Written By Donnie Yance, MH, CN

The science of epigenetics is turning what we’ve long held true about biological destiny upside down. Although it remains true that our DNA—our genetic code—provides the blueprint for our physiological makeup, researchers have discovered that there’s something extra controlling our genes—and food and herbs may, in fact, be the most important factors in our genetic well-being.

That extra “something” controlling our genes is the epigenome, the cellular material that sits on top of the genome (the complete set of genetic material present in a cell or organism). While epigenomes do not alter the genetic code, they direct genes to switch on (becoming active) or off (becoming dormant) through a variety of biological mechanisms. This intriguing finding means that your genetic heritage is not the primary determinant of your health, disease risk, or longevity.

In other words, whether or not you develop a disease is determined by how your genome is being directed to express itself. The abnormal gene (genotype) isn’t necessarily a player in forming the phenotype (the characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of the genotype with the environment). These changes in gene activity do not involve alterations to the genetic code, but are in great part determined by the choices we make. For example, increased chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system can cause the β-adrenergic receptors to promote the metastatic phenotype in breast cancer and other cancers. So here we have a strong link between high stress behavior, and specifically lack of vagus nerve activity (the most important nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system that extends throughout the body and calms us down), determining gene expression.1

Most of these factors influencing the genome are pretty straightforward—diet, lifestyle, exercise, sleep habits, environmental factors, stress, and social relationships have all been shown to influence the expression of your genetic inheritance. Other factors, including aging, cause chemical modifications that switch genes on and off. And certain diseases initiate changes that cause genes to deviate from their normal, healthy state.

This is an excerpt from: “Your Genes are not Your Destiny,” by Donnie Yance, MH, CN, on his blog. It is  part one of two posts. 

  1. Wilson JM , Lorimer E, Tyburski MD, Williams CL. β-Adrenergic Receptors Suppress Rap1B Prenylation and Promote the Metastatic Phenotype in Breast Cancer Cells, Cancer Biol Ther. 2015 Jul 24:0.

Related research on botanical and nutritional support for mitigating the negative effects of stress and supporting healthy gene expression:

Adaptogenic and Anabolic Botanicals to Promote Allostasis White Paper

Nourishing Botanical Nervines to Calm Anxiety, Enhance Sleep, and Promote Relaxation

Cytoprotective and Polyphenol-Rich Botanicals that Provide Antioxidant Activity, Reduce Oxidation & Modulate Inflammation