Genes–Know yours

If you want to improve your health, what better place to start than at the beginning…your genes. I personally have a love/hate relationship with them. Love to test, hate to analyze. I don’t understand how the traditional medical model breaks your body down into these neat little compartments; cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, etc. If you look closely at your blood, you can see how one system influences the other. Now imagine, your genes: your blueprint and what those interactions look like. It literally causes my brain to ache.

We all learned that our genes don’t change…thanks mom/dad (especially mom, turns out we get most influence from her). But now it has been determined that for the majority, we can change their expression based on how we live: our food, our lifestyle, and our interaction with the environment. This can be a double edged sword. It means we may turn off most of the effects of bad choices made by our parents, but possibly turn on our own. That’s why I love testing, it shows what we have to work with and then provides feedback as to how well our hard work has paid off.

What is a SNP?

Genes are cool. We have about 19,000 of them to code for proteins which can be used to do specific jobs. Many of these are redundant in case we somehow mess up the process so we may be covered. So what can go wrong? Imagine each gene as a piece of twisted wire comprised of individual strands. If a strand is broken, it may weaken the gene. This is called a genetic SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism). The gene may continue to do its job, but may not work so well. Unfortunately, we need good genes for good health.

How do SNPs change our genes?

Just because a SNP exists, it may not be negatively affecting function. SNPs may cause genes to be upregulated which causes too much activity or downregulated, which slows things down. Sometimes, SNPs may end up cancelling the affect of each other downstream! Some SNPS provide an initial “survival of the fittest” advantage but as we age, become a disadvantage. That what Epigenetics is all about. The body changes based on our environment.

How do we test to determine if a SNP is affecting our health?

Genetic data is our blueprint, but blood and Organics Acids testing tell us if the genetic weaknesses are being expressed. With help of your doctor or healthcare provider trained in genetics, you can make changes in your health and the health of YOUR future generations with appropriate dietary or supplement support.

How do we support a SNPs negative affect on health?

I won’t get into the specifics of each SNP and its affect on genetic expression, but instead want to focus on how to fix/improve their function. This is where the science of Nutrigenomics comes in. Turns out some really smart scientists spent “Malcom Gladwell outliers” amount of time uncovering interventions for specific types of genetic defects. Many of these contradict and overlap, so it becomes a nightmare to analyze, let alone implement. So we focus on determining the SNPS that are best known to affect health.

How do we get our genetic information?

I recommend ancestry.com or 23andme.com. It is inexpensive and kind of fun especially if you are interested in knowing where your people came from, since they are all about ancestral data. But for those in the know, you can get the raw data to see what you are currently holding in your genetic hand. Next step, get the data translated through a company like Genetic Genie or MTHFRSupport.com. Don’t be alarmed by the results. This stuff is cryptic and if you follow the links, can be downright scary. But genes don’t necessarily dictate what is going to happen, just outlines possibilities.

We have the data, now what?

Let’s look at the Methylation cycle. It has been found to influence cardiovascular function, detoxification, brain function, mood, and so much more. According to genetic expert, Dr. Amy Yasko, “If the mythical fountain of youth did exist, my guess is it would be this pathway.”

Before I dove into genetics, I used to think giving methylated folates and/or B12 and B6 would solve MTHFR issues. Turns out the type of quantity and type of these B vitamins supplemented make a huge difference. Word of warning, it is easy to over-methylate yourself so work with a practitioner. 

Methylation works in concert with the folate, transulferation, biopterine, and methionine pathways and needs to be supported by simultaneously taking these SNPs into account. 

I know it sounds technical, but to simplify it, just imagine a set of gears (like a transmission) comprised of interconnecting cogs. Each cog has multiple sensor wires attached it to inform distant machines about its operation. Since the cogs are connected, movement in one will drive movement in the others. If everything is working well, a  “methyl” molecule will eventually be attached to some protein, DNA, etc. which together with appropriate cofactors and lack of environment insults, allows some function in the body to occur. This may cause a chain reaction by signaling a distant function as well. But if there is no movement, no message is generated, and function is compromised.

Is there an example of how this works?

We have a gene called CBS. CBS has been shown to have several potential SNPs, or variants. My particular SNP slows down the activity of my gene, which in turn slows the conversion of homocysteine (which is produced by the body and in excess has been show to lead to heart disease or Ahlzeimer’s) into some great things I need like glutathione, taurine, sulfate and MIGHTY Methionine. It also limits energy production. Now, that’s a lot of influence for just one gene.

Symptoms of reduced activity might be detoxification issues, low energy, etc, Fortunately, I don’t have any outward symptoms and my homocysteine is fine, but I do have issues with detoxification and with other genes that compromise detox.

Since I have an issue, I would want to support this weakness. B6 has been found to help enhance the function of this gene. In addition to its role in methylation, B6 also helps create the neurotransmitters; serotonin, dopamine, and GABA and supports the conversion of the amino acids, glycine and serine. How would I know if I have enough B6? I looked at my blood test and Organic Acids data which has a few markers that are affected by B6. Sure enough, I had all the markers for low B6 and probably should support this SNP.

If instead, if mine were an upregulating SNP, I would have a whole different perspective. I would apply a completely different intervention since upregulation has its own effect. It is important to assure that whatever intervention we chose, we don’t negatively affect function elsewhere, since they too may have their own potential SNPs. All I can add, is “witness the power of information!”

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