Everyone attributes most traits and behaviors to their genetic makeup. Many feel hopelessly trapped in the body they inhabit, yearning to look better, feel stronger and be smarter. Based on what we were taught and what we experience, to a large extent, we are limited by our human anatomy. These limitations in turn, impede our aspirations and create a border fence, that hinders us from expanding the vast fields of our unbridled potential.

What if you could defy your genes by altering your looks, your physical build and your intelligence? What if you could eradicate everything that's been holding you back from your ambitious endeavors and impossible dreams? I see you scratching your chin. Suddenly, this blog sounds like it's turning into a fantasy novel. I'm not promising a full-on instantaneous metamorphosis like what those shapeshifters from the Marvel Universe are able to do. I'm alluding to something less blatant yet quite detectable on a molecular level.

Research done on Epigenetics is slowly changing minds with regards to the malleability of the human genome. This field of study focuses on the mechanisms built into our DNA that determine gene expression. Recent studies indicate that diet, lifestyle and upbringing can affect whether certain traits are switched on via the epigenome (Learn Genetics video). Another fascinating discovery is that these alterations may be passed on to future generations (What is Epigenetics article). Arbitrary gene morphing may be beyond our reach right now, but it sounds like we have the ability to choose which trait carried by those genes can actually take effect. This can render undesirable traits dormant while the coveted ones can freely manifest themselves.

Could the epigenome be the key to the fountain of youth? Companies like EpigenCare are now offering a DNA testing service that provides you with a guide on how to care for your body and skin to get the best physical outcome. You get a list of topical recommendations as well as foods that can help repress unwanted traits like wrinkles. If you're looking to curb the aging process on your own, here are a few small changes can make a world of difference. Lower your carb intake. Sugars are especially harmful in shortening telomeres which are the end caps of DNA. Telomeres shorten over time which causes aging. Sugar accelerates this process. Sodas and sweets might make you feel like a kid, but they have the opposite effect on your body. Switching from butter to olive oil is another nifty anti-aging trick. The phenol compounds in this precious substance represses the expression of genes tied to chronic inflammation. This condition causes us to age by altering the body's composition, slowing down metabolism and weakening immunity. The easiest way to thwart "inflammanging" is by consuming some good old fashioned EVOO. Brightly colored red, orange and green produce are another great addition to your diet. These flavonoid-rich foods contain phytochemicals that fight the oxidation process and also reduce inflammation. They take down cell-damaging free-radicals and mask inflammation causing genes (Oxford Academic article). The mythical fountain of your isn't a sparkly golden spring in a hidden cave. If you shop wisely, your fridge could work just as well as this fictional concept. Who knew a little bit of grocery shopping could do your body so much good?

As society turns to holistic and natural methods of nourishment and self care, the practice of meditation has gained immense popularity among a multitude of socioeconomic groups. Everyone from your hipster neighbor, to comedian Jerry Seinfeld are joining the meditation movement. Research indicates that zen-loving individuals who regularly practice meditation are able to gradually increase their brain size. The areas with considerable brain tissue growth are those expected to thin out with age, indicating a possible age-reversal in their thinking cap. Scientists at MIT state that the tissue thickening occurs in the areas involved in attention and sensory input. This implies a significant improvement in brain function. Those interviewed in the study, notice an improvement in attention, mental clarity, stress management and memory. These are all qualities associated with youthfulness which means that one is able to sustain the same youthful characteristics even at an older age. The thickness in tissue growth is proportional to the amount of time the person has been taking part in the meditative ritual, proving that these participants are actually changing the physical structure of their brain with continuous practice. Because this study is still young, more data is needed to grasp the full spectrum of benefits that meditation can bring (Harvard Gazette).

We may be born a certain way, but science is discovering that not everything is carved in stone. Each of us is a living breathing complex organism. These studies reinforce the unlikely reality that we have the capability to invoke molecular changes in our bodies. We each have the ability to modify our physical shortcomings and pass on only the traits that we want our children to inherit. The hidden mechanism tucked away in our double helix is almost like a gift that we were meant to one day discover to unlock our true potential.

Photos by Matthew SchwartzRod Long & Joshua Earle

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