Some people look good wearing green, others do not. That is just the luck of the draw when it comes to genetics.
The DNA within our bodies is responsible for making us… well, US! The DNA tells the cells how to make proteins which in turn are the building blocks of YOU. We are currently unable to change our DNA. The genes you were given at birth are the same ones you die with. These genetics dictate everything from the color of your eyes to the shape of your spleen. At times we may think to ourselves that we are unlucky because of the DNA had no choice in receiving, and others seem lucky with their inborn genes.
The genetics you are born with seem to be up to chance, and in part they are, but you’re in luck! Introducing EPIgenetics! This is the study of changes made in a body without changing the DNA. Some genes are only expressed when certain biological markers turn on the gene.
Humor me with a silly example. Let’s say your entire family has sprouted wings on their 18th birthday. You are approaching your 18th birthday and are expecting to sprout some wings. Surely you have the same genetics towards wings because both of your parents, their parents, and each of your siblings did so once they turned 18. It is in your genes. However, your 18th birthday comes and goes, and no wings!
Now, I didn’t mention that it has long been a tradition in your family to eat escargot the night before one turns 18, to celebrate adulthood. You only pretended to eat the snails. You aren’t about that life.
While an extreme example, it seems that the presence of escargot in this family produces the genetic expression of wings. If one were to never try snails, no wings would present themselves. The DNA still has the coding to produce wings, but it will not do so unless escargot triggers the gene to grow.
The genes do not change, but the physical expression can be altered based on lifestyle choices. This is epigenetics.
Scientists have been noting epigenetic factors present in many prevalent diseases. Some cancers, autoimmune diseases, psychological disorders, addictions, and neurodegenerative diseases, to name a few, have been found to have epigenetic links. Some aspects of the body become either more or less susceptible to some diseases when epigenetics is at play.
Fancy words like methylation, histone modification, and mitotic gene bookmarking are what is taking place within cells to suppress or express genes epigenetically. We don’t need to know those words, or what is happening at a microscopic level. We can focus on the environmental factors we can control to create our own luck with the genes we’re stuck with.
Environmental changes such as nutrition, stress, toxicity, exercise, and drugs can all play a role in epigenetics. It may not come as a surprise that a person with “good” habits such as thoughtful nutrition, low stress, and adequate exercise and sleep will feel better than someone who is stressed, eating and sleeping poorly, and inactive. A healthy lifestyle is a reward in and of itself, but these lifestyle choices may also make the difference in the presentation of genetically linked diseases and illnesses.
If you didn’t hit the jackpot with genetics, you can still make your own luck and live a healthy lifestyle to give your genes the best odds to work with.