If you've heard about genetic testing in the past decade, it's probably been through the marketing of ancestry companies. There's the allure of finding out where you came from (or uncovering family secrets!), and at-home kits provided by these companies have shown everyday people how easy it is to test their DNA.
But unfortunately, due to the popularity and widespread marketing of ancestry tests, most people aren't aware of the other benefits genetic testing can provide. While ancestry testing simply tells you where your family came from, genetic testing for health and wellness can lead you to a whole array of actionable insights into optimizing your eating, exercise, lifestyle choices, and more in order to achieve better health.
We have recently added genetic testing to our baseline testing line-up at Idaho Functional Health Alliance. One of the reasons we chose to add this particular test is that the 3 x 4 Genetic test only provides results for those genes that are influenced by diet and lifestyle choices. In other words, the old idea that genes are "set in stone" has been disproven, and while the genetic code we are born with doesn't change, we can change how the genes are expressed. In other words, our DNA is the floor plan, but our daily decisions build the house. Here are few ways we have found that genetic testing can help inform your health and wellness.
A lot of approaches to health and wellness these days focus on a one-size-fits-all approach, prescribing the same diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices to everyone. But everyone is unique — so shouldn't healthcare be tailored to that unique individual? Genetic testing uncovers a person's genetic variants, which give us insight into how that person’s cells and systems function, show the impact of the types of food you eat and the environment around you, and more.
Disease at the Root
In addition to the one-size-fits-all approach to health, many times practitioners are helping their patients simply combat symptoms of chronic illness. But constantly treating symptoms can be timely and costly, and never really addresses the root issues anyway. Since genetic testing reveals how your body works at the cellular level, it can point towards the root causes of illnesses that are generating those symptoms. That way, diseases can be treated at the source.
Those who have struggled to lose weight may spend time, energy, and money seeking new ways to get healthy and lose weight when their genes are able to give them all the insight they need. Genes are able to give insight into what types of exercise are best for your body, whether it be more endurance exercises or power exercises. They can also show how your body stores fat, which nutrients it absorbs best to inform which foods to eat, and other insights that can form a more targeted recommendation plan.
Your genes can also tell you more about your metabolism. We know that metabolism has a connection with energy and vibrancy, yet many of us have a "sluggish" metabolism we're not sure how to correct. Knowing your genes can give you insights into how your metabolism is affected by what you eat, how you burn energy, how you store fat, and more.
The Right Exercise
What if you've been hitting the gym and trying to get fit, but you've been doing the wrong exercises all this time? Getting insights into your genes can actually show you whether your body is more suited for endurance activities, like running or bicycling, or whether your body is more suited for power activities like sprinting or weight lifting. Knowing more about how your body works means being able to choose the right activities for you.
We're all affected by caffeine in various ways — some people can drink coffee right up until bedtime, when others have to cut themselves off mid-morning! But do we know why? Our genes can tell us! Our genes are responsible for how quickly we metabolize caffeine, so we can know whether to have that extra cup or not.
Better Daily Choices
As you can see, knowing your genes and how they affect your body can give you insights into many different aspects of your health and wellness so that you can make better choices each day about actions that affect you. For example, did you know that your genes can determine how well your body eliminates toxins, which can help you make choices about what environments to be in? Your genes can also give you insight into your stress levels, and flag if you're not getting enough sleep at night.
Michelle's Weight Gain Story
I, of course, try all new testing out on myself first before offering it to any of our clients. I have taken other genetic tests in the past that were focused on identifying my ancestry, but these really didn't provide the information I needed to help optimize my health. (Knowing that my ancestors came from Northern Europe is interesting but not helpful in clinical practice...)
I can honestly say I was blown away with the the results of this test! The main issue I have been dealing with for the past few years is weight gain, and this gave me some incredible insights to help me put together a plan to address it.
The lab itself organizes the material into the top 3 most potentially significant pathways where I could see the biggest impact on my health. For each pathway, we can recommend the most effective diet, lifestyle and supplement interventions to optimize your health.
Here's some of the big take aways from my results:
My high priority pathways are Methylation, Mood & Behavior & Inflammation
For the methylation pathway I should focus on taking methylated B vitamins and magnesium (for life), and support toxin breakdown by eating cruciferous vegetables, adequate fiber, green and black teas. Because this pathway is compromised, I should focus on reducing exposure to toxins, especially those that can overload the methylation cycle.
For the mood & behavior pathway, focus on activities that balance stress hormones and increase production of endorphins. Add specific supplements for supporting the stress hormones like ashwagandha.
For the Inflammation pathway, focus in intermittent fasting, eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and favoring unsaturated fats.
The big news is that I am likely inefficient at releasing energy in response to activity, which means I won't lose weight simply by working out and, in fact, the genes I have are resistant to weight loss. And to top it off, my fat cells have the potential to become inflamed, which inhibits them from releasing their energy and continuing to store fat. While I know that I can overcome this weight gain, I have to give myself more patience and care around this issue as I have genes that are likely expressing themselves now, making it much more of an uphill battle to lose the weight. It also makes me think more about where to look next, such as investigating whether I have a toxin overload that is getting stored in my adipose tissue (fat cells)..
All of these pieces of information help me put together a more personalized diet and supplement plan, and gives me some ideas of where to go next with testing to find the underlying cause of the weight gain.
More Than Ancestry
Knowing your genes can reveal a lot more to you than just what's stated above. Additionally, as our knowledge continues to increase around how genes work and how they impact our bodies, the blueprint that genetic testing provides for your optimal health will only become more detailed, allowing you to build the perfect life of health and wellness suitable to you.
Ready to start your personalized health journey? Schedule a 30-minute Free Consult today and ask about whether genetic testing is right for you!