Growing Sturdy Children

We Believe… when a life form is given what it needs, purged of what it doesn’t need, and put in an environment where stress is minimal and nature prevalent, it has the capacity to heal itself.

I get enthusiastic about a number of concepts and ideas (is having too many interests a thing?), but the study of epigenetics is especially fascinating to me. Perhaps many of you have never heard of it, so let me clarify. Epigenetics is the thesis that genes—in plants, animals, and humans—can be turned on or off depending on the environment. Environment being quality of diet, lifestyle choices, stress factors, etc.

The traditional study of genetics implies that DNA is set in stone at conception, and conventional medicine still holds that position. Perhaps this is a means of explaining away the seeming mystery of increasing disease—especially among the young. And they may be partially correct, when we consider that disease–or the genetic potential of disease–can carry over from one generation to the next.

Our friend, Dr. Kevin Turner, has an analogy addressing this phenomenon. He says some individuals are born with their toxin bucket—let’s say—halfway filled while other’s bucket is nearly overflowing. The former individuals can go through life eating whatever they want, making poor lifestyle choices, and have few significant health challenges. The latter, however, are seemingly doomed to poor health while making considerably better diet and lifestyle choices. Although, I hesitate to say “doomed” because of my belief in the body’s ability to regenerate if given proper nutrition, sufficient rest, and detox assistance.

Epigenetics—in my opinion—relegates the happenstance of genetics to their proper place. I first came to this through my interest in cattle genetics. The late Gerald Fry used to show the slide of an extremely disproportionate—quite ugly—cow with a beautiful well-balanced calf at her side. The mama cow obviously had good genetics that were inhibited by the environment in which she was raised in. Her offspring, on the other hand, had the advantage of strong genetics plus a good environment. You might say the calf’s strengths came solely from the sire, and it’s possible that some did, but the law of genetics dictates that “like begets like”. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to offset such obvious genetic flaws with good ones from only half of the gene pool in only one generation.

The one thread that every study of epigenetics has in common is the multi-generational factor. Conventional medicine and modern science adheres to a warped view of genetics, which is to say genetics are viewed almost like a twist of fate over which humans have no control. This aligns with the narrative that diet and lifestyle play no part in causing disease. And, of course, is why the study of epigenetics has barely seen the light of day in medical journals and science articles.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has shed significant light on epigenetics in her study and formation of what she calls Gut and Psychology syndrome (GAPS). As a neurosurgeon in the UK, she operated on people’s brains, but when she had a son born with Autism, she was desperate for answers that she didn’t have and her skills in brain surgery were not relevant in healing her son. She sought remedies in alternative medicine and found the Weston A. Price Foundation (the truth is usually found in the fringes, and rarely at the center of attention?). With time she designed the GAPS diet to help children like her son, as well as adults with degenerative brain/gut disease. In my opinion, one of the most groundbreaking parts of her work is the attention she pays to multi-generational degeneration.

The concept of gradually physical degeneration was relatively new to me prior to reading her book, but since being exposed to it, it’s so obvious in society. Since refined sugars and starches became widely available and cheap—not to mention factory-farmed meats and artificial preservatives—in the twentieth century, there has been a slow but sure worsening in disease, arguably more so now than ever. Childhood and adolescent illness are at an all-time high for modern times. Along with this, this generation probably stresses more than ever before in human history. Due to technology, life may be easier than in the past, but certainly not simpler. I’m sure other factors come into play as well, but diet and lifestyle are the two major contributors to disease.

As a person who has faced health challenges from childhood on, I ache to see so many children face debilitating illness at a young age. Why is it that disease in children is so heart trending? However, this is why I find epigenetics so fascinating. Not only fascinating, but inspiring and empowering. If genetic potential can be turned on or off by the environment in which the body is placed, we are not destined to the fate of happenstance genes. What’s more, I have seen this played out in animal husbandry. Nature has remarkably redemptive capacity.

In the past decade, we have continually sought natural templates in raising food animals here at Pasture to Fork, and have seen steady improvement in genetic resilience and hardiness while doing so. We firmly believe—as the statement above indicates—that when a life form is given what it needs, purged of what it doesn’t need, and put in an environment where stress in minimal and nature prevails, it has the capacity to heal itself. And that’s The View from the Country.