How to Change the Expression of Our Genes
The concept of changing the expression of genes sounds unreal, but when we look at how technology is evolving, and the world is growing, even genes modification seems possible. Gene modification is quite an interesting field because of its practical applications. And the process of gene modification entirely depends upon the expression of our genes which is altered by genetics and epigenetics.
Genetics is not changeable, but epigenetics depends upon our behaviors and environment. The expression of the genes is dependent upon epigenetics, which encodes information into the genes to make the protein.
Here is how genetics and epigenetics are interlinked to change the behavioral pattern of an individual.
The Difference between Genetics and Epigenetics
Genetics is described as the study of our genes and hereditary. It analyzes how traits are transferred from one generation to another. It examines how changes in the sequence of DNA transfer traits. A gene is a smaller segment of DNA that holds the attributes. Genetics is important to know how different health conditions and diseases travel from one person to another.
While epigenetics studies the effects of genes and how they work after being influenced by behaviors and the environment. The biggest difference between genetics and epigenetics is that epigenetics doesn’t change the DNA sequences.
What Affects Epigenetics?
Multiple factors including diet, obesity, physical activity, consumption of alcohol, psychological stress, tobacco smoking, and environmental pollutants affect epigenetics. And most importantly, how we interpret those ecological factors has a great influence on epigenetics. Not everyone’s brain reacts to the same environmental factor in the same way.
Effects of Environment on Epigenetics
To understand the impact of the environment on epigenetics, let’s take an example of two twin babies growing up in different environments. Despite being born with the same genetic makeup, both have different characteristics depending upon their respective environment.
Moreover, diet, humidity, environmental mutagens, temperature, light cycle, oxygen levels change the expression of the gene by affecting the way genes express themselves, which ultimately results in a changed phenotype. Epigenetics works in the following ways:
- DNA Methylation
Methylation is the process of turning genes “off,” while demethylation is opposite to it. In DNA Methylation, a group is added to DNA. This group is added to a specific place on DNA to block the protein.
- Histone Modification
Histone is a protein around which DNA is wrapped. If DNA is tightly wrapped around the histone protein, it can not be accessed. The wrapping and unwrapping of DNA around the histone protein are changeable. Some groups are wrapped around to turn the process off, while some are not wrapped around to turn it on.
- Non-coding RNA
Non-coding and coding RNA is made from DNA. Coding RNA is used to make protein, while non-coding RNA controls the expression of genes by attaching with certain proteins and coding RNA.
Diet, Nutrition and Gene Expression
Nutritional epigenetics is the future. The impact of diet involving bioactive or therapeutic foods and other nutrients is direct and indirect, affecting the specialized pathways. Vitamin D, A, fatty acids, sterols, and zinc are the nutrients that directly affect gene expression. In comparison, fiber components affect gene expression directly by changing the signaling process of hormones, mechanical stimuli, and metabolites produced by intestinal microflora.
Effects of the Way We Interpret Our Environment on Epigenetics
As epigenetics does not change the sequence of DNA, it can have a different impact from the same environmental trigger. How we perceive our environment changes how our body reacts due to genes. The expression of genes may alter without changing the genes. Four major mechanisms are related to gene-environment interaction. The following are the mechanisms:
- Our response to environmental stress
- Genes enhance our sensitivity to favorable as well as adverse environments
- Our inherited characteristics may fit better than others
- Inherited capabilities may only get better; they can not be changed
Nature VS Nurture
Nature versus nature is a fight between genetics and the environment. Nature is pre-written, which comes in genes. It can not be changed. But nurture is how a person grows up in a certain environment by learning and adapting to new things. While nurturing comes with the behaviors and adaptations throughout our lives. The behaviors that have the most long-lasting effects on our phenotype are the ones that come across earlier in life.
Environmental triggers nurture you to make you react either in favor of the factor or opposite it. For example, if the objects you need to start reading the book are placed far away from your bed, and you need them but don’t want to get up, it all may change your behavior and result in procrastination. This is just a simpler example of how behavior gets affected by the cues in the environment and how they bring change in return.
Effect of Behaviors on the Expression of Gene
Our behaviors and social interactions make us survive throughout our life. Our genes do not directly influence our behaviors, but our brain takes social interactions to decide our behaviors. Brain development depends upon both environmental and inherited factors. Behaviors affect genetic expression by activating and deactivating the genes. Some genes get affected by the shifts in behaviors massively, while some don’t affect the behavior change.
How Optimizing Our Behaviors and Environment can Help Us Live a Better Life?
Our surroundings help us grow and survive. This is a big opportunity for us to shift our environment for the better. We can change towards getting the energy we require. The materialistic climate and the people around us decide our behaviors.
For instance, if the workers we have at our office are not supportive and share negative energy and vibes, we might get drained soon. We can not stay motivated and energetic for long.
The environment and social interactions impact our genes, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly resulting in a changed behavior. The genetic makeup does not get changed by the environmental stimuli; rather, it changes the way the expression of genes is created and perceived by our brain afterward.
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