The authors of the New York Times bestseller Super Brain present a bold new understanding of our genes and how simple changes in lifestyle can boost genetic activity. The leap into "radical well-being" is a promise waiting to be fulfilled.
"You are not simply the sum total of the genes you were born with," write Deepak Chopra and Rudy Tanzi. "You are the user and controller of your genes, the author of your biological story. No prospect in self-care is more exciting."
Learning how to shape your gene activity is at the heart of this exciting and eagerly-anticipated book from the bestselling duo behind Super Brain, which became a nationwide hit as a PBS special.
For decades medical science has believed that genes determined our biological destiny. Now the new genetics has changed that assumption forever. You will always have the genes you were born with, but genes are dynamic, responding to everything we think, say, and do. Suddenly they've become our strongest allies for personal transformation. When you make lifestyle choices that optimize how your genes behave, you can reach for a state of health and fulfillment undreamed of even a decade ago. The impact on prevention, immunity, diet, aging, and chronic disorders is unparalleled.
GOOD GENES, BAD GENES, AND SUPER GENES
If you want a better life, what would you change first? Almost no one would say “my genes.” And with good reason—we’ve been taught that genes are fixed and unchangeable: What you were born with is what you will keep for life. If you happen to be an identical twin, both of you will have to settle for identical genes, no matter how good or bad they are. The popular notion of fixed genes is part of our day-to-day language. Why are some people gifted with more beauty and brains than the norm? They have good genes. Why, on the other hand, does a famous Hollywood celebrity undergo a double mastectomy without any sign of disease? It’s the threat of bad genes, the inheritance of a strong predisposition to the cancer that runs in her family. The public is frightened, and yet the media doesn’t really communicate how rare such a threat actually is.
It’s time to explode such rigid notions. Your genes are fluid, dynamic, and responsive to everything you think and do. The news everyone should hear is that gene activity is largely under our control. That’s the breakthrough idea emerging from the new genetics and also the basis for this book.
A café jukebox may stand in the corner and never move, but it still plays hundreds of songs. The music of your genes is similar, constantly producing a vast array of chemicals that are encoded messages. We are just discovering how powerful these messages are. By focusing on your own gene activity through conscious choices, you can
Improve your mood level, staving off anxiety and depression
Resist yearly colds and flu
Return to normal sound sleep
Gain more energy and resist chronic stress
Be rid of persistent aches and pains
Relieve your body of a wide range of discomforts
Slow the aging process and potentially reverse it
Normalize your metabolism—the best way to lose weight and keep it off
Decrease your risk of cancer
It was long suspected that genes could be involved when bodily processes go wrong. We now know that genes are definitely involved in making them go right. The entire mind-body system is regulated by gene activity, often in surprising ways. The genes in your intestines, for example, are sending messages about all kinds of things that would apparently have nothing to do with a function as mundane as digestion. These messages concern your moods, the efficiency of your immune system, and your susceptibility to disorders closely related to digestion (e.g., diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome), but also those very distantly related, such as hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and autoimmune disorders from allergies to chronic inflammation.
Every cell in your body is talking to many other cells via genetic messages, and you need to be part of the conversation. Your lifestyle leads to helpful or harmful genetic activity. In fact, the actions of your genes can potentially be altered by any strong experience throughout your life. So identical twins, despite being born with the same genes, show extremely different gene expression as adults. One twin may be obese, the other lean; one may be schizophrenic and the other not; one may die long before the other. All of these differences are regulated by gene activity.
One reason we called this book Super Genes is to raise the bar for what you expect your genes to do for you. The mind-body connection isn’t like a footbridge connecting two banks of a river. It’s much more like a telephone line—many telephones lines, in fact—teeming with messages. And each message—as tiny as drinking orange juice in the morning, or eating an apple with the peel on, or lowering the noise level at work, or taking a walk before bedtime—is being received by the entire system. Every cell is eavesdropping on what you think, say, and do.
Optimizing your gene activity would be reason enough to throw away the self-defeating notion of good genes versus bad genes. But in reality, our understanding of the human genome—the sum total of all your genes—has vastly expanded over the last two decades. After almost twenty years of research and development the Human Genome Project ended in 2003 with a complete map of the 3 billion chemical base pairs—the alphabet of the code of life—strung along the double helix of DNA in every cell. Suddenly human existence is headed for totally new destinations. It’s as if someone handed us a map of an undiscovered continent. In a world where we think there’s little left to explore, the human genome is a new frontier.
Let us impress upon you how expanded the field of genetics really is today: You possess a super genome that extends almost infinitely beyond the old textbook ideas of good and bad genes. This super genome is made up of three components:
1. The roughly 23,000 genes you inherited from your parents, together with the 97 percent of the DNA that is located between those genes on the strands of the double helix.
2. The switching mechanism that resides in every strand of DNA, allowing it to be turned on or off, up or down, the way a dimmer switch turns the lights up and down. This mechanism is controlled principally by your epigenome, including the buffer of proteins that encloses DNA like a sleeve. The epigenome is as dynamic and alive as you are, responding to experience in complex and fascinating ways.
3. The genes contained in the microbes (tiny microscopic living organisms like bacteria) that inhabit your intestine, mouth, and skin, but primarily your intestine. These “gut microbes” vastly outnumber your own cells. The best estimate is that we harbor 100 trillion gut microbes, comprising between 500 and 2,000 species of bacteria. They are not foreign invaders. We evolved with these microbes over millions of years, and today you wouldn’t be able to healthily digest your food, resist disease, or counter a host of chronic disorders from diabetes to cancer without them.
All three components of the super genome are you. They are your building blocks, sending instructions throughout your body at this very minute. You cannot grasp who you are, in fact, without embracing your super genome. How super genes got together to form the mind-body system constitutes the most exciting exploration in present-day genetics. New findings are emerging in a flood of knowledge that affects all of us. It’s changing the way we live, love, and understand our place in the universe.
The new genetics can be simplified in a single phrase: we are learning how to make our genes help us. Instead of allowing your bad genes to hurt you and your good genes to give you a break in life, which used to be the prevailing view, you should think of the super genome as a willing servant who can help you direct the life you want to live. You were born to use your genes, not the other way around. We aren’t indulging in wish fulfillment here—far from it. The new genetics is all about how to alter gene activity in a positive direction.
Super Genes gathers the most important findings we have today and then expands upon them. We combine decades of experience as one of the world’s leading geneticists and one of the world’s most acclaimed leaders in mind-body medicine and spirituality. We may come from different worlds, and we spend our working days in divergent ways, Rudy doing cutting-edge research into the cause and potential cure of Alzheimer’s disease, Deepak teaching about mind, body, and spirit to hundreds of audiences a year.
However, we’re united in a passion for transformation, whether the roots of change are found in the brain or in the gene. Our previous book, Super Brain, used the best neuroscience to show how the brain can be healed and renewed, optimizing its daily function to create much better outcomes in people’s lives.
Our new book deepens the story—you could call it a prequel to Super Brain—because the brain depends on the DNA in every nerve cell to do the amazing things it does every day. We are taking the same message—you are the user of your brain, not the other way around—and extending it to the genome. Lifestyle is the domain where transformation takes place, whether we’re talking about super brain or super genes. There is the possibility, through simple lifestyle changes, of ending up as a person who is activating an enormous amount of untapped potential.
The most exciting news of all is that the conversation between body, mind, and genes can be transformed. This transformation goes far beyond prevention, even beyond wellness, to a state we call radical well-being. This book explains every aspect of radical well-being, showing how up-to-date science either totally supports it or strongly suggests what we should be doing if we want the most life-supporting response from our genes.
The terms good genes and bad genes are misleading because they feed into a bigger misconception: biology as destiny. As we’ll explain, there are no good versus bad genes. All genes are good. It is mutation—variations in the DNA sequence or structure—that can turn genes bad. Other mutations can also turn genes “good.” Disease-associated gene mutations that will actually destine a person to acquire a disease with certainty in the span of a normal life span amount to only 5 percent of all disease-associated mutations. This is a minuscule portion of the three million or so DNA variations in each person’s super genome. As long as you keep thinking in terms of good genes and bad genes, you’ve imprisoned yourself in bad, outmoded beliefs. Biology is being allowed to define who you are. In modern society, where people have more freedom of choice than ever before, it’s ironic that genetics became so deterministic. “My genes did it” became the blanket answer to why someone overeats, suffers from depression, breaks the law, has a psychotic break, or even believes in God.
If the new genetics is teaching us anything, it’s about nature cooperating with nurture. Your genes can predispose you to obesity or depression or type 2 diabetes, but this is like saying that a piano predisposes you to play wrong notes. The possibility exists, yet far more important is all the good music a piano—and a gene—are capable of.
We offer you this book in the spirit of expanding your well-being, not because there are so many wrong notes to avoid, but because there’s so much beautiful music left to be composed. Super genes hold the key to personal transformation, which has suddenly become far more attainable—and desirable—than ever before.