Epigenetics

Epigenetics (Photo credit: AJC1)

Every once in a while I like to re define epigenetics for my new readers. It literally means above genetics. Epigenetics are influences within the body and external from it that switch genes ON or OFF. This controls our genetics, our bodies as well as our health. Most mammals have very similar genes. So what makes us different from the apes or our cat & dog? It is how those genes are “played”. Epigenetics plays our genes like a piano. Different ways of playing yields different music. Each mammal is like a different song being played. Within our cells, epigenetics determines if a cell is a heart cell, ling cell, bone cell, etc. Once a cell is switched to a particular type, it and it’s descendents will always be that type of cell.

Let’s look at another analogy. Our home TV has many stations we can watch. We switch to a station with our clickers. We can also program child protection by not allowing certain stations to be viewed without a password. Epigenetics is like this. In some cases it switches a gene on (like selecting a TV station). That gene then does something. It can also block a gene from being turned on. That gene can then not do its thing.

We all have almost identical genes. Having a cancer gene is not good or bad. Switching it on can be bad! We all have tumor fighting genes as part of our bodies natural defense system. Having those genes switched off can be bad. These switches can happen from our diets, how we think (positive or negative), and what we believe. The placebo and nocebo effects show how powerful our thinking really is. Stress can also cause genes to be switched ON or OFF.

Even how our parents and grandparents thought and ate can influence us. It turns out we get not only inherited DNA but epigenetics from each parent.

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