Do you think you’ve been blessed with “good genes”, or have you been cursed with “bad genes”? Either way – you’re right. Turns out that what you believe about your genes matters more than the genes themselves.
We’ve all heard it a million times and probably said it ourselves – “heart disease runs in my family”, “my family has a history of cancer, so that scares me”, and on and on it goes. We even have all of these gene tests becoming available to see if you have the breast cancer gene so you can get parts of your body removed, then you’ll be safe from cancer – right?
The old version of genetics goes something like this: Everything in the body is controlled by our genes. Our genes are our destiny and determine what disease we will or won’t get. We are victims of our genes. If it runs in your family, you’re screwed.
Basically, you’re born with you DNA, which gets replicated as RNA before turning into a protein and becoming the tissue of your body.
Based on new research, we’re getting a new understanding of how our genes interact with our environment. This new version of genetics is called epigenetics, which means “control above the genes”.
What we now know is that it’s not the genes themselves, but the environment the genes are in. So external factors like nutrition, the environment, toxins and even thoughts and emotions are changing how the DNA gets expressed.
Cell biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton has pioneered the research around epigenetics, and in his classic book The Biology of Belief says that you can change how your DNA is expressed based on your thoughts and what you believe.
Changing your thoughts changes how your brain communicates with your body, which alters your body’s biochemistry.
The genetic code is a blueprint that can be interpreted in a million different ways.
The old genetics model assumed that we had at least 120,00 genes, one for every protein in the body.
We now know that we have only about 25,000 genes, and those genes can express in at least 30,000 ways via regulatory proteins that are influenced by environmental signals.
Dr. Lipton’s research as a cell biologist was with pleuripotential stem cells, which are cells that can become anything when they grow up.
He tells the story of how he placed one of these cells in a Petri dish, where it was nourished with cell-culture medium as it divided into lots of identical cells. He then split the cells into three Petri dishes and exposed them to three different culture mediums (meaning, different environments).
What he discovered was that the environment to which the cell was exposed to determined whether the cell because a muscle cell, a fat cell or a bone cell.
The outcome of the very same genetically identical DNA was expressed as completely different cells depending on the environment they were in.
What was controlling the fate of the cells?
It wasn’t genetics – they were genetically identical. The difference was the environment that the cells were exposed to.
The environment also determined whether or not the cells stayed healthy.
Cells exposed to a good environment (a healthy cell medium) stayed healthy, while the cells exposed to a bad environment (an unhealthy cell medium) got sick.
Dr. Bruce Lipton said that “If I were an allopathic physician of cells, I’d diagnose the cells in the bad medium as sick. Surely, they need medicine. But that’s not what they really need. If you take the sick cells out of the bad environment and put them back into the good environment, they naturally recover – without medicine.”
These days that information is like “DUH!”. But then we have to ask – what exactly is a healthy environment?
What is our cell medium?
Dr. Lipton realised that the human body is no different from the cells in his lab. “The human body is nothing more than a skin-covered Petri dish with a community of 50 trillion cells. Whether the cells are in our bodies or in the Petri dish doesn’t matter. The culture medium of the cells in our bodies is the blood that bathes and feeds them. If we change the composition of the blood, it’s the same as changing the culture medium of the cells. So what controls the composition of the blood? The brain is the chemist changing the environment to which our cells are exposed. The brain releases neuropeptides, hormones, growth factors, and other chemicals, akin to adding chemicals to a Petri dish with a pipette, thereby changing the cell medium.”
How belief changes the cellular environment
The brain is perception, the mind is interpretation. What matters isn’t what happens, but how your brain interprets what happens.
For example, you open your eyes and see a person – that’s the brain’s perception. Your mind then either recognises that person as someone you love, releasing oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and other happy chemicals that create a healthy cell medium via the blood. Or someone that you dislike or scares you, the brain releases stress hormones and fear chemicals that damage the cells.
“When we shift the mind’s interpretation of illness from fear and danger to positive belief, the brain responds biochemically, the blood changes the body’s cell culture, and the cells change on a biological level.” – Dr. Lipton.
When the brain releases the “happy chemicals” – the body goes into the parasympathetic nervous system state of physiological rest where it can get to work on healing the body and self-repair processes.
When the brain releases the “fear chemicals” from negative beliefs and perceived threats – the body goes into sympathetic nervous system state and activates stress response – run away from that tiger NOW. The body no longer cares about things like digestion, fertility, self-repair, cellular renewal, cleaning up waste or free radicals, detoxing or the immune system. There’s no point if your about to get your face eaten.
This is what poisons your cell medium.
So how much do genes actually matter?
Less than 2% of diseases are from single cell mutation, such as cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s chorea. About 5% of cancer and heart disease are hereditary. (1)
Studies have shown that environmental factors can override certain genetic mutations, changing how the DNA is expressed. (2)
It’s the environment – your thoughts, your food and toxins – not the genes.
(1) Walter C. Willet, “Balancing Life-Style and Genomics Research for Disease Prevention,” Science 296 (April 26, 2002): 695-98
(2) Robert A. Waterland and Randy L. Jirtle, “Transposable Elements: Targets for Early Nutritional Effects on Epigenetic Gene Regulation,” Molecular and Cellular Biology 23, no. 15 (August 2003): 5293-5300
Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb, Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution: The Lamarckian Dimension (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)
Mind Over Medicine, Lissa Rankin, MD
The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton Ph.D.