The Value of Genetic Testing
Research around genetic testing is currently moving at an alarmingly quick rate! Every single day there are new advances around different genes and their function within our health. Every cell contains DNA, which is a chemical sequence of different units. These are abbreviated as A, T, C, and G. These are packaged into a larger unit which is known as a chromosome. Every cell in your body contains 2 sets of chromosomes, one from your mother and the other your father. In a normal healthy cell there will be 23 pairs of chromosomes. Genes can be activated by many different things. This includes in utero factors, such as the stress of the mother and environmental exposures during the pregnancy. As well, many different environmental factors can affect whether a gene is activated or not, including but not limited to a person's lifestyle, stress levels, and infections. This switching on and off is known as epigenetics. As many physicians state, your genetics load the gun but then the environment pulls the trigger. These variants of a gene are called mutations, polymorphisms, or SNPs. Some of these variants will lead to disease but others will have no or little change clinically.
How Do I find out about my SNPs?
The best test currently is 23 and Me for testing your genetic makeup. It involves a spit test and the results generally arrive within 4-6 weeks. It will tell you information about your heritage as well as some other risk factors for health. That being said, it is very important to note that this is NOT meant to diagnose. Just because you have a genetic variant does not equate to a condition. It simply gives insight into areas that may need further clinical focus.
Once you have run your 23 and Me you are able to download your raw data and bring into an appointment with me. I will run this through software to gain further clinical insight into your case. We receive information including how you metabolize neurotransmitters, if you are able to absorb certain vitamins and minerals, what form of certain vitamins and minerals is necessary, risk factors for metabolic disease and more.
I prefer to use an example for why this matters. A patient struggled with what she thought was depression for years on end. She tried multiple anti depressants and SSRI’s without much change. She had come to the point of accepting the fact that her inability to focus and improve energy levels were to be a permanent way of life. Following genetic testing and further analysis of her genes it was found that she didn’t have a serotonin issue (depression) as she had been told, but instead a dopamine issue. This means her lack of motivation and focus was actually more an ADHD problem presenting as depression! Within a few weeks of being on dopamine support she felt her life had changed. She is no longer on any other SSRI or anti depressant and feels as though her focus and energy are better than she could have ever imagined.
Having information as to where your problem or SNP is helps me to customize medicine even further to your medical needs. For example if you have the SNP responsible for converting omega 3’s into EPA and DHA it will be very important you take fish oil in an activated form instead of plant based omega oils. Or if you have the SNP that makes it difficult for you to methylate (activate) your B vitamins, it is extremely important you take the proper form to prevent systemic inflammation and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. If you have the SNP responsible for inhibiting the clearance of estrogens it will be important to take necessary measures to prevent estrogen dominance.
If you are interested in learning more about customizing your care to your genetic needs please feel free to book in with Dr. Hennigar. If you have run your 23 and Me please bring your raw data along to your appointment. The software is updated as new insights come out and once you are within the system you will be notified anytime new information comes out.
As always, this post is not designed to diagnose or treat you, but instead to give you something to think about. Please book a consult with a naturopathic physician prior to changing, starting, or stopping medications or protocols.
Understanding Genetics: A New York, Mid-Atlantic Guide for Patients and Health Professionals. (2009) Genetic Alliance; The New York-Mid-Atlantic Consortium for Genetic and Newborn Screening Services.Washington (DC): Genetic Alliance; 2009 Jul 8.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK115568/
DNA Genetic Testing Canada https://www.23andme.com/en-ca/