Genetic Testing and Individualized Medicine
Changing your lifestyle isn’t always easy, but it’s usually easier when you can see results. What if I told you I could make lifestyle recommendations that were custom tailored to what is ideal for your body, meaning the changes would have a high impact and would be guaranteed to benefit you? This is the future of individualized medicine: using genomics to determine the best plan of action. Genetics is changing the field of medicine. We now know why some people experience bad side effects from certain drugs, and why some people do not. It comes down to the enzymes made in the liver, which are written in your genetic code. So instead of prescriptions by trial and error, prescriptions could be the right fit for you with fewer side effects on your end. The same goes for natural remedies: we can now pinpoint what will work for you, whether it is a lifestyle factor or a supplement. Whether or not marathon training is beneficial or detrimental for you can now be answered. Because each body is unique, medicine should be unique for each body as well. At HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre, our naturopathic doctors recognize this and work with each person to achieve personalized healthcare- and now we have a powerful new tool with which to do so.
|Sample of conditions that benefit from genetic testing: Depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, cancer prevention, auto-immune disease, fibromyalgia, autism, addictions, miscarriage, all have answers among the genes.|
Genetic testing allows us to look at the function of a person on the most fundamental level. I’ll go through several examples that highlight the power of genetic testing. Neurotransmitters are one area that our doctors will usually test or evaluate. These are the hormone messengers in the brain and the body that determine things like addiction, appetite, calm, anxiety, depression, focus, and so on.
|Some Neurotransmitters and Their Functions|
|Neurotransmitter||Function||Problems Caused by Imbalances|
|Serotonin||Affects mood, hunger, sleep, arousal||Undersupply linked to depression|
|Dopamine||Influences movement, learning, attention, and emotion||Oversupply linked to schizophrenia, undersupply linked to tremors and decreased mobility in Parkinson’s disease|
|Norepinepherine||Helps control alertness and arousal||Undersupply can depress mood and cause ADHD-like attention problems|
|GABA||A major inhibitory neurotransmitter||Undersupply linked to seizures, tremors, and insomnia|
|Glutamate||A major excitatory neurotransmitter, involved in memory||Oversupply can overstimulate the brain, producing migraines or seizures; this is why some people avoid MSG in food|
|Acetylcholine||Enables muscle attention, learning, and memory||Undersupply leads to deteriorating muscle function|
There are biochemical pathways that both produce and remove these neurotransmitters from the system. Think of it as water from a tap, and a tub with a drain at the bottom. Ideally we want balance between the amount of water coming from the tap and the size of the drain, so that the body can keep a level amount for its use. Now consider someone who produces more of a certain messenger than they remove from the system, and say that messenger is adrenaline. Even a simple startle will cause some adrenaline release, and if it is hanging around longer, ie the drain is clogged, that adrenaline is acting longer. That person may experience higher states of anxiety. In the case of cardiovascular disease, research has now shown that people who carry certain genetic types could be advised not to consume high doses of fish oil in order to prevent it. Others benefit from added fish oil. Whether or not you should be building that supplement into your routine is a question for your genes. A significant link that needs to be considered is how your metabolic pathways, predetermined by our genetics, can affect your risk for certain cancers. Research shows that a direct link exists between colon cancer and a polymorphism that affects folate metabolism (known as an MTHFR defect). This same gene is also implicated in autism, tongue-tie, and chronic fatigue. The culprit, however, is never as simple as one gene causing a certain outcome. The web is complex and interrelated, and requires special training to understand and address it. It is perfectly normal to have certain genetic strong spots and certain weak spots. So what do we do about them? The best part is that knowing this genetic picture allows us to support the full functioning of the body’s systems through targeted natural supplements or treatment methods, to either boost or bypass the genetic polymorphisms. We can regain balance in the body through understanding how the various pathways interrelate. Note that these pathways are complex and should always be addressed in a holistic context, by a person specifically trained to understand how to do so – such as one of our doctors. It is important to consider that there are always multiple factors of health and disease. There is no magic bullet approach to health. But by understanding the most fundamental makeup of what makes a person unique, we can build a customized program to lay the right foundation for your health goals.