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2/13/14blog post

show some love to your genes!

By: Dr. Patricia Abboud

With Valentine’s Day being tomorrow it had me thinking about who I show love to. Obviously I show love to my family, but what about myself? In the spirit of “showing love,” I want to challenge you to show love to something you may not ever think about… Your genes!

Seems like an odd challenge, doesn’t it? What does that mean? I thought our genes were inherited from our parents and ‘they are what we are’?

I was reading a research article recently that talks about how ‘our genes can change’ based on our life experiences. In reality our genes don’t change, but there are proteins called epigenomes that can turn certain genes on or off. Example: cancer cells.

The thought is your genes are active and responsive to things such as emotions, personal and social relationships, diet, exercise, environmental stressors or even the chemicals that circulate in our bodies.

This new view is exciting! It suggests that if we have positive lifestyle changes: eight hours of sleep, healthy diet, regular exercise, yoga/mediation we may alter our life in a positive way. I guess the converse would also be true. Research suggests that these good (or bad) changes that we experience as adults could be passed on to our children when we become parents. This emphasizes the importance of good prenatal care, diet and avoiding certain exposures (such as tobacco and alcohol). Rethinking what your children are exposed to and the response their bodies will have to the experience is something to consider. What are the foods they eat, the television they watch, and how active or inactive are they? Could any of this epigenome stuff play a role in their long term health as adults? Something to reflect on.

As a critical care physician, I often see children with terrible infections and life threatening illness. I frequently wonder why some children survive their ailments and others do so poorly. There is extensive research in pediatric sepsis (total body infections) that hopes to answer in part this question. Is it great medical care, Divine intervention, good genes or bad genes? Hopefully one day we will have a better answer.

In the mean time, as you prepare to tell others you love them on Valentine’s Day, be sure to also think about how you can start showing some love to your genes this year!

Dr. Abboud is a pediatric intensivist at Dayton Children’s and the mother of three kids. As part of the “Dr. Mom Squad,” Dr. Abboud blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health. Learn more about Dr. Abboud!