Simply put, Epigenetics is the study of how our lifestyle and environment changes our bodies. Its relates specifically to how our genes are expressed to create physical changes in our bodies.
Epigenetic refers to the heritable changes in the ways genes are expressed that do not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence. This is a change in phenotype (observable characteristics) without a change in genotype (structure of our genes). These changes occur because of how cells read the genes and not because the gene has changed. Epigenetic change is a regular and natural occurrence but can also be influenced by several factors including age, the environment, lifestyle and disease.
A growing body of research in epigenetics has helped us understand how the environment and individual lifestyle can directly influence how a gene is expressed. These changes may occur throughout a person’s life and has an effect on future children. For example, human epidemiological studies have provided evidence that prenatal and early postnatal environmental factors influence the adult risk of developing a number of chronic diseases and behavioral disorders.
Studies have shown that children born during the period of the Dutch famine from 1944-1945 have increased rates of heart disease and obesity. This is due to the maternal exposure to famine during early pregnancy. Studies also suggest that adults who were prenatally exposed to famine conditions have a significantly higher incidence of schizophrenia.
Research has also shown that a mother’s exposure to pollution could impact her childs susceptibility to asthma. The fathers lifestyle also affects epigenetics as the childs’ mental strength was found to be influenced by the fathers diet.
How Lifestyle Affects Individual Epigenetics and Wellbeing
Although more stable during adulthood, epigenetic changes are dynamic and modifiable throughout life. Furthermore positive inherited epigenetic changes could be reversed due to poor lifestyle and environmental factors. There are numerous examples of epigenetics that show how different lifestyle choices and environmental exposures can alter gene expression and determine health.
The environment has a powerful influence on epigenetics. Scientists have found that air pollution increases one’s risk for neurodegenerative disease. Interestingly, B vitamin supplementation may protect against harmful environmental effects.
While scientific data is limited, anecdotal evidence suggests that yoga and meditation practice has positive epigenetic effects.
Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.