Epigenetics is the Power of You

Your DNA is a possibility. Your genes do not control your life. You have the ability to influence how your gene code is expressed. Thinking otherwise is giving over your power to someone else and positions you as a victim in your life. Genes are simply a blueprint, and they are not in charge of anything. That might be in conflict to what you learned in school, but just like Pluto is no longer classified as a planet, the DNA should no longer be called the “brain” of the cell.

On a physical level, we are primarily protein structures. The word “protein” literally means “primary particle” in Latin. DNA is a blueprint to build protein. Proteins are the building blocks of the body, and they are unique in that they are designed to change shape and move. One way of seeing life on the most fundamental physical level is that we are alive because proteins change shape and move.

Signals from the outside environment act upon the skin of a cell, called a cell membrane, by interacting with protein receptors within the membrane. The protein receptors change shape, move and then cause changes into the cell. Sometimes those changes inside the cell are acting upon the nucleus to affect the DNA and protein contained inside. These signals act upon the protein around the DNA in the same way by causing a change in shape and movement. The combination of the environmental signal influencing the proteins on the DNA affects how the genetic blueprint is expressed.

Epigenetic Modification

All the cells in our body contain the same DNA sequence no matter where they are found. Skin, liver, muscle, and pancreatic cells all have the exact same DNA despite vastly different structures and functions.

This is possible because nature loves efficiency. In its genius, nature found a way to pack 6.5 feet of DNA into smaller manageable bundles called chromosomes. Chemical tags are attached along the length of these long bundled up strands of DNA. The chemical tags allow some genes to be turned on and some genes to be turned off. This is called epigenetic modification. For example, for a cell to become a liver cell it must have the “liver cell DNA tag” turned “on” and the DNA tags to become a brain cell or heart cell turned “off”.  This allows for the same genetic material to be used in every cell by simply sending chemical messengers to activate or deactivate the DNA.

Epigenetic modification of cells happens in two very significant biochemical pathways: DNA Methylation and Histone Modification.  These processes are involved in the gene expression through silencing or repression. The outside environment acts upon it by adding methyl or acetyl groups to some part of the DNA. The environment is the adapting the code as needed. As you can imagine, this is a very important process required to keep the body performing harmoniously. It is well known that in metabolic illnesses such as cancer, the epigenetic modification pathways have become severely deranged.

And, perhaps now it is easier to understand why methylation is critically important to understanding health. Epigenetics is the revolutionary discovery that the environment helps decide how the DNA will be READ but does not change the code. This process in nature is not random. There are sophisticated controls using methyl groups to decide which gene to use based upon what is happening in the environment at the time. This is incredible power. We can greatly influence our environmental signals acting upon our DNA through food, air, water, drugs, nutrients, sleep, movement, and mental attitude, otherwise known as the Foundation for Health.