.
The books that you choose to check out and read are epigenetics.
If you check out books on war, unhealthy food, sedentary lifestyle, and stress and negativity, you are going to be depressed, overweight, and sick.
If you check out books on success, leadership, proper nutrition, sleep, and movement, you are going to give yourself the best chance to be healthy, successful, and happy.
Is it a guarantee? Of course not. But you are certainly stacking the odds in your favour.
The expression of your genes is epigenetics.
Epigenetics in the Real World
Here is a real example. Most people who develop lung cancer and emphysema are chronic smokers. Is it possible to develop lung cancer and never smoke? Absolutely. Is it also possible to smoke your entire life and never develop lung cancer? We see that as well.
BUT, the overwhelming majority of people who develop lung cancer and emphysema are smokers. When you smoke, you epigenetically turn on the expression of the lung cancer? When you don’t smoke, that gene does not get expressed.
Now, I might be overgeneralizing a bit and the details are more nuanced, but the big picture is the same.
Our behaviors determine the expression of our genes. The choices we make and DON’T make determine the expression of our genes.
Next time you go to Barnes and Noble or order a book on Amazon, which ones are you going to check out?
All the Best!
Dr. Matt Westheimer