A primary concept we want to myth-bust through Health & Wellness coaching is the impact of genetics on both our health, our illness and more broadly, our lives!
Commonly, our society assumes that genes control our lives and the risk of genetic illness is high.
This reliance on genes-as-cause of illness and on family history being evidence of genetic inheritance often leads to excessive fear or in some cases a victim mentality around one’s health.
The scientific field of epigenetics shows us that genes don’t control themselves – they have no way of turning themselves on or off; these ‘signals’ or commands’ in fact have to come via chemical, electrical or other signals, which in turn come either from the environment inside your body or the environment outside your body.
What this means is that the old ‘nature vs nurture’ (genes verses
environment) debate has swung decisively toward environmental ‘triggers’ for
Ultimately, it all comes from outside your body, because any change inside your body comes about because of what our brain has felt is necessary to respond or react to any demands placed on it from the outside world.
Our function is definitely controlled by our genes – by which ones get turned on, and for how long, at any given moment in time. From this perspective is IS clearly TRUE that genetics and health are strongly inter-related. However the percentage of truly genetic illnesses – illnesses that can be traced specifically to a single gene error/failure/change – is surprisingly small.
However if environmental signals control which genes get ‘turned on’ then ALL of how our body’s work is actually the genetic expression of the environment we choose to live in.
Our environment includes our beliefs, our filters and the behaviours we choose in life!
As a great example, let’s use the “hangover” gene to explain how genes are not the cause of illness but rather, they are expressed based on the purity/toxicity levels or sufficiency/deficiency levels of our lifestyle or environmental choices.
For many years we’ve been constantly told that our genes are responsible for everything, and from there, we’ve taken on the mantra that if I have a gene, I have no control, and I will ‘get’ whatever that gene is responsible for.
This is why people cut off their breasts if they are shown to have the ‘breast cancer’ gene.
What the current research clearly shows is that SOMETHING has to turn on or ‘express’ the gene – and that something is a message or signal from the environment – translated through our nervous/hormonal or local cellular communication systems.
So here again is our theme – how toxic or deficient you are will determine if these genes will get expressed or not.
Some time ago a ‘hangover’ gene was identified. If you have this gene – do you think it’s possible to express its effects and experience an awful hangover unless there is the environmental stimulus of ingesting alcohol? Nope!
If you do not drink alcohol, it does not matter that you have the hangover gene, it will not get ‘turned on’ or expressed and you will not suffer from its effects!
The same is true for all but a very small percentage of TRULY genetic illnesses (such as Down’s – Trisomy 21).
What is also interesting to realise, is that even if you don’t have this gene, and you drink alcohol, this is going to cause adaptive physiology anyway – any alcohol is a toxic stimulus; it may not ‘trigger’ the hangover gene, but it will cause other problems for body function!