Change Your Genes, Change Your Life: The New Science of Epigenetics

When I was five years old my father was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital. He had become increasingly stressed and depressed because he couldn’t find work to support his family. I grew up wondering what happened to my father and whether I inherited his “mental illness.” I talk about my healing journey in my new book, My Distant Dad: Healing The Family Father Wound.

Many of us grow up wondering whether we may have inherited genes from our families that predispose us to disease. Some wonder whether they have inherited a family tendency to get cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, or a myriad of other potential illnesses. In May 2013 Angelina Jolie made headlines, not because of a new movie or conflict with her hubby Brad Pitt, but because she had made a drastic medical decision. She announced to the world that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy.

The decision to have her breasts removed, she said, was the result of genetic tests that indicated she had an 87 percent likelihood of developing breast cancer. As a mother of six young children, Jolie decided on their behalf “to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could.” What would you do? If you thought you could minimize the risk of your children losing their mother, would you get tested for potential diseases you may have inherited and then act to prevent the disease?

According to the National Institutes of Health, the genetic testing industry will grow to about $20 billion by 2020. Most of these billions will be spent on promises to predict your risk of major diseases. In 2001, when the Human Genome Project was first able to give us a genetic blueprint the cost was about $100 million. Since then the cost has dropped dramatically to $500.

Many of us want to know whether we have genes that might kill us. But there is now a better way to stay healthy than getting your genome read and worrying about all the potential diseases we may be susceptible to inheriting. The better way is offered by Dr. Kenneth Pelletier. Way back in 1977 I read Dr.  Pelletier’s amazing book Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer: Discover the Life and Death Link Between Stress and Serious Illness…And What You Can Do About It.

Now Dr. Pelletier has a new book, Change Your Genes, Change Your Life: Creating Optimal Health with the New Science of Epigenetics. On his website, he introduces us to the most recent findings from many researchers and clinicians including Dr. Bruce Lipton, who wrote the book The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, and Miracles.

Dr. Pelletier says,

Welcome to a new day in personalized healthcare. Biology is no longer destiny. Our DNA doesn’t determine our health and disease prospects, as geneticists once believed. According to the new science of epigenetics, the vast majority of our genes are fluid and dynamic—and their expression is shaped by what we think and what we do. Our genetic profile may signal an inherited vulnerability to a disease, but our choices and behaviors determine whether these genes will be switched on or off. Each of us can influence our genes to create optimal health and longevity.

That’s good news for everyone. When I wrote Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well in 2014, I reported on the latest findings on how we can all reduce stress through techniques and practices that harness the power of our minds. I said, “In my experience as a psychotherapist for more than 40 years, I have found that stress underlies most of the psychological, social, and medical problems people face in contemporary society. If we can get a handle on stress, we can take care of most of the problems we face in our lives.”

In chapter 5, “Mind Matters: Turn Off Genetic Vulnerabilities by Reducing Stress,” Dr. Pelletier reports on new research that can actually change how our genes are turned on or turned off, so we can turn on to the healing potential in our genes and turn off potentially harmful vulnerabilities.

In My Distant Dad, I described the types of childhood trauma that can lead to later illness. In Change Your Genes, Change Your Life, Dr. Pelletier reports on many studies that demonstrate that early trauma can alter our lives. In one study, they looked at 25 people who had a history of abusive childhoods who died by suicide. They were compared to a control group who died suddenly but did not have abusive histories. Genetic analysis focused on 23,551 hippocampal genes. The group that had experienced abuse showed extreme expression (either greater or lower methylation) in 362 neuronal genes. Pelletier concluded, “This unique study suggested that childhood trauma can alter the expression of genes that regulate neuronal function.”

The good news is that Dr. Pelletier shows us simple techniques and practices that can prevent everything from mental illness to prostate cancer. The book’s foreword, written by integrative health expert, Dr. Andrew Weil, he says, “Over the past four decades, my friend Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier has devoted his professional life to the study of what constitutes health and wellness.”

Like Dr. Weil, I highly recommend Dr. Pelletier’s book. Come visit his website, https://drpelletier.com/ and learn more about what you can do to change your genes and change your life.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

This article first appeared on Jed’s blog.

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

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