What does GENETICS have to do with it?
You’ve been eating healthy, working out, and taking your medication properly, however, things don’t seem to be improving. You still end up with that disease that your parents and grandparents had. Your medications don’t seem to be working the way you expected and have been switched from one drug to the next. You don’t seem to tolerate certain foods and your supplements don’t help the way you thought. What could be the problem? There are many possible factors but one possible factor has been gaining more attention in the past few years . . . GENETICS.
What are Genes/DNA (brief summary)
Understanding genetics will require a brief explanation of DNA. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms (U.S. National Library of Medicine – Genetics Home Reference). DNA consists of certain codes and sequences that help guide the way our body is developed by providing the information/blueprint. In humans, our DNA is pretty similar from one person to the next but there are slight differences and it’s these differences that make everyone unique. It can determine our skin colour, eye colour, gender, and much more. It can also determine our likelihood of developing certain diseases, the way our body responds to certain medications, and even how it processes certain foods.
Genetics and disease
We know there are certain diseases that are hereditary, meaning these diseases are passed on from parent to child. Examples include Huntington’s Disease or Cystic Fibrosis. These diseases are linked to certain codes in our DNA. There are certain genetic tests that can be performed to determine if the parents are a carrier of these codes and can give you a probability of passing on these codes to their children. I caution though, these are like probabilities and are anything but certain. I would only advise taking these tests if there is a family history of certain hereditary diseases. I also stress that as medicine continues to grow, our ability to manage these diseases becomes better and better.
For other diseases like diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure), there isn’t an exact link to our DNA, however, we do see an increased likelihood of developing these diseases if there is a family history. No exact test is available now but patients with a family history of certain diseases may want to do more to decrease the likelihood of developing these diseases (e.g. better diet, more active lifestyle, destressing, etc).
Genetics and drugs (Pharmcogenetics)
Prescription, non-prescription, and even recreational drugs interact with our body to deliver the desired effect. But sometimes the drug just doesn’t work as well for some people and sometimes they develop more side effects than others. A basic understanding of what happens to drugs in our body is best described by the acronym ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion). The drug has to get into our body and absorbed. It is then distributed throughout our body or just to certain parts where they are supposed to work. The drug is then broken down (metabolized) by enzymes in our body. They are then finally removed from our bodies (excreted). At every stage, there can be differences from person to a person resulting in either the drug not working properly or causing side effects. Again, one of the reasons for these differences can be linked to our individual genetics.
With technology and our knowledge improves there are tests available that can determine the predicted effect certain drugs will have on a person. This means these tests can give us information on which drugs should work as intended, which drugs may not work as well, and which drugs can lead to more side effects. The benefits of these tests mean that your healthcare provider can better choose a medication therapy that is more likely to work for you and avoid ones that would be ineffective or cause you to experience more side effects. This will lead to better outcomes and management of your conditions, less switching from one medication to another to find the one that works best and a lot of savings for you and the healthcare system. I want to mention that no test is 100% accurate and all results from these tests should be discussed with your healthcare professional.
Genetics and food (Nutrigenetics)
We’ve talked a lot about diseases and drugs, but do genetics affect the way our body handles food? The answer is YES! Just like drugs that go through our bodies, food interacts in a similar way. They have to get into our body, they get delivered to where they need to go, they get broken down and digested, and finally, they get excreted. This field is relatively new compared to the others mentioned but there are tests available that look at how your body absorbs certain vitamins/minerals, how your body uses different fats, how your body responds to things like caffeine. Although new, the field of food and genetics has lots of established methods to grow quickly and the knowledge is going to keep getting greater and greater.
The benefit of getting your genetic profile for your foods is that it can help tailor your diet to help optimize your health by identifying areas that your body may be deficient in and help you decide on food options that would work best for you. Again, the test results should always be discussed with your healthcare professional to best interpret the results and determine the best plan for you.
HPN, Genetics, and YOU
Genetics is only 1 possible reason why something may not be working the way it is intended and you should always speak to your healthcare professional to explore all possibilities to optimize your health.
The professionals at Holistic Pharmacy and Nutrition (HPN) are partnered with Rocky Mountain Analytics (RMA) to provide clients that may be interested in getting their nutrigenetics profile and personalized consultation to help optimize your health. Book your appointment today and find out how else we can help you achieve your health goals.