Written by: Dr. Ben Lynch
Welcome to this week’s SnpIt. This is where we get down and dirty on a specific topic. Today’s topic answers the question: What is Epigenetics?
I'm Dr. Ben Lynch — welcome to the Dirty Genes Podcast. I hope you enjoy the episode! If you do, be sure to give a thumbs-up, rate it, leave a comment, and Subscribe here.
Welcome to this week's SNPit. This is where we get down and dirty on a specific topic. Today's topic is: What is Epigenetics? I'm Dr. Ben Lynch, and this is the Dirty Genes Podcast.
So you can always look up words in the dictionary. You can browse the internet. You can ask someone. But here at the Dirty Genes Podcast, I want to share with you some actionable ways you can define things and apply them to your everyday life. That's the goal. If you want to define something, make it applicable to your real life situation, because that is how you learn and that's how you can get better and optimal.
According to the standard definition out there, epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Now, for a standard definition, that is pretty darn good. Let me take it a step further, but through a story.
The first time I ever heard about epigenetics was from the great work of Dr. Bruce Lipton. I was sitting in class at Bastyr University, first year of med school, first quarter, using this big old TV watching Bruce Lipton on a VCR. He was discussing how the environment that you perceive through your own eyes, sense of touch, ears, sense of smell, taste, influences how your genes turn on and off. And I was thinking, "What a nut job, what a freak. There's no way." I mean, when I was 17 or 18 years old, I remember walking down the hallway of my home and my mom was having a conversation with some other lady, and they stopped me in the hallway. They were talking about schizophrenia, and my step-mom looked at me, she goes, "Oh, you're 17." I was like, "Yes. Right." And she goes, "Well, you need to be careful because schizophrenia hits right around puberty and you have schizophrenia in your family."
That stuck with me. When you hear statements like that, they are just blinding in terms of their power. And you can't forget it. I cannot forget it. I remember my back was against the wall. I remember exactly where I was standing. I remember where she was standing and her friend was standing, and her friend was slightly taller than she was. And I remember it was afternoon and there was maybe a dog or two in the hallway, because we had 12 dogs. But that statement hurt, and here I was at 17 thinking at any moment, any morning I was going to wake up and my personality was going to be different. I was going to be labeled as schizophrenic, and that scared the crap out of me. And so when I realized that Dr. Bruce Lipton was saying something that was completely and utterly the opposite, whereas yeah, I might have schizophrenia in my family, you may have schizophrenia in your family, or some other type of problem, but you may not go on in your life to develop any issues.
And why is that? Because of epigenetics. Genetically identical twins can go through their lives, they'll look the same in the beginning, they might look the same for a number of decades, and then they moved to different areas, different environments, they surrounded themselves with different people, different influences, different choices, take different foods in their mouth and different supplements, or no supplements, and different meds, different things being ingested, different influence on their genes...and all this, while they might be genetically identical, they are epigenetically 100% polar opposite. One might be a track athlete. The other one might be a couch potato. They might be both track athletes, but maybe one is performing way better, or maybe one's doing hurdles and one's doing something else. And maybe they are 10% body fat versus 25%. And it doesn't really matter, but what matters is that your choices are what are influencing your genes.
And the biggest thing that really resonated with me is what I described in the introduction of the book, Dirty Genes. I tell the story of what really made me excited, and I want to share that with you right now. And that's when I watched something on the internet called the Tale of Two Mice, and this was a Nova Special. And in this Nova Special, they discussed how they took these genetically identical mice and they are programmed, so they're genetically designed to have heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The researchers can then test these mice throughout their life, maybe with medications, foods, or chemicals to see if they can prevent those diseases, prolong treatment, and test different drugs on them. So basically they're bred for research.
One of the researchers had this brilliant idea and she went to the head researcher and said, "I really want to do something different here. Look, we've got these agouti mice, they are genetically destined to have diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, the three top killers in the world today, and all I want to do is change their rat chow. I want to change what they're eating." And the guy was like, "Okay, sure." And so what they did is they had the mice eat this typical rat chow and they were born and they got the typical problems. Now, this is not exactly how the study went, but it's a good summary. So then she fed the pregnant mice with chow that had some folate and B12 and some other methyl donors in there. And those baby mice went on to not get those diseases. But wait a minute, they were born with genes that were causing them to have increased susceptibility to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. But that's it, increased susceptibility. Those interventions, that early intervention from pregnancy, made their genes cleaner. And that was amazing.
So, epigenetics puts you in the driver's seat of how your genes are functioning. Think of it this way, in your kitchen, as we discussed in last week’s SNPit entitled, What Are Genes? where I explained that genes are your blueprint, akin to recipes in your kitchen. You can have 1000 different recipes in your kitchen, but these recipes are not producing a bunch of food randomly. You have to actually pull the recipe out and look at it, you need the ingredients on hand, and also the tools on hand, like the oven, fridge, and pans. You need all that around, just like your genes and enzymes need tools. Now, you are the only one in charge of that recipe. You are acquiring the ingredients, you are acquiring the things which your genes need in order to function.
Your genes produce enzymes, and those enzymes need various things in order to do work like vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats, glutathione, and so on. You are the chef in your own kitchen. You are the director of your own genes. I want you realizing this. I want you believing that your choices ultimately define how good or bad you feel. Next time you have a decision to make, which is probably right now, am I going to continue to listen to this guy or am I going to turn it off or am I going to go do something else, you have the power to make choices. Choices do two things. They clean your genes, or they dirty them. If someone comes up to you and says, "You suck," that dirties your genes. You have two choices. You can ignore them in saying, "Yeah, that's fine. You can think I suck, no problem."
Or you can turn to them and you can say, "I don't really appreciate that talk. And I don't really want to be around that. I'm really working on supporting my own health and that is pretty toxic language. So I would appreciate it if you would stop using those condescending terms towards me and having a different type of discussion. And if that doesn't work for you, then I think we should just separate our own ways because that's just toxic." And by you spelling out those toxic words, it's actually bad for your own health too. Surround yourself with people who build you up, who clean up your genes. Constructive criticism is great, but it's got to be constructive, not destructive. Be the chef in the kitchen, have the quality ingredients, surround yourself with good quality ingredients as well. Good quality people, clean environment, these are empowering yourself to make good choices so your genes can function.
Let me give you a very specific example to give you some trust that you actually do have control of your genes. I'm going to give you two, actually. First one: mentally picture a lemon. Sour lemon. Ooh, that's sour, right? What's happening to your mouth right now? Think lemon. Biting into a nice, juicy lemon. Sliced in half, you just take that lemon wedge and you bite into it, right? Oh, my mouth is salivating like crazy. Ah. So, just that thought directed your mouth to salivate, and that is the power of epigenetics. So you have the power to make saliva like that. So now let's take it a step further on something that is a bit more, well, it's just different and maybe not as fast acting, but it's still powerful.
In the evening, you want to fall asleep. You all know about melatonin and you know that melatonin can help you fall asleep at night. But did you know that your own body makes melatonin? Yes. "Yeah, obviously." Okay. Well, did you know that there's a gene that does that? "Oh, well, I didn't think about it that deeply. That's interesting." So yes, there is a gene called ASMT, and this particular gene uses a nutrient in order to function. And it also is inhibited by light. Yes, light. So if you are staring at your screen, if you're watching a movie on your laptop or your TV in your bedroom, which is a bad place to have a TV, we do not have TVs in any of our bedrooms. But we basically have TVs in our bedrooms because of our phones, but regardless, really try hard to, well, try hard is basically, just do as Nike says, "Just do it." Brilliant slogan.
Just don't watch a screen in the evening before bed, because you need to support your ASMT gene. Remember, you have a couple choices. You're dirtying your genes or you're cleaning them up. In order to produce melatonin, your ASMT gene needs darkness. So turn off the lights or dim them earlier. Or I've got these sexy looking glasses here that I'm holding in my hand and these are Blue Blocks. I got prescription ones because my eyes are not very good. I was born that way. And thankfully my kids were born with good eyesight, 20/20. But it doesn't matter if they are born with 20/20 vision because blue light is destructive for your eyes and it's destructive of your melatonin. So put on blue blocking glasses of any type, and there's some fraud ones out there. Ask for laboratory proof that it blocks blue light. So I know that Blue Blocks blocks 100% of blue light. And I actually stared at this blue light emitting LED thing that my youngest Theo has in his room and I didn't even see the light. It was gone. It was weird.
I took my glasses off and I saw the blue light. I put my blue light on, didn't see it. So wear blue blocking glasses. Better yet, don't even look at a screen. Your ASMT gene will start realizing that there's darkness, your body will start producing melatonin, and then you'll start getting sleepy and you will fall asleep at night. Now, the blue light blocking glasses can be so powerful. My wife has the red colored lenses, the amber ones, she will put those on, we might watch a movie an hour or two before bed, or even an hour before bed or a show, or what have you. And she'll put on the amber lenses of Blue Blocks and she'll be sacked out next to me on the couch literally just putting them on for 20 minutes. So the red ones are really, really blocking the blue light and enhancing your melatonin. That's powerful stuff!
So tonight when you go to bed, just tell yourself, okay, I'm going to clean my genes, I'm going to empower myself. Not over your genes. You're going to team up with your genes and you're going to give them what they want, not distract them with things like light. So you're going to support your ASMT gene by no screen time, using blue blocking sunglasses, dimming lights, and trying to get a little bit of carbohydrate in before bed to support the melatonin synthesis because melatonin comes from serotonin. And if you want to get more information on how to support your sleep, then you can pick up the book, Dirty Genes, and learn more about the genes COMT and MAO-A, which are associated with sleep as well.
You are really in control of your genes. Remember, you can share this example with your friends, with the lemon trick, and you can do the ASMT gene enhancement as well with the blue light blocking glasses, or just not looking at screens of any type before bed and dimming your lights. So until next time, put this into practice. Every single Dirty Genes Podcast that comes out, when we have these little snippets, I want you putting them in practice. Don't just listen, apply what you learn. You've got to apply it. So put this one in perspective today. Make it a point to talk with a friend about sour lemons and teach them about epigenetics, because when you teach others, that's when you learn the best yourself. Take care.
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