Getting to the root of a problem…..
As someone who has been studying the human body, movement, exercise nutrition and health for almost 30 years now one of the things that really perplexed me the most was why apparently healthy people got sick. Why is it that people, who exercise, eat right, meditate and go to bed on time can still fall foul to some of the killer diseases of our time? It’s because I have had so many health concerns myself, a chronic back problem, heavy metal toxicity, to mention a few, that I had to keep digging deeper. This was the impetus for me to write “Cracking the Mind/Body Code”. I wanted to get to the root of the problem. And boy what a journey it has been!
We all know that if we want to get rid of weeds then they really must be pulled out from the root. If we just spray them with weed killer they could simply grow back at a later date. Much of our approach to disease, especially in the Western world, is simply to treat symptoms. This, in my view, is not enough.
One of the first things that a doctor does when investigating an illness you have is to take a family history. We know that if our father, grandfather and great grandfather died of a heart attack than we had better get proactive with our heart health. We know that weakness and predisposition to certain diseases can be inherited from our ancestors. Women who inherit the BRAC1 and BRAC2 genes have for example a far greater risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers.
The human genome project completed in 2001, uncovered about 25,000 protein coding genes. This is less than 2% of the entire human genome. The remainder genetic material was once labelled “Junk DNA”.
“The stone which the builder rejected has become the corner stone”
What scientists are now discovering is that our genes may not really be running the show at all but may however be controlled by the so called “Junk DNA”:
“In an impressive series of more than 30 papers published in several journals, including Nature, Genome Research, Genome Biology, Science and Cell, scientists now report that these vast stretches of seeming “junk” DNA are actually the seat of crucial gene-controlling activity — changes that contribute to hundreds of common diseases.” (1)
The new emerging science of epigenetics (meaning above genetics) is the study of gene expression regulation that cannot be directly attributed to changes in the DNA sequence.
Here are some examples of how this plays out:
Trauma from poor parenting
In a landmark study titled “Epigenetic programming by Maternal Behaviour”, which was published in the Journal Nature Neuroscience in June 2004, researchers clearly demonstrated the potential of the environment to create changes in gene expression of an unfavourable kind. In the study two different environments were tested with regard to the parenting of baby rats. In one group there was lots of licking, preening and snuggling under the mother’s belly. In the other group there was significantly less of this tactile interaction. The poor unfortunate rats that did not have that loving touch began to get significant methylation of their DNA in the brain regions responsible for stress response, namely the hippocampus. They now had a heightened stress response. (2)
The last example was one of an epigenetic change within one generation. Can an epigenetic change be passed on to future generations? The answer is an emphatic yes.
In a 2012 study by Sonia de Assis, published in Nature Communications she showed that a high intake of inflammatory fats during pregnancy not only affected the direct offspring for increased cancer risk but also the grandchildren.
“We conclude that dietary and oestrogenic exposures in pregnancy increase breast cancer risk in multiple generations of offspring, possibly through epigenetic means.” (3)
Mass Trans-generational Trauma
“Nothing influences children more than the silent facts in the background”
What happens if our forebearers suffered extreme stress and trauma and never really healed from it? Why is it that children of Holocaust survivors have nightmares about being chased persecuted or tortured as if they had experienced the trauma themselves directly? The process of Trans-generational Transmission of Trauma (TTT) has been researched over 50 years now to explore how unconscious trauma can be genetically transmitted to a child.
In the research paper titled:
“Epigenetic transmission of Holocaust trauma: can nightmares be inherited?”(4)
The author explores the epigenetic roots of TTT.
In another study by Rachel Yehuda et al, from a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, 32 Jewish Men and Women who had direct experience of the Holocaust were genetically studied as were their children. The children showed symptoms of trauma and changes in their genes.
“The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents,” said Yehuda.
“This is the first demonstration of an association of pre-conception parental trauma with epigenetic alterations that is evident in both exposed parent and offspring, providing potential insight into how severe psychophysiological trauma can have intergenerational effects.”(5)
“We are all metabolising our ancestral legacy of subtle or overt abuse which has been passed down and propagated throughout the generations”
The ancient wisdom from the East tells us that we inherit the unfinished business of our ancestors, the secrets, the shame, the trauma and drama of our forbearers. Now finally the Western world is very slowly catching up to this phenomenon with the science of epigenetics. It seems we inherit not only our eye colour and hair colour from our parents we may also inherit their unresolved trauma through epigenetic programming. This epigenetic programming is thought to be at the root of many diseases such as alcoholism, addictions, some types of cancer, diabetes, depression and many more diseases of our time.
Never before has it been so clear that our actions will affect generations to come.
Whether it be our choices regarding food, our commitment to exercise or our willingness to do the inner work to resolve our mental and emotional trauma. Our unresolved baggage can and will be inherited by our children and our children’s children not by the DNA itself but by the epigenomic tags that mark these trauma in our epigenome and program us and future generations for disease and dysfunction.
For more information on genetics and Ancestral Karma see “Cracking the Mind/Body Code”
(1) Time Magazine Sep 2012
(2) Weaver et al, “Epigenetic programming by maternal behaviour” Nature new science, 7, 847-854 , 2004
(3) Sonia de Assis et al,”High-fat or ethinyl-oestradiol intake during pregnancy increases mammary cancer risk in several generations of offspring”, Nature Communications Sep 2012
(4)Killeman NP, “Epigenetic Transmision of Holocaust trauma: Can nightmares be inherited? , Isr J Psychiatry Re lat sci 2013, (50 (1) 33-9
(5) Yehuda et al ” Holocaust exposure induced intergenerational effects on FKBP5 methylation, Journal of Biological Psychiatry 2015, 08, 005
Picture: Artistic interpretation of Gustav Klimts Tree of Life