I recently had the good fortune to spend a week at Rythmia, a beautiful holistic retreat center in Costa Rica. One of the highlights of this trip was spending time with Dr. Bruce Lipton, the New York Times best-selling author of The Biology of Belief.
Dr. Lipton gave a multi-day lecture on Epigenetics, an emerging science that shows us there is much more than genes that controls our biology. In short, science now shows that the environment and our beliefs are the most important factors in our health.
This was a powerful reminder for me that we have the power to heal from within.This article will give you some highlights of this incredible week with Dr. Lipton and ways for you to apply this knowledge to your life.
Almost Everything You Have Been Taught About Genes Is Wrong
The current scientific dogma is that our genes control our biology. This means that if you are born with a “faulty” set of genes, you are prone to illness and there is nothing you can do. Basically, the myth is that you are a victim of your genes, which keeps you in a powerless state.
Massive amounts of research money are poured into gene research in the hopes of finding the genes responsible for illness. The goal is to develop drugs aimed at controlling the genes in question with the ultimate aim to create massive profits for pharmaceutical companies.
But what if we don’t need drugs as the science of Epigenetics tells us that the power to heal is within? The common mindset that our genes control our biology is called “Genetic Determinism” and big pharmaceutical corporations have a huge stake in it. The Human Genome Project, which aimed at deciphering and mapping the human genes was a massive undertaking. The public was promised that by understanding our genes we will be able to find cures for all that ail humanity.
Humans Have Roughly the Same Number of Genes as Worms
However, when the Human Genome Project was completed in 2004, one finding came as a big surprise: The human body is made up of only about 20,000 genes and not the millions as was previously thought. This finding is significant because a worm shares roughly the same number of genes as a human being. Given the vast differences between us and a worm it is easy to understand that simply looking at genes cannot be the answer alone.
This inconvenient truth was mostly ignored and the pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishment cling to the theory that genes alone control our biology. Finding and marketing new drugs is a multi-billion dollar business and every new gene found is patented by a pharmaceutical company.
An Eye-Opening Discovery: Identical Genes, Different Cells
When Dr. Lipton worked at Stanford University as a cell biologist, his research into stem cells opened his eyes to the importance of the environment of the cells. When he took genetically identical stem cells, which are cells that have the potential to develop into different cell types, he made an extraordinary discovery.
By placing these cells into different petri dishes and by providing each dish with a different set of nutrients, he changed the cells’ environment. By doing so, each set of cells developed into a completely different type of cell.
This is an incredible finding as it went against everything he was taught because the common theory is that genes determine biology. How was it possible that these cells ended up being completely different when nothing within their genes was changed?
In fact, they all were clones with an identical set of genes. Was it possible that something other than genes controlled the cell’s biology?
He re-ran his tests over and over, but the outcome was always the same. Depending on which nutrients the cells had available, the cells would grow into different cell lines, defying all rules of genetics.
The Cell’s Brain is the Membrane, Not the Nucleus
But this was not the only ground breaking discovery Dr. Lipton made. In another experiment, he shattered another widely-held belief. The scientific consensus is that the cell’s nucleus is the most important part of the cell because it is where the DNA and genes are located. It is thought of as the brain of the cell and if you remove the brain of an organism, the organism would immediately die.
However, when Dr. Lipton removed the cell’s nucleus and with it the DNA, nothing happened! The cell kept behaving like a normal cell would. It continued to move around, digest nutrients, and react to stimuli from the environment. The only thing the cell could not do was to reproduce and to repair itself, so eventually it died.
This kept him thinking: It seemed like the DNA was not so important after all and clearly could not be the cell’s “brain” or its most important part. So what was it?
The answer came when he removed the cell’s membrane. When he did this, the cells immediately died. His conclusion: The membrane is the cell’s brain.
The Environment Controls the Genetic Readout
The cell membrane is so important because it reacts to stimuli from the environment. In turn, these stimuli have the ability to turn your genes on or off.
On the surface of the cell membrane are thousands of receptors. These receptors constantly scan the cell’s environment. When an incoming signal comes in, such as a nutrient, light from sunshine, or a toxin (to name a few), the receptor picks it up.The signal then tells the cell to change its behavior.
For example, an incoming signal in form of calcium tells a muscle cell to react.In this example, the genes are not involved. However, when the incoming signal tells the cell to do something specific, but the cell cannot appropriately respond because it lacks the specific protein it needs, it must do something else: It actually produces the protein.
How does it do this? In short, it turns on the gene that holds the blueprint for the needed protein.This is extremely important to understand because the genes don’t just turn on and off by themselves. They do so through an incoming signal, and this signal comes from the environment of the cell.This means that the environment controls your genes!
Genes Are Not Intelligent - They Are Simply a Blueprint
Each gene is a tiny part within the DNA that acts like a blueprint. It is a map that tells the cell exactly how to build a specific protein.The genes don’t “decide” on their own when to “turn on” or “turn off”. They are actually in a dormant state, waiting for an incoming signal to tell them what to do. This is due to the fact that in order for the gene to be read, the DNA first needs to unwind and expose the gene. Regulatory proteins wrapped around the DNA like a sleeve on your arm shield the DNA until the signal from the environment tells them to unwind.
Without the signal, the genes don’t do anything, so it’s safe to say that genes are rather “dumb.” All they are is a blueprint. The intelligence lies within the receptors of the cell membrane that pick up the signals from the environment, which tells the genes to turn “on” or “off.”This is extremely important to understand as the implications are huge for you.
There Is No “Cancer Gene”
If you have been told you carry a “cancer gene” and you are scared about developing cancer, this information will help you take control of your health. If there truly was a cancer gene solely responsible for giving you cancer, you would have developed it by the time you were born.
In fact, only 1% of all illness is truly genetic in nature. They include Down syndrome, Cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease, Sickle-cell disease and Hemophilia. Most genetic disorders are so rare that they affect only one person in every several thousand or millions of people.
If you are 45 years old and suddenly you have developed cancer, it were signals from your environment that suddenly activated a gene within you that was dormant all your life. So just blaming it on your “faulty” genes doesn’t make any sense.In fact, there is no true cancer gene. There is only a correlation between cancer and certain genes, but no true causation. This means there is a connection between certain genes and certain cancers.
However, there is no proven link saying that one gene alone causes cancer. This is crucial for you to understand because, as you have seen, genes don’t randomly turn on. Instead, they are always selected in response to the environment you are in. This is empowering information because for the most part, you are in control of the cell’s environment by providing it healthy nutrients and avoiding toxins.
As exciting as this information is, there is more. Genes also react to your perception (belief) of your environment, and you can learn to take control of this too, which we will discuss later.
The Entire Foundation of Biology Turned Upside Down
Another widely-held belief about our genes - that they only change by accident and through a random process - is also false. The conventional (Darwinian) belief that is trying to explain evolution of our species as random acts of mutations is coming to an end.
In 1988, Dr. John Cairns published the groundbreaking article “The Origins of Mutants” in Nature, the world’s most prestigious medical journal. This article changed the entire foundation of biology (unbeknownst to most of the public) by presenting research on how genes mutate. The findings are that they change not through a random act, but through signals from the environment. This process is called “adaptive mutation” and shows that mutations within genes occur in response to the environment and that organisms always scan their environment to adapt to it in the most efficient way possible.
This actually makes much more sense than thinking evolutionary changes are just random acts.
Take Control of Your Cell’s Environment to Heal Yourself
By now you have learned what controls your genes and your biology is the environment of your cells. Another way to think of the environment of your cells are the nutrient “soup” that your cells are exposed to. By feeding your body fresh, organic, healthy food with lots of vegetables, you are providing the cells what they need in order to thrive. In doing so, you are actively changing the expression of your genes in your favor.
Just as important is moving away from toxins that negatively affect your cells and your genetic “read out.” That’s why I am such a big proponent of detoxifying your body. Toxins that affect your genes and cells in a negative way are chemicals, pesticides and artificial electromagnetic fields (EMFs). I suggest you educate yourself on these important topics to learn how you can reduce your exposure.
Perception (Beliefs) Change Your Genetic Expression
One of the most fascinating aspects of Dr. Lipton’s talks for me was his explanation of how our perception of our environment changes our genes. According to his research, the way we perceive our environment and what we think about it has a powerful impact on our genes.This is important because our perception of the environment does not necessarily equal reality.
What does this mean? Imagine being in a city and you experience the city as a hostile environment, where your perception is that of constant threat. Your thought, or belief, of “this city is hostile, I am not safe” causes you to experience stress. Your body is constantly listening to every thought you have and responds accordingly. In this case, it will activate the stress response, producing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.These hormones are now part of the cells environment and act as powerful signals, activating genes that were dormant and that will now negatively impact your health. This is all happening through thought alone!
A different person could live in the exact same city and experience this environment in a completely different way. His perception is that of connection, love, adventure and possibility. Such a person will tell his body (unconsciously) “everything is ok, I am safe.” This will, in turn, produce life-affirming neurotransmitters that act as positive signals to the cell.
Because a cell can only be in two different states: Growth or protection, in this positive case, the cells will receive the signals from the environment that will have a healthy impact on the genetic expression of the cell. As you can see, both people lived in the same environment (city), but each person experienced it completely differently, because their perception was not the same.
If you have life affirming beliefs like “I am safe”, “I am healthy”, “I am protected”, etc. you will thrive. On the contrary, when you have negative beliefs like “I am not safe”, “I need to protect myself” etc. your cells will mirror your state of mind and negatively affect your gene expression.
I do think that this is the reason why a gratefulness practice can be so beneficial. Rather than focusing your awareness on lack, which creates stress, you are focusing your attention on the people and things you are grateful for. This relaxes and heals the body. This is likely one of the mechanisms that allows the Placebo Effect, which is the belief in an inert substance to heal you, to work. Your genetic readout changes simply through thought alone.
Meditation Changes Your Genetic Readout
Another powerful way to take control of your gene expression is through meditation. When you mediate, you usually take your mind into a relaxed and peaceful place. Different meditation styles like mindfulness based meditations practices, guided healing mediation, or simply focusing on your breath, all calm the nervous system. They work by taking your focus away from a threatening internal environment comprised of stressful thoughts, to state of protection and safety.
Doing so sends signals to your cells that quickly change your genetic expression. Just how quickly is demonstrated in a groundbreaking study on the effects of meditation on Epigenetic changes. After only 8 hours of engaging in mindfulness based mediation practices, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes. Meditating for a few hours was enough to turn off genes related to inflammation. That is another reason why I always suggest having a mediation practice when you are trying to heal your body.
Change Your Beliefs and Change Your Life
As you can see, taming your mind, and becoming aware of and subsequently changing your beliefs, is a crucial, if not the most important step to increase your health and well-being. Our beliefs are stored in our subconscious mind, which is much more powerful than our conscious mind. That is why simply trying to force yourself to suddenly think positive thoughts will not work in the long run.
However, you can change your beliefs by working with your subconscious mind directly. Energy based healing techniques can do this, as well as guided meditations that use background music recorded with binaural beats technology. This technology works by lowering your brainwaves to an Alpha or Theta state that are associated with your subconscious mind and super learning.
They are very effective and this is the reason I use this technology in all my online courses and guided meditations.
Back to Dr. Bruce Lipton. He eventually left mainstream science to spread his message, to educate and empower us.
Bruce and his wife, Margaret, are wonderful human beings and I am very grateful to have met them and to be able to share their wisdom.