The Epigenetic Toolbox For Maintaining A Healthy Mind,Body & Spirit

The Epigenetic Toolbox For Maintaining A Healthy Mind,Body & Spirit

DNA-molecule

Science has traditionally maintained a ‘material reductionistic’ view of mind and consciousness. Meaning that the phenomenon of consciousness and mind is something to be explained in terms of physical and chemical processes in the brain. On the other hand, certain philosophies and spiritual disciplines have held the inherent assumption that physical reality is totally detached from spiritual reality and one is not accessed through the other. This is of course creating more or less the same problem as in Science.

Many pre-Scientific cultures however have since time immemorial held an alternative and holistic view which transcends beyond these problems. They have seen the human experience in its totality – mind, body and spirit – as being closely interrelated and interconnected with the environment, the healing medicines of nature, the celestial movements and the cycles of the seasons, etc. Everything is causally interconnected in the grand wheel of life.

Our physical and mental health are influenced by the state of our bio-energetic field which in turn is also influenced by the karmic energies of the land, the people around us and the planet as a whole. Similarly, and equally interesting, our spiritual, energetic and non-physical health can be hacked through physical means. The physical is interfaced with our bio-energetic field and also with our multi-dimensional levels of consciousness through our DNA, our nervous and endocrine systems, the energy centres in our body (chakras) and very possibly through quantum communication between the micro-cellular level of our bodies up to the bio-energetic field and beyond to the quantum field that underlies everything (this is the interesting notion of quantum coherence). These physical interfaces or gateways can be hacked, healed or optimised. For instance, we are now starting to understand that our DNA is read-write and not read-only as was previously assumed. That means that our codes are being constantly rewritten even through our diet, lifestyle and stress levels – both positively and negatively.

The obvious had been staring us in the face all along. So many cultures came up with various methods to hack the spiritual through the physical – healing herbs, entheogens, fasting, exercises and even dance movements, meditation and so on. Take for instance the healing medicine plant Ayahuasca – how is it that one molecule – DimethylTryptamine (DMT – often referred to as the ‘spirit molecule’) can unlock powerful healing and cleansing in the biological, mental, energetic and spiritual layers of Self at once?

I would like to share with you my own daily source of nutrients and supplements that can be used by everyone to gain mental, energetic and spiritual health through bio-physical means. Some of the items on the list are common foods items, familiar to most, together with herbs and supplements that are available over the counter. As a disclaimer, I would like to note that this is fruit of my own research and experimentation which might no fit everyone’s lifestyle and taste. Also please consult a physician if you have any conditions that might be affected by diet or food supplements.

Nootropics: Keeping Optimal Brain Performance

Poor diet, stress and a hectic lifestyle can sap our mental energies and brain performance leaving our brain foggy. We feel not up to task to healthily navigate our way through our daily routines. This cascades into other areas of our life, not least our work, relationships and creativity.

Nootropics are the hottest trend of the moment in both the personal development and health and fitness world. They are essentially a group of smart drugs that target cognitive and neurological enhancement most popularly memory, motivation, focus & attention and mood.

Nootropics are approved and regulated smart drugs that can be bought over the counter or internet for under $50. One of the best products on the market so far is Alpha Brain by Onnit. Alpha Brain basically targets focus, mental drive and memory performance. It seriously gives me a powerful mental boost on the tap. I feel mentally focused, clear and sharp to perform my tasks throughout the day without ‘mental fogginess’. Main active ingredients are:

  • AC-11: the ‘rainforest super herb’ shown to help the body repair DNA
  • Alpha GPC: which supports learning processes through increasing the synthesis and secretion of acetylcholine. Heightened acetylcholine has been linked to memory, focus, mental drive, and REM sleep states
  • Huperzine A: known as Northern Firmross it prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine
  • Bacopa Monniera: An Ayurvedic herb known for its cognitive enhancing properties.

 

The Good Fats and the Hippocampus

The benefits of essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 are well known. It is one of the most common food supplements in people’s medicine chest. However I started taking regular intake of Omega-3 seriously when I saw this insightful video by Alberto Villoldo titled “Hacking the human Bio-field”. He points out how parts of the brain like the Hippocampus are damaged by stress-related toxins such as cortisol and adrenaline that are stored in the brain by the body. A damaged Hippocampus, according to Alberto, is what leads us to live in a state of fear where we only see threats instead of opportunities. The good fats, particularly Omega-3 is what is responsible for healing and detoxifying the Hippocampus even in just six weeks of regular intake.

Proteins & cutting down on Gluten & Sugars

Another interesting insight from Alberto Villoldo’s talk, regards how sugar and gluten are also responsible for damaging the brain. He points at anthropological studies that show how for instance the rise of war and religion in society propped up when humanity shifted from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural based society. The diet shifted from fats & proteins to grain derived products like bread which are laden with gluten and sugar. The underlying epigenetic effect partly gave rise to the result that human society became more fear-based and aggressive. This is a very interesting point but now back to the kitchen.

My experiments in carb-free, Gluten-free and sugar-free diets have had an immense beneficial effect to my wellbeing and even mood overall. My last meal is before 6pm, then I break fast with a high protein meal – for example egg with tuna, spinach and topped with Guacamole. I snack on nuts, green smoothies then have a mini-lunch and early dinner with greens and fish ( or if you prefer meat).

Antioxidants

Antioxidants play also a crucial part in detoxifying the mind and body. I take my antioxidants from the super foods I eat – mainly dark green veg, nuts and green tea ( I take Matcha green teawhich has 137 times the antioxidants of normal green tea). Another source of antioxidants is from small bits of dark chocolate I put in my smoothies (dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants).

Boosting Serotonin:

Serotonin is a neuro-transmitter in the brain synthesised from the amino acid Tryptophan. It is responsible for improving mood, promoting happiness, relaxation and the ability to get a good night sleep. Hence hacking your serotonin levels is crucial to reinforcing your overall wellbeing, not least spiritually and energetically. One way of doing this is through a natural amino acid supplement called 5-Hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP for short. 5-HTP is synthesised in the brain into serotonin with the effect of elevating your mood and leaving you feel relaxed but focused at the same time.

The Calming Herbs:

Other natural tools to calm the mind and the nervous system are relaxing herbs such as valerian root, passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile and holy basil among others. These can be taken separately or combined together and steeped into teas. Ideal for winding down after a hard day or as an aid to get a good night of restorative sleep.

Article by Gilbert Ross: Gilbert Ross is a writer and author of ‘The Art of Simple Living‘. He is passionate about exploring and teaching people about positive life transformations and the limitless potential of the human mind. You can read his blog Soul Hiker or follow him on Facebook, G+ and Twitter. You can also hire Gilbert to write for you here.

We need more than just new antibiotics to fight superbugs

We need more than just new antibiotics to fight superbugs

Tim Leighton, University of Southampton

By 2050, drug resistant diseases could be killing more people than cancer, an extra 10m deaths per year. They could also cause a loss to the global output of US$100 trillion dollars – equivalent to a sum greater than the size of the current global economy.

A potential future catastrophe in healthcare, where even routine surgical procedures and easily treated infections become significantly more hazardous, is commonly attributed to the appearance of new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is often argued that the answer is more funding for the development of new antibiotics.

What is less commonly recognised is the possibility of a future catastrophe in food production. Modern practice means the extensive use of antibiotics in the farming of fish, poultry and meat. In the US, 70% of all antibiotics enter the food chain.

Feeding in.
sszdl, CC BY

An arms race against natural selection

Antibiotics are effective against bacteria, just one class of microbe, while the term antimicrobial resistance (AMR) covers the development of resistance in a wider group of bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa (such as malaria) to the various measures used to combat them.

The development of new antimicrobial drugs is an arms race against natural selection that cannot be won: when antimicrobials (not just antibiotics) are applied, microbes of all types (not just bacteria) have proven to be adept at developing resistant strains from the survivors. If the drug kills 99.99% of a population of microbes, it is the genetic makeup of the survivors that goes forward to the next generation. To mitigate against potential catastrophes in healthcare and food production, measures over and above the development of new antibiotics have to be undertaken.

These include two key elements. One is infection prevention. If a dangerous microbe never enters the body, no antimicrobial is required. The development of new microbe-resistant materials and products, as well as the development of minimally invasive procedures in hospitals and clinics, improvements in waste disposal and a revolution in cleaning, are some of the measures already being researched.

However, this does not just involve scientists and clinicians. To take just one example, despite all efforts, many in the UK and the US persist in washing their hands lamentably short of the 20 seconds in warm soapy water that experts recommend. We need better leadership to rectify this by implementing advice from those who understand behaviours in workplaces and homes, and we need to invest in science and engineering that makes proper handwashing easy for the public to adopt.

The second element to reducing the use of antimicrobials is the removal of environments that encourage resistant strains to develop, for example in the body of the patient or farm animal, with simple measures such as ensuring a full prescription is taken rather than stopping early when symptoms disappear – a practice that encourages the survival of resistant microbes. Other measures include the invention of sensors to detect infection early and identify the specific microbe present, so that targeted antimicrobials can be used in place of broad-spectrum agents, one example of responsible antimicrobial stewardship.

We must understand how society, climate, land and water resources interact to alter the risk of microbes moving from one host to another. It is a realistic scenario that a resistant strain in a UK hospital might have emerged because of livestock practices half way across the world, where increased flooding, cultural practices, conflict, the movement of money and populations, and the accepted patterns of behaviour, create an environment very different to our own. Conversely, we could find that resistant strains in far-off countries might have their roots in the use of antibiotics in intensive farming in the UK.

The way to do it

The figure below illustrates how the problem extends geographically, and across the workforce and society. The patient in the hospital bed has a reduced risk of infection if the surgeons use a minimally invasive procedure illuminated with lights that deter microbes, and if the surgical instruments, the trays, the rooms, and the tubes that enter the patient (the catheters, nasal drips, endoscopes and so on) are made of materials on which microbes do not readily adhere, and are properly and promptly cleaned (weekend closure of sterile services departments might appear to save costs in the short term but must avoid allowing Friday’s contamination to dry on before washing on Monday).

The anti-resistance movement.
University of Southampton., Author provided

For the patient shown in the figure, wounds can be cleaned and dressed with materials that deter microbes. If infection does occur, it can be promptly targeted with a specific (as opposed to broadspectrum) antimicrobial if it is detected early and rapidly identified (with instruments that feed into a communications hub that alerts the doctor’s phone, which is already becoming equipped with apps containing guidance informed by local susceptibility data).

Treatment of the waste from this patient (solid, fluids and materials contaminated with them) alters the possibility of AMR spreading. Achieving the right hospital environment requires far more than the development of new drugs, and their use by healthcare workers. It goes into the management and maintenance of the hospital, and in to the practices of the people who implement these. New technologies and practices must be designed to ensure that their use will be adopted, which requires understanding design and understanding people.

Indeed, the world outside of the hospital (in the lower half of the figure above) provides an enormous reservoir in which AMR can develop. Analysis and, if necessary, change of our processes and technologies are required in water and waste treatment, and in the production, transport, packaging and retail practices in the food industry.

In many parts of the world, climate change and flooding, war, corruption, politics, received wisdom, traditions and religious practices, and the supply of fuel and money, play a far greater role in food, water, waste treatment, healthcare and the transport of microbes from one host to another, than do the outputs of the drug companies.

The twin potential catastrophes are global, and so are the causes. The solutions lie with scientists and engineers to develop new technologies and embed new practices in the public and workforce; they lie with farmers, plumbers, office workers, water and sewage workers, medical practitioners, food retailers, innovators in business … indeed most of us. And they lie with those who are responsible for shaping behaviour across the world – not just the pharmaceutical companies.

The Conversation

Tim Leighton is Professor of Ultrasonics and Underwater Acoustics at University of Southampton.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

DNA Can’t Explain All Inherited Biological Traits, Research Shows

DNA Can’t Explain All Inherited Biological Traits, Research Shows

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Edinburgh scientists studied proteins found in cells, known as histones, which are not part of the genetic code, but act as spools around which DNA is wound.

Histones are known to control whether or not genes are switched on.

Researchers found that naturally occurring changes to these proteins, which affect how they control genes, can be sustained from one generation to the next and so influence which characteristics are passed on.

Research avenues

The finding demonstrates for the first time that DNA is not solely responsible for how characteristics are inherited.

It paves the way for research into how and when this method of inheritance occurs in nature, and if it is linked to particular traits or health conditions.

It may also inform research into whether changes to the histone proteins that are caused by environmental conditions – such as stress or diet – can influence the function of genes passed on to offspring.

Theory confirmed

The research confirms a long-held expectation among scientists that genes could be controlled across generations by such changes.

However, it remains to be seen how common the process is, researchers say.

Scientists tested the theory by carrying out experiments in a yeast with similar gene control mechanisms to human cells.

They introduced changes to a histone protein, mimicking those that occur naturally, causing it to switch off nearby genes.

The effect was inherited by subsequent generations of yeast cells.

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The above story is based on materials provided by University of Edinburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

DNA Evidence Shows Surprise Cultural Connections Between Britain And Europe 8,000 Years Ago

DNA Evidence Shows Surprise Cultural Connections Between Britain And Europe 8,000 Years Ago

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  • New evidence shows wheat reached Britain 2,000 years before the arrival of wheat farming
  • Mesolithic Britons interacted with Neolithic Europeans
  • Shows Britain not be insular or isolated – early communities had social and trade networks linking them across Europe 8,000 years ago
  • Published in the journal Science

The ancient British were not cut off from Europeans on an isolated island 8,000 years ago as previously thought, new research suggests.

Researchers found evidence for a variety of wheat at a submerged archaeological site off the south coast of England, 2,000 years before the introduction of farming in the UK.

The team argue that the introduction of farming is usually regarded as a defining historic moment for almost all human communities leading to the development of societies that underpin the modern world.

Published in the journal Science, the researchers suggest that the most plausible explanation for the wheat reaching the site is that Mesolithic Britons maintained social and trade networks spreading across Europe.

These networks might have been assisted by land bridges that connected the south east coast of Britain to the European mainland, facilitating exchanges between hunters in Britain and farmers in southern Europe.

Called Einkorn, the wheat was common in Southern Europe at the time it was present at the site in Southern England – located at Bouldnor Cliff.

The einkorn DNA was collected from sediment that had previously formed the land surface, which was later submerged due to melting glaciers.

The work was led by Dr Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick, in collaboration with co-leads Professor Vincent Gaffney of the University of Bradford and Professor Mark Pallen of Warwick Medical School, the Maritime Archaeology Trust, the University of Birmingham and the University of St. Andrews.

Dr Allaby, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, argues that the einkorn discovery indicates that Mesolithic Britain was less insular than previously understood and that inhabitants were interacting with Neolithic southern Europeans:

“8,000 years ago the people of mainland Britain were leading a hunter-gatherer existence, whilst at the same time in southern Europeans farming was gradually spreading across Europe.

“Common throughout Neolithic Southern Europe, einkorn is not found elsewhere in Britain until 2,000 years after the samples found at Bouldnor Cliff. For the einkorn to have reached this site there needs to have been contact between Mesolithic Britons and Neolithic farmers far across Europe.

“The land bridges provide a plausible facilitation of this contact. As such, far from being insular Mesolithic Britain was culturally and possibly physically connected to Europe.

“The role of these simple British hunting societies, in many senses, puts them at the beginning of the introduction of farming and, ultimately, the changes in the economy that lead to the modern world”.

“The novel ancient DNA approach we used gave us a jump in sensitivity allowing us to find many of the components of this ancient landscape”

Commenting on the research’s findings Professor Vincent Gaffney, research co-lead and Chair in Landscape Archaeology at the University of Bradford, said:

“This find is the start of a new chapter in British and European history. Not only do we now realise that the introduction of farming was far more complex than previously imagined. It now seems likely that the hunter-gather societies of Britain, far from being isolated were part of extensive social networks that traded or exchanged exotic foodstuffs across much of Europe.

“The research also demonstrates that scientists and archaeologists can now analyse genetic material preserved deep within the sediments of the lost prehistoric landscapes stretching between Britain and Europe. This not only tells us more about the introduction of farming into Britain, but also about the societies that lived on the lost coastal plains for hundreds of thousands of years.

“The use of ancient DNA from sediments also opens the door to new research on the older landscapes off the British Isles and coastal shelves across the world”

Co-lead Professor Mark Pallen, leader of the Pallen Group at the University of Warwick’s Medical School, explains how the researchers employed a metagenomic approach to study the einkorn DNA:

“We chose to use a metagenomics approach in this research even though this has not commonly been used for environmental and ancient DNA research. This means we extracted and sequenced the entire DNA in the sample, rather than targeted organism-specific barcode sequences. From this we then homed in on the organisms of interest only when analysing DNA sequences”.

The research builds on the work of the Maritime Archaeology Trust, who also collected the sediment samples from the site. The Trust’s Director, Garry Momber, commented:

“Of all the projects I have worked on, Bouldnor Cliff has been the most significant. Work in the murky waters of the Solent has opened up an understanding of the UK’s formative years in a way that we never dreamed possible.

“The material remains left behind by the people that occupied Britain as it was finally becoming an island 8,000 years ago, show that these were sophisticated people with technologies thousands of years more advanced than previously recognised. The DNA evidence corroborates the archaeological evidence and demonstrates a tangible link with the continent that appears to have become severed when Britain became an island”.

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The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Mouse Embryo With Big Brain: Evolving A Bigger Brain With Human DNA

Mouse Embryo With Big Brain: Evolving A Bigger Brain With Human DNA

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The size of the human brain expanded dramatically during the course of evolution, imparting us with unique capabilities to use abstract language and do complex math. But how did the human brain get larger than that of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, if almost all of our genes are the same?

Duke scientists have shown that it’s possible to pick out key changes in the genetic code between chimpanzees and humans and then visualize their respective contributions to early brain development by using mouse embryos.

The team found that humans are equipped with tiny differences in a particular regulator of gene activity, dubbed HARE5, that when introduced into a mouse embryo, led to a 12% bigger brain than in the embryos treated with the HARE5 sequence from chimpanzees.

The findings, appearing online Feb. 19, 2015, in Current Biology, may lend insight into not only what makes the human brain special but also why people get some diseases, such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease, whereas chimpanzees don’t.

“I think we’ve just scratched the surface, in terms of what we can gain from this sort of study,” said Debra Silver, an assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology in the Duke University Medical School. “There are some other really compelling candidates that we found that may also lead us to a better understanding of the uniqueness of the human brain.”

Every genome contains many thousands of short bits of DNA called ‘enhancers,’ whose role is to control the activity of genes. Some of these are unique to humans. Some are active in specific tissues. But none of the human-specific enhancers previously had been shown to influence brain anatomy directly.

In the new study, researchers mined databases of genomic data from humans and chimpanzees, to find enhancers expressed primarily in the brain tissue and early in development. They prioritized enhancers that differed markedly between the two species.

The group’s initial screen turned up 106 candidates, six of them near genes that are believed to be involved in brain development. The group named these ‘human-accelerated regulatory enhancers,’ HARE1 through HARE6.

The strongest candidate was HARE5 for its chromosomal location near a gene called Frizzled 8, which is part of a well-known molecular pathway implicated in brain development and disease. The group decided to focus on HARE5 and then showed that it was likely to be an enhancer for Frizzled8 because the two DNA sequences made physical contact in brain tissue.

The human HARE5 and the chimpanzee HARE5 sequences differ by only 16 letters in their genetic code. Yet, in mouse embryos the researchers found that the human enhancer was active earlier in development and more active in general than the chimpanzee enhancer.

“What’s really exciting about this was that the activity differences were detected at a critical time in brain development: when neural progenitor cells are proliferating and expanding in number, just prior to producing neurons,” Silver said.

The researchers found that in the mouse embryos equipped with Frizzled8 under control of human HARE5, progenitor cells destined to become neurons proliferated faster compared with the chimp HARE5 mice, ultimately leading to more neurons.

As the mouse embryos neared the end of gestation, their brain size differences became noticeable to the naked eye. Graduate student Lomax Boyd started dissecting the brains and looking at them under a microscope.

“After he started taking pictures, we took a ruler to the monitor. Although we were blind to what the genotype was, we started noticing a trend,” Silver said.

All told, human HARE5 mice had brains 12% larger in area compared with chimpanzee HARE5 mice. The neocortex, involved in higher-level function such as language and reasoning, was the region of the brain affected.

Producing a short list of strong candidates was in itself a feat, accomplished by applying the right filters to analysis of human and chimpanzee genomes, said co-author Gregory Wray, professor of biology and director of the Duke Center for Genomic and Computational Biology.

“Many others have tried this and failed,” Wray said. “We’ve known other people who have looked at genes involved in brain size evolution, tested them out and done the same kinds of experiments we’ve done and come up dry.”

The Duke team plans to study the human HARE5 and chimp HARE5 mice into adulthood, for possible differences in brain structure and behavior. The group also hopes to explore the role of the other HARE sequences in brain development.

“What we found is a piece of the genetic basis for why we have a bigger brain,” Wray said. “It really shows in sharp relief just how complicated those changes must have been. This is probably only one piece — a little piece.”

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The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.