Hello everyone! Have a great Wednesday 🙋🏻
We have 50 to 75 trillion cells in our body. Believe it or not, each of them has a nucleus which has a DNA strand of about 6 feet. Now, how such long length of DNA strand fit inside the small nucleus of a tiny cell. The DNA strand is wrapped around a cluster of proteins called the histones. Histones are like molecular spools. These molecular spools form the chromatin, where there are the sequencing of proteins. These chromatins form the complex structure of DNA, that is the chromosomes. There are about 30 million spools in each of the cells. So just imagine, how much of genetic material, we carry in each of our cells. The functional unit of DNA are the genes encoded in it. It is this genetic codes which tell the cell how to function and who to become. That is how a muscle cell differs from a neuron or a skin cell.
Epigenetics meaning above the genes. So, epigenetics are chemical tags that sit on the chromatin. Some epigenetic marks can condense the chromatic making the cell unable to read the genes underlying, in other words, they turn the genes off. Again, some epigenetic marks can decondense the chromatic making the cell accessible to read the underlying genes. So, then the genes are turned on. Therefore, these epigenetic marks are responsible for influencing our cell biology. So, in our body, though each cell has the same DNA, it is these epigenetic marks which instruct the cell to turn on or off the particular genes. This is how a muscle cell or a neuron function differently from a skin cell. Now, the question is when do the epigenetic marks laid down the information or instructions to the cells. Most of it occurs during the embryonic development inside the womb. Initially, when the embryo is only a few cells big, there are very less epigenetic marks on the cells, As the days pass by, the influence of environment slowly increases the epigenetic marks on the cells.
In a pregnant lady, the growing embryo inside her womb has been influenced by the food she eats, behaviour, her stress level, habits (like smoking alcohol). That’s how the epigenetic marks are laid on the chromatin of each cell. That is how the foetus genes are affected and also the long term health effect of the child. Even as the child grows into an adult, the habits, behaviour, disease pattern does not entirely depend on the hereditary genes. Researches have shown that the environment continues influencing the epigenetic marks of the chromatins. Throughout life, the genes keep turning on and off depending on the environmental choices, pattern or the kind of environmental responses, the person perceives.
We keep making choices on the perception of this world, thoughts, emotions, lifestyle habits, eating habits, stress responses and other environmental influences. Depending on all these choices, our body’s nervous system influences the chemical pathways (neurohormonal pathways) instructing the genes through receptor responses (some genes get turn on while some get to turn off) in different cells of our body leading to different changes that occur regarding health, ageing, longevity, diseases, stress levels and wellness. Improving our choices ( being in a positive environment), positivity, reducing stress levels, healthy eating, active physical life all can affect our genes greatly. Have an impact on our overall wellbeing ,can reduce disease prospects, or can make healing faster.
So, the concept of “we” being the victims of hereditary genes doesn’t completely hold the truth. We still hold our magic stick depending upon the choices we make. We are still the “masters” of the body in terms of our health and wellness.
If you wish to know more about this topic, I recommend the book “Change your Genes, Change your life” Creating optimal health by the New Science of epigenetics. by Kenneth R. Pelletier
Thanks for reading.
Blessings and much love to all 💐