Epigenetics, in simple terms, is the secret sauce or the glue that bridges many natural remedies with scientific plausibility. This is all about activation and deactivation of genes that are both “good” and “bad” for your health, which can occur through diet, supplements, herbs, drugs, and literally anything in your environment including your own thoughts and emotions.
So what does this mean? It means that you are NOT simply a “victim” of genetic determinism. You are not simply living out your life according to how the genes you were born with programmed you. Instead YOU are in control of 95% of your own health. Why 95% and not 100%? Because in about 5% of situations you may have inherited a particularly strong genetic predisposition to certain rare diseases and will require a whole lot more than clean living to stay healthy. However, the rest of the time it turns out that you are very much in control. Fully 95% of the time there is a delicate balance between what you are born with and what you actually do to your body.
Epigenetics refers to changes in how genes are expressed (or read or interpreted into proteins) caused by a mechanism other than the actual DNA sequence of genes. It means epi- or above the genes, or the molecules that sit on the DNA and genes which turns genes on and off. These molecules are influenced by nutrients, by toxins and a whole slew of good and bad environmental factors.
For a more technical description of epigenetics go HERE.
Integrative Medicine Implications
Epigenetics has many and varied potential health and medical applications. Congenital and genetic disease is well understood, but it is now also clear that epigenetics can play a major role in how your actions and relationship to your environment affects your health in developing non-congenital and non-heritable diseases. Learning exactly how these epigenetic mechanisms turn on “good” genes and turn off “bad” genes is the new Holy Grail and we are learning more exponentially as molecular tools get better and better. Meanwhile, we know more than enough to guide the average human towards decades more of productive quality of life years.
Even more interesting is that it’s not only what you expose yourself to by eating, drinking, breathing or touching something such as various liquids and lotions. It is what you think and feel! In other words epigenetics is lending a better understanding of mind-body medicine!