Genomic Medicine: What is the deal with 23andMe?
A relatively new medical discipline is emerging based on the notion of using your genetic material to tailor your medical care. I get asked a lot about it; How does it work and what does it mean? And what does 23andMe provide me with?
Here is typically how it works. There are a number of companies out there that provide test kits. 23andMe, Ancestry, Genova diagnostics, etc. From these tests you get your raw genetic data and input it into a database (i.e. Livewello or MTHFR support) that takes your genomic information and organizes it in to useful bits of information. It looks like this:
The trick is finding someone who can read what the heck all this coding means. Essentially the yellow colours mean there is a minor change on a part of your gene and the red a bigger change. This is called a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP. Based on which part of the genetic material has been changed and how much is changed, this can have a major impact on your health or no real impact at all.
From the tests that I have seen, some common complications seem to be in the following categories:
Phase 2 liver detox: symptomatically this can show up as chemical sensitivities, problems processing medications, problems with sulphur based substances, fatigue, and much more.
Methylation: depending on where you have problems in your methyl cycle this can mean a problem with fertility and miscarriages if you cannot methylate properly.
Neurotransmitter (NT) function: if there is a problem clearing neurotransmitters then one may have more problems with anxiety. On the flip side if there is a problem in the coding for making NTs then one may have more depressive symptoms.
The good news is that finding the SNPs does not necessarily mean you will have these issues. Having a SNP and expressing the SNP is a very different thing. Your environment, what you eat, the lifestyle you live will all impact whether the gene will express itself or “turn on”. Knowing they are there means you can support yourself through proper nutrition and supplementation. For those that are expressing the SNP (having issues with chemical sensitivity, propensity for anxiety, problems with miscarriage, etc.), support through supplementation and lifestyle intervention is key.
Will this fix all your health problems? No. But what it will do is give you an understanding of some of the troubled biological processes occurring in the body. If you can support those, in my opinion, you have a better shot at clearing or dealing with other diseases processes in the body. For example, let’s say you have a serious illness, like Lyme’s disease. Figuring out your SNPs and addressing them will not necessarily address the Lyme itself, but it will lay the groundwork to help the medications and supplements you are taking to address the Lyme work better for you.
This is a very simplified view to a complicated medicine, but certainly it has value and is something that I am happy to discuss with patients.