Imagine… we can now get a genetic sample from your saliva, retrieve hundreds of little hidden gems of information about your health and tailor a unique plan that works for YOU. This simple and informative test has never before been available to you and me.
Methylation: Cool topic, unsexy name.
If you have been in to see me in the past year (individually, during the Metabolic Cleanse or simply follow my blog), you have probably heard me talk about something called methylation, a process responsible for almost every cellular function in the body, from DNA repair (read – cancer prevention, quality of life, and longevity) and regulating inflammation (read – lowered pain and reduced risk of cardiovascular events) to detoxifying and dealing with stress.
I’m sorry I don’t have a sexier term for methylation but hopefully by the end of this blog you’ll forgive the blandness and you’ll just want more of it.
Here’s why I’ve been talking about methylation. It happens billions of times per second in your body – so it’s fairly important. When methylation pathways go wrong, as in the case of MTHFR (and no, it is not a dirty word) enzyme defect, sometimes severe health outcomes result. With MTHFR enzyme defect, key methylation enzymes are not able to effectively metabolize B-vitamins, neurotransmitters, hormones and protect the body by efficiently carrying out basic detoxification. The compounding effect is you feel like dirt, you don’t know why and few practitioners would know where to begin to help you.
Methylation: The Most Exciting Area of Natural Medicine Today.
You might consider me an early-adopter when it comes to working with methylation defects, not because it’s new but because it’s stinking complicated and few practitioners have committed the time and energy to master it. I’ve discovered that individuals with known methylation defects can run circles around most practitioners on the topic. It’s essentially its own language and with few practitioners able to speak it, individuals have had to study up on their own, develop support groups and help each other. On a side, I have to say it’s pretty beautiful to watch this community of caring and motivated individuals.
So, I’ve been learning the language and the clinical application for some time and working with select clients but this is the first time I am making a very public announcement about it. In my opinion this is the most exciting new area of natural medicine and personalized care today. It blows my mind. Stay with me as I share my initial hesitation in going big with it.
Why I’m Telling You Now.
If you came by my office in the last few months, you may have met the 4th year Naturopathic Medical Intern working with me. (Yeah Brian, for wanting to practice someday in South Carolina!)
One day he says to me, “I am a little scared for you!” “Why?”, I ask. “Because you love utilizing this extremely complicated test in your practice. I see the time and energy you put into interpreting these panels. If you keep this up, you won’t be able to see many people.”
His comment struck a cord with me, but I don’t think it was the one he meant.
So, other than a few blogs, I have been keeping it close, reserving the service for my inner circle of patients and Cleanse folks. When I first started interpreting these tests, it would take me 8-10 hours or more to interpret one test. Despite its value, clearly you can see the practical limitations of implementing it.
I look around at my colleagues and we’re all talking about it because we want to offer it but the learning curve is super steep and there’s really only a “handful” of practitioners qualified to interpret and utilize them accurately. And, of course, most of them can’t take on new clients. Well, I’ve tackled the learning curve now, but it’s still an extremely detailed test and my interpretation time is still around 2-3 hours. But still, can it work? I began thinking….
Personalized Care: Wellness and Prevention.
Brian reminded me of my two greatest areas of passion and the two greatest concerns for my patients.
- Personalized, preventative care – I know what it is like to not get personalized care… I was very sick once, too. I felt like a number, a lab value. It was a terrible experience. According to my numbers, and after only a few minutes with the practitioner, I was to be on a medication for the rest of my life. I refused to accept that. I wanted another way. I found it and now I bring that to my patients. But now, there’s a test that takes personalized care to a distinct new level. One that provides insights into exactly how you’re made up and how and why your body responds to everything in your environment and lifestyle…. that’s awesome.
- Detoxification – This is a cornerstone of life today. Sadly, life is polluted – chemicals, negative thoughts, bad food, too much media, our fast-paced lifestyle, and on. I’m no alarmist but we have challenges our parents didn’t face and that we can’t ignore. We lose sight of the magnitude of it because it’s simply how we live. But, unlike our parents, we absolutely have to be concerned with our exposures. We must take steps to lead cleaner, healthier lives, actively avoid the multitude of toxicity in our lives, and of course, routinely detoxify from it. But, if you’re not methylating, you’re not detoxifying.
One Invaluable Lab Test.
For the first time, we have the ability to take your genetic makeup and discover how and why it affects your unique health. If you’re like me, I thought someone, somewhere, could do this years ago but not like this. This is completely new. And, even better, it’s an inexpensive, non-invasive and simple saliva test. A test that reveals hundreds of little hidden gems of information about YOU that we’ve never before been able to see. For us it’s a deep look into your genes, your biochemistry and your ability to methylate… what you get is absolutely personalized care.
What we need to embrace is that genes are not set in stone like we once believed. New research has proven this old thinking is hugely insufficient. It’s now understood that your genes are simply part of the foundation of who you are (like a recipe) but how those genes are expressed or not (how the recipe turns out) depends on your environment (the ingredients, the oven, etc…).
Epigenetics: Another Cool Topic, Another Unsexy Name
This new area of personalized care called epigenetics (again, a very unsexy term) shows us how the food you eat, the nutrients you absorb, the thoughts you think, the air you breathe, etc… interact and affect how your individual recipe turns out. You see, you may have the genes for cancer, or diabetes or heart disease, or whatever but never develop it because the correct environment prevents the genes from becoming problematic. Now, we can see how and why. And if they are problematic, we can take steps to minimize them or change them back.
Check out this 13 minute PBS video on epigenetics – absolutely fascinating:
Epigenetics accounts largely for how twins can be so different. It’s explains why a cloned cow, genetically identical to its “parent” cow, can have completely different genetic expression demonstrated plainly by different black and white patterning.
Enough about twins and cows…
For you, we can determine:
- Is coffee good or bad for you? (You actually can’t tell from how it makes you feel… it’s deeper.)
- How effective are you at detoxification (key to quality of life and longevity.)
- Do you need more of certain nutrients, B-vitamins, antioxidants, and which ones?
- How does your brain function? Prone to anxiety or depression? We can see how you create and breakdown neurotransmitters?
- Should we focus on preventing an increased risk of Alzheimer’s?
- Do you need a high or low protein diet? Low sulphur diet? More molybdenum food?
- Are your cells prone to early death?
- Why do you bruise easily?
- Why are you sensitive to smells?
- Overly sensitive to foods in the diet, chemicals in the air–why?
- Prone to high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure?
Some of this may seem arbitrary but when it comes together as part of your whole recipe it could really mean the difference between face-down-on-the-couch depression and youthful, unbridled energy. Your genes can have polar opposite expressions as determined by how your lifestyle interacts with them.
Epigenetics: Why it’s Invaluable.
In a patient care setting, even the best available approach to any of your care may miss completely if it doesn’t respect your unique makeup. Now, with this information at our fingertips, we can better tailor a plan that honors your genetic needs. This is personalized care at its best!
It seems fair to ask, “If this test is so great, why haven’t I heard about it?” I’m not sure but I suppose it comes down to its complexity. The time and energy commitment for a practitioner to understand methylation defects and ultimately offer them on a one-on-one basis seems to be the hurdle. It almost stopped me and certainly slowed me down.
So the test I highly recommend is 23andMe. I believe it’s the most cost effective and detailed test available. (I have no affiliation with this company and neither I nor HealthE Coaching receive any incentives for recommending or using their service.)
23andMe is a DNA analysis service that offers a comprehensive genetic scan of a subset of the SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in your genome which correspond to the SNP data being studied by the research community.
The Really Good Stuff’s in the Raw Data
Now the results that you receive are cool, but the good stuff is in the raw data. The raw data, consisting of about 19 pages of specifics, contains around 300 hundred comprehensive markers of your health (no wonder it takes me so long to interpret!). This data is yours, FOREVER – remember, your genes don’t change; it’s their expression that does. Every few months or years you can go back in and evaluate the latest research on your genetic markers and continue to individualize your program… brilliant!
By now, I’ve interpreted a lot of these tests for my patients, and guess what, they are spot on. It’s wild when you can explain life traits and events that have never even been brought up in our sessions. They paint an extremely detailed picture of the individual – how they process nutrients, how well they detox, where they need support and what kind of symptoms they might have… even whether you think cilantro tastes like soap or you can smell asparagus metabolites in your urine. Who knows the value there, but you get the picture.
“Utilizing the raw data from genetic testing (from 23andMe) has allowed me to take individualized care to a whole new level. Along with a detailed intake, screening labs and genetic testing, we no longer have to make educated guesses at what someone needs to optimize their nutrition. We can now put all of the pieces of someone’s unique puzzle together. These advancements are a gift to individualized and effective patient care.” ~ Dr. Sherri
While I have recognized the importance of this testing for some time, Brian made me realize I can’t keep it close any longer. I need to let more people know about it regardless of the challenge it presents.
Methylation Defects: Time to get the word out.
It’s time to go big.
I will be taking a limited number of clients each month to analyze their raw data from their 23andMe test. This is exclusively for folks who have had an initial comprehensive visit with me.
Who needs to get the 23andMe test done? In my experience it’s anyone with:
- Personal or family history of cardiovascular issues
- Infertility, or a history of miscarriage
- Unexplained symptoms
- Poor tollerance of medications and supplements
- Chronic health complaints related to toxicity: skin issues, digestive problems, headaches, foggy brain, poor memory, anxiety/depression, mood disorders.
- Methylation defect related conditions
- Or really, the individual who wants to live long and prosper by taking their unique health to the next level. 🙂
How it Works:
Get the detailed genetic profile done through 23andMe**. It only costs $199 but it takes about 1 month to get the results from the lab. The time delay stinks but again this is an extremely detailed test. Once you receive your results, schedule an appointment and get me the raw data. Together, in light of your results, we’ll develop a detailed plan for you. And, here’s the cool thing to me… your gene expression is defined by the whole of your lifestyle and therefore so is the approach to care. We’re not talking about surgery, or meds, or who knows what. We’re talking science-based natural medicine and I love that.
**Again this is only for people who have had an Initial Comprehensive Appointment with me, not just an intro phone consult. Detailed knowledge of the individual is necessary for accurate interpretation of how the genes are actually affected.
**Each day more information is published about the details and implications of these various genetic markers. As we learn more, we can go back to your panel and review – genetic markers won’t change, but our understating of them will. This $199 test will provide you with years and years of individualized care.
Review some of my previous blogs about methylation:
And don’t forget to get my Free MAD DOC Supplement Guide to determine how good your supplements are – I created it specifically with methylation in mind.
Please share this information with close friends and family. They don’t have to do this through me by any means but they need to know it now exists. It has saved a lot of people a lot of time, money and emotional energy to finally get the answers they’ve been seeking.
Share your questions and comments below.