DNA Analysis: More Than Risk Reduction, It's About Optimal Health!
I believe that in the age of modern medicine the most exciting frontier lies not within the confines of a laboratory but rather within each of us, in our biological blueprint contained in our unique DNA. It is this DNA that has medical professionals around the world—including myself—exploring new and exciting ways to treat our patients, from targeted gene therapies to personalized diet and supplement recommendations. It is a game changing time for both patients and doctors! We are excited to be able to offer genetic (DNA) testing and analysis at NaturoMedica.
In order to appreciate why genetic testing is so revolutionary it is helpful to understand some of the basic science which helps answer the question, “what is DNA?”. Primarily, DNA is a set of instructions from which the body is able to create biological substances. What the body creates—and how well those various substances function—depends greatly on what your DNA has to say. Some of the most important molecular substances that are made from DNA are called enzymes. Each enzyme in the body is unique and made up of various proteins, bonded together in precise and specific ways. Your DNA controls which proteins are used, which in turn will alter the ultimate shape of the enzyme and determine how well that enzyme functions. This is very important because enzymes are the “factories” of the body, taking one substance and turning it into another. Testing and analyzing your DNA allows me the opportunity to find out how each enzyme is likely functioning. The function of your enzymes can greatly impact your health.
There are other factors that control how well enzymes are operating. Perhaps the most important are called “cofactors”. These are the “factory workers” or the “fuel” that powers each enzyme of the body. By giving enzyme-specific cofactors, I can speed up a genetically slow enzyme, and in doing so change your entire biochemistry which ultimately improves your health.
Direct consumer genetic testing has finally become a reality with companies like 23andMe and Ancestry DNA providing saliva-based genetic testing. As recently as 2007, the average cost of genetic testing was over $1000 but as the technology has evolved, the average price for DNA testing has fallen to around $200. This represents a tipping point for many patients in terms of using DNA testing as an affordable clinical tool to improve health. Once you have provided your saliva sample for genetic testing, results are generally available within 6 weeks. The genetic testing service provides a “raw data file” along with basic genetic test results. It is the information contained within this raw data file that I use to understand more about your unique genetic variabilities, your enzymes, and your risk factors. Researchers have identified approximately 700,000 “high impact” genes that affect how the body operates. These genes control things such as brain function, detoxification, hormones, cardiovascular disease risk, and longevity. These types of genes are examined in terms of their functionality. In a clinical sense, I am most concerned with discovering where your genetic “weak spots” are located and returning them to peak function. In doing so, I have the potential to greatly impact your quality of life and help you obtain optimal health.
Other important genes that are examined in a routine genetic medicine consultation include those that control disease tendency. These are specific genes whose presence in the body will predispose patients to increased risk of developing certain medical conditions. While this information is very helpful, it is important for you to know that genetics do not equal destiny. Research shows that the chances of developing a condition are really 50/50 Nature vs. Nurture—meaning that often it is our lifestyle, diet, environment, mental/emotional well-being that will be the deciding factor when genetics are predisposing you to a condition.
Understanding the genetic information that lies within your DNA allows us to be proactive with your healthcare and gives me the opportunity to practice truly personalized medicine. To me, that is so exciting because it allows you the opportunity to have mastery over your health! Please view our listing of services to learn more about our genetic testing.