Listen to Part I in less than 4 minutes below.’
Listen to Part II in 7 minutes below.
Epigenetics and Integrative Medicine
In Part I, I reviewed how the study of epigenetics is changing how we view the impact of our everyday choices. I discussed how various lifestyle factors impact our cellular functions, with a focus on nutrigenomics, the study of how nutritional components influence genetic expression. I also highlighted how exercise, stress, environmental exposures, and relationships can also affect our health through their epigenomic impact.
Now, I will review the epigenetics of integrative and mind-body medicine. You’ll want to read this to the end, because I will be announcing how all of this will tie together with this weekend’s oily tip!
An Overview of Integrative Medicine and the Epigenome
With the emergence of the science of epigenetics, previously unexplainable effects of integrative medicine modalities have a new, scientific theory to explain their benefits. These mechanisms are beginning to vindicate that these techniques may be much more than powerful placebos.
In a 2017 review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the authors compiled evidence for their hypothesis that integrative medicine (IM) could be explained, at least in part, by epigenetics. Natural products, mind-body practices, and other complementary health approaches were analyzed with profound implications. The article concluded:
Identification of this epigenetic connection between IM and gene expression makes it possible for humans not merely to heal, but to thrive. This is especially true with respect to temporal and energy medicine, where mind over matter becomes more than a catchy phrase; it could literally be “mind over gene” in this context. Our work describes how IM may function as an epigenetic modulator for equilibrating the body to peak efficiency and wellness. Furthermore, continued investigation into the molecular mechanisms responsible for the healing effects conveyed through IM will generate valuable insight into the role of epigenetics in healing and contribute to improvements in overall treatment outcome, wellbeing, and longevity.
This figure provides an overview of the proposed direct and indirect effects in which IM can modify the epigenome. This can be directly, through epigenetic enzymes (including DNMTs, HDACs, HATs, HMTs, and HDMs) or altering biochemical pathways. Indirect alterations on the epigenome with IM also can occur. IM can interfere with cellular signaling, altering cellular processes leading to transcription changes. The article explains how IM can create a “healed” epigenetic profile.
Acupuncture and DNA
In one article entitled, The Acupuncture-Affected Gene Expressions and Epigenetic Modifications in Oxidative Stress–Associated Diseases concluded, “Accumulating evidence demonstrates the reducing effects of acupuncture therapy on stress-induced biomarkers. These effects are mediated, at least partially, by modulating the expression and epigenetic status of specific genes.”
Ayurveda: Personalized Medicine with Epigenetic Impact
A 2011 article published in an international journal of research in Ayurveda, AYU, explored how the benefits of this form of personalized medicine could be explained through epigenetics. The article concluded with a clarification on how a holistic approach that includes lifestyle, individualization, and the concept of genomics can be vital to the successful solutions to modern medicine’s chronic disease explosion.
Another, more recent, article in the same journal further supported how this ancient medicine could alter “genetic and phenotypic expression of life” via epigenetics.
Mindfully Changing Your DNA
Research that demonstrated that meditation was able to alter gene expression of inflammatory mediators hit health headlines in 2013. In 2014, Scientific American reported on a study of meditating cancer patients in an article entitled, “Changing Our DNA through Mind Control?” Since then, the power of the mind to impact our physiology via epigenetics has continued to emerge.
A 2017 systematic review published in Frontiers in Immunology explored how meditation and mind-body interventions (MBI) changed gene expression. The eighteen-study review included mindfulness, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, relaxation, and breath regulation. The authors reported the following results:
Overall, the studies indicate that these practices are associated with a downregulation of nuclear factor kappa B pathway; this is the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression and suggests that MBI practices may lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases.
If this interests you, I recommend scrolling down the full study to review the research articles and genetic pathways modulated by these practices here.
Tapping Your Emotions Away for Better Epigenetic Destiny
Many may be familiar with EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) as “tapping.” This form of energy medicine has basis in acupressure and cognitive exposure and has countless studies on its beneficial emotional and physical effects.
A 2016 study in Energy Psychology, Therapy, and Treatment entitled, “Differential gene expression after Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) treatment: A novel pilot protocol for salivary mRNA assessment,” demonstrated that differential gene expression was modulated after an EFT session.
Putting It All Together: Epigenetic Influencers, Emotions, and Essential Oils
We can choose to positively impact our health outcomes through diet, exercise, stress modulation, healthy relationships, decreasing harmful environmental exposures, and using essential oils. Integrative medicine and mind-body practices can also alter our genetic expression through a personalized and holistic approach.
I previously discussed how our unique biochemistry, genetic variations, and environmental exposures influence how we process emotions and affect our health and behavioral reactions. Furthermore, our physical health is impacted by the emotional imprint of past trauma.
Coming up for this weekend’s oily tip, I’m going to provide you with a resource that incorporates the use of essential oils with an emotional technique that can be used to support our physical wellness and reverse our epigenetic imprint of behavioral responses. Stay tuned!
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)