We used to think there was little we could do about the genes we’d been given. They were carved in stone and we were at the mercy of their bidding. It was a fatalistic attitude often used as an excuse to avoid making changes to our lives. What was the point if our genes were immutable?
Well it turns out that we were wrong! Although it is true that we cannot change our genetic code, we can greatly influence the expression of many genes and control the effects they have on our body. By making small changes to our lifestyle, our diet, our supplements, we can not only optimize the genetic blueprint we have been given but we can actually alter the way genes work. We can turn them on or off, up or down to maximize their beneficial side, while minimizing their adverse effects. We can steer them in a specific direction that enhances our health today and we can modify them to prevent problems in the future. Genes, it would appear, are malleable and with the right tools we can shape them to create better health and longevity.
Starting around 2011, I noticed an increasing number of articles referencing individual areas of genetic variation called SNPs, pronounced “snips” and short for Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms. Individual differences in these SNPs are called “alleles” and these alleles provide the basis of your personal genetic coding results from DNA testing. Articles discussed the association of SNP alleles with metabolic function, weight management and the risk of disease, particularly diabetes. So, although SNPs had been recognized for many years as components of our genetic makeup, the emergence of numerous studies examining the correlation of SNP variants with disease risk made them relevant to my practice. The potential to improve diagnostic accuracy, more clearly define risk and hone my therapeutic regimens according to individual genetics was exciting and, in terms of naturopathic medicine, somewhat of a Holy Grail for personalized health.