Understanding Epigenetics

WORDS: Tamara Walsh | Clinical Herbalist

When scientists mapped the human genome back in the early 2000’s it was thought that we would finally be able to understand why particular people got particular diseases or “crack the disease code”. Scientists hoped to be able to see that one or two genes caused a particular disease state and so we would be able to predict disease by looking at a person’s DNA.

What they actually found was that genes don’t seem to be playing much of a role in the disease process at all. Of course, there are some diseases where genes have a huge influence such as Cystic Fibrosis or Down Syndrome, but for the vast majority of chronic disease that about 70% of us die from these days, genes don’t seem to be the answer. So the old saying ‘it’s in my gene’s” has really lost its power.

You may have heard of the term ‘epigenetics’? Epigenetics is the study of how our environment, lifestyle, behaviours and even our mindset/thoughts can cause changes that affect the way our genes work. In other words, it is the environment that we bathe our genes in that has the ability to turn particular genes on or off. I’m over simplifying here, but to give you an idea, you may carry a gene that makes you more susceptible to cancer, but under the right conditions it may never be expressed or “turned on”.

I wonder, how does this make you feel? a) Terrified that you have so much influence over your health. b) Empowered that you have so much influence over your health. Or perhaps c) A bit of both!?

I think the important take away is that it is the choices we make on a day-to-day basis that have the greatest impact on our health. The simple choice to drink plenty of fresh, filtered water each day or to keep your body strong and supple with movement, these are the choices that matter. Working to prioritise sleep, eat more fresh wholefoods, manage blood sugar levels, support detoxification, control stress, improve your breathing and be conscious of your mindset and thoughts, these are the choices that greatly impact our current and future health. These daily choices all add up and have the greatest influence on our genetic expression.

I think that’s pretty empowering, but I also understand it’s not necessarily easy. In fact, for some of us, it can be really hard to make consistent and lasting changes that impact our health and wellbeing for the better.  We need a team around us that will encourage and support our choices. A team to guide you to make small and consistent changes that lead to a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.  That’s our goal here at Ahara Health!

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