“Ninety percent of sickness is connected to stress, and not the result of genes.”
Bruce Lipton is a cell biologist and the author of The Biology of Belief and Spontaneous Evolution. Described as a ‘scientist on caffeine’, Dr. Lipton is spreading the good news of Epigenetics all around the world. Why are the scientific findings of Epigenetics (also known as the ‘New Biology’) such good news? Read on and find out…
How did you get from being a University Professor, teaching mainstream science (maybe we can say “genetic determinism” to medical students), to being one of the spokesman of the New Biology?
Well, it’s a very interesting story, Femke, because I have to let people know first of all that when I was teaching medical school students and I was working at the university, I was not into the belief of spirituality at all. I was teaching life as genes and biochemistry and physical mechanisms. I had no grounding in spirituality.
And then my research, which was on stem cells (and I just want people to understand that I started my cloning of stem cells back in 1967 – that’s like 45 years ago. Most people think that stem cells are relatively new in the science community, but almost half a century ago, I was cloning them) – the research was so profound, it blew my mind, and then ultimately caused me to leave the university when I was introduced to a new understanding of science. And the fun part was, that science was introduced to me by the cells I was studying!
Basically it was a very simple experiment. What I did was, I isolated one stem cell. A stem cell is the same as an embryonic cell. It has multi-potential. It can become anything. We call it a stem cell, not an embryotic cell, for a very simple reason: before you’re born, I would look at this cell and say “this is an embryotic cell”. And then the moment you are born, I look at the same cell and now I call it a stem cell. It’s just because after you are born, you are no longer an embryo so we change the name of the cell, but is still an embryonic cell.
So I put one cell in a petri dish all by itself and it divides every 10 to 12 hours, so I have one cell, two, four, eight, and it keeps doubling. And after a week I have maybe about 50.000 cells in the culture dish. But all of them came from the same parent-cell. So I have 50.000 genetically identical cells. Now here’s where the experiment actually blew my mind.
I take those 50.000 cells and split them into three different petri dishes. So I have three dishes with genetically identical cells in each dish. But I change the content of the culture medium – that is the fluid the cells live in. Cells are like fish: they have to live in an aquarium. And I make a culture medium with all the things they need to live. So that’s their environment.
Simply, I have three petri dishes, all the cells are genetically identical in all of the three dishes, and I change their environment by changing some of the chemicals in the culture medium. And in one dish, the cells formed muscle. Another dish, the cells formed bone. And in the third dish the cell formed fat cells. Well, it’s a very simple experiment, but it has a very profound meaning because the question I asked was “What controls the fate of the cells?” And the answer is the environment, for a very simple reason. All the cells were genetically identical. The only thing that was different was the environment.
So what it really showed is: the cells adjust their biology to the environment they are living in. So the control is not in the genes. And I was doing these experiments, and when I was doing these experiments I was also going to the classroom and teaching medical students that genes control life. That was the conventional story then. But my cells kept showing me that the genes had no control. And so basically, I started to try to find out: how did the environmental signals control the genes?
And it led to a new understanding, which is today a new science, a whole new field of science called Epigenetics. Now most everybody has learned the science of genetics in school. Genetics is the science of the DNA that represents the genes and the genes control our physical and our behavioral and our emotional life; that is the belief system, so we talk about genes controlling us. When you teach that to a person, what you are teaching them is that they are victims. For this reason: as far as we know, we do not pick the genes, and if we don’t like our traits, we can’t change the genes, so we are stuck with genes that control our lives and that means that since we didn’t pick these genes and the genes control us, we are victims of our heredity. That’s the belief. Let’s say there is cancer in your family or diabetes, or Alzheimers, and the belief is: “Oh, I am a genetic sibling, and therefore I have the genetics for these diseases and now I am going to be a victim of these diseases.” Well the new science, which I saw 47 years ago in the tissue culture dish, shows that the genes don’t control things, it’s the response to the environment. And all of a sudden I said ‘Oh my gosh, there is a whole new science’. Now the science is called Epigenetics – which is not the same as genetics. And Epi, the little “epi”, that means “above”. So if I say “genetic control”, the old story, that’s control by genes. But the new science is called Epigenetic Control and that simply means “control above the genes”. Now we realize genes don’t turn themselves on and off; genes don’t control anything: it’s the cell’s ability to read the environment and then the intelligence of the cell, the brain of the cell, controls the genes.
And when you ask “What’s so important about that?”, then I answer “Well if the environment controls your genetics, then that means that if you change your environment, or change your response to the environment, then you control your genes.” And all of a sudden I thought “Wait! I have been telling people in the Medical School all those years that genes control them… but the new science is WE control the genes.” And that becomes very important. Because we are not victims – we are masters, because we can change our environment, and we can change our response to the environment, and therefore we are not victims to the genes because we control it. Now of course there is a problem: if you don’t know that you control your genes by the way you live and the world that you live in, then you don’t realize that every action that you do in the world, is influencing your genetics. And this is where the problems come from: we always blame the genes, and it turns out only about five percent of the population in this whole world was born with genes that do not support their health and their happiness. Meaning, 95% of the people on this planet were born with genes that should allow them to be healthy, and have a happy, wonderful, loving experience on this planet. And when we look at all the sickness around the planet, you say “Look at all the sick people!” and then I say “It’s not the genes, it’s the environment and the way we are living that causes that sickness, and if we understand that then we can personally take actions to control our lives and to control our genes.”
I know that was a long answer, Femke. (laughs)
Beautiful. So much information. But this is a true revolution in our thinking: the fact that we are not controlled by our genes but that our beliefs influence and control our genes. And that we are the masters of our lives to a big extent. So what was the reaction of your academic environment to your discoveries back in the ‘60s?
I have to tell you they really didn’t support it because back in the 60’s, that’s when the move to genes and the future Human Genome Project and all that focusing on genes, and all my colleagues were working on genetic research and I am the one guy in the room that says “I don’t think genes are that important!” And so at some point, they didn’t really support my work and they were not being, what I thought, good scientists because my research was repeatable. You could repeat the experiment over and over again and get the same results every time, but it just didn’t fit their belief system. And I left the university, and then I did my own research and tried to find out how the environment controls the cells. And the fun part about that was, that research led me to the connection between the mind and the body.
Right, because what you first discovered was that the environment controlling the cells in the dishes, but than there’s the other step of the environment not only being the physical environment, but also our thoughts and our level of consciousness, right?
Absolutely. You know a lot of people talk about the mystery of the mind and the body and I can tell you in about two minutes that there is no mystery, and I can explain how the mind and the body are connected. And it is so simple. Remember, I have a petri dish with cells in it and the environment of that petri dish controls the fate of the cells. So for a very simple understanding: if I take my plastic dish with cells and put it into a bad environment, the cells get sick. You can see that; you can watch them get sick. And now I have a plastic dish with sick cells in it, and the conventional belief would be: “oh your cells are sick, we should give them some medicine.” And I go ‘absolutely not’.. all you do to make the cells healthy again, is take them out of the bad environment, move them back into the good environment, and they instantly become healthy again. So the point about it is this: the fate of a cell, its health or disease for example, is not in the gene program. The health and the disease of a cell is a response of the cell to the environment. Your health is a reflection of how you respond to your environment.
So then you say “How does that connect?” And so here is the simple, quick understanding of the relation between mind and body, and it goes somethings like this: Basically I say that the fate of the cell is dependent on the culture medium. And then I say when you look at yourself, Femke, in the mirror, and you see yourself, you see a single human being looking back named Femke. And I go “yeah, but that’s not really a true perception,” for the reason that you are not a single, living entity… your body is made of about 50 trillion cells. The cells are the living entity! When you say “Femke”, and I say “Bruce”, you are speaking and I am speaking for 50 trillion cells in a community! Your body is not a “one thing”… it’s a community of 50 trillion cells. So here’s the simple truth: your body is the same as a petri dish with 50 trillion cells in it, but it is a skin-covered petri dish, not a plastic petri dish. Inside your body, you have a culture medium. The culture medium is called the blood. And so the chemistry of the blood controls the fate of the cells, just exactly the same as the chemistry of the culture medium controls the fate of the cells in the plastic dish; the chemistry of your blood controls the fate of your skin-covered dish. So now basically, it says, your health or your sickness is not really based on genetics, but is based on the culture medium called ‘blood’.
And then I say “OK, what controls the chemistry of the blood?” And here comes the connection: the chemistry of the blood in your body is controlled by the brain. The brain releases hormones and specials factors and signals that release into the body. These chemicals from the brain go into the blood (the culture medium) and then these chemicals control the genetics of the cell. So all of a sudden it says: “Your body is a skin covered petri dish. Your cells have a culture medium called blood. And the chemistry of the culture medium is controlled by your brain.” Now I have to ask the next most important question: “But what chemicals does the brain put into the blood?” And then I answer “It’s based on your belief and your mind, and your perceptions.” A very simple point: if you open your eyes and see someone you love in front of you, your brains releases beautiful chemicals like dopamine and oxytocine and growth hormones. These chemicals, released by the brain when you are in love, when they are in the blood they cause the cells to be very healthy.
If I take the same chemicals from your brain, and put them in a plastic petri dish with cells in it, the cells grow beautifully. That’s why, when you experience love in your life, the chemistry of your brain is controlled by your mind and the mind is perceiving love, but the brain in response to the mind releases those chemicals. And that’s why you feel so healthy and happy and energized when you feel in love. Because the culture medium contains those wonderful chemicals. But then I say “Wait! What if you open your eyes and you see something that scares you?” “Oh,” I say “then you release totally different chemicals into the blood.” When you are scared, you release stress hormones and you release immune system-controlling chemicals and all these different chemicals that make you ready for fight of flight. Well the point is, if I take those chemicals released by the brain when you are in fear, and put them into the petri dish, guess what? It causes the cells to stop growing.. and if you keep those chemicals in the petri dish, the cells will actually start to get sick and die.
This is relevant because most people in this world are living in fear. Most people are afraid of their future and their life and not being loved or whatever. And that means that during the day, the chemicals they release from their brain are chemicals that shut down their growth and shut down their immune system. The more stress you are under, the more sickness the cells express. Because the culture medium, the blood of a stressed person, has chemicals that actually shut down the growth of the cells. So all of a sudden it says ‘we have been looking at sickness as a result of genes or bad chemistry in the body, and now we find that 90 % of sickness is really connected to stress’. And the reason why is because the mind in stress releases chemicals into the blood, the culture medium for your body cells, that cause the cells to stop growing and strike down the immune system. And that’s why when we are stressed, we get sick, and the world is very stressed right now…
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