The Empowering Study of Epigenetics
Epigenetics is a relatively new area of study which is producing an explosion of evidence on how we can influence and alter our cellular functions at the DNA level, through our everyday choices. Although we can’t change our genes, we can alter how they express themselves. There is now documentation that we can impact our epigenome imprint through many different lifestyle factors.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been providing you with some empowering information on how essential oils can influence our genetic destiny. These plant secondary metabolites have been found to affect our genes and resultant cellular signaling processes in a variety of ways. There’s even some preliminary evidence that certain oils can modulate the cellular aging processes!
When used in combination with a healthy lifestyle, the epigenetic power of essential oils can be further supported. In this article series, I’ll review other important ways we can steer our cells to optimize health.
Nutrigenomics, Lifestyle, and Gene Interactions
How our diet (1, 2) impacts our genes, or nutrigenomics, has been a main focus of many integrative practitioners who are seeking to effect wellness outcomes using nutrition. According to a 2007 article in Environmental Health Perspectives:
Although genes are critical for determining function, nutrition modifies the extent to which different genes are expressed and thereby modulates whether individuals attain the potential established by their genetic background.
Nutrigenomics therefore initially referred to the study of the effects of nutrients on the expression of an individual’s genetic makeup. More recently, this definition has been broadened to encompass nutritional factors that protect the genome from damage. Ultimately, nutrigenomics is concerned with the impact of dietary components on the genome, the proteome (the sum total of all proteins), and the metabolome (the sum of all metabolites) …
A 2017 article in Archives of Pharmacal Research sought to determine how nutritional components in food could contribute to reversibly modifying gene expression. They reported the epigenetic mechanisms to be through suppressing DNA methylation or histone catalyzing enzymes, or, by altering availability of substances involved in enzymatic reactions. For those who wish for more details, they can be found in the abstract below:
Epigenetics oftenly described as the heritable changes in gene expression independent of changes in DNA sequence. Various environmental factors such as nutrition-dietary components, lifestyle, exercise, physical activity, toxins, and other contributing factors remodel the genome either in a constructive or detrimental way. Since epigenetic changes are reversible and nutrition is one of the many epigenetic regulators that modify gene expression without changing the DNA sequence, dietary nutrients and bioactive food components contribute to epigenetic phenomena either by directly suppressing DNA methylation or histone catalyzing enzymes or by changing the availability of substrates required for enzymatic reactions. Diets that contain catechol-dominant polyphenols are reported to suppress enzyme activity and activate epigenetically silenced genes. Furthermore, several dietary nutrients play a crucial role in one-carbon metabolism including folate, cobalamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, and methionine by directly affecting S-adenosyl-L-methionine. Soy polyphenols block DNA methyltransferases and histone deacetylases to reverse aberrant CpG island methylation. Organosulfur rich compounds such as the sulforaphane found in broccoli appear to normalize DNA methylation and activate miR-140 expression, which represses SOX9 and ALDH1 and decreases tumor growth. The purpose of this short communication is to overview the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms of diet and other environmental factors. We discuss the epigenetic contributions of dietary components with a particular focus on nutritional polyphenols and flavonoids as epigenetic mediators that modify epigenetic tags and control gene expression. These mechanisms provide new insights to better understand the influence of dietary nutrients on epigenetic modifications and gene expression.
Other lifestyle factors that have also been found to affect how our genes behave include the following:
environmental exposures (3)
relationships (6, 7)
In Part II, I will explore epigenetics and integrative medicine and mind-body practices. You will discover that personalized medical approaches are now being vindicated for their beneficial effects using the genetic influence of lifestyle and nutritional factors. First, I discuss the proposed mechanisms of integrative medicine and highlight studies on acupuncture and Ayurveda. Following this, I examine how meditation can change our DNA and report on a systematic review of various mind-body practices. Finally, I discuss how emotions can be epigenetically impacted and reveal the subject of this weekend’s oily tip.
To read Part II, click here.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)