The following health-hacks, bio-hacks and positive lifestyle changes can positively influence our gene expression and when practiced regularly, they promote a healthy mind and body and positively influence our health at the molecular and atomic levels.
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Contrary to popular belief, we are not stuck with the genes given to us by our parents and ancestors. The influence we can exert over our internal processes, how well they function and even our own genes (the amino acid-based information bytes which form our DNA) can be extensive. Epigenetics is the study of gene expression and has shown that we can influence which of our genes are “switched on” or “switched off” (gene silencing) and how they are read within the nucleus of our cells. Epigenetic change is a dynamic, regular and natural occurrence which is influenced by fixed factors such as age and genetic lineage but also but many controllable, unfixed factors such as our environment, lifestyle, diet & nutrition, exercise and our mental & physical health. The unfixed factors can either increase or reduce risks of diseased states within the body. In other words, every decision we make has the potential to either promote our wellness or bring about illness.
”Only 5% of disease-related gene mutations are fully deterministic, while 95% can be influenced by diet, behavior, and other environmental conditions.” “...studies have shown that a program of positive lifestyle changes alter 4,000 to 5,000 different gene activities.”(1)
“You are not simply the sum total of the genes you were born with. You are the user and controller of your genes, the author of your biological story. No prospect in self-care is more exciting.”(1)
Epigenetics, a process by which the operation of genes is changed, but not the DNA itself. Epigenetic changes occur on the outside of the gene, mostly through a process called methylation. In methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic slugs or snails and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body(2).
Scientists know that methylation patterns change in response to the below lifestyle changes, all of which allow us to positively influence our health at the molecular and atomic levels.
Bioactive dietary compounds like sulforaphane (found in broccoli), curcumin (turmeric), epigallocatechin gallate (green tea), and resveratrol (wine) can slow or potentially reverse DNA damage, and their powerful cellular antioxidants and anticarcinogenic agents have exhibited potent anti-tumor activities by reversing epigenetic alterations. These are a few natural compounds known to modulate gene expression at the epigenetic level and which is discussed in some depth here.
“We are not victims of our genes, but masters of our fates, able to create lives overflowing with peace, happiness, and love.” - Bruce H. Lipton
Meditation training (this includes mindfulness training) is such an important health-hack and life-coping tool integral for mental and physical wellbeing that focus exclusively on this subject and a few of the top training practices and techniques, on the Meditation + Neuroplasticity page. With training, our neuroplastic minds can be harnessed and controlled in a way that can profoundly affect, influence and improve our quality of life, as well as the lives of those around us. Scientific research has demonstrated that there are a multitude of ways in which meditating actually restructures or “rewires” our brains.
Great talk by Russell Brand and Wif Hof "The Iceman" talking about the benefits of cold water shock therapy, among other ways of optimising our health (especially immune health) and our overall wellbeing.
Brilliantly discussed in this interview with Wim Hof “The Iceman” (see above), cold water shock therapy, a form of Hydrotherapy, has huge benefits on all internal systems of the body, some of which are listed below. It can be done by taking daily cold showers in the comfort of your home, gradually building up your tolerance to endure a cold temperature for longer periods of time ** take it slow at the beginning and stop well before you chill down. This health-hack has been popularised by Hof and is part of the Wim Hof Method; “Over time, we as humans have developed a different attitude towards nature and we've forgotten about our inner power. This is the ability of our body to adapt to extreme temperatures and survive within our natural environment.”
Benefits include -
Scientific evidence available here.
The circadian rhythm is a natural physiological cycle or “internal clock” of roughly 24 hours, which regulates the internal processes of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria. The cycle triggers a response in our suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which plays a critical role in regulating the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems and thus, influencing multiple vital processes essential for a functioning, healthy body. This internal clock is easily influenced by our daily activities, levels of sunlight, our feeding patterns, exercise, temperatures and other factors in our environment. Due to our modern lives keeping up cooped up indoors for the majority of the daylight hours (when we would have been out foraging and hunting) most of us are out of synch with our internal light/dark cycles. This doesn’t sound too serious but studies have shown that this imbalance can put us at a higher risk of developing diseases(11). Fortunately, there are many ways to alter and optimise your circadian rhythm to regain this balance, achieving deeper sleep and immune health. Here are some of the most popular tried and tested methods -
The health of our brain relies on its ability to repair and renew its nerves and their connections to each other throughout the body. The brain copes with wear and tear caused by stress, poor lifestyle habits, genetics, or a combination of all three, through nerve regeneration. This is how we are able to maintain our physical and mental health(13). BDNF, a powerful neurotrophin growth factor is a secreted protein that is critical to the functioning of the adult brain(13). It initiates the growth and differentiation of new nerves and their connections through a process called neurogenesis and has demonstrated to have a neuroprotective effect(14). Numerous studies show BDNF’s potential to help those suffering with SMI (severe mental illness) and other neuropsychiatric and mood disorders such as Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(14), (15), (16) due to its role in neuroplasticity. A myriad of research shows that there are many factors and lifestyle changes we can make to raise the brain’s BDNF levels, improving cognitive function, mood stability, and general well being(13), (17). Some of the most popular natural methods to boost BDNF production are(18) -
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It connects your brain to many important organs throughout the body, including the gut (intestines, stomach), heart and lungs. "Vagus" means “wanderer” in Latin, accurately representing how the nerve wanders all over the body and influences the function of numerous organs. The vagus nerve plays a key part of your parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system, influencing breathing, digestive function and heart rate. Thus, it has a huge impact on your mental and physical health. Stimulating the vagus nerve can activate vagal tone and thus, the parasympathetic nervous system. Having higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress, while also provide other numerous health benefits, including improved digestion(15). Activating your vagus nerve can be done by doing the following -
Read more about the important influence the vagus nerve has on our health here.
WIP - coming soon!