How Stress is Inherited: Implications for Asthma Risk, Tips Prevent

How Stress is Inherited: Implications for Asthma Risk, Tips Prevent

Implications for Asthma Risk

Changes in the sequence of genes take tens of thousands of years of adaptation. In theory, this would mean that the stress felt by a mother during pregnancy would not be genetically passed on to the child. However, new science shows another mechanism for genetically passing along stress1.  A second study indicates that one of the adverse health consequences is increased risk for asthma.

Now that we have scientific tools to measure more precisely what genes are doing, a new picture is emerging of the extreme need for mothers to be healthy, eat well, manage stress, and optimize their nutritional status. The current research shows a precise mechanism by which stress activates various gene transcription factors that influence how gene information is assembled. This is different than an actual change in the DNA sequence of a gene. In other words, the thermostat is still the thermostat, it is just set at a different temperature than would be considered normal. 

Too much stress during pregnancy influences how genes are set up for future regulation of the child. In this case, too much stress seems to pass along a message of hyper-preparedness, meaning that the 911 control center in the brain has more employees manning the phones because this is likely to be one chaotic life. Such gene settings are called epigenetic changes. They explain how factors happening to the mother, while the baby is in the womb, can have a major impact on human health. Scientists are just now figuring out the multiple ways this could affect the child’s future health, but it is clear that there will be increased inflammation, anxiety, depression, mood problems, as well as metabolic issues and heart disease risk.

Another study shows that stress during pregnancy is directly related to asthma risk in children2 – which is an epidemic in America today. This is because hyper-nervous system programming is closely linked to hyper-immune system activity – as both systems use the same language to communicate (cytokines). While asthma is clearly rooted in digestive imbalances of bacteria and Candida, a hyper-programmed immune system is inefficient at dealing with such potential problems and thus linked to an increased risk asthma.

Tips Prevent: 

It is interesting that vitamin D intake during pregnancy is linked to less depression and less risk for asthma in offspring. Vitamin D regulates how genes are set up and has a large bearing on epigenetic factors. In particular, vitamin D influences nerves and immunity to be more tolerant of stress. As I mentioned in yesterday’s posting, optimal vitamin D intake during pregnancy is 4000 IU. This simple nutrient could save untold future health misery.

Adequate B vitamins, DHA, magnesium, and anti-inflammatory polyphenols found in fresh fruit (such as blueberries, strawberries, and grapes) would also have a profound ability to help stabilize gene function in the face of stress. A combination of life management skills, a secure and stable environment, and good nutrition are vital to the health of the next generation. If our society wants to maximize the benefit of health care dollars, we should direct them at helping mothers with their nutrition while helping them with their survival necessities. This is a window of opportunity to prevent health problems that are not easily fixed later.