The Science Of Change – How Epigenetics Creates New Realities

Changing dna codes with a shadow of a person. The science of change. How epigenetics creates new realities

For decades, scientists thought that our genetic code determines what we look like and how we act. This view is now being questioned by epigenetics. Scientists argue that changes in organisms are caused by the expression of genes rather than by a change in the DNA sequence itself. Epigenetics has the potential to change scientists’ understanding of the genome. Here is a closer look.

What is Epigenetics?

Epigenetics is part of biology. This new type of science studies how cells control the activity of genes without changing the actual DNA sequence.

The term itself is of Greek origin. The prefix “epi” translates to “over, outside of, around”. In the context of epigenetics, it means on top of or in addition to the current scientific understanding of the genetic base for inheritance.

According to leading epigenetics scientist Dr. Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., the field studies the external and environmental factors that cause our genes to turn on or off. These factors also define how our cells read those genes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) view is similar. The CDC defines epigenetics as the study of how human behaviors and the environment can cause changes to how our genes work. Because the changes do not affect the actual DNA sequence, they are reversible.

However, some epigenetic changes can also be passed on to daughter cells. At this point, scientists continue to debate what exactly epigenetics encompasses. For those outside of the world of science, it is perhaps more pertinent to examine how to use the principles and findings of epigenetics to our advantage.

How Does Epigenetics Create Change?

As a field of study within biology, epigenetics is not new. The term was first mentioned in scientific papers a little over 100 years ago but never gained much notoriety. This only changed over the past 20 years when several groundbreaking studies drew new scientific attention to the field.

On a molecular level, the environment around our cells affects the activity of the cells. Genes do not control biological processes. Instead, how our cells perceive our environment controls their actions.

Since scientists first visualized the structure of our DNA in the 1950s, the accepted view has been that our DNA determines which proteins inside our cells are expressed or not. We often hear the phrase, “turning a switch on or off”. Epigenetics believes that external factors have a role to play in this process.

They believe that the genetic information stored in our DNA forms the blueprint from which all the body’s proteins can be made. (Scientists currently estimate that there are over 100,000 proteins in the human body.) To this point, their view agrees with widely accepted cell biology. Epigenetics diverges when it comes to the treatment of that blueprint.

The Cell MemBrain

Epigeneticists think that rather than changing the blueprint, our cells work more like a contractor, choosing which parts of the blueprint to prioritize. They do not see the DNA as the “brain” of the cell but believe that the thin membrane surrounding our cells has a critical role to play in this process.

The outside of the membrane is covered in hundreds of thousands of receptor proteins. The receptors are specialized to read specific outside information and relay it to the actual cell. Chemical messengers such as hormones or neurotransmitters approach the receptors and bind to them.

They can only bind to specific receptors, like a key only fitting one lock. Once the connection is made, the information from the messenger is then passed on to an effector protein inside the cell. From there, any number of chemical reactions start depending on the message transmitted.

The effector protein is basically the receptor’s counterpart on the other side of the membrane. Between both, they facilitate communication between the outside and the inside of a cell and make it possible for cells to react to environmental factors.

The chemical released from the effector travels to the cell’s nucleus – its core - where it enters the DNA and initiates the creation of a new protein. This process is called transcription.

Complex protein interactions govern every process in our bodies. For a gene to be expressed, i.e. “turned on”, a Sigma Factor protein needs to trigger gene activation. Without these proteins, the DNA – aka blueprint - cannot be accessed. Sigma Factors are specialized and bind genes most appropriate to environmental conditions. Those become expressed as proteins.

An environmental stimulus binds to the cell membrane and triggers a chemical reaction inside the cell. This reaction reaches the cell nucleus causing an appropriate gene to become expressed as a protein. As a consequence, evolution is no longer related to chance, but instead a direct result of an organism’s interaction with its environment.

What Does This Mean For You?

Your epigenetics begin to change before you are born. Whilst each cell has the same DNA, some become muscle cells whilst others develop into skin, nerve, or heart cells. As you age, this process continues.

Scientists already understand that there is a link between various illnesses, health indicators, and behaviors with epigenetic mechanisms. There is evidence for this in relation to most types of cancer, cognitive dysfunction, as well as cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive, autoimmune, and neurobehavioral illnesses.

The Power Of Our Environment

Epigenetic changes are driven by our environment infographic-science of change-create new realities

Epigenetic changes are driven by our environment. However, few people are aware of all their environments and how each of those is creating and influencing their future selves.

Take a look around you and start defining your environments.

Geographical: where do you live? What’s the temperature like and the humidity? Are you surrounded by nature or suffering from a lack of access to open spaces? These factors influence epigenetics as much as local customs and culture.

Physical: what is your home like? And how about your workplace? These spaces may not come to mind immediately when you think about environments but considering the time many of us spend at work, this is a hugely influential environment.

We already know or suspect several environmental factors as the drivers behind epigenetic processes. Some of those agents include heavy metals, pesticides, diesel exhaust fumes, tobacco smoke, hormones, radioactivity, viruses, bacteria, and even basic nutrients.

Human: have you considered the people you surround yourself with? Those you interact with regularly form part of your environment and have the power to influence your epigenetics.

Internal/Self: the environment we spend the most time in is our own head. All the external environments are filtered through our internal environment or our perspective.

What Creates Our Prespective?

Most of us know someone in our lives who is seemingly perpetually happy and an incurable optimist. Equally, we all know an “Eeyore” – someone who struggles to see positives in their lives and the world around them.

These may be generalizations, but it is worth taking a closer look at the parts that create our worldview. Our view of the world combines beliefs, biases, fallacies, experiences, and internal communication, among others.

Beliefs are ideas we consider to be correct, whether there is proof or not. They may be based on facts but more often are not necessarily true or accurate. When you believe something, you may unconsciously be looking for evidence to confirm your beliefs, whilst overlooking evidence to the contrary.

A bias is a natural or learned tendency or prejudice toward or against something or someone. They can be helpful, for example, if you are biased towards healthy foods. However, many biases are based on stereotypes rather than first-hand knowledge. They can lead to overly rash decisions and even discriminatory practices.

Fallacies are “wrong moves” we make in the construction of an argument. The problem is that arguments constructed like this may deceive us into thinking that they are stronger than they really are.

Experiences are conscious events that we live through. In a stricter sense, the term refers to perceptions and sensations but when interpreted more widely, experience can include memory, emotion, and imagination, among others. In this sense, thoughts are also considered experiences.

Internal communication or our internal monologue is just another term for our inner voice. It is how you plan, solve problems, self-reflect, and more. Your internal monologue can be extremely powerful and constructive. However, persistent negative self-talk contributes to mental health problems. Which narratives are you holding on to?

What creates our perspective infographic. Science of change. Epigenetics. New realities

Why Thoughts Matter

Thoughts are energy. More precisely, they are energy signals being transmitted by our brain. The more cognitively demanding a task is that you are engaged in, the more energy your brain consumes.

The more infused our thoughts are with emotion, the more energy they have. Each thought carries a different frequency, based on the emotion being felt. You can picture thinking different thoughts (positive or negative) and feeling the corresponding emotions (happy or sad, to stay on a very basic level) resembling driving in different lanes of a highway.

If your thoughts are repetitive, more energy is being transmitted on this frequency, and the signal becomes stronger. Back to our analogy – the lane of your highway becomes busier. When roads become too busy, they are expanded with more lanes added to allow more vehicles to travel in the same direction.

The more repetitive your thoughts are, the more they influence the predominant energy you carry with you. Here is another example: consider a person who is always blaming others for their “luck” versus someone who is taking charge of their lives. The person who thinks of themselves as a victim of all circumstances they are facing will accept no responsibility and exude a very different energy from, say, a woman whose company just sold successfully, netting her $50,000,000.

Chances are the sale was not the result of “luck”. It is much more likely that the businesswoman’s daily focus has been on personal growth, on developing others, and on executing on the inspiration that has been pouring through her. So, how did she do it? And, more importantly, how can you do it?

Anyone who is on the path of self-development, or anyone who wants to live a more fulfilling life, must look for the answers within and outside of themselves. Your inner higher self and your environment have all the information you needs.

How Do We Change Our Environments To Change Our Realities?

To identify ways and techniques of changing our reality we will go back to our environments, starting from the back.

Looking At Your Internal Environment

How well do you know yourself? Your initial answer may be “better than anyone else”, and this may be true. However, more likely, you have room to expand your self-knowledge by devoting some time every day to getting to know yourself better.

Think of it as having a conversation with yourself and creating an inventory. What excites you? What have you achieved, and what are you hoping to achieve? What is stopping you from working towards these goals right now?

As you spend time truly getting to know yourself you may discover thoughts or thought patterns that are negative and unhelpful. Letting those go and stopping yourself from rethinking them over and over again (remember the busy highway lane?) will change your energy.

Rather than radiating hesitancy, your energy can change to one focused on possibility and opportunity. To further this transition, consider the cost of not taking action. It is often much higher than the cost of trying and then having to try again.

Ask yourself what you are afraid of. Like our deeply held beliefs and biases, many of us carry deeply rooted fears in ourselves. Understanding the root cause of the fear, and perhaps tracing it back to one traumatic event allows you to start dismantling that fear. The more you know about your fears, the less power they have over you. Releasing trauma can lead to a powerful change.

Who are The People Around You?

By now, you will likely have heard the expression “toxic person”. It’s more than a buzzword. According to WebMD, a toxic person is “anyone whose behavior adds negativity and upset to your life”. Just to be clear, everyone is allowed their off-days, especially if they are dealing with tough times and trauma. Problems arise when the negative behavior becomes the norm.

So, take a close look at the relationships you have with the people around you: which ones of those need to change?

If you are wondering what to look out for, here are a few tell-tale signs that a relationship needs to change. Have you ever met up with someone and felt all the positive energy had been taken from you after the meeting? People who are always sad, pessimistic, or negative in your presence can bleed you dry emotionally.

Then there are people who are always right: they crush your ideas or feelings and put themselves first. Because they believe they are the smartest person in the room, they often consider their opinions to be facts and can seem incredibly arrogant. They struggle to see others as equals, so if you feel like you are not being respected, take a look at the person opposite you.

You have more choice than you think about who you surround yourself with. Limit the time you spend with people who bring you down and instead invest it in nurturing relationships that benefit you. When others treat you badly, whether it is by interrupting what you are saying or making fun of you in a hurtful way, call them out. If you are in a group, there is a good chance that others are feeling uncomfortable, too.

How do we change our environment to change realities infographic. Epigenetics. New realities

Where Do You Spend Your Time?

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way workplaces are organized for good. However, it has not changed the fact that most of us spend a large part of our day working. What is your workplace like?

Perhaps that is not the most helpful question. It may be easier to assess how you feel when you get to work in the morning. Do you sigh as soon as you open the office door and fire up your computer? Or are you looking forward to the tasks ahead and to spending time with the team you will achieve them with?

If the answers are less than positive, do not despair. Instead, think about what you can do to make a positive change.

The same goes for your home. Let us be honest, few of us live in sprawling seaside villas! Then again, there is a big range between this (somewhat unrealistic?) fairytale scenario and having to live in a dilapidated place you do not want to come home to at night. What makes a house a home will be different for different people.

However, creating a space in which you enjoy spending time will have a hugely positive influence on your mental and physical wellbeing. Improving your physical environment will automatically change the signals this environment sends to the membranes of your cells.

What Are You Surrounded By?

From an epigenetics perspective, geographical factors are hugely influential. There is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all choice that favors living in cities over living in smaller towns or villages. It is more of a personal decision. In the United Kingdom, for example, the coronavirus pandemic triggered a move out of cities like London to greener spaces.

Living in a greener environment has obvious health benefits, including cleaner air. But some might argue that the inconvenience of a long commute is too much for them.

Whilst not everyone can simply up sticks and move, it is worth considering whether the climate you live in benefits your overall well being. Do you live in a friendly, welcoming community, or are you afraid to leave anything outside overnight? You may feel that you are used to “living like that” but are you happy with the effect your life has on your genes?

Changing your environment is rarely something you can achieve overnight. Spend time looking at each factor and start with small changes. Their positive effects will soon add up and make a bigger difference than you imagined.

What Is Nutrigenetics?

fruits and vegetables in a dna strand. Epigenetics. New realities

What we eat is another environmental factor with a huge potential to influence our body at a cellular level. Nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics describe how our genes interact with the food we eat and what this means for our overall health.

Whilst nutrigenomics dives into the molecular side of the question, nutrigenetics is more focused on the health impact. The field has grown exponentially over the past few years, with scientists making hundreds, if not thousands, of connections between our diet, genes, and our physical health.

Some of those have found their way into consumer-DNA tests. Whilst those are providing valuable insights, this field of biology and nutrition still holds huge potential before we can benefit from truly personalized nutrition.

Medical experts see the potential in improved diagnoses and personalized recommendations that go beyond conventional wisdom. This could revolutionize how we cure illnesses.

What Is Neurogenetics?

Multi-colored brain-neurogenetics. Epigenetics. New realities

Neurogenetics studies which role our genes play in the development of brain and nerve disorders. Apart from better understanding the cause of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and other autoimmune conditions, neurogenetics also has the potential to advance personalized clinical care.

The information gained already makes a difference to cancer patients. Based on genome analysis of a patient’s tumor, doctors can determine whether (highly toxic) cancer medications will even benefit the person.


Epigenetics and its related fields have the potential to revolutionize cellular biology. Understanding how environmental factors determine the activity of our cells has the potential to change biology and medicine.

On an individual level, understanding the impact of your environment on your wellbeing at a cellular level allows you to make truly healthy choices. You may not decide to turn your life upside down. But by questioning your internal monologue, reviewing your relationships, and considering the places you spend your life in you can influence your wellbeing at a cellular level. It is an exciting opportunity for anyone looking to live their best life.


Read More:

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