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Epigenetics And The Benefits For Dogs

What is epigenetics?


Often explained as nature vs nurture, epigenetics is all about the importance of your dog’s genes (nature) and how their food and environment (nurture) can affect their gene expression.


You know that a healthy diet and clean living are better for your dog, as it is for you and now you can learn the science behind it. So give your dog a fresh, whole-food diet. Avoid chemicals and toxins and keep up good exercise. You will find you can influence your dog’s health more than you thought and this is really exciting.


As a Canine Nutritionist, feeding my dogs an organic diet and ensuring the environment we share is chemical-free, I decided to do an epigenetic test to ensure I had the optimum nutrition for my beloved furry friends.  I was shocked to see the results!  Both Dilly and Midgey had a high need for antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamins B12, B6, E and K1. The test results from https://www.alpha-wolfe.com  (check out my discount code here) were incredibly precise and I am now adding foods that will optimise their nutrition and am excited to be working with Alpha-Wolfe in 2024.


This is a long article for me and I hope all readers will find it informative and helpful so please read on and grab a cuppa!


Epigenetics is the science that shows that we do not need to be victims of our genetic inheritance. The Human Genome Project was expected to confirm the existence of over 100,000 individual genes.


However, it was discovered that only 23,000 genes make up the human genome, barely more than the common fruit fly and far less than those found in a grain of rice.


This raised the question of what else could be controlling gene expression.


The answer is Epigenetics, which is the interaction between environmental signals and the process of adaptation that living systems use to thrive. Back in the 1700’s Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that life forms could acquire ‘information’ from their environment and incorporate it into their epigenome. 


Quantum Physics was incorporated into the field of molecular biology by Erwin Schrödinger to set the basis for what we now know as epigenetics.


Today, we know gene expression that is not mediated by coding DNA, representing only 2% of the genomic expression. It is rather influenced by informational signals received from the environment by non-coding DNA, which represents the remaining 98% of what is referred to as junk DNA.


Harmful information emanating from the environment such as electromagnetic stressors and toxic air pollutants, cause disharmony, so the body responds accordingly changing the phenotype without altering the genotype. This change is reflected in our physiology.


These signals include information from


  • the air we breathe 

  • the food we eat ( see my discount codes for Paleo Ridge here)

  • the water we drink 

  • the sleep we did not get

  • the impact of the electromagnetic environment and even the arguments we are having and the 50,000+ thoughts we have per day.

How Genes Influence Your Dog


Your dog has over 20,000 genes that are made up of DNA which are the long strings of proteins called bases. This is where your dog’s genetic code is found and amazingly there are about 3 billion of them - fascinating science! DNA determines your pup’s appearance, shape, size and behaviour.


Genetically, your pup is very close to a wolf as he shares 98.8% of the same DNA. Interestingly as humans, we share a similar amount of DNA with chimpanzees, making our base physiology very similar.


Are Your Dog’s Genes His Destiny?


Epigenetics is very good news for your pup as it is not just their genes that impact health, but also the environment they live in.  When a puppy is conceived, one sperm cell and one egg from the parents form a single cell, but the DNA from each of the parent’s chromosomes is recombined known as genetic shuffling, making each puppy unique and why all dogs have a furry coat, four legs and a tail - it is in their genes to hunt and chase and cannot be changed. The DNA from each parent’s non-genetic factors that shape half of your dog are called epigenetics.


How Epigenetics Can Affect Your Dog’s Cells


The word, epigenetics in Latin means “on top of genetics”. What is on top of the genes does not change the DNA sequence, but it does change the gene expression and how your dog’s body reads a DNA sequence.


In simpler terms, your dog’s cells are always dividing, and every cell is DNA, the genetic material that tells the cells how to make other cells and proteins. Almost every cell in the body contains the same DNA sequence but they use it in different ways and here are a couple of examples.


  • A brain cell has a different job to a liver cell and in the brain cell, the genes making protein for liver cells will be turned off as they are given different instructions - the body is so clever.

  • Skin cells are another example as most cells do not need collagen but clearly skin cells do, so other cells have the gene which makes collagen turned off, while it is turned on in skin cells. (See discount codes for Dermadog)


Epigenetics influences a cell’s specialisation through gene silencing and is what makes your dog unique.


Why The Hair Bulb Is An Epigenetic Marker


  1. Hair belongs to the integumentary system that develops from the ectoderm (one of the three primary germ layers formed in early embryonic development) and thus it has the same embryological origin as the nervous system. Therefore, it shares the same characteristics as the neurons when it comes to sensation.

  2. The root/bulb of the hair is the only part of the hair that is alive, meaning it can self-regulate and self-replicate. It feeds from the blood vessels that bring information and nutrients from the systemic microcirculation which is subcutaneous through the papilla.

  3. The hair and its bulb are an antenna that is constantly sensing and detecting environmental signals emanating from the micro and macro environment. So much so, that within the pilosebaceous unit, there is a muscle called the arrector pili muscle, which are small muscles attached to hair follicles and are the smallest muscles in the body.


This is the muscle that works as much as the cardiac muscle, since it is constantly sensing not just changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure, but vibration through resonance, and frequencies from the ecosystem and the surrounding area. The arrector pili muscle, along with the hair root bulb, were overlooked until recently as important environmental sensors - even though the hair has been accepted as an excellent biomarker.


The arrector pili muscle reacts instantly to a systems ‘shock and fear’, causing the hair to ‘stand on end’. The arrector pili muscle also relaxes when the system is calm. In addition, its ‘sensing’ abilities have also been associated with the forewarning of impending danger. The arrector pili muscle also expands and contracts when the system is overheated or cooled. Therefore, the root bulb stores the epigenetic resonance information as it is connected to the arrector pili muscle.


Epigenetics influence a cell’s specialisation through gene expression or silencing, therefore, epigenetics is what makes us unique. It’s why puppies in the same litter grow to be different sizes and have different personalities. The different combinations of genes that are turned on or off make each dog a different individual.


Gene Silencing


Humans (and our close genetic cousins the ape) can make our own vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, UV rays help us make vitamin D3.

  • Your dog’s body does not do this. The vitamin D-making gene has been turned off. On the other hand, dogs and wolves can manufacture vitamin C, but in humans and apes, this gene is turned off. 

  • It makes sense. Primal humans naturally eat a diet that’s rich in vitamin C, while the primal dog doesn’t. Human bodies don’t need to make vitamin C so that gene is turned off.

  • And the primal dog eats a lot of animals that make their own vitamin D. So again, that gene is silenced. Dogs do have the blueprint to convert UV rays to vitamin D, but that gene has been turned off. 


This ability to turn genes on and off means our environment can change our gene expression, and that is the same for your dog.


Now what has that to do with your dog’s health?


What Agouti Mice Tell Us


Scientists first studied epigenetic changes in an inbred little mouse called the Agouti mouse. These mice have a piece of repetitive DNA near their agouti gene. (Agouti is a type of fur colouration). 


Normally, agouti mice are brown, normal-looking mice. But if their agouti gene is activated, the mice have a yellow coat. They are also much more prone to develop obesity, diabetes and cancer. (Bristol Fungarium discount codes)


When agouti mouse mothers get a diet rich in folic acid, their babies’ agouti gene is silenced. This is because folic acid is rich in a substance called methyl. When methyl is added to the agouti mouse’s DNA,  the DNA becomes methylated or inactivated. 


It is not only about what mothers eat, our ancestors also leave their mark on our genes. Things like how our grandparents or great-grandparents ate, affect us now.


  • Methylation is the process epigenetics uses to regulate gene expression. Methylation turns genes off, while demethylation turns them on. This story illustrates how it works.


This is why a mother’s diet and toxin exposure are so important to her baby’s health. It can methylate or unmethylate DNA. This turns some genes on and other genes off. 


One example is the impact of famine on future populations. Several studies show that malnutrition causes a higher incidence of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer in later generations. These problems showed up as long as three generations later after starvation conditions in China, the Netherlands and Norway.


The good news is that we can control these effects through epigenetics.


When we talk about the importance of your dog’s environment, it is not only about diet,  Epigenetic effects are everywhere. This can be 


  • where your dog lives

  •  how he exercises 

  • the chemicals he is exposed to, including household cleaners and candles (discount codes for Ingenious Probiotics)

  • vaccinations

  • worming and flea products

  • medication

  • Pesticides

  • Wifi


Heavy metals and other toxins can all change your dog’s epigenome and contribute to unwanted epigenetic changes.


There are a few powerful bioactive food components you should look at because they can change DNA methylation


1. Polyphenols


These are the bioactive parts of fruits, berries and veggies, and they can significantly change the epigenome of cancer cells. Plus, they can reactivate silenced genes that allow cancer to grow.


Some important polyphenols include:


  • Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) from berries

  • Resveratrol from cranberries and blueberries

  • Curcumin from turmeric

  • Isothiocyanates in cruciferous veggies that can inhibit cancer cell growth and modulate methylation

2. Selenium


This antioxidant is a trace mineral that can restore the expression of silenced cancer genes. Selenium is found in most meats. Selenium deficiency can lower immune function and stress tolerance.


3. Other Vitamins And Minerals


Most vitamins and minerals play a key role in your dog’s epigenetics. If the diet lacks micronutrients, it can change the way his genes are expressed and that can silence key functions. 


How Exercise Helps Your Dog


Exercise silences genes that are involved in inflammation, and this may explain why regular exercise lowers the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. It also ties into epigenetics in other ways.


Exercise increases the expression of genes that suppress tumours, plus it lowers the expression of oncogenes. These are abnormal genes that predispose cells to develop cancer. Cancer cells have abnormal DNA methylation. Exercise can reduce and even reverse methylation.


Conclusion


Do some research and I highly recommend looking at https://www.alpha-wolfe.com - a great new company I am working with to optimise the health and well-being of our four-legged friends. Feel free to check out some discount codes for excellent companies that produce products I use and recommend. I look forward to re-testing Dilly and Midgey in the next few months, having taken the advice from the test.


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