It was previously believed that our susceptibility to disease was programmed into our genes and that we did not have the ability to change the way that our genes expressed. It is now recognized that the environment, our lifestyles, and our perceptions contribute to the way that our genes express by a process known as epigenetics.
Our understanding of epigenetics incorporates both the role of the mind and the body in creating health, by recognizing that if we positively change our perceptions, messages are sent to our cells that positively effect their expression.
Our bodies are composed of a community of trillions of single cells that act in response to the mind. When our mind perceives the environment as safe and positive, our cells respond by conducting normal growth and maintenance of the body. When our mind perceives the environment as stressful and negative, cells no longer maintain homeostasis and they adopt a defensive stance. In other words, stress interrupts our body’s growth processes and while acute stress is well handled, chronic stress is debilitating and leads to disease.
Cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death, is partly attributable the body’s mismanagement of stress. The mind can be a principle source of stress; causing our brain to release hormones, called neuropeptides, that spread the news of stress to every system of the body.
Positive lifestyle changes can halt this stress-causing-disease cascade. A great example of disease regression with lifestyle changes and adopting new mental habits is seen through the work of Dr. Dean Ornish. In his recent study on prostate cancer patients, he divided participants into two groups. The first group received conventional drug therapy and the second group received lifestyle changes including a healthy diet plan, stress reduction techniques, and meditation techniques. Genetic reports were reviewed before the trial began and again after, and in just two months, the patients in the lifestyle group saw positive changes in over five hundred of their genes, simply by modifying lifestyle habits. Several of the genes that were positively modified were genes involved in the progression of prostate cancer. By changing lifestyle habits, perceptions, and using meditation as a tool, you can influence the way that your genes express.
Diet is a major influencer of genetic activity and plays a significant role in the progression of many diseases, including cancer. There are compounds found in foods that influence genes by altering DNA activity. For example, catechins, a constituent in green tea, are highly medicinally active. One study showed that men and women living in Japan who consumed green tea daily had lower incidence of all types of cancer. In this 10-year cohort study, Drs. K. Nakachi and K. Imai revealed that drinking 10 Japanese-size cups (120 mL/cup) of green tea per day delayed cancer onset by 7.3 years in females and by 3.2 years in males. These findings are highly significant.
The epigenetic effects of diet, lifestyle and mental perception can have far reaching beneficial health effects. We now know that we are not longer destined by our genes, and that we have the power to create our own health destiny.
Green Tea Catechin, EGCG, Suppresses PCB 102-Induced Proliferation in Estrogen-Sensitive Breast Cancer Cells. Baker KM, Bauer AC. Int J Breast Cancer. 2015 ;2015:16359. Epub 2015 Dec 13. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26783468)
Challenging the effectiveness of green tea in primary and tertiary cancer prevention.
Hirota Fujiki, Kazue Imai, Kei Nakachi, Masahito Shimizu, Hisataka Moriwaki, Masami Suganuma
J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2012 August; 138(8): 1259–1270. Published online 2012 June 15.