After having three new clients in a row ask me how their 23andMe results may be affecting their health, I thought it a good time to discuss our genes, doing my best to use as much plain English as possible.
I too have seen the facebook ads for Ancestry or 23andMe roll by as I scrolled down my news feed. I wondered if I should swab my mouth and find out. The desire to know oneself is strong. I’ve decided for the time being that I won’t order a test because I feel good. But for someone who has more health questions than answers, it may be a good option.
Thankfully, the human genome project has produced a lot of information that the medical world is starting to unravel. More importantly people are using this information to understand how their genes affect their health, which is why I am excited that people can now order these tests for themselves. Educating individuals is always a good thing, but knowledge is power only if you know how to use it.
23andMe offers an analysis of what’s called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs. This fancy name tells us that these genes code for things like vitamin D, glutathione, and neurotransmitter production. Other genes on their list influence things like medication metabolism, and liver detoxification.
Once people download their findings they will see a puzzling list of results, puzzling that is if they are not familiar with genetics. We carry two copies of each of our genes, one from our mother and the other from our father. Accordingly their customer’s test results show up in three ways -/-, +/-, or +/+. A person or clinician can gather a lot of information from this test. I heard some big “Ah has” with my clients as the dots connected. Their joy though was quickly eclipsed by an overwhelming feeling of “now what?”
The thing to first understand with these mutations is that a positive finding does not mean 100% disease or dysfunction in the body and the tests are not 100% accurate. Some +/+ tests mean that the enzymes that are coded by the genes are decreased up to 70% and sometimes it means that they will be increased in activity. From my readings, I’ve seen that studies on these mutations show mixed results. Bottom line: A positive result does not become your destiny or life script. In fact, one of the experts in this field, Dr. Ben Lynch, said in a presentation I heard that he tested himself and found he had positive results as well. He lives a full, balanced life.
Many factors that we can control positively effect the expression of our genes such as sleep, downtime, demands, nutrition, exercise, relationships, thoughts, and toxic exposures. Simply put, you determine what is written on the pages of your life, not your genetics. Your body’s ability to heal is phenomenal.
For the person with mysterious illnesses +/+ results can be the missing link, for now they know what nutritional supplements or dietary changes will actually help them and hurt them. Dr. Lynch spent the better part of an hour presentation discussing the toxicity created by certain foods and vitamins for folks who test positive for various methylation mutations. My favorite was that people with these mutations can not process artificial folic acid found in “vitamin fortified” baked goods and boxed products. It builds up in them and increases their risk of cancer. Alternatively, they can utilize folate found in dark green leafy vegetables. You can find his videos on YouTube if you want more information.
So if you’re thinking of ordering this test or already have your puzzling results, know that you can create beneficial outcomes when you connect this knowledge with a little wisdom.