Tag Archives: epigenetics

What Is Your DNA Doing For You Right Now?

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Ever since its structure was unraveled in the early Fifties, DNA has been considered the mastermind of the cell. Sitting in splendid isolation in the cell’s nucleus, DNA encodes all of life. It sends duplicates of itself (RNA) to direct the manufacture of proteins; and proteins, as high-school biology teaches, are the building blocks of the cell. In terms of biological machinery. The genetic picture has gotten more and more sophisticated ever since.

But something doesn’t look quite right here. If every cell is a biological robot, and the entire body is made up of cells, then we must be biological robots too. This view, which a surprising number of geneticists believe in, cannot be true. It is a conclusion that the old model of DNA supported because that model was reductionist–that is, all complex processes can be explained by breaking them down into more basic processes. The whole approach is totally logical, but nobody can seriously claim that the works of Shakespeare and Mozart are explainable by protein manufacture. And in our daily lives we think thoughts and feel emotions, which proteins don’t, or cells for that matter.

As a result, genetics has been racing to catch up with human reality. On several fronts there has been progress, of a sort. So-called Systems Biology has emerged to examine how the body works as a dynamic, changing organism responding to input from the environment. In this way DNA stopped being so rigid and got into the game. On another front a field known as epigenetics began to study how everyday experience, including our lifestyle and memory, actually gets chemically imprinted on our genes. Again, DNA became more dynamic and responsive.

But while DNA was getting liberated, what was really happening? One could argue that the only thing changing was a scientific model. Reality wasn’t changing at all. Now it is dawning that DNA is fundamentally so mysterious, biology can’t even contain it, much less explain it. The crack in mainstream genetics came from the huge shock administered by the Human Genome Project, which discovered, to widespread dismay, that the complexity of human life came down to only 20,000 genes. This number was ridiculously small, about 20% of the previous guesstimate. To quote geneticist John Mattick, “that number is tiny. It’s effectively the same as a microscopic worm that has just 1,000 cells.” Continue reading

New Body, New Mind, New Medicine

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By Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

Since one of us (Deepak) began advocating the mind-body connection thirty years ago, a time of great opposition among physicians to the very notion that thoughts have physical consequences, the trend has been entirely against the physicalist position, i.e., that the human body is a machine that needs fixing when it gets broken.  One research after another has validated what should have been obvious in the first place: mind and body are too intimately related to be seen as separate entities.

Several principles can be listed that are backed by the best science, and yet which have had minimal impact in a doctor’s daily practice.

  • Every cell is in some form of communication with the brain, either directly or indirectly, is receiving messages triggered by all of our thoughts, feelings, moods, expectations, and beliefs.
  • Experience gets transformed and metabolized, exactly as food, toxins, pollutants, air, and water get metabolized. In a word, if you want to see what your experiences were like yesterday, look at your body today. If you want to see what your body will be like tomorrow, look at your experiences today.
  • The body is a verb, not a noun. In other words, it’s a continuous unbroken process.
  • Cells are born and die; atoms and molecules fly in and out of each cell constantly. Yet despite this constant flux, the blueprint of the cell remains intact. This blueprint is invisible, intelligent, dynamic, and self-organizing.
  • Lifestyle choices make the dominant difference between wellness and chronic illness. Years, sometimes decades before symptoms appear, cells can be gaining negative input that lead to the onset of disease.
  • Our genes are dynamic and respond to everyday experiences and lifestyle choices. Habits lead to longer term changes in the programming of our gene expression via “epigenetics”, as explained in our book “Super Genes”.
  • If we knew the pivot point that creates positive cellular activity out of positive experiences, a state of radical well-being is possible.
  • Purely mental practices, especially meditation, have been shown over and over to improve various physical functions, and these improvements are now known to extend all the way down to gene activity.

Continue reading

One Solution to America’s Health Care Crisis

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 By Deepak Chopra, MD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD, Joseph B. Weiss, MD, Nancy Cetel Weiss, MD, and Danielle E. Weiss, MD

 

Complications in medical care occur at a staggering rate, resulting in over 440,000 accidental deaths from medical errors (the vast majority not considered malpractice, such as side effects from drugs) in U.S. hospitals each year. Self-governance by health systems and providers has not made significant inroads to reduce this catastrophic failure in patient safety. The inefficient and expensive medical malpractice lawsuit industry has neither reduced nor prevented the ever growing numbers of medical injuries and death, nor provided compensation or justice to the vast majority of those injured. The main beneficiaries of malpractice lawsuits are the attorneys, whose contingency fees can lead to multimillion-dollar windfalls, and insurance companies collecting high malpractice premiums. They profit at the expense of others and contribute to the continually escalating costs of medical care. The vast majority of medical injury and death does not result in a malpractice claim, and of those filed most fail at trial. In spite of this high failure rate, malpractice actions have worsened the situation by further encouraging excessive, expensive, and higher risk care under the rationale of defensive medicine.

Both our health and medical malpractice systems are severely dysfunctional and in critical need of corrective action. There is a better approach that can reduce medical errors and injury, enhance patient safety, and provide timely and fair compensation to those injured. A no-fault medico-legal compensation program should replace the present malpractice system with dedicated judges and expert panels to award compensation based on injury and need. Health care service providers should fund the program by the mandatory assessment of a fee that replaces malpractice insurance, based on a formula that incorporates practice type, volume, revenue, and quality assurance outcomes records. Health care licenses should be issued based on results of the quality review, including input from reports of the error compensation program. Licenses of negligent and error-prone providers should be suspended or revoked on a national basis, with mandatory re-education and reassessment before being allowed to resume patient care. The billions of dollars consumed by the industry of medical malpractice lawsuits and insurance should be redirected to serve those injured, and to programs and services enhancing patient safety and welfare. Continue reading

Mindful Evolution: Can You Guide What Your Genes Are Doing?

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By Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

Human beings are unique in the scenario of life on Earth–that much is obvious. We are guided by awareness, and to implement our wishes, dreams, and inventions, the higher brain (chiefly the cerebral cortex) has evolved to extraordinary proportions. Although classical Darwinism is mindless, and staunchly defended as such by strict materialists, Homo sapiens is no longer caught in the clutches of natural selection. As we saw in the first post of this series, human society is very different from the state of nature. Chimpanzees don’t get their food at the grocery store, and we don’t get ours by fighting with rivals in the treetops.

So the real dilemma isn’t whether human evolution is guided by mind, because clearly it is. What remains puzzling is how much connection there is between our mind and our genes. There is no doubt that the roughly 23,000 genes you inherited from your parents remain the same throughout your lifetime. If the genetic blueprint was as fixed as an architect’s plans, there would be no mind-gene connection. You would be the puppet of DNA, mechanically carrying out whatever actions are programmed into the 3 billion base pairs that constitute the human genome.

To defenders of strict Darwinism, the difference between instinct, which controls animal behavior, and mind, which gives freedom of choice, is lost. But no one who isn’t harping on an agenda could claim that a Mozart symphony or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was created by instinct. The range of the human mind is vast and creative. But as we create the complex human world, are our genes listening? If so, are they cooperating in our creative enterprises? Continue reading

A New Hot Button: Consciousness-Driven Evolution

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Science is meant to be the opposite of a belief system. No one underlined this point more securely than Charles Darwin, who devised a theory of evolution that defied the strongest belief of his time, the all but universal belief in the bible version of the origins of man. The fossil record supported a notion contrary to the Bible, that creation was a process, not a single event dictated by a divine Creator. Despite a century and a half of proof that Darwin was right, taking God out of evolution still sticks in the throat of many people.

Pollsters find, to the dismay of trained scientists, that God remains in play for many when it comes to our origins. For example, a 2013 Pew Research poll found that one-third of respondents believe that human beings have always existed in their present form. When broken down by religion, this anti-Darwin, pro-Bible view is held by 64% of white evangelical Protestants and 50% of black Protestants broken down by political party, only 43% of Republicans believe that human beings evolved over time versus 67% of Democrats and 65% of independents. Continue reading

Angelina Jolie Got a Double Mastectomy – Should You? 10 Alternative Preventive Measures.

Angelina Jolie arrivingSo, Angelina Jolie got a double mastectomy as a preventative measure, in order to reduce her risk of breast cancer.

Should you do the same?

Angelina apparently had a particularly strong genetic tendency as well as a strong family history. Angelina made a brave choice that may have been the best one for her, but it is worth careful consideration around whether this preemptive strike is the right choice for any woman who carries the BRCA1 gene.

Genetic risk is real, but epigenetics has the potential to trump genetic risk. Epigenetics literally means “on top of genetics.” Epigenetic “tags” sit on top of our genes and turn them on and off. These tags are influenced by our experiences and environment. What we eat, how much stress we undergo, and what toxins we’re exposed to can all alter our genes. We are not at the mercy of our genes as much as they are at the mercy of our diet and lifestyle choices.

Here’s an example that should strike hope into our very souls: Dr. Dean Ornish has conducted research that found a vegan diet caused more than 500 genes to change in only three months. How? Epigenetic tags turned on genes that prevent disease and turned off genes that cause a variety of illnesses, including breast cancer, heart disease, prostate cancer, and other illnesses.

I think the term “Holistic Medicine” has been used so much that it has almost lost it’s meaning. What might be a better term is “Context-Driven Medicine.” Our bodies—our hormones, organs, tissues and systems—do not act in a vacuum. They respond to our environment and thoughts. Thought creates biology. So does environment. When we are afraid, our chemistry changes. When we inhale pollutants, our
chemistry changes. Conversely, when we enjoy whole food, fresh air, good company, and feed ourselves inspirational thoughts and ideas, we affect our thoughts, emotions, environment, epigenetic tags and, ultimately, our genes.

So what about mammograms?

Prevention is different from early detection. Early detection doesn’t stop breast cancer from arising. Prevention does. When we better our lives, our breast health can improve in response.

Here are some simple (but sometimes hard to hear) tips to support breast health:

  • Avoid alcohol. There is not safe level of consumption. For a good summary of this, check out this video. We like to drink alcohol for relaxation and, in some cases, to support heart health, but there are better, more effective ways to support heart health without increasing the risk of cancer.
  • Eat lots of veggies. Changes in diet may prevent 30-40 percent of cancer cases, or 3 to 4 million cases annually. Veggies protect against many types of cancer by enhancing cancer-protective capacity, deactivating carcinogens and blocking tumor development.
  • Have an exercise routine that is right for you.
  • Avoid too much coffee, especially non-organic. Coffee seems to have an affinity with breast tissue and women with sensitive breasts around their period might do well to avoid it.
  • Breastfeed! This increases circulation in the breast tissue. Women who nurse have lower risks of breast cancer. This decreases the potential for stagnation in the breasts. When we are not breastfeeding we can increase circulation in our breasts by massaging them on a regular basis.
  • Avoid the use of antiperspirants. They don’t allow the release of waste products from the local area.
  • Breathe deeply. This opens the chest area and reduces stress.
  • Eat organic, when possible. Especially meat and dairy, if you consume them. They concentrate pollutants that act as bad estrogens and are carcinogenic.
  • Avoid environmental pollutants. If you happen to be in an environment that is polluted from off gassing of carpets, paints, plastics, construction materials, etc. maybe fill the room with houseplants. They help to purify the air.
  • Don’t smoke. Please.

There’s more information on breast health and why all these things are important in Chapter 13 of my book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life.

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