Dis-ease is a combinational process of genetic alterations and epigenetic changes in the gene expression, all while under direct and indirect influence of environmental factors. While conventional genetics has spent a significant amount of time dissecting the hereditary factors that affect carcinogenesis, the reversible epigenetic mechanisms are focusing on discovering how to maintain and control the appropriate expression of the DNA formation in a wide variety of phenotypic alterations in abnormal cells. DNA methylation is one of the primary epigenetic modifications that directly influences differentiation, genomic imprinting, DNA mutation, and DNA repair, without altering the DNA coding sequence.
When assessing environmental influences, nutrition, lifestyle, and exposure to toxins are in the forefront of the discussion. The epigenetic changes are initiated during the prenatal critical time period through maternal nutrition that will ultimately effect the development of the fetus into adulthood, as evident in the Agouti gene study demonstrations.
As the body works in synchronicity of numerous biological processes, a balanced symphony of appropriate nutrient levels is essential for chemical reactions leading to DNA methylation. These nutrients (folate, betaine, choline, zinc, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12) function as cofactors or intermediates, so an imbalance, either excessive or deﬁcient, will consequently result in inappropriate gene expression. Alcohol, arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, cadmium, coumestrol, equol, genistein, nickel, and many others will additionally inﬂuence DNA methylation and cancer susceptibility. These toxic elements have become stimulating epigenetic factors in the general environment, from the dietary sources to the direct and indirect environmental pollutants.
The toxic exposure to non-organic elements that cause grave epigenetic alterations in gene expression result in significant endocrine disruption of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The disintegration of the HPA axis marks a hormonal derangement that can be transferred over generations, regardless if the insult occurred in-vitro or in adulthood. The HPA axis is also sensitive to dietary factors and environmental toxins. For example, bisphenol A (BPA) is a known endocrine disruptor, is carcinogenic on its own as it increases cancer susceptibility through developmental reprogramming as a result of epigenetic changes following exposure in utero.
Unfortunately, the interactions between toxic food and environmental toxins may exponentially increase the harmful effects on gene expression. The result is a combined burden of severe environmental toxicity on children and adults, whose body systems are unable to appropriately address the reversible epigenetic changes with nutrient deficiencies and disrupted endocrine function.
This discussion certainly is quite intricate. A substantial amount of research is still being conducted. I encourage you to ask questions and explore more!
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Yours in health, Dr. Tijana