The Holistic Genome

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Nature verses nurture

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Life is about balancePut simply….  life is about balance!

We see it in our everyday life.  Work and play, day and night, life and death, mind and body…. etc.

We are born from an already vast collection of information that has taken billions of years to evolve. 

Our genes are a blue print that start us off and our environment nurtures us and allows us to thrive to reach our fullest potential.  Thus life could be considered the complex interactions between genes and the environment. 

I see it everyday in the delicate art of practicing medicine.  I advise all of my patient to find balance in their lives.  My mantra has always been …  Work less, eat healthy, relax more, exercise more, find balance. 

I also see it when I prescribe medications, too much medication they have an adverse reaction, not enough and they are under-treated.  Find balance. 

Thus I have come to the conclusion that life is about balance.  It was once said that, “Life is the blended harmony of the yin and yang”

The yin-yang is an appropriate symbol for the struggle to find this balance.  It represents the two sides of the equation, yet both in balance.  And at the center of the other you find its opposite.  Yin and yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole.

Written by Jonathan Holt, DO

December 23, 2008 at 8:19 am

Posted in health, holism, spirit

Reductionism is dead! Long live Reductionism!

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istock_000006766876xsmall1The western philosophy of science has long been depended upon reductionism. To put it simply; in order to understand a complex system some reduce it to more manageable parts.

Reductionist thinking is the basis of many areas of modern science.  Biology and chemistry being a subset of physics, for instance.  Or trying to identify the smallest subatomic particle, such as what we are trying to do with the Hadron collider.  

Western medicine has, over the millennia, attempted to adapt to a more rigorous scientific primer,  and as a consequence, adopted reductionism as it’s foundational philosophical approach.  However, we, in medicine, know that there are so many things that we do that is such an art and not a science … from the empathy and compassion that we show, to holding someone’s hand when they need it or just listening to a patient without interrupting. 

Moreover, medicine is more than the sum knowledge of applied biology and chemistry.  It is social, psychological, spiritual and at times, existential.  A patient is more than the sum of their parts. Why should their genes be any different? 

Reductionism does do it’s job for us in science.  We are, after all, human, and we can’t simultaneously comprehend the larger whole and how everything interconnects.  However, we must know it’s limitations. 

We should be mindful about the bigger picture.  We must realize, we are not just the sum of our parts!  We are more that it!  We have a mind, a body and a spirit. 

Genomics should be no different.  We should approach the integration of genomic information into the clinical practice of medicine as yet another modality that facilitates expression of this magnificent art of medicine and not use it to divide us, or place us into bins! 

“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity!” 

                                                                               Hippocrates, c. 400BC

Written by Jonathan Holt, DO

December 2, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Posted in holism, spirit

Don’t worry, your genes are happy!

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Don't worry, your genes are happy!It has long been postulated that the overall happier you are the healthier you are.  It could also be argued the opposite.  Now, researchers in Australia have found genes that predict your personality traits that affect ‘happiness’ in the March issue of Psychological Science.  “Subjective well-being” was studied among 973 twin pairs to test the hypothesis that your genes account, to some degree, your happiness.

Subjects, in the United States, were called via telephone and asked a series of questions.  Identical verses paternal (non-identical) twins were questioned regarding their overall ‘subjective well-being’.

Subjects, who didn’t hang up on them, were asked three questions regarding their ‘happiness’ and then mailed the Midlife Development Inventory (MIDI), a self-administered 25-item personality questionnaire.

The researchers then analyzed the differences between the identical and non-identical twins and categorized their personality scores results into the areas of: NeuroticismExtraversionOpennessAgreeableness and Conscientiousness.

The idea being is that identical twin share all (well, almost all) of their genetic information and non-identical, only share 50%.  The researchers showed that the correlations of genes affected an individual’s personality traits which subsequently affected “subjective well-being” in identical twins was substantially greater than those of non-identical twins.  There were, however, no genetic effects that were unique to “subjective well-being” alone.

Thus, while your genes contributed to your personality in areas of Neuroticism, Extraversion, and, to a lesser extent Conscientiousness, it was your personality that mattered more!  Specifically, one’s ability to endure and ‘bounce back’ from an emotional stress.

Remember, there is no gene for the human spirit! So, don’t worry, just be happy!

Written by Jonathan Holt, DO

November 25, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Posted in health, spirit