Are you worried your genes will determine what diseases you’ll get or whether you will end up being fat?
Many of us worry that we haven’t won the gene pool lottery. Fear not though — Epigenetics is a relatively new area of science and involves some of the most exciting and cutting edge concepts I’ve come across. Before your eyes glaze over because it sounds super scientific, let me reassure that it can be easily understood and it is vital to every one of us. It is the most complete and comprehensive way of understanding health and illness that I know of.
So…what is it?
Before I tell you about epigenetics, I want to highlight the way in which we were all taught about illness and health, and it all boils down to our genes. The idea that something “runs in the family” has plagued many of us for decades. We are led to believe that we are victims of our genes, that if you have the ‘fat gene’ you will get fat, if you have the ‘cancer gene’ you will get cancer, if your aunt or father suffered from depression, you will suffer depression. It’s in your genes, pre-determined. Your DNA (or gene ‘portfolio’) acts as the brain of your cells that decides what life you do or don’t get.
But, is this really true?
You might already be thinking that of course nothing is 100% black and white, that genetics simply explain likelihoods and tendencies, not certainties, and both nature (our genes) and nurture (our upbringing & environment) make us who and what we are. But the nature and nurture debate doesn’t fully put things in perspective. Epigenetics does.
OUR MINDS CHANGE OUR GENE EXPRESSION
Dr Bruce Lipton, an internationally recognised cellular biologist who has done pioneering work in the field of epigenetics, demonstrates that OUR MINDS shape the character of our cells. OUR MINDS can change our gene expression and determine which genes switch on or off. He shows that our minds can determine what our cells do and how they function. No genetic pre-programming or pre-determinism in sight!
If you remove the DNA (genes) from a cell it keeps living, processing and functioning perfectly, happily continuing to work away with all the necessary actions taking place for two months or more. The DNA is not determining what does and doesn’t happen in the cell, something else is! That something is the ‘skin’ (or membrane) of the cell. Remove the ‘skin’ and the cell immediately dies.
Just like your body in general, the ‘skin’ of your cells separate the inside from the outside (environment). The skin of a cell acts like the brain, receiving signals from the outside (e.g. cold), interpreting them, and determining a response (e.g. goosebumps, constriction, pain). Now it gets exciting…
Just as cold is an example of a SIGNAL to your cells, SO ARE THOUGHTS! Thoughts function in exactly the same way as any other signal from your environment: they trigger cellular responses. In fact, thought signals are more powerful than environmental signals. Ever heard of seemingly remarkable individuals who can plunge their hand into iced water for extended periods of time with no cellular damage? How is this possible? They mentally prepare — their thoughts are a more powerful signal to their cells than the environment (cold) itself. It is their thoughts that determine how their cells behave. Dr Bruce Lipton outlines that thought signals can switch genes on or off, creating health or creating illness.
What all this means is that if we change the environment or our perception of the environment (thoughts), our cells can alter their genetic expression! This has massive implications for understanding our health. It also has massive implications for thinking about pregnancy and the signals (from our thoughts and environment) that physically shape our baby.
IF OUR THOUGHT SIGNALS CAN SWITHCH GENES ON AND OFF — HOW IS A DEVELOPING BABY INFLUENCED BY THEIR ENVIRONMENT DURING PREGNANCY?
Not only does the postnatal environment affect the long-term health of our children, but the pre-conceptive and prenatal environment as well. The womb itself is not just an incubator but a dynamic living environment greatly influenced by the physical, chemical and emotional signals its parents experience. Epigenetics is now looking at how exposure to emotional, dietary and environmental toxins and stresses at vulnerable periods of foetal developmental are linked to pathology that develops later in life. Chronic stress in pregnancy can sculpt the foetal brain for better survival in dangerous environments, creating children that are impulsive, quick to react, and have a dampened capacity to remain calm and content.
It’s important to remember that this needn’t lead to a sense of pressure for mum’s to be ‘perfect’! We always do the best we can with the tools we have available. What this does all mean is that when you enjoy life and nourish yourself with a supportive environment, you are enriching your baby’s future in bigger ways than you might previously have thought! Our foods, our thoughts, our actions and our environment provide a myriad of opportunities that can move us closer to health.
This is an exciting shift in thought for our own generation and a blessing for the one to come.
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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For more information about Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond,
please refer to Well Adjusted Babies — which includes
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| Improving Fertility
Self-Care During Pregnancy
Meeting Your Physical/Emotional Needs
Techniques to Ease the Pain of Labour
How to Have a Safe, Natural Birth
Breastfeeding, Formulas and Colic
First Foods for Babies
| Tips for partners and birth teams
Minimising Harmful Toxins
Alternatives to Pharmaceutical Drugs
The Benefits of Chiropractic
How to Guide Your Child’s Development
Wholesome dietary habits for the Family
And MUCH More…
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Lipton, HB. The Biology of Belief- Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles. Hay House Inc. 2005?