It has long been believed that it is our genes that make us who we are and dictate, among other things, our health.  Isn’t this what we were all taught in school?

When the Human Genome Project began, it was anticipated that one gene would be found for every protein and thus that at least 120,000 human genes must exist.  Yet, fewer than 25,000 genes were discovered.  Indeed, humans beings were found to have not appreciably more genes than some simple life forms such as worms and fruit flies!

It was also widely believed that most serious diseases, for example breast cancer, are hereditary and thus if you had bad genes this was what determined if you got sick.  Most of us have heard of the widely-publicized BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes, however 95% of breast cancers are not caused by inherited genes.  Indeed it appears that defective genes acting alone are responsible for about 2% of our total disease load.

So if genes don’t determine health or disease, what does?  Enter the newer field of epigenetics, meaning ‘above’ genes.  Oxford Dictionaries defines the term as ‘the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.’  It is now know that a significant number of cancers arise from environmentally-induced epigenetic changes, not from defective genes.  Environmental signals, such as emotions, stress and nutrition to name a few, are known to control the activity of genes.

The field of behavioural epigenetics reveals that a wide range of life experiences affects your biology.  And epigenetic changes can be transferred to offspring.  In short, your emotions and beliefs not only create illness in your body but may be predisposing your descendants to serious disease!  This also implies that your emotional or physical challenge may not originate with you but have been passed on by an ancestor.

Bruce Lipton is a master of distilling the complex science of epigenetics and behavioural epigenetics into an engaging translation of how each of us, through our consciousness and conscious choices, can transform our own health and destiny.  For a detailed accounting I recommend his book The Biology of Belief or watching one of Lipton’s many excellent videos such as this one.  Those of the scientific persuasion may enjoy this review.