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Your Environment Determines Your Gene Expression

Posted by John on November 14th, 2008

Your environment not only determines your health, but it also determines who you are – quiet literally – at the level of gene expression.

The Sydney Morning Herald highlights a new study which shows that poverty alters gene expression among asthmatic children. Genes associated with inflammation were more active in children from low socioeconomic classes. In priviledged families, genes that protect against inflammation were more active.

Dr. Edith Chen says, “It provides the first evidence in a sample of pediatric patients diagnosed with asthma that the larger social environment can affect processes at the genomic level.”

But just how does the environment affect gene expression? Dr. Chen suggests that perhaps disadvantaged children feel more stress in their lives, and this affects body chemistry. This would mean that your attitude also determines how your DNA is transcribed. Indeed, anxiety has been linked to allergies and asthma. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, try deep breathing exercises like meditation or yoga. A calm mind might very well lead to calm lungs.

Children of a low socioeconomic status are also more likely to be exposed to environmental irritants like cigarettes smoke, dust, and cockroach allergen.

vacuumsIf your child has asthma, keep your environment clean of triggers with HEPA air cleaners and vacuum cleaners. You should vacuum at least once a week. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners; use a chemical-free vapor steam cleaner instead. And remember that your child’s attitude can make the asthma better or worse, so make sure that your child is confident about what to do during an asthma emergency.

See Children and Asthma for more information.

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