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GENETIC HEALTH - MAKING INFORMED CHOICES

Knowledge is power

But can knowing your genetic make-up, lead to better health decisions?

Well, yes it can - because your genetics influence almost every aspect of your health. Everything from your weight, mood, hormones, and immune system can be traced back to your DNA.

Although it would be very wrong to say that all health conditions come down to genetics alone because most are caused by a combination of genes and lifestyle factors, - the foods we eat, the chemicals we are exposed to, our stress levels, how active we are, even our social environments can actually alter DNA expression (whether DNA is turned on or off), and subsequently our health at the level of the gene. So strictly speaking, your health status is not just in your genes. Bad and good genes can be turned on and off by everyday life.

For instance, different genes respond differently to certain nutrients in food, and dietary chemicals can act on the human genome to alter gene activity or gene structure in a healthy or unhealthy way.

Caffeine is a classic example of how there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there on whether it’s “good” or “bad”. The answer is – it depends on your biological makeup. Some people don’t metabolise caffeine well, which means it lingers in their bloodstream for longer having the potential to affect blood pressure and effectively wipe out any positive benefits a cup of coffee might have. You may already suspect that your relationship with caffeine isn’t great. But knowing for sure via DNA testing gives you factual-clarity and can help you make better decisions about your caffeine consumption.

This is just one example as to why using a personalised approach to diet, based on nutritional status, nutritional requirements and gene type is important for optimal health. Having a clear picture of your genetic strengths and weaknesses can help you make informed choices on how best to tailor things like diet and exercise.

The beauty of DNA testing

What else can DNA testing tell you about your genetic make-up and the impact it can have on your health?

Inflammation - the release of inflammatory substances is controlled by genes that govern inflammation. So if you have inflammatory genes that are continually “switched on” the inflammatory response will persist.

Oxidative stress - free radicals are a normal by-product of a biochemical process. They are highly reactive with other molecules, and can damage DNA, proteins and cellular membranes. Antioxidants are free radical scavengers that interact with the free radicals to ensure they are no longer reactive molecules. Even though antioxidants can be consumed from a wide variety of foods, especially from vegetables and fruit, the major role in antioxidant defense is fulfilled by your body’s own antioxidant enzymes. When these enzymes aren’t working as they should your body becomes susceptible to the ill-effects of oxidative stress.

Bone health - your cells work continuously to dissolve old bone and create new bone tissue. After the age of 30, both women and men start losing bone mass. This loss is particularly marked in women after menopause. According to latest research both nutrition and genetic factors play an important role in influencing bone health.

Vitamin D - the vitamin D receptor gene (VDR)accounts for around 70% of the entire genetic influence on bone density, playing an important role in calcium homeostasis (balance), bone cell growth and differentiation, and intestinal calcium absorption.

Insulin resistance - those with lowered sensitivity to insulin genes, have a limited ability to respond to the hormone’s action.

Food responsiveness - certain nutrients and ingredients in different foods can affect individuals in different ways. Some food responsiveness areas that you can explore include - lactose intolerance, polyunsaturated Fat (PUFA) metabolism, caffeine and salt sensitivity, alcohol metabolism and your liking / disliking for bitter tastes.

Other genetic health areas available to test for, include - detox effectiveness, sleep issues, histamine intolerance and reduced methylation (the process of DNA repair) which can impact immune and heart function.

Connecting with your unique genome can be an empowering and fascinating experience. But it’s not for everyone. If you're someone who would worry about a genetic predisposition to a particular health condition, then it might be wise to avoid DNA testing.

On the other hand, if expanding your knowledge and gaining insight on your genetic make-up with a view to using the information to learn more about your body, as well as to help support your health and wellness regime, then it's worth testing. I have no regrets. My own genetic discovery has been beneficial in every sense. But do remember your genes alone are most definitely not your health fate.

Genetic health - a personalised and integrated assessment

The scope of DNA testing is huge. You can test for thousands of genes - we’ve just scratched the surface here.

I work with clients to help them assess what’s going to be of most value to them, given their current health and lifestyle status plus goals. DNA test results are then interpreted to include not only deciphering the DNA codes and what they mean, but I also look for patterns to determine where individuals might need more support, and then provide them with recommendations to achieve this.

It’s about using the power of the genetic insight to facilitate a personalised and integrated approach to making optimal health a reality.

Get in touch, if you're curious to learn more about your genetic health to help you support your goals and journey towards improving your health.

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