In pediatrics, one of the important parts of the medical history is the family history…we like to plot a family tree and look at patterns of inheritance and risks of diseases traveling down generations. I hear from so many families, ” Everyone in our family has really bad allergies and asthma, so I am sure my daughter will eventually get them too” or “His father has bipolar disease so I am scared my son’s future is doomed” or ” ADHD is all over my side of the family so I am not surprised that my child is doing poorly in school.”
There is no doubt that I have a set of genes that are unique to me..and there is no doubt that these genes hold important information about the story of my life. But I want to get away from feeling helpless in the face of my genetic makeup. I love this quote from the brilliant Stanford biologist Dr Lipton.He says, “Genes are simply molecular blueprints used in the construction of cells, tissues, and organs. The environment serves as a “contractor” who reads and engages those genetic blueprints and is ultimately responsible for the character of a cell’s life. It is a single cell’s “awareness” of the environment, not its genes, that sets into motion the mechanisms of life.”—Bruce Lipton, PhD, “The biology of belief
Every time I read that I feel a breath of fresh air, a new way of thinking and living..a single cell’s awareness…a combined awareness of all of my cells..freedom from the assumption that my daughters are passive recipients of the diseases of their forefathers just because of a pattern of genes…it is a powerful perspective where there is an opportunity to affect the health of our genes and how they express themselves. Living our lives mindfully is a start. Mindfulness means paying attention to your life as it happens on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment
An elegant study recently published in the February 2014 issue of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed us how mindfulness can limit the expression of genes associated with inflammation..researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison took blood samples from 40 volunteers before and after an eight-hour session where one group of 2o experienced meditators spent the time in meditation and the other group of 20 non-meditators watched documentaries, read and played computer games. The study co-author Dr Perla Kaliman, a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona in Spain, noticed a so-called “down-regulation,” or a suppression, of inflammatory genes in the meditators compared to the other group. We now know that inflammation is the bad guy…it is the cause of most chronic disease including heart disease, diabetes, joint disease, cancer, bowel diseases..and we know that lifestyle changes such as exercise, healthy eating and slowing down can prevent these diseases. But how exciting to actually see research supporting this.
As Dr Hedayat, President, Co-founder at American Society of Endobiogenic Medicine and Integrative Physiology says, ” From the perspective of endobiogeny, a person’s genetic heritage contains the total potential of expression of our constitution. The terrain is the functional expression of this genetic potential at any given moment in time. It is a dynamic equilibrium between inductive and reactive elements (stressors, cytokines, enzymes, etc.) all managed by the endocrine system and calibrated by the autonomic nervous system. Thus, it is the terrain that both solicits the expression of and compensates for genetic activity, be it normal or aberrant. In summary, the terrain determines the expression of health or disease, not the genetic code.”
So maybe I can redirect the story of my life…by slowing down.bringing all of my awareness to the here and now, on purpose, to life as it is, moment-by-moment as a way to prevent illness. The capacity for mindfulness is innate and it can be cultivated.