What Can Nutrigenetics Do For Me?
Nutrigenetics, also known as Nutrigenomics, is the study of the impact of food and nutrients on gene expression and is one of the most exciting fields of health I have studied.
Through understanding your genetic expression, it is possible to design a nutritional therapy programme that is uniquely suitable for your body. If you want a dietary programme, you know is right for you, then a nutrigenetic test, in combination with an assessment of your body from a functional perspective and your health history will give you the information you need to formulate the ideal programme for you.
Food is far more than fuel for our bodies; it contains many biologically active nutrients which are capable of affecting our function at a cell level. Conversely, our genetic make-up can also impact on our ability to absorb and metabolize vital nutrients from the diet.
We are all unique individuals and who we are is determined by two factors: our genes and the environment we encounter. Virtually all disease results from the interaction of our unique genetic susceptibility and its interaction with environmental factors such as the food we eat, whether we exercise, smoking habit, toxin exposure, stress etc... These factors can influence our health by switching genes on and off; this is called Epigenetics. This means that if we are deficient in nutrients or substrates, or exposed to toxins, we are more likely to express unhelpful genes. Importantly these changes affect not only our own health, but that of our children.
Genetic variations do not cause disease but influence our susceptibility to environmental factors this means that armed with insight and knowledge we can intervene and take appropriate measures to optimize our health.
This is actually incredibly empowering and can help you to take control and your state of health and well-being in a more effective way than ever before.
How does Diet impact on genetic Expression
Genetic polymorphisms (snps) relate to enzymes in the body; in fact looking at a genetic report is like looking at blueprint of the body’s enzyme function. We have 1000’s of enzymes in our bodies and they all have co-factors which in many cases are specific nutrients. Through studying cellular function, nutrigenetics and understanding metabolic pathways in the body, we can see how specific nutrients and foods can impact on cellular function, and therefore on health. In working with these pathways and enzymes we can improve many functions of the body which improves health and can impact on symptoms.
The Methylation Cycle
I have trained with Dr Ben Lynch www.mthfr.net
and studied the work of Dr Amy Yasko www.dramyyasko.com
in detail; both Ben and Amy have played a significant role in helping us to understand this vital pathway. A key snp in this cycle is the MTHFR
gene which sits at the beginning of the cycle helps the body to process folate into a form in which it can use. The correct form of folate is then used by the cycle to form the other products which are crucial for this cycle to function efficiently.
The methylation cycle’s key function is to add and remove methyl groups at specific points onto another compound. This may all sound quite technical, but a methyl group is actually just a group of small molecules, similar in size to the water molecule (H2O). Just as water is a key to life, methyl groups are also critical for health and well-being. Methyl groups are simply "CH 3" groups; they contain ’H’ like in water and a ’C’ like in coal or diamonds. However, these very basic molecules serve vital functions as they are moved around in the body to turn on or off genes.
The role of the methyl groups is basically to repair and direct various functions in the body. In fact this is the cycle which helps to repair DNA and switch off genes so it is critical for our well-being.
There are many snps which have been identified and impact on methylation function. A genetic test will identify these potential problem areas.
What is The Function of Methylation?
Methylation is one of the most important cycles in the body. It helps us to make and keep our DNA healthy. It also helps us to process chemicals and Detox efficiently. We need healthy methylation to make neurotransmitters and metabolize hormones. Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest. They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance.
Methylation interacts with the Kreb’s cycle, the energy production cycle within the cell, so to make energy efficiently, we need to be able to methylate. It helps to keep our nerves healthy by producing myelin, and builds and maintains cell membranes. Methylation has an impact on inflammation by influencing the production of histamine, nitrous oxide and super oxide which can cause free radical damage.
So, all this sounds really exciting, how do you go about having a gene test?
A simple saliva sample is all that you need. The genetic test identifies (snps) which are common genetic variations among people. You can chose to either test a specific cluster of snps such as a cardiovascular profile or DetoxiGenomic profile as offered by Genova Diagnostics www.gdx.net/uk/
or you can do a more comprehensive tests which looks at a wide range of snps such as www.23andme.com
Genova insist on Nutritional Therapists undergoing training in Genomics before they are able to utilize these tests. I have completed this training.
What Are the Benefits of Genetic Testing?
By testing to look at mutations in the DNA in the methylation cycle it is possible to draw a personalized blueprint of precise areas of your unique vulnerability which may be impacting upon your health. Once these areas have been identified, it is then possible to target appropriate nutritional supplementation of these pathways to optimize the functioning of these crucial biochemical processes.
Interpretation of 23andme Test Results
I offer an interpretation service for 23andme test results. Please note that interpretation is from a functional perspective only and that any interpretation can only be offered as part of the complete consultation process. A gene test is not diagnostic and needs to be taken in context with your medical history along with any current symptoms before I can make any recommendations on diet and lifestyle factors to optimise your health and well-being.
Most importantly, you should remember 1) that a genetic test is not diagnostic 2) that not all of the genes picked up in your report will be relevant, it is the ones that are being expressed that are important (and these are the ones that relate to your symptoms, history and any health issues. 3) Genes are switched on or off by our environment, this means if a gene is expressing itself and we know what influences it, then we can modify its expression and hopefully reduce your symptoms. 4) Snps govern enzymes; you do not need a polymorphism to block enzymatic function. Co-factor deficiency or environmental toxicity can do this for you
What Are Functional Tests?
Functional Tests focus on markers for healthy function, rather than markers for disease as used by the medical establishment. The benefit of using functional tests is that we can identify areas that are functioning out of the normal healthy range long before these imbalances can contribute to disease. Functional testing can also be used to help identify the true, underlying causes of chronic disease. By pinpointing areas of dysfunction and imbalances in the body, strategies can be put in place to provide what is lacking, or remove what is in excess, to promote optimal health and wellness. These tests can be used to help put together a personalized therapeutic programme that is focused completely on your unique needs.
I work with the following established laboratories and may suggest functional tests if I think they will be helpful in assessing your symptoms and blocks to well-being:
Cambridge Nutritional Sciences
The Doctors Laboratory
Functional Tests focus on markers for healthy function, rather than markers for disease as used by the medical establishment. The benefit of using functional tests is that we can identify areas that are functioning out of the normal healthy range long before these imbalances can contribute to disease. Functional testing can also be used to help identify the true, underlying causes of chronic disease. By pinpointing areas of dysfunction and imbalances in the body, strategies can be put in place to provide what is lacking, or remove what is in excess, to promote optimal health and wellness. These tests can be used to help put together a personalized therapeutic programme that is focused completely on your unique needs. They can also be used as a way of monitoring your progress.
Functional Tests I may recommend include:
Problems with digestive function or bowel habit are problems I commonly see in my practice. In fact digestive health is a key foundation to health and well-bring. You need to digest & absorb your food and have regular bowel movements to eliminate waste products for your body’s cells to function efficiently.
Stool and saliva samples can be used to assess presence of fungi (such as candida) and various parasites, bacterial content of stool (good and bad), identify Helicobacter Pylori, measure intestinal SigA (key immune marker), inflammatory markers, digestive enzyme levels; they also look for presence of blood and check for IgA reactions to gluten dairy, soy and egg.
Immune and Intolerance Panels
Problems with food intolerances are commonly seen by Nutritional Therapists. There are a number of different antibodies profiles which can be used to assess your body’s tolerance to commonly eaten foods.
Cambridge Nutritional Sciences FoodPrint Indicator is a useful starter test. This only costs £15 and checks whether IgG food intolerance reactions are present. If you get a positive test, you know then that it is worthwhile paying for the more expensive panel which tests individual foods. IgG food intolerances indicate that leaky gut is an issue and once foods have been eliminated and healing of the leaky gut has taken place, tolerance for these foods may well improve.
IgG are not the only antibodies which can be involved in food intolerances. IgA intolerances are more permanent reactions and IgE are the classic allergy reaction where you get an immediate response after being exposed to the allergen. I use Genova panels to look at IgA and IgE reactions.
Relatively new laboratory tests in the UK are Cyrex’s panels for gluten intolerance, gluten cross reactivity and autoimmunity screens. Cyrex’s gluten tests are ground breaking and the most comprehensive tests available to assess gluten intolerance. There are over 60 peptides (mini proteins in wheat) and most tests only look at ONE peptide. Cyrex’s panel tests 12 of these gluten peptides making it the most accurate way of determining gluten intolerance.
Patients with gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease are often sensitised to a wide range of dietary proteins. Even minute traces of wheat or the cross reactive foods are capable of triggering a state of heightened immunological activity in gluten sensitive people. This means that even though they have excluded gluten from their diet, their bodies are still reacting to foods in their diet as though they are eating wheat. It is essential to identify food antigens with cross reactivity to gluten peptides. If these foods are not excluded, then it is likely additional autoimmunity will continue to develop – i.e. the allergic process and ensuing inflammation will continue to cause damage to the body and compromise long term health.
Endocrine Tests: hormone profiles
Hormones are chemical messengers which control just about every system in the body. The glands which are involved in the production of these hormones can be disrupted by many factors, including poor diet, stress and exposure to toxins may disrupt hormonal levels. This can have profound effects on health, well-being, energy levels and mood.
A range of functional tests are available to evaluate different hormones to see if imbalances are playing a role in health symptoms. These include: Adrenal Stress Test, Thyroid Hormone Profiles and Sex Hormone Profiles.
As discussed above, specific nutrients are required as co-factors for many enzymes and biochemical processes. Nutrients are commonly depleted in today’s diets and this has a negative impact on health. Assessing levels of nutrients can be useful in helping to prepare a programme to support optimum health.
We live in a toxic world and some of us are more efficient than others at eliminating the toxicity we are exposed to. Heavy metals or chemicals commonly used in agriculture for instance can play havoc in the body as they interrupt essential biochemical processes. Lymphocyte sensitivity as recommended by Dr Sara Myhill
and Niki Gratrix
is a useful way to assess toxicity. For a full range of reagents tested, please contact me for further information.
If you would like any further information on the information on this page, please call me to discuss in more detail.
Please remember that any interpretative information is only a guide and does not replace any advice you may receive from your Doctor and that your Doctor is the first person you should see if you are experiencing symptoms that are giving you concern