Have you ever wondered why some people can eat anything they want and never gain weight while you only need to look at carbs and your waist measurement increases by 5cm? Or why conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune disease or high blood pressure run in families?
The answer lies in our genetics.
Do you want to know how you can maximise your potential for healthy living and ageing and reduce your risk of developing disease?
Enter the power of nutrigenomics.
Nutrigenomics is the cutting edge of nutritional science and focuses on the link between nutrients and your genes. It is a whole system approach that looks at how diet, herbs, lifestyle and environmental factors can affect genetic expression.
I used to often laughingly say ‘you can’t fight genetics!’ when discussing certain family traits such as our tendency to cry over the smallest thing, enjoy the ‘drink’ a little too much (we are part Irish) and the inevitable development of diabetes and high blood pressure, which is extensive in my family.
However, I now understand that genes do not necessarily dictate your destiny – YOU have the power to modify your own genetic expression by making the right nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices to maximise your genes.
The basics of DNA
I’ll try to keep it simple. The human genome consists of 23 pairs of chromosomes and around 30,000 genes are found within these. Your chromosomes and genes come as a pair and you inherit one gene from each parent. You could have inherited two wild types (I could use the word ‘normal’ here but it’s not always entirely true, plus I don’t want to!), one variant or two variants of each gene, and it is these that make us undeniably unique.
Each gene is responsible for coding for an enzyme or molecule that exerts some kind of action in the body. This means some genes – if given the right conditions – will work normally, slow or fast, impacting our health in various ways.
Understanding these unique genetic variations allows for specific and personalised treatment to maximise your genetic potential for health, primarily through making the best diet and lifestyle choices for YOU.
Who can benefit from DNA testing?
The short answer is everyone! However, there is a subset of my patients who I specifically recommend genetic testing for. These include:
- those with a strong family history of disease including metabolic and autoimmune diseases
- couples with unexplained infertility or unsuccessful IVF treatment
- individuals with weight issues that have not responded to dietary approaches.
What does DNA testing involve?
It is one of the easiest tests you will ever do! A simple swab is taken from the inside of your cheek and sent off to the lab. Your genetic test will be ready within 2–3 weeks.
My passion for nutrigenomics
Genetics were touched on during my studies, but it never quenched my desire to know more, so I started studying the foundations during my final year of my naturopathy degree with an external provider. As soon as I graduated from my degree, I completed a professional qualification with BioCeuticals in Australia in nutrigenomics and have since completed further training with FitGenes, allowing me to utilise two different labs and multiple testing profiles.
Really though, my interest was piqued through a desire to understand my family history and my personal risk of developing disease. I have spoken already about some of the key conditions that impact on my family, however I have not spoken about losing my grandmother to early onset Alzheimer’s when I was a teenager. It was heart-breaking to witness her decline at such a young age and I knew there was a strong genetic component to the disease.
I have since learned that I do not carry the high-risk APOE gene, however we do have genetic variants associated with methylation and inflammation that are known to contribute to development of the disease. I still remember openly crying during my training when a case study of an elderly lady with Alzheimer’s disease was discussed, with a very similar genetic profile to my own, who essentially came back to life after a long slow decline in health.
Understanding your genetics is truly powerful stuff and this knowledge means that I can protect my own health as well as that of my family.
If you are ready to understand your unique DNA and how it influences your biochemistry and health, book an appointment today to see Denise, our naturopath and nutrigenomics specialist.
Written by Denise Berry BHSc