So, is it nature or nurture that has the biggest impact on our health? This question has been around for a very long time, and I had always thought it was a combination of both.
At some point in my schooling I was taught that the genes are in the nucleus of the cell, and the nucleus runs the cell, sort of like the brain runs the body. Remove the brain, kill the person. Remove the nucleus, kill the cell? Nope!
According to biologist Bruce Lipton, if one removes the nucleus containing all the genetic material from the cell, the cell continues to function perfectly as if nothing has happened. The cell does not need the genes to function – clearly the genes are not operating the cell at all!
This interesting fact leads to 2 questions: a) if the genes do not run the cell, what is the purpose of the genes? b) What part of the cell is the control-centre for cell operations if it is not the nucleus?
The answer to the first question is that the genes provide the blueprint for the body. The architectural design. The "how to build" manual, so the proteins can refer to it to make the spare parts of the body that need to be replaced.
Is the blueprint going to alter how the body works? Sure, in a way. The blueprint for a Mac truck is very different from the blueprint for a Ferrari - both vehicles can work well, but they have different attributes, the truck being able to handle rugged terrain, and the ferrari being a speed machine. One vehicle is more likely than the other to be damaged in a fender-bender.
Assuming two vehicles coming off the assembly line are the same, would the health and life of the vehicle be different depending on how the vehicles were treated? Of course! A young hothead that runs the car hard, skidding around corners, slamming on the breaks, flooring the gas, and doesn't maintain it well would have a vehicle that would not last as long as someone that drove it "gently" and maintained it well.
The blueprint provides only the design of the cells of the body. It does not control how those cells are "used" by the person running the body.
Now to answer the second question - if the genes do not run the cell, what does? The cell membrane (the skin of the cell). The cell membrane is the interface between the soup outside the cell, and the machinery inside that runs the cell.
The cell membranes contain receptors for all kinds of enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters etc, and depending on what is in the chemical soup outside the cell, different receptors will be activated to run a program inside the cell.
So, if you are having a stressful day, your body will secrete the stress chemicals, like adrenalin, cortisol etc., into the bloodstream, which will trigger the cell receptors that bind with cortisol & adrenalin to run the "stress program" inside the cell.
What happens in the cell would be different depending on whether the cortisol receptor is on the membrane of a muscle cell, bone cell or a bladder cell, but each cell would run its "stress program".
If you are feeling love, gratitude, appreciation, capable, confident, anything is possible, the chemicals released into the blood stream are entirely different from the chemicals released if feeling stressed because of self-doubt, fear, unhappiness, worry, guilt, lack of money.
Therefore completely different receptors would be triggered on the cell membranes, causing different chemical reactions within the cell. So how the gene blueprint is expressed is determined by which receptors are triggered.
The good news is that for the most part we are not total victims of our genes. The genes create the hardware, but we do have a fair bit of control over the software, and by doing what we can to control the environment that our cells live in, we can improve their health.
Eating healthy, drinking adequate water, exercising regularly, getting good sleep in a dark room, and being mindful of what we focus our thoughts on, all play key roles in determining what chemicals are floating around in our body environment, and therefore what our cells will respond to.
Our emotional health is one of the most important factors in determining our overall health, but here is the thing. We tend to think the same thoughts every day, which means we feel the same emotions every day - we have thought habits which drive emotional habits. Which then drive our cells in the same way. Much of those thought habits and belief systems were programmed into our subconscious mind or "habit brain" before the age of 8.
Changing thought-habits and unconscious beliefs that are holding us back in our lives is a big challenge. How many times have you read a book that inspired you to want to change some aspect of your life, but you somehow couldn't implement what you learned even though you wanted to? Bottom line is it is our unconscious (habit) mind that runs our lives.
One of the best ways to rewrite the unconscious mind is to create new rituals and do them daily until they are a habit that has settled into the unconscious mind. A daily practice of gratitude, love and appreciation, where you really feel the emotion of gratitude and love is a great place to start. Feeling the emotion is the key to changing the biochemistry. Thoughts alone will not do it.