“I don’t want any sort of gene testing.”
I had heard that statement so many times before, I was ready for it when Tanya objected to my recommendation of genomic analysis.
“What’s the point?” She continued. “You can’t change your genes.”
“I have to tell you,” I responded, “that’s not true. You absolutely can.”
You can’t change your genetic code, but you can change your genes.
Over the past decade, genetic testing has become increasingly popular as a method to discover the potential for future health issues. We now know that virtually every human disease is the result of a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors. Discovery of the BRCA breast cancer gene has likely saved thousands of lives. The CDC advocates using genetic information for targeted interventions. Even after all this, many people are still skeptical.
For the last six years, I have worked closely with Dr. Helena Baranova, MD, of the European Institute of Personalized Prevention, one of the world’s leaders in cutting-edge genomic research. I have personally seen the differences that quality genomic testing can make, and I can state definitively that it is an irreplaceable asset in the quest for optimal health.
While it is true you cannot change your genetic code, it is not true that you can’t change your genes. Your genetic expression is a function of both the genetic code they represent and gene methylation, a biochemical process that can increase or decrease the expression of a gene sequence. Genetic code is permanent, but methylation is unique within different cell types, and can change due to environmental factors. This relatively new branch of genetic science is called epigenetics.
Knowledge is power.
When we discover a genetic susceptibility through genomic testing, it’s not a prediction. It’s a target for intervention. I immediately begin the process of creating a personalized nutrition plan to address the epigenetic expression of that gene group, “turning it down” and reducing the likelihood of expression.
The goal is simple: reaching and prolonging exceptional health by silencing genetic susceptibility.
I related all this to Tanya, who was still nervous but agreed to the analysis. When her results came back, her fears were confirmed: she had a genetic susceptibility to Alzheimer’s. Pointing out that this was in no way a guarantee that she would succumb to the disease that took her father, I helped her prepare a nutrition and lifestyle plan targeted for brain health. It meant a lot of changes for her, but she left feeling hopeful.
Still, I worried about her, so I called a few days later to ask how she was feeling.
“Dina, I have to tell you, I feel so relieved. I didn’t know I had the Alzheimer’s gene before, but I still assumed it, and was afraid of it. Now that I know, I feel like I’m in control again. I’m doing something about it.”
“And it feels so much better to be in control.”