Yesterday I listed the four basic areas we need to consider when addressing our health - diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Over the next few days I'm going to delve further into each of those categories, but first I want to discuss an important concept: your genes - or rather, what else there is to the story of you besides your genes. I'm going to get a little technical in the paragraph below, but stay with me. The reason I'm doing this is because it's empowering to know that you're not merely stuck with a set of characteristics handed to you at birth. You have a say in how your genes are expressed.
Many people think that genes determine all of our characteristics - that our fate is etched in stone. This is not the case. It's true that our genes hold a set of instructions, but first the instructions have to be transcribed onto a protein molecule which serves as the owner's manual for the cell. This owner's manual governs all of the cell's behavior. The process looks like this.
Here's the interesting part. The transcription phase doesn't simply copy the DNA's instruction set. The environment experienced by our body plays a role in determining whether or not each instruction is copied and to what degree. Things like diet, exercise, sleep, and stress influence whether a gene instruction is turned on or... expressed. It's kind of like a card game where you may be dealt a certain hand, but you get to decide which cards to play and when. Geneticists refer to this as gene switching, and it is the mechanism whereby healthy behaviors protect us from disease.
The take-home message is that your lifestyle plays a huge role in how your genes are expressed. This is great news. It means that you are not relegated to the sidelines when it comes to your health. You are master of your fate.