The role of Nutrigenomics in recovery is probably one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. If I was asked by a family starting out on their healing journey what was the most important test we conducted for my son, I would have to say the “23 and me” genetic / DNA Health and ancestry tests. Along with the results of other tests, it provided us a complete view of what is going on in his “bio-individual” body and how certain treatments would work. Some of the gene mutations that my son has totally explains a lot of his behaviors that tie with ADHD. Not only did it help explain these behaviors but it also helped us understand how to help him.
What is Nutrigenomics?
Our body consists of around 25,000 genes some of which consist of SNPs (Single nucleotide polymorphisms, frequently called SNPs [pronounced “snips”]) or mutations. These mutations have a significant impact on their functions.
Our genes, which we carry from our parents, do not possess the ability to change. However, our genes and their mutations can get turned on and off.
Food, lifestyle and environmental factors play a massive role in the turning on and off of our genes.
This is referred to as Nutrigenomics and it seeks to provide a molecular genetic understanding for how common dietary chemicals (i.e., nutrition) affect health by altering the expression and/or structure of an individual’s genetic makeup. (1)
As per Kaput J and Rodriguez RL from the Laboratory for High Performance Computing and Informatics, Section of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California at Davis, Davis, California 95616, USA, Nutritional Genomics focuses on the following five tenets of nutritional genomics:
- Common dietary chemicals act on the human genome, either directly or indirectly, to alter gene expression or structure;
- Under certain circumstances and in some individuals, diet can be a serious risk factor for a number of diseases;
- Some diet-regulated genes (and their normal, common variants) are likely to play a role in the onset, incidence, progression, and/or severity of chronic diseases;
- The degree to which diet influences the balance between healthy and disease states may depend on an individual’s genetic makeup; and
- Dietary intervention based on knowledge of nutritional requirement, nutritional status, and genotype (i.e., “individualized nutrition”) can be used to prevent, mitigate, or cure chronic disease.
The role of Nutrigenomics in recovery comes in here as its study shows how the above factors can cause alteration in the development of the organism by changing the way molecules interact with our DNA or they completely change the structure of proteins that DNA holds.
What this means in everyday life:
A healthy diet, lifestyle and environment is something that we all believe in; as it provides us nutrition and keeps us fit and healthy.
However, Nutrigenomics deems that our genes respond differently to different nutrients and toxins. It explains how food nutrients affect every individual differently. For example, some people can eat high-fat food and immediately gain weight while some people don’t. It further highlights how certain type of food or environmental factors can turn on and off certain genes.
By turning on we mean that good genes are turned on with healthy diet while bad genes are turned off by an un-healthy diet or exposure to harsh chemicals or toxins. For example, researchers have identified how the consumption of broccoli turns on a specific gene that helps to detoxify harmful chemicals that may have found their way inside our body.
Similarly, according to the Journal of American Medical Association, intake of caffeinated coffee for some people lower the chances of heart attack while for some people it doesn’t do anything. It explains how a person who has a mutation or SNPs of the CYP1A2 gene breaks down caffeine slowly and increases the chances of heart attack
Every person’s genetic profile differs from one another, which means that what nutrition might work for one person may not be as beneficial for another person. Hence, testing for DNA / gene variants is fundamental in the healing of chronic diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, etc. Nutrigenomics shows that supplements can be taken by each person according to their genes. In fact, different nutrients and food bioactive have different affects on neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, both of which influence our mood and behavior. These two neurotransmitters play a big part in healing neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, etc in children and adults alike.
Following are some common SNPs to look out form found in kids with neurodevelopmental diseases:
- MTHFR mutations:
- MTR – Methionine Synthase
- MTRR – Methionine synthase reductase
- CBS – Cystathionine-B synthase
- SUOX – Sulfite oxidase
- COMT – Cathelchol O methyl transferase
Another day I will talk a bit more about these particular mutations and what that means for health and the recovery journey.
Testing for DNA / gene variations
Science has come a long way and there is now a cost-effective way to have testing done that focuses on identifying variations or weaknesses (however, not ALL variations) in nutritional pathways in order to provide nutritional shortcuts or bypasses for genetic mutation that affect health.
We love the “23 and me” Health and ancestry tests. We used it to find out what our DNA says about us and how our gene mutations or DNA variants can affect our body’s ability to process certain nutrients and toxins etc – take a look at the https://www.23andme.com
As per 23 and me website, their genetic reports will show you:
- Your DNA variants;
- How your genetics can influence your risk for certain diseases;
- Where your DNA is from;
- How your genes play a role in your well-being and lifestyle choices;
- If you are a carrier for certain inherited conditions.
Its important to know though that having a SNP does not mean you will develop a health condition. Many people with increased risk never develop the condition but knowing this information will allow you to make food and lifestyle changes required to influence the outcome in a positive way.
Further, the health world is still learning quite a bit about nutrigenomics. There is so much information out there and it will take time for scientists to determine what needs to be focused on in order to achieve positive health results.
However, If we can pinpoint and understand the underlying biochemical mechanism of disease and toxicity, we can then use this understanding to help understand how to reverse its progression.
NB: If you do opt for testing, it is really important that you have a functional medicine practitioner or a genetic counselor help you understand the results and put them into context based on your family history and medical problems.