How to interpret your 23andme health information
Have you done a gene test through 23andme or another gene testing service and you want to find out what all of the health information means?
Many people have heard of some genes like MTHFR or APOE4 but how does this fit in with your methylation cycle or risk of chronic disease?
There is more to genetic testing and risk of disease that your individual genes.
So what’s the bottom line?
Epigenetic changes to our genes can occur with diet, environment, your lifestyle and even stress levels will affect your genes. Epigenetics is like a switch being turned on or off on our genes, which can make us more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and other health conditions.
With the new research into epigenetics it shows that we are more in control of our destiny than we thought just by modifying diet, lifestyle and nutrition.
We inherit copies of our genes from our parents and we can’t change the genetic blueprint that we are given at birth … or can we? For a long time it was thought that we cannot change our genes and genetic changes take many generations to develop, but since the human genome project mapped our 25,000 genes much research has gone into epigenetics and how it can affect our health.
I have heard people say that cancer, cardiovascular disease or some other health problem “runs in the family” or “is in my genes”!
Now you can find out through a genetic test which genes are a problem and more importantly simple diet, lifestyle and nutrition changes that you can make so that it doesn’t affect you or your children. This is epigenetics, understanding your genes and how to optimize your health to get the best out of your genes, so you can be healthy.
I recommend using 23andme to do a genetic test, they specialize in ancestry information which is fascinating in it’s own right (my wife is obsessed with this) but my interest is in what your genes can tell us about your health …. and more importantly how to optimize your health based on your genes.
If you have done a genetic test through 23andme, or one of the other ancestry genetic sites you can download the raw data and upload that information to a third party website to get detailed information.
I prefer to use Livewello to analyze the genetic information as it is completely searchable. I have specific templates looking at genetic information for cardiovascular health, diabetes/ weight, nutrition, brain health and much more.
A genetic test can help you to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and help to map out a specific diet and nutrition plan for you, which will not only improve your health now but help you to age well, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Some of the things you will find out from a genetic test are how well you metabolize fats in your diet and what are the best types of fats for you to be eating for you. For example the ketogenic or Paleo diets are popular these days, and for good reason as they are a great way to lose weight and improve your health, but for some people who have the APOE4 gene they may benefit from a diet low in saturated fats and higher in monounsaturated fats.
If you have trouble losing weight you can find out if you need to be eating more or less protein, the best types of fats for you, or whether it is too many carbohydrates that is stopping you from losing weight.
The gene test will show you how well you absorb vitamins and nutrients, for example if you have the genetic marker for MTHFR this means that you do not metabolize Folate efficiently which can lead to heart disease, depression, learning difficulties, fertility problems and many other issues, if you have an issue with this there are dietary and nutritional steps that can be taken to bypass the problem. To see a list of conditions MTHFR can cause check out this article.
The test will reveal how well your body detoxifies and how susceptible it is to oxidative damage, if this is not functioning correctly it can increase your cancer risk, if this is an issue for you then there is action steps you can take to reduce your toxic load and improve the body’s elimination of wastes so that you reduce your risk.
There is so much different advice out there on what is the perfect diet, the best exercise and the best way to reduce stress and toxins in our environment that it can get confusing … especially when different experts and studies show different results but there is not a one size fits all, as all our genes are different.
By understanding your genetics this is the best way to work out what the perfect diet is for you and even the best type of exercise that you should do to improve your fitness, some people are suited to endurance exercise while some people would be better suited to sprints, yoga or weight training.
Anyone who wants to optimize their health now and in the long term by making simple diet and lifestyle changes according to your genetic make up, this is perfect for people with a family history of health issues and want to reduce their own risk factors
If you have chronic health problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, chronic fatigue, depression/ anxiety or autoimmune conditions this test can help to identify the genetic triggers that may be causing the problem and I can work with you on diet and nutritional changes to improve your health
If you struggle with weight issues you can find out the ideal diet for you to lose and maintain weight loss.
People with autism, ADHD and other learning difficulties can optimize brain function and make significant improvements. Dr Amy Yasko has been working in this field for several years with fantastic results and has developed some fantastic protocols for treating these conditions.
Athletes or any person wanting to know the best type of exercise to optimize their health and improve athletic and physical performance
This test does not come with a magic pill for good health and you will have to make diet and lifestyle changes to optimize your health, what a genetic test does is give you the road map so that you know the best diet and lifestyle to follow for you. So if you are not prepared to make changes to your diet and lifestyle knowing this information from your genetic profile will not help you.
Some people may not want to find out their genetic information as they think it will tell them what disease they may get, this is not true as it is only showing your genetic strengths and weaknesses.
I have the genes to get diabetes and a high risk of Alzheimer’s, but knowing this information allows me to make diet and nutrition changes to prevent these conditions and optimize my health.
The cheapest place to start is with a test from 23andme, but their health reports are very limited and don’t give great actionable steps, so once you get the 23andme data you can upload it to a third party website to get more advanced health information.
At Planet Naturopath we can help you interpret this information and give you an action plan on how to optimize your health.
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen