How your mindset and lifestyle can alter your Genetics

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You’ll often hear people using the phrase ‘it’s down to your genetics’, meaning it’s something that was pre-programmed into you as a human, from the moment you were conceived. A basic explanation for anyone that doesn’t know is that we all have a sequential genetic ‘code’ of chemicals that together, built into structural proteins that make up your genes. These genes determine all of your characteristics – from your eye colour to your personality type. For years it was believed that this code determined absolutely everything that happened in your life, including your risk of developing diseases such as cancer and diabetes. While that is still the case in some circumstances, scientists still had a few unanswered questions. They wondered how it is possible that  a set of identical twins (identical genetic code) have different coloured eyes? Or how could one twin develop a disease, while the other remained perfectly fine? The research began and the discovery of epigenetics was made.

So you might be thinking, what the f is epigenetics? Epigenetics is something that I learned about in the final year of my degree, so obviously it’s complex and requires prerequisite knowledge to understand. For this reason, I’m not going to go into too much detail,  but I will translate what it means for you and how it can affect your life. Our genetic code is pretty much set in stone, but environmental and lifestyle changes can actually control when certain genes are switched on or off – known as DNA methylation. This is why it irritates me when I hear or read someone blaming something that has happened to them on their genetics, when it could actually be down to their lifestyle choices. Choices such as how much food they eat, as they feel they simply cannot stop. Or that they’ve tried everything, but they just can’t seem to lose weight. They could be suffering with a chronic illness and instead of looking for ways to improve their lifestyle, they do nothing. They maintain the negative mindset that it’s hereditary and it’s out of their hands.

There’s no denying that there are a few unfortunate cases of rare genetic defects. However, for the majority this is not the case. Certain individuals may be at risk for developing a disease, but it’s their lifestyle and environment that are the ultimate cause. You are in control of how your body works. You are in control of the food and liquids you consume. You are in control of exercising, how you deal with stress, getting adequate sleep and looking after your mind and body. You can make all the excuses in the world, but they will not change what happens internally. Your cells are affected by all of these things and the environment you put yourself in. Have you ever heard of the person who has never drank or smoked in their life, but ‘randomly’ developed some disease? What was their stress levels like? What was their diet like? All of these things are relevant.

In my previous post discussing my experience with anxiety and depression, I was suffering with many physical symptoms at the same time. This wasn’t an unfortunate coincidence, it was the powerful influence of the environment I was in, my thoughts and my lifestyle choices. Your thoughts and your actions can interfere with what happens inside your body, so imagine what could happen with a positive mindset. Having a victim mentality that bad things are going to happen regardless of the choices you make, is not going to get you anywhere in life. The body-mind connection is real, so take ownership and realise how important all of these basic things are for your health and your future.

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