Lifefuse Blog

Epigenetics: A New Perspective in the Nature vs. Nurture Debate

October 15th, 2013

Many of us as kids were often told by our moms “we are what we eat.”  However, in an ironic twist we are now learning from the study of epigenetics that to some degree we are what our mom ate when she was pregnant. 

What is Epigenetics?

To help you understand this further let me first briefly explain epigenetics.  Epigenetics is the study of how life experience cause changes within our genes.  We are all born with the DNA that stays with us our entire life, but our life experiences, mental health, physical activity, even what we eat, can have a profound effect on our health throughout our life.  It can even effect our children’s lives.  Through epigenetics, we are learning the factors that contribute to these changes and attempting to forecast the impact – positive or negative – they have in our lives.

An Epigenetics Example

Imagine a train starting out down a track and it gets to a “fork” in the tracks.  Depending upon how the switch is thrown the train can go on three separate tracks in different directions.  In this example what will determine how the switch is thrown is the environment the train is in at that time. 

  • If it’s raining, the program sends it on the left track;
  • if it’s snowing it goes on the middle track;
  • if it’s sunny it goes on the far right track. 

If each track was designed and built to be better suited for the specific weather condition then this program maximizes the safety of the train by pairing the best track per the weather for the train.  Essentially this is what happens at a molecular level to our genes at certain critical times of our lives, some of them being early in development.

What Does Epigenetics Mean in our Daily Life?

I find the human body fascinating and complicated but it makes sense that in order to enhance survival there would be a mechanism of how the expression of genes could be changed based upon environmental clues. 

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About the Author

Will Lane, MD

Dr. Lane is a board certified family physician who has been in practice for over 12 years integrating traditional medicine with holistic practice. He graduated magna cum laude from  Harvard University where he majored in biochemistry and molecular biology and then attended Duke Medical School where he was elected into the AOA honor society, became an Albert Schweitzer fellow, and was voted “ideal physician” by his classmates. After completing his family practice residency at Bayfront Medical Center as Chief Resident, he proceeded to practice primary care in many settings that included the ICU, hospital, ER, office and even made house calls.  As his interests grew in the field of preventative health he then completed the country’s only fellowship in Integrative Medicine, developed  by Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona. This program truly aligned Dr. Lane’s scientific background with his passion for wellness.  Having seen in practice the transformational power of lifestyle change in a patient’s health, his new professional mission and passion is bringing evidenced based holistic wellness to the busy working family.