Have you ever overeaten?
Drank too much?
Fallen apart under increased stress?
Gained weight after starting an exercise routine or a high-fat diet?
You’re left wondering… Why didn’t I have the willpower to do the right thing???
So let me stop you right there!
First of all, self-hatred is doing nothing for your health.
Secondly, your tendency toward unhealthy coping mechanisms may not be a lack of willpower. It may actually be honest genetic vulnerabilities that tip you into unhealthy coping strategies and symptom expression, especially in times of increased stress, trauma, and illness.
Your body came with an instruction manual.
We think of our genes as controlling our eye color, height, and other physical traits. Still, your genetic blueprint plays a major role in many more subtle aspects of your behavior and physiology – including differences in our ability to transport, absorb, make Vit D, detox chemicals and toxins from our environment, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, how we break down carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins, and make neurotransmitters. These differences greatly impact our well-being, mood, and appearance. I think of your genetic blueprint as an instruction manual for your body.
But just because it’s “in your genes” doesn’t mean it’s your destiny! With an understanding of your genetic makeup, you can move from a place of self-hatred to one of self-compassion, where you understand your vulnerabilities and can move to make any necessary tweaks to better support your body – from personalized nutrition, adding in extra nutrients to changing up your workouts to better suit your body.
Depending on your unique genetic blueprint, you might not be able to get an adequate amount of nutrients from food alone. Another critical piece to the body’s healing mechanism is to know the precise nutrients your body will have a higher demand for in times of increased stress, trauma, and illness. And fortunately, your genetics can provide you with invaluable insight about that!
We’re talking about SNPs, not mutations.
Before we go any further, let’s clarify exactly what I mean when I say things like “differences in your genetic blueprint”- single nucleotide polymorphisms, more commonly called SNPs.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are common variations in DNA that account for many inter-individual differences, including blood type, nutrient utilization, and drug responses. These slight variations are what make you, you. These common variations, or “genetic typos,” have served beneficial purposes throughout evolution, allowing populations to adapt to changing environments. For example, a variant in the MTHFR C677T gene had an evolutionary advantage in protecting the Mediterranean region from malaria infection.
The difference between nutrigenomic testing or DNA profiling and clinical genetics, referred to as genetic testing, is that in nutrigenomic testing, we look at a number of genes that influence metabolic pathways that influence our physiology. We are not identifying mutations that cause a predictable disease state like Cystic Fibrosis that are not influenced by diet or environment. In nutrigenomics testing, we are not diagnosing a disease. We are looking at these slight variations in your DNA code that are influenced by your environment, diet, and lifestyle. Nutrigenomics is not like clinical genetics because we can modulate the expression of SNPs through environmental, diet, and lifestyle modifications.
Mutations are not common, and most people do not have true mutations. SNPs are common and are also commonly called genetic variants. I like to refer to them as genetic vulnerabilities.
With that understanding in place, let’s talk more about genetic variants- these slight variations in DNA code that make you unique.
Your variants are like light switches.
Think of your genetic variants like light switches. Just because you have a switch doesn’t mean it is always turned on or off. The turning off or on of gene expression is called Epigenetics.
Our environment and nutrition can help control what genes get turned on to their adverse setting and which stay turned off and decrease function.
Just because we are vulnerable doesn’t mean we have to tip into unhealthy coping strategies, behaviors, or symptoms expression. It just means we need to learn what our body is asking for (nutrition, lifestyle, supplementation) to balance the effects of stress, trauma, and illness. Stress is inevitable. Nutrigenomics is your blueprint to know how to handle life’s stressors better and mitigate inflammation.
Hopefully, this can help you stop beating up on yourself or thinking you can’t make healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes…it’s not just a lack of willpower. You have honest vulnerabilities that need compensation so you can rise to the occasion.
Work with your body, not against it.
Now you know that your genetic blueprint contains common variants that can impact all aspects of your health, including how you cope with stress and adversity.
Even better, with an understanding of these variants, you can tweak your environment and nutrition to support ideal gene expression in your body.
No longer do we have to guess what diet or exercise will work for you or what higher demands of nutrients (supplements) you may benefit from. Your DNA can tell you exactly where you may need more support, particularly in times of stress and increased trauma, and guides lab recommendations to get actual biomarkers to steer precise nutrition and supplement dosing.
In Functional Medicine, we call this precision nutrition.
If you are interested in learning more about how the interplay between your environment, genes, and nutrition may create the perfect storm of chronic symptoms and modifications that may help you begin to calm that storm, contact me to get started. Knowing yourself like this provides you with the keys to making well-informed healthcare decisions.