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How environment has a much greater influence than our genetic code

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

Having studied genetics I became disenchanted by the idea that genetics is fate. This is a common misconception when most people hear talk of a “genetic predisposition to disease”. The fact is that there are an infinite number of different ways genes can be expressed. All genes interact with other genes or gene products, resulting in varying levels of expressivity and penetrance. This means that whether you have a certain allele (specific form of a gene) or not does not mean that that allele will result in a disease state. Genes are ALWAYS turned on and off by other gene products (proteins), and so altering the amount of the upstream gene product (called a transcription factor) WILL increase or decrease the amount of the “disease allele” protein being produced. There is also regulation of genes that occurs due to methylation, resulting in the field of epigenetics. Methylation of a certain gene will decrease the amount of that gene’s specific protein being produced. And there is evidence that things such as exercise, nutrition and meditation can affect the state of methylation of alleles, thereby turning them “on or off”. The result is an incredibly complex web of gene interactions that varies person to person, second by second, and so even genetic testing is only a snapshot of the blueprint of your genetic makeup. Therefore I believe that more important than genetics are the countless things that can be done to upregulate expression of health promoting alleles, and downregulate expression of the alleles associated with disease.

The effect of stress: Stress is unfortunately almost unavoidable in our lives. However, this adaptive response that can alarm us of danger and prepare us to fight and run away - the fight or flight response - can be an almost constant state. But don’t let this fact stress you out! There are things that can be done to counteract the effects of stress. And working toward harnessing the more positive emotions, such as love, empowerment, joy and peace, can help you do so.

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