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Epigenetic Insights: A Guide to Utilizing Epigenetic Testing for Optimal Patient Outcome

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Epigenetic Insights: A Guide to Utilizing Epigenetic Testing for Optimal Patient Outcome

While the DNA you are born with is the DNA you will always have, it's become increasingly clear that your environment - including diet, stress levels, and pollution - can impact how that DNA is expressed. The field of epigenetics looks at differences in gene expression that affect how DNA is "translated" into actual proteins necessary for our metabolism and cellular function. From tasks like differentiating cells into various mature tissues (brain cells versus muscle cells, for example) to turning genes "on" or "off" in response to stress, epigenetics can help guide individuals towards healthier habits to optimize their well-being and minimize their risk of inflammation and disease.


What is Epigenetics?

While you can't change the genes you're born with, you can make an impact on how they are expressed with lifestyle and behavior modifications. Epigenetics refers to the process of how your environment and behaviors (like what you eat or how you manage stress) affect how your genes work. Think of epigenetic activity as a switch that can turn genes "on" or "off."

There are three primary ways that epigenetic changes can affect the gene expression of our DNA. These include DNA methylation, Histone modification, and non-coding RNA.

DNA methylation involves the addition of a chemical group called a methyl group to DNA at specific places, where it blocks the ability of various proteins in the body to "read" the gene, therefore turning the gene effectively "off." The opposite process can also occur - an epigenetic change called de-methylation can help turn genes back "on."

In histone modification, DNA wraps around proteins called histones, making it difficult for proteins in the body to "read" the gene - effetely turning that gene "off." Chemical groups can be added or removed from histones to make the histones more tightly or loosely packed, turning genes on or off accordingly.  

Last, your DNA is used as an instruction manual to make two types of RNA, "coding" (which is used to make various proteins) and "non-coding" RNA, which helps control the expression of genes by competing with coding RNA, interrupting its coding sequence so it can't be used to make proteins.  

These seemingly complex processes are at the core of how our DNA expression can change without actually changing the DNA structure itself. It's all about what genes are allowed to be expressed and create the various proteins they encode.

How Can Your Epigenetics Change?

Epigenetics change as a normal part of aging and in response to the behaviors and habits you consistently perform. Stress levels and the environment can also impact epigenetic changes in the body.

From early on in life, epigenetics play a role in development. As you grow different tissues in the body, epigenetics help determine which "type" of tissue a cell will become - a nerve cell, a skin cell, a muscle cell, or another type of cell. Epigenetic changes to DNA allow developing cells to turn certain genes "on" or "off" to make the proteins necessary for their specific role.

Nutrition and diet can change not only your own epigenetics but even those of your children. A pregnant woman's diet and nutritional intake can impact the baby's epigenetics, depending on whether nutritional needs are met in utero. Additionally, exposure to various environmental toxins, such as lead, can also cause changes in a baby's epigenetics that persist throughout their life, such as increased DNA methylation.  

Several additional lifestyle factors other than nutrition that have been linked to epigenetic modifications include exercise, smoking, alcohol intake, exposure to environmental pollutants, obesity, chronic stress, infections, and even working night shifts. For example, smokers tend to have less DNA methylation than non-smokers, though after quitting, former smokers can start to see this reverse. Chronic stress can lead to epigenetic changes that shorten telomeres, the protective "caps" on the end of DNA strands - and with telomere shortening linked to accelerated aging, this is a pertinent epigenetic change for anyone looking to prioritize a longevity-based lifestyle.  

How Can Epigenetics Affect Your Health?

Epigenetic changes may have long-term impacts on health, affecting processes such as learning, memory formation, development of disease, or even our circadian rhythm.  

Epigenetic modifications regulate development and adaptation to stress over time, and the resulting alterations in gene expression may result in various diseases, such as cancer. However, since the leading preventable causes of epigenetic changes linked to cancer are environmental exposures and human behavior, that means a lifestyle that reduces exposure to carcinogenic chemicals (like tobacco smoke or alcohol) while increasing intake of healthy nutrient-dense foods (like cruciferous vegetables) can help reduce this risk.  

DNA methylation is an example of an epigenetic process that plays a central role in memory formation and storage, likely by influencing gene expression in synaptic plasticity. Increased plasticity is linked to a stronger ability to make new connections in the brain, influencing our thoughts, moods, and behaviors - all of which play a role in forming new memories and remembering old ones.

Epigenetic changes to various genes related to the circadian rhythm, such as the CLOCK genes, can impact the regulation of that rhythm. The presence of inflammation in the body and one's lifestyle habits (primarily as related to light exposure and sleep-wake routines) can result in epigenetic modifications that regulate our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm governs much more than just sleep, playing a role in the production of hormones such as cortisol, regulation of blood sugar, and other important metabolic activities. Epigenetics can then influence how we feel throughout the day and how well (or not well) we sleep at night, putting us at a higher risk of hormonal disruption and poor blood sugar balance.  

Ultimately, our daily habits and behaviors can have a positive or potentially negative impact on epigenetic changes to our DNA, impacting our lifespan and health span.

Different Types of Epigenetic Tests on The Rupa Health Platform

TrueAge Complete

Epigenetic testing such as TrueAge Complete looks at a variety of epigenetic markers to get a complete picture of a person's biological aging process - meaning how your cells are aging (this is different from chronological age, which is based on the year you were born). Evaluation of telomere length is included, which can help you understand how your lifestyle habits - such as diet and physical activity level - are impacting how your cells are aging and help guide you toward making optimal choices for your unique physiology.  

DNA Methylation Panel

Perhaps the most well-studied type of epigenetic modification, methylation, can be analyzed using functional lab testing. Based on the results, an individual can learn what nutrition and lifestyle factors would be most helpful to optimize their methylation ability, which is essential for gene expression.

3x4 Genetic Test and Blueprint

A comprehensive gene analysis can provide insight into health areas such as diet, exercise, and immune health. Tests such as 3x4 Genetic Blueprint evaluates genes related to detoxification, metabolism, and inflammation, many of which are sites linked to epigenetic activity. Understanding your genetic blueprint can help identify areas needing support for balanced, optimal epigenetic modification and gene expression.  



While there's no changing your DNA itself, epigenetic modifications that occur due to various lifestyle habits, behaviors, and environmental impacts can play an important role in healthspan and aging. Epigenetics impact a wide array of physiological functions in the body, including detoxification, memory formation, and even forming different types of tissues. Understanding how to support your unique genetic profile can help personalize nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations that support your health and wellness goals.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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