Research into genetics and how it affects our health is is accelerating at a huge rate, and the good news about this research is that we are more in control of our health than we originally thought. Many people have a family history of diabetes, heart disease, dementia, autoimmune conditions and many other illnesses but research shows that the epigenetic changes that occur during our lifetime is what triggers these illnesses … and we can be in control of that.
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 health problems. 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. Having a genetic test and knowing which genes maybe a problem for you can help you be more specific with the diet and nutrition choices that you make.
While there are a couple of ways to test your genetics like SmartDNA and 23andme, I find the 23andme test the best value for money. When you go to the www.23andme website they only advertise that they do ancestral DNA testing which is pretty cool by itself, especially if you are into genealogy and tracing your family history. It’s a great way of finding distant cousins and relatives all over the world (this is optional) and it also traces your family history so that you can find out your origins (I found out I am mainly Irish which I knew but also .4% Japanese!)
While 23andme only advertise that they do the ancestral reports, they also give you the ability to download your raw genetic data, this can then be uploaded to a website like Livewello which will give us a lot of interesting information about your genes and your health.
The Methylation process happens in nearly every cell of your body, there are a number of important genes involved in the methylation process like MTHFR which is involved in folate metabolism and is one of the best researched genetic snps, others include genetic snps with the strange sounding acronyms like COMT, MAOa, CBS, MTR and VDR. The methylation process is responsible for many things and some of the important ones are
Cellular repair: Synthesis of nucleic acids, production and repair of DNA and mRNA, when things go wrong here it can cause many problems
Detoxification and Neurotransmitter production: Producing serotonin and dopamine, when things go wrong this can lead to anxiety and depression, ADHD and learning difficulties
Healthy immune system function: Formation and maturation of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelet production
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the Western world, learning what genes you have that can affect cholesterol, triglycerides, weight gain, blood clotting and diabetes can help to tailor a specific diet and nutrition plan to reduce those risks. If your in a high risk category I may recommend advanced cardiovascular tests that are not routinely carried out by your doctor.
While the risk of having coeliac disease is around 1 in 100, if you have the genes for coeliac disease the odds decrease to around 1 in 20 – 30, many people with coeliac disease are undiagnosed and knowing you have the gene can help encourage you to avoid gluten, which is quite an inflammatory food. Same goes for dairy, some people have the enzyme to digest lactose and due to genetic modification some people lack this enzyme and are sensitive to dairy, this can also cause increased inflammation in these people. Genetics also influence how much salt you can consume and what affect this will have on blood pressure, for many people it will have no affect but for others a low salt diet maybe of benefit. Many people love coffee but for some they do not metabolize the caffeine very well and may only be able to tolerate small doses.
For a long time it was thought that Vitamin D was important for bone health but now there is a lot of research showing that it is valuable for all aspects of our health and influences over 200 different genes. Many people test low for Vitamin D and this maybe because they do not see much sun due to working indoors or are covered with protective clothing for work but some people have a gene which means they do not effectively absorb vitamin D, for these people vitamin D supplementation is essential for good health. Many other vitamins and how they are metabolized are influenced by genes including B vitamins and other nutrients like selenium, co-enzyme Q10 and choline.
While there is no one gene that influences depression and anxiety, there is a number that can affect the way you feel. These genes are often the ones involved in the methylation cycle which is responsible for the production of neurotransmitters, as well as for their metabolism
Exercise is an important part of good health for everybody and your genes can help you workout the best raining program for you, whether you are best suited for endurance or sprints, or a combination of both. Even your recovery from exercise can be determined by your genes and some people may require more rest days to help prevent injury.
As I said earlier your genes are only an indication of your potential and it’s your diet and lifestyle which will influence how they are expressed. Once you have your genetic results I can help your work out how your genes can influence your health, what the best pathology tests would be for you to determine how your genes are being expressed, and most importantly what is the best diet, lifestyle and nutritional supplements for you to help you reach your optimal health.
If you would like more information feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen