In my latest module for the APPAH certification training I have been studying epigenetics (the study of biological mechanisms that switch genes on and off). After listening to Bruce Lipton’s presentation, “The biology of Perception”, I pulled out his book Biology of Belief and reread the chapter: It’s the environment, stupid.
Lipton is a cellular biologist and as a researcher he has examined the mechanisms by which cells receive and process information. He writes, “When I provided a healthy environment for my cells they thrived; when the environment was less than optimal, the cells faltered. When I adjusted the environment, these ‘sick’ cells revitalized.” (1)
The latest scientific research has debunked the hypothesis of gene control to show that “when a gene product is needed, a signal from its environment, not the emergent property of the gene itself activates the expression of that gene.” (1) The birth of epigenetics is the forefront of science. What we now know is that "the DNA blueprints passed down through genes are not set in concrete at birth. Environmental influences, including nutrition, stress and emotions can modify those genes." (1)
Similar to Lipton’s cells in a petri dish, babies in utero can be primed for optimal growth and health. Epigenetic research is revealing that early life experiences can influence brain development towards either social engagement or defense.
The research shows that the quality of early childhood care has a definite impact on gene expression. If the early environment is safe, and nurturing: full of loving touch, engagement and fulfillment of needs, the baby will be “programmed” for living in connection with other people. They grow to have more resilience, empathy and cognitive flexibility. Whereas, if a baby is in an environment that is harsh, inconsistent or insensitive to its needs, then the brain will be “programmed” for survival: being slow to trust, hypervigilant and defensive. They are more at risk for depression, social anxiety and stress disorders (2).
Optimize Your Environment
When I began my healing journey years ago, I asked myself: How can I create an environment to allow my cells to be vital and healthy?
In my own personal quest, I have directed my focus on creating an optimal environment for my wellbeing through wellness practices, alignment principles and healing my childhood wounds. Consistent practice of relaxation techniques, postural alignment, and observation of my movement habits laid the foundation for me to be more efficient in the use of my body, and in that, I was able to come out of 10 years of chronic low back and sacroiliac pain. Now that I have been out of pain, I continue to nurture my health and healing on a daily basis.
Here are some suggestions to optimize your environment for wellbeing:
- Stand more and sit less
- Get good sleep
- Hydrate/water: At least half of your body weight in ounces
- Notice your habits: change those that aren't serving you and continue the habits that enhance
- Limit alcohol, caffeine and processed foods
- Receive body work: massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy
- Engage in therapies: EMDR, SE, RET, Feldenkrais
1. Lipton, B (2005). The Biology of Belief. Santa Rosa, CA: Elite Books.
2. Powledge, T. (2011) Behavioral Epigenetics: How Nurture Shapes Nature BioScience 61: 588-592.