Central to the current discussion of personalised health and the revolution it is having on changing the way we view health strategies, is the concept of epigenetics. This may or may not be a term you are familiar with, but becoming familiar with what it means can have a significant impact on your health - and your life. Let's take a deeper look into what epigenetics is and what it means for you.
The prefix "epi" means “over”, "above" or “outside of” and "genetics" refers to our DNA. Epigenetics then, refers to all the external factors, outside of our DNA, which influence how our DNA is expressed, and ultimately how we show up in the world.
Epigenetic factors, such as lifestyle and environment, don’t create changes in the DNA sequencing but instead they influence which genes are “turned on“ or expressed, and which genes are “turned off” or not expressed.
Lifestyle factors include things like the way we eat, the type of food we eat, when we eat, the way we move, how we move, when we move, where we live, our relationships, and even the type of work we engage in. Almost everything we do may have the potential in affecting how our genes are expressed (or not expressed). This means we have a lot more control over our outcomes then we might think. We are not at the destiny of our genes, as was once thought.
You might like to imagine DNA as the hardware of your body but epigenetics is the software. While our DNA provides the fundamental genetic coding of who you are, epigenetics determines how and whether that information is expressed. As software, it operates within and above your genetic hardware.
This means we have potential power of actually changing the outcome of certain diseases. With about 25,000 different genes, this gives us a lot of influence in our lives. Studies show that identical twins who have lived completely different lives after birth may have nearly 50% functionally different DNA by old age. If one twin smoked, was a heavy drinker, was malnourished, or had a particularly stressful job, these lifestyle factors may change how that twin’s genes were expressed, predisposing them to higher disease risk.
Diet, hormone production, exercise and a number of other environmental and lifestyle factors are all part of epigenetics affecting the expression of our DNA and how we present in the world. Understanding epigenetics helps you unlock your right to be as healthy as you can be. And it can start right now.
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