Does the thought of living a healthy lifestyle ever seem overwhelming to you? There are so many things to remember, so many new habits to form. Have you ever wanted a simple solution? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just flip a switch to turn health on or to turn disease off, just like you turn on and off the light?
Believe it or not, you can. Inside your genetic makeup are thousands of health switches and disease switches. You have the power to turn them on or off.
It’s not science fiction, it’s fact… and it’s called epigenetics.
Epigenetics comes from the Greek word “epi,” which means over or outside of, and genetics. It refers to the factors that influence gene expression, independent of the genes themselves.
You may have learned in biology class that your genes will determine your destiny. You inherit 23 chromosomes from your father and 23 from your mother. They might be good genes and they might be bad genes, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
Well, it turns out, that’s not really true. Although we can’t alter our DNA, we can change the way it expresses itself. To put it simply, we can turn good genes on and bad genes off. Let’s look at an example:
Each year, almost 30,000 American men die of prostate cancer. 1 out of every 6 men will develop this disease. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. This devastating illness can teach us an important lesson about epigenetics.
Dean Ornish, a highly respected physician and researcher, was curious to see if healthy lifestyle habits could influence gene expression in prostate cancer.
He spearheaded a study that followed 31 men with low-grade prostate cancer for 3 months. These men had opted out of traditional treatment methods such as chemo and radiation. Dr. Ornish’s plan was simple. For three months the men did four things:
- Ate a healthy, plant-based diet
- Exercised for 30 minutes, 6 days per week
- Practiced stress management techniques
- Attended weekly support groups
The participants underwent genetic testing before the study began and after it was over. The results were astounding! In addition to losing weight, lowering cholesterol and blood lipids, and improving blood sugars, the participants experienced major epigenetic changes. Over 500 genes were affected. 453 disease-promoting genes that were active before the study were now deactivated and 48 cancer-fighting genes that were inactive were now activated. Just three months of healthy habits had turned the good genes on and the bad genes off.
Health has much more to do with choice than chance.
So why not start today? Every choice counts. Go for a walk. Eat some fresh vegetables. Go to sleep early. The simple choices you make each day will soon begin turning your good genes on and your bad genes off.
(Submitted by Betty Dean. Used by permission from www.lifeandhealth.org. Courtesy of LifeSpring – Resources for Hope and Healing Stuart, VA)