In the past , it was assumed our genes were inherited and could not be changed. In recent years and fortunately for me before JB was born, scientists have discovered that genes are in fact changeable dependent on environmental influences.
So what kinds of things change our genes? Firstly, nutrition which many of us by now are aware of. In addition though and equally important are our actions, thoughts, our unconscious beliefs, our emotions, perceptions, exercise, toxins, daylight, sunlight and attitudes!
What does this mean for us and our children; born and unborn? It means we are the drivers, we have the power and control over our health in every way: mental, emotional, physical, cognitive. All this of course also gives us greater responsibilities over our total being and that of our loved ones.
I started to read on the subject when I was pregnant with JB. Thus I began to practice daily manageable activities that would influence his genes and give him a greater headstart in life and for the rest of it. So, this is how it works: if you play a musical instrument during pregnancy, your child’s musical genes will be expressed and have a natural inclination for music. If you deeply engage and study the concept of speed and velocity, dance, design or lay around and do nothing much, those genes will be expressed in your baby.
Moving – I began to exercise more. I had practiced yoga for around 11 years and this was a natural continuation for me although learning new postures for my condition was a refreshing experience. I joined a yoga for ‘mums to be’ class and found it wonderfully nourishing both emotionally and physically. In addition, I began to set time aside every day to walk. 40 minutes and sometimes more. I knew this would influence JB by expressing those genes and therefore help make him physically active, further enhancing his lifetime emotional, mental and physical health.
Language – I read daily to JB out loud. I talked to him, sang rhymes and read stories and scriptures. JB’s daddy also spoke to him daily. After JB was born, I extended his language and learning potential by exposing him to his own voice. Something I knew would be effective and enhance his language as I’d used the A.R.R.O.W. Programme in the past and had seen the effects. Also Dr. Lane’s research into the self-voice demontrates this. In his book; Self-Voice A Major Rethink, Dr Lane states, ‘Whilst any one of the A.R.R.O.W. components may be stressed at any particular time, it is the student’s own voice, the self-voice, which remains central to the approach.’ Many other researchers have demontrated that when a baby hears its own voice, whether gurgling or crying, the baby becomes more vocal.
Music – I played my favourite music which is classical. My particular favourites during my pregnancy included Chopin, Mozart and my all time soundtrack love; Pride and Prejudice. After JB was born, he noticeably recognised the music especially form the soundtrack and the pieces seemed to calm and soothe him. To this day, JB is instantly calmed when I play any of these pieces of music to him.
Attitude – With hormones rushing around during the initial stages of pregnancy, this was quite a struggle. I did though consciously try to stay positive and calm and cheerful. I continued to work part time and took ample rest as well as the exercise. I tried to keep my days peaceful and balanced.
Diet – As descibed in my previous blog, I consumed food that was high in nutrients and fibre with plenty of water. Research on epigenetics in 2009 showed that rat fetuses who received poor nutrition had as a result adapted genes primed for poor nutrition. The results included smaller sized rats at birth and high risk of obesity, diabetes, neurodevelopmental delays and cardiovascular disease.
Deep breathing – The brain needs oxygen. The more clean air we get into our brains, the better they will function. During exercise, and also yoga, this happens naturally. I did however set aside a few extra minutes each day to breathe deeply, so that the oxygen would help to nourish and enrich JB’s system.
This information is obviously not only usedful for babies with Trisomy 21 or any other condition, but for all babies, all children, all parents everywhere!
Acting on epigenetics will make a huge difference for the future generations and significantly help provide a promising future. We all have the freedom and choice to express our genes throughout our lives. Effective therapies can regulate our genetic expression, be it emotional, physical or cognitive.
As such, we continue to create a favourable environment for JB to be at his optimum as much as we possibly and comfortably can. Having healthy family relationships and expressing love and support to our children in addition to the other environmental influences will give him the platform he needs to continue to thrive and have a promising future.
Thanks for reading. Tune in to my next blog on schooling! It’s been a great learning experience so far!