How Your Environment Hacks Your Genes for You

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A new guide to epigenetics just got published that blows the doors off conventional thinking around upgrading yourself. There is no longer any doubt that you can use your environment to literally hack your genes. The research, published in the Journal of Behavioral Ecology, highlights dozens of studies showing epigenetics guides rapid adaptation.

Epigenetics, the study of how your internal and external environments change the expression of your genes, is a huge area of interest at the Bulletproof Executive because it shows you do not have to wait for the slow creep of evolution in order to transform yourself. It puts hard science behind what humans have long known – that you can optimize your diet, behavior and environment to move your body and mind to new levels.

Epigenetics promises to help crack the code behind increased obesity, cancer rates, and other wide spread degenerative diseases, but that is just for starters. By hacking our environment, we can literally switch on or off genes that make us either more or less Bulletproof.

Flipping Your DNA Switches

The new epigenetic research comes from the University of South Florida’s Department of Integrative Biology scientists Christina Richards and Lynn Martin (1). Richards states, “If you have two individuals with the same DNA sequence, you can get differences in their traits just by regulating what portions of the DNA sequence are turned on and off. When you expand this up to the population level, you begin to appreciate how fast variation can arise from environmental changes. New variation does not only come from mutation. Mutations are rare and slow to affect populations.” [emphasis is mine]

In other words, you don’t have to be a genetic freak in order to do something amazing. You may just need to be an environmental freak.

With epigenetic change, the DNA sequence stays the same and alterations in behavior, health, size, and all sorts of factors happen just because DNA gets packaged differently.

In many cases, epigenetic changes are activated by some change in the environment – typically something stressful.  Now you know why I keep harping on how important it is to transform your useless stress into useful stress! It’s just as important that you do not have zero stress in your life either.

What’s unique about some of these environmentally induced changes is that they can be passed along to subsequent generations, changing the nature of the species even if the DNA doesn’t change. This, among other reasons, is why epigenetics is such a big theme in my upcoming book The Better Baby Book. Starting in the womb, the environment you provide for your kids induces change much more than you think. I started researching epigenetics in 2005 in order to use it to have healthier kids, and it worked.

Darwin Was Wrong

We used to think that you had to inherit a mutation in order to evolve, and acquired traits that were inherited were not important to evolutionary processes. “The current biological theory holds that differences in DNA provide the variation necessary for adjusting to a wide variety of environmental factors,” Richards said. “But invasive species appear to thrive even with low levels of genetic variation.”

For example, in a recent study of Japanese knotweed, Richards and colleagues found plants across the 100 miles of Long Island, N.Y., had almost no genetic variation. Instead, responses to new habitats such as sand dunes and marshes were correlated with variation in DNA methylation patterns, one of the ways gene expression is regulated. Her findings indicate that epigenetic effects could be responsible for how the plants manage to thrive in diverse habitats, even though they have basically the same DNA.

“We used to think that the environment mostly acted as the major selective agent for successful or unsuccessful trait adaptations – but where novel variation came from was always hard to pinpoint,” Martin said. “This new way of thinking about evolution – adding epigenetics – gives the environment two roles: environment still picks the individuals that get to breed successfully, but it also creates trait variation through gene expression and probably epigenetic change. In effect, change can show up faster than the traditional view of evolution.” [emphasis mine]

You Can Start Now

These kinds of studies are what push me to provide you with the ideal ways to detoxify your bodyoptimize your dietminimize the useless stress in your life. According to this study, your environment – where you work and live, what you eat, and thousands of other variables – affect you more than you ever imagined. If you have children (or plan to), it affects them even more. That is why I am excited about sharing The Better Baby Book and teaching people how to optimize their own – and their children’s – environment.

It is time to make you and your family Bulletproof! It won’t take multiple generations to see huge changes, and what you do now to your environment will affect the next several generations of your family.

Why wait for evolution? Biohacking with epigenetics is simply faster and easier.  Want a head start?  Find out how to get a free coaching session from me, or my wife, Lana Asprey, Fertility Coach.

Click to read the complete list of references.

  1. Vickie, Chachere. “Evolving Field of Behavioral Epigenetics.” – University of SouthFlorida. N.p., n.d. Web. Oct. 2012.<
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By Dave Asprey

  • Further proof that Dave knows what he’s talking about!

  • Stu

    Dave, if you are an ex-smoker or were exposed to second hand smoke in your house at some point during your life, what might be some good ways to try and undo some of the damage from tobacco smoke?

    • TorBaker

      You get exposed to lots of stuff thats much worse than second-hand smoke daily…

    • Your lungs replace themselves on a cellular level every eighteen months. Provided you breathe clean air, drink plenty of water so the body can flush toxins and do not have any other respiratory problems your lungs should have deposed naturally 🙂
      There’s a reason people don’t get lung cancer after their first cigarette. The damage needs to be cumulative over a long period of time as between smokes your lungs are healing / cleaning themselves.

      • Jeff

        All you’ve got to do is listen to your lungs when they’re talking to you. It always amazes me to see and hear people wheezing and coughing and just keep smoking away. Feeling like crap, pretending to be fine. I want to tell them maybe you should think about giving it a rest but I’m a little older now; if they won’t listen to themselves they aren’t likely to listen to someone else. So sad..

        They always said grass makes you stupid, in this world of irony it turns out they were rignt, just wrong grass!
        Just starting wheat free diet and am expecting positive results. It hit a chord that I felt was right the first time I read about it.
        Thanks David, your the man.

  • Strange how you keep talking about your ‘upcoming book’ since I’ve already read it! And it was an excellent read, thank you.

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  • Josh

    Two examples came to mind as I read this article:

    1.) Domestic hogs that re-grow their tusks when released into the wild.
    2.) Limp dorsal fins that killer whales develop when they are held in captivity (Free Willy style)

    Those sure sound like epigenetic changes to me.

  • Matt Jennings

    These are great insights, but be careful Dave, flinging around a comment like “Darwin was wrong” is risky business.

    Consider this: the mechanism through which genes are expressed into physical traits is something that is itself controlled by genes. The existence of genes that allow for variable phenotypic expression in response to the environment is not surprising nor is it a new discovery.

    • Nick Kremer

      From what I understand, new research is saying that the environment is the mechanism that controls which genes are expressed. Genes (DNA) are/is just the blueprint. I’ve just begun reading about epigenetics, so my knowledge is limited.

    • HeatherENowak



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  • This knowledge is very inspiring. It really adds to the momentum that can be achieved when we are more consciously proactive rather than reactive in life.

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  • Guest

    At first I related the article to the central dogma of chemical biology, then I read to the point where is stated that Darwin was wrong, then I realized it’s almost a much for frequent reaction leading to DNA transcription.

  • At first I related the article to the central dogma of chemical biology, then I read to the point where it is stated that Darwin was wrong, then I realized it’s almost a much for frequent reaction leading to DNA transcription.

  • Curt

    At first I related the article to the central dogma of chemical biology, then I read to the point where it is stated that Darwin was wrong, then I realized it’s almost a much for frequent reaction leading to DNA transcription.

  • Thanks! A couple notes re: Darwin

    It generally surprises people when they learn that Darwin disavowed his own theory of evolution in favor of a Lamarckian view of inheritance (a belief that acquired, rather than genetic, characteristics, can be passed on). Today, Lamarckian inheritance is making a comeback in the field of epigenetics.

    …Just like Darwin’s claims that a mixture of forces (natural selection, sexual selection, and Lamarckism) causes evolution to proceed, the modern evolutionist believes in a mixture of forces (natural selection, neutral drift,12 and, now, epigenetic modification). Thus, we have come full circle and evolutionary theory is as unresolved as ever. Epigenetics does not explain all variation, of course, but the epigenetic landscape is just starting to open up before us. The potential for reversible environmental influences on genetic expression is huge. Darwin has been partly vindicated for his rejection of strict ‘Darwinian’ evolution, but will the rest of his idea hold up? Will natural selection be able to see the genetic forest through the epigenetic trees?

  • emma carrasco

    @Stu, you may want to start drinking himalayn sea salt to help strengthen your lungs. Its known for opening your air ways and may help to repair because of the 82minerals found in this salt. There’s such things as himalayn inhalers which help kill bacteria in lungs, open air ways, and helps with asthma, plus copd. You can find additional info about this on Daves website.

  • guest

    This is not right. Almost to the point it’s wrong. First off “There is no longer any doubt that you can use your environment to literally hack your genes” is wrong. Your genes are you’re DNA. You can’t change them. Second “epigentics guides rapid adaptation.” Where did you get that information? Which brings me to the source you used. The source you used says nothing about rapid adaptation. You’re taking the source and putting it into your own words. Your words that are not correct. You state “Epigenetics, the study of how your internal and external environments change your genes” is not the same as “Our definition of epigenetics refers to molecular mechanisms that modulate how DNA is translated into traits” which is what the article and professors use. The first statement you put “If you have two idividuals…” is true, but you can’t change that in you. You state later that “change can show up faster than the traditional view of evolution.” The article talks about house sparrows adjusting quickly to their environment over 60 years. In human terms that would be roughly 375 years. If you want to wait that long, be my guest. It’s over generations, not individuals. If people read the source, not just what you claim, they would realize how incorrect this page is. There are many other questionable quotes you put in this article, but these are just a few of the main ones. Please people, read what is true.

    • joe

      this response attacking the article and the wording leads me to think you are ill informed on the whole subject. daves words are actually spot on if you do more research about epigenetics and the new research we have about dna. your closed mindedness is indeed a genetic disadvantage

      • Mike Bilodeau

        Agreed. You’re arguing semantics which shows you’re not very well-versed in this area. The scientists, definition of “molecular mechanisms that modulate how DNA is translated into traits” is the same as “environmental factors modulate how your genes are expressed”. For instance, animals that seasonally change the color of their coat to blend in with their environment i.e foxes, rabbits, etc. In this case the cold weather (slower moving molecules and/or external environmental factors depending on which lexicon you want to use) causes the expression of a different trait.

        I’d suggest that you try to get an understanding of paraphrasing and simplification of scientific material before you critique dave. The fact is that most people aren’t on a level of completely understanding advanced scientific terms and concepts or reading advanced scientific literature – hence why Dave puts it in layman’s terms. I’d also suggest that you learn the difference between you’re and your before trying to critique the intellectual and scientific validity of someone else’s writing; it would probably help you be seen as more legitimate. But hey, that’s just my two cents.

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