Are Our Genes Our Destiny?

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By: Laura Norman Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

Over the last 30 years we’ve seen amazing progress in mapping the human genome. We have learned much about how our genes affect our health and now, in some cases, we can customize treatment for individuals based on their unique genetic makeup.

A gene is really just a recipe for making a protein. So when a gene is activated or “expressed,” it causes the release of a protein. Proteins ultimately determine how our bodies function–digestion, circulation, immune system, communication between cells, movement–all are made possible by one or more of the estimated 100,000 different proteins that our bodies make.

Growing alongside our understanding of genetics is research in “behavioral epigenetics”—the study of how our environment and lifestyle alter when and how our genes are expressed. For example, scientists have confirmed that identical twins have different biological makeups, despite their identical DNA.

Scientists have understood for some time that prolonged and/or repeated exposure to stress, anxiety, anger and other negative emotions weakens our immune systems, accelerates aging and ultimately manifests as illness and disease. Over the last 15 years, studies have provided evidence that:

Prenatal and early postnatal environmental factors also influence the adult risk of developing various chronic diseases and behavioral disorders by suppressing expression of specific genes.

Epigenetic changes can influence the growth of neurons in the developing brain as well as modify activity of neurons in an adult brain, leading to a marked influence on a person’s behavior.

Genes only make a small contribution to your risk of becoming obese. Many people who carry so-called “obesity genes” do not become overweight—and healthy eating can counteract genetic predispositions. One study found that consumption of fried foods could trigger genes influencing obesity—and that by reducing fried foods in their diets, people genetically inclined to obesity can maintain healthy weights.

Our diet, stress level, exposure to toxins, daily activities and many other elements can change the way our cells “read” our genetic code. It seems these changes can sometimes even be passed on to the next generation.

Each day we make a multitude of seemingly small decisions that ultimately have as much effect on our health as our genes—or more. We have tremendous potential far beyond our genetic code–including the power to improve our outcomes by shifting our attitudes and belief systems.

Stress is a major factor that can trigger a cascade of undesirable genetic effects throughout your body. Reflexology helps to restore balance to all of your organs and bodily systems. My approach combines the benefits of reflexology with elements of meditation, visualization and positive thinking and speaking to manage and minimize stress. Several medical studies have shown that reflexology can release stress and profoundly relax the nervous system, improve circulation, eliminate toxins and strengthen the immune system.

It’s exciting to live in a time when we’re learning so much about how our genes affect our makeup. Yet it’s important to understand that we are so much more than our genetic code—we are, literally, the “X-factor.” Through our choices, attitudes and beliefs, we can create our own destiny!

Laura Norman, M.S., LMT, world-renowned Holistic Reflexologist and author of the best-selling book, Feet First: A Guide to Foot Reflexology, offers private Reflexology and Life Wellness Coaching sessions in Delray Beach and Holistic Reflexology Certification Training Programs in Boynton Beach starting July 15th. Laura has created Aromatherapy products and step-by-step Foot, Hand and Face Reflexology Home Study DVDs, and offers beautiful gift certificates for all occasions. Visit www.lauranorman.com • Call 561-272-1220