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An Interview with Bruce Lipton By Sarah Kamrath
Earlier this year, filmmaker Sarah Kamrath sat down with Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., for an interview about a holistic approach to parenting for her Happy Healthy Child DVD series. Lipton, the author of such books as Spontaneous Evolution and The Biology of Belief, is an internationally recognized leader in bridging science and spirit, and a regular contributor to Pathways. This is an excerpt of their longer conversation.
Sarah Kamrath: Can we begin by talking about the importance of women and men listening to their intuition and making parenting choices, beginning in the prenatal period, which honor that inner wisdom?
Bruce Lipton: In my former professional career, I was a medical school professor. I was teaching medical students about the nature of the body as being a machine, comprising biochemicals and controlled by genes so that we’re more or less an automaton, a robot. However, as I got deeper into understanding the nature of the cells, I found that the cells that make up the body—and there are 50 trillion of them—are very intelligent. In fact, it’s the intelligence of the cells that creates the human body. Starting to listen to them and understanding how they communicate is a very important lesson. Cells talk to us. We can feel it through what we call symptoms or feelings or emotions. It’s a response of the cellular community to what we’re doing in our lives. There’s a tendency in our world to not really pay attention to those things as some kind of information below the level of head; it’s not that relevant. But I’ve found that it’s the voice of the cells that gives us reason and understanding; cells are actually reading our behavior and giving us information as to whether or not we’re working in harmony with our biology. Using this intelligence is vital; it will help us create a happy, harmonious life on this planet.
Kamrath: I love how you refer to pregnancy as nature’s Head Start program. Can you talk about a baby’s level of awareness and consciousness within the womb? Also, please discuss the new brain science that shows the impact of a mother’s emotional well-being on the health, intelligence and capacity for joy for the child within her womb.
Lipton: Nature spends a lot of effort and energy in creating a child, and it doesn’t do so randomly or just on a whim. Nature wants to ensure that a child is going to be successful in its life before embarking on the process of birthing that child. Although a child receives genes from both its mother and father, the genes are not fully set into the position of activation until the process of development. The first eight weeks of a child’s development is called the embryo phase, and that’s just a mechanical unfolding of genes to make sure the baby has a body with two arms, two legs, two eyes, etc. The next period of life is called the fetal stage, when the embryo has the human configuration. Since it’s already shaped, the question is, what will nature do to modify or adjust this human in the next number of months before it’s born? What it does is this: Nature reads the environment and then adjusts the final tuning of the genetics of the child based on what’s immediately going on in the world. How can nature read the environment and do this? The answer is that the mother and the father become nature’s Head Start program. They’re the ones who are living in and experiencing the environment. Their perceptions of the world are then transmitted to the child.
We used to think that only nutrition was provided by the mother to a developing child. The story was, genes control the development, and the mother just provides nutrition. We now know, of course, that there’s more than just nutrition in blood. Blood contains information about emotions and regulatory hormones and the growth factors that control the mother’s life in the world in which she’s living. All this information passes into the placenta along with nutrition. If the mother is happy, the fetus is happy because the same chemistry of emotions that affect the mother’s system are crossing into the fetus. If the mother is scared or stressed, the same stress hormones cross and adjust the fetus. What we’re recognizing is that, through a concept called epigenetics, the environmental information is used to select and modify the genetic program of the fetus so it will conform to the environment in which it’s going to grow, thus enhancing the survival of the child. If parents are totally unaware, this creates a great problem—they don’t know that their attitudes and responses to their experiences are being passed on to their child.
Kamrath: Can you explain epigenetics in a little more detail, and the need for parents-to-be to have an understanding of the role it plays in their developing infant?
Lipton: The current science is called genetic control, which simply means control by genes. The new science, that I got involved with more than 40 years ago and is now becoming mainstream, is called epigenetic control. This little prefix epi turns the world upside down. Epi means “above.” So, epigenetic means “control above the genes.” We now know that we influence the activity of our genes by our actions, perceptions, beliefs and attitudes. In fact, epigenetic information can take a single gene blueprint and modify the readout of the gene to create more than 30,000 different proteins from the same blueprint. Basically, it says that the genes are plastic and variable, and adjust to the environment.
For example, if a woman conceives a child, but all of a sudden there’s violence in the environment—war breaks out and the world is not safe anymore—how’s the child going to respond? The same way the mother responds. Why is this important? When a mother is responding to a stressful situation, her fight-or-flight system is activated and her adrenal system becomes stimulated. This causes two fundamental things to happen. Number one, the blood vessels are squeezed in the gut, causing the blood to go to the arms and legs (because blood is energy), so that she can fight or run. The stress hormones also switch the blood vessels in the brain for this reason. In a stressful situation, you don’t depend on conscious reasoning and logic, which come from the forebrain. You depend on hindbrain reactivity and reflexes; that’s the fastest responder in a threatening situation. Well that’s cool for the mother, but what about for the developing fetus? The stress hormones pass into the placenta and have the same effect, but with a different meaning when it affects the fetus. The fetus is in a very active growing state and it requires blood for nutrition and energy, so whichever organ tissues get more blood will develop faster.
The significance in all this is that the forebrain is consciousness and awareness; you can reduce the intelligence of a child by up to 50 percent by environmental stressors because of shunting the blood from the forebrain and developing a large hindbrain. Nature is creating the child to live in the same stressed environment that the parents perceive. The same fetus developing in a healthy, happy, harmonious environment creates a much healthier viscera, which enables growth and maintenance of the body for the rest of its life, as well as a much larger forebrain, which gives it more intelligence. So, the mother’s perception and attitude about the environment is translated into epigenetic control, which modifies the fetus to fit the world the mother perceives. Now, when I emphasize mother, of course, I have to emphasize father [as well]. Because if the father screws up, this also messes up the mother’s physiology. Both parents are actually genetic engineers.