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Genetics & The Mind-Body Connection

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Given the constant bombardment of often conflicting health information we get these days, having the technology to tell us exactly what to do and when to do it would seem almost too good to be true. But not according to Dr. David Agus, author of the bestselling book, The End of Illness.

Anyone who signs up to take one of his DNA-based Navigenic tests receives a detailed analysis of his or her genetic predisposition to various health conditions and medications. This provides the individual with a detailed outline of what it will take to stay healthy for as long as possible. Kind of like the 1950’s TV show, “This Is Your Life,” only in reverse.

While I may be oversimplifying things a bit, the assumption seems to be that once you understand your genetic makeup, you have a pretty clear idea of who you are and who you will be as a person; that is, from a purely physical standpoint. What appears to be missing, however, is any allowance for changes in your genetic makeup and what factors, if any, you can control.

For most, the idea that your genes can change – once, or even many times – within a single lifetime sounds pretty crazy. But there’s some hard evidence indicating that it can happen. A study conducted at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital found that things like meditation, tai chi, yoga, exercise, and prayer can alter a person’s gene activity, especially as it relates to stress. Considering that more than 60% of visits to doctors are for stress-related complaints, this is pretty significant stuff.

I asked Dr. Agus about this apparent link between mind and body at a recent talk he gave to The Commonwealth Club of California. He said, “There’s no question that the mind-body connection is real, even if we can’t quantify it. Hope is one of the greatest weapons we have to fight disease.”

Had the conversation continued, I would have liked to get his take on other disease-fighting weapons such as gratitude, forgiveness, and love; qualities of thought that, according to a growing number of researchers, can have a very real – and quantifiable – impact on your health.

I can recall a time when some debilitating back pain I was experiencing completely disappeared shortly after I made a conscious effort to be more tolerant of others. On another occasion, the acknowledgement of my God-given purity coincided quite nicely with the healing of a painful skin infection. It just didn’t make sense to me that something I consider to be infinitely pure would allow even the slightest element of impurity to occur within its infinite creation.

All of which points back to something Dr. Agus said towards the end of his talk…

“The single most important thing you can do to maintain your health is to add regularity to your daily routine.” Although he was referring to things like diet and exercise, I took it as a reminder to myself to routinely watch what I’m thinking. Time and again I’ve seen the impact this can have on my health and general well being, not to mention my relationships with others. This, in turn, tends to make them happier and healthier as well. And so on, and so on…

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About Eric Nelson

  • Modern holistic medicine can assist in pain reduction but less so with structural issues which accompany chronic diseases and processes. Eliminating junk food would help to reduce both pain and the associative medical costs.

    A continuous program of exercise helps too. Enforced gymnastics have been reduced or eliminated in too many school districts.

    Workplace gymnastics is another area where pioneering efforts are required to reduce current and long term health costs.