For many years, doctors, researchers and patients have all assumed that the primary responsibility for the state of the fetus was the mother, her health, her nutrients, her toxic exposures and her thoughts.
Recently, the new science called epigenetics has been burgeoning. I have mentioned epigenetics in my articles before. However, by way of summary, “epi” means “above” and therefore epigenetics means influences that are “above the gene”.
What does that really mean? It means that it is not just what genes we have, but what effects has the environment has had on these genes. Epigenetics determines how genes are turned on or off and this determines what proteins the genes make. These proteins then directly influence our health.
It is now coming to light that the health of the father’s sperm is of equal importance as the health of the mother during pregnancy in determining our children’s future health.
It turns out that the toxins that a man has been exposed to can end up affecting his sperm directly. What future parents should understand, and is now being proven, is that the health of their unborn children can be affected by what the man eats, the toxins he is exposed to, the traumas he has undergone, and his age at the time of conception. In other words, a man’s life experience leaves biological traces on his children. In addition his children can pass these biological markers on to their children.
All these influences on a man’s sperm occur through epigenetic mechanisms. New research is showing this in the most astonishing way. For example, recent research has shown that Vinclozin, which is a fungicide that used to be sprayed all over our country, is able to block the production of testosterone. Male rats born to mothers who were given a significant dose of Vinclosin are highly likely to be born with defective testicles and reduced fertility. This is not a surprise and it’s what I’ve talked to you about in my previous articles. This is why mothers need to avoid these toxins during pregnancy and hopefully clean them out as much as possible before conception.
However the shocking result of this study is that the problems these baby rats were born with continue to reappear for up to four generations of male rats born after the mother’s exposure.
When a woman is born she has all the eggs she will ever have. However, by the time a man turns 40, his gonads cells will have divided 610 times to make his sperm. This gives an increasing chance for epigenetic changes to occur to his DNA that will subsequently affect his child and his future generations.
Dr. Michael Skinner is one of the foremost researchers and a founder of this science of epigenetics. Dr. Skinner was the first to do the study mentioned above on Vinclosin.
After his findings with Vinclosin, he subsequently tested additional substances that lead to diseases in the rat’s prostate, kidney, ovaries and immune system. Repeatedly these diseases also showed up in the fourth and fifth generation offspring of mothers who had been exposed to the chemical.
To quote Dr. Skinner: “In essence, what your great-grandmother was exposed to causes disease in you and your children.”
What Dr. Skinner also found was that these changes did not occur in the actual genes themselves but rather by the patterns of simple molecules called methyl groups that attach to the cells that eventually become eggs or sperm.
These methyl groups are just a carbon atom with three hydrogen atoms attached. Methyl groups stick like “burrs stuck to a knit sweater“
and interfere with the functioning of the DNA. Dr. Skinner found that these “burrs” stayed on the DNA for generations.
Dr. Skinner thereby coined a new field of medicine called “Transgenerational Epigenetics”. This is the study of inherited changes that cannot be explained by traditional genetics.
Dr. Skinner has gone on to do more research, as noted above, with additional chemicals including insect spray, jet fuel and BPA. He has found that each exposure leaves a distinct pattern of methyl group arrangements and that these persisted into the great-grandchildren of exposed rats.
This is like your grandmother’s environmental exposure leaving a fingerprint on your genes that scientists can now actually trace.
A practical example of this is that Dr. Skinner has determined that exposure of rats to the chemical DDT can lead to obesity in the subsequent generations. Since every patient I test for DDT does have it in their body, could this be a contributor to our current epidemic of obesity?
In terms of preconception pregnancy planning, my big question is, will an intensive detoxification and chelation program be able to reverse the epigenetic changes that have occurred to a man’s sperm? And, is it thereby worthwhile for a man to do a detox before his wife conceives?
This is all cutting-edge research, and some of it is still thought to be controversial by very orthodox physicians. But it makes total sense to me and to my colleagues in integrative medicine that transgenerational epigenetics is playing a role in our health and in the health of our great-grandchildren.
Also remember to visit my Healthy Living Shop where you can get physician quality supplements for you health!