What are genes?
Genes are small sub-units of DNA. DNA is a vast chemical information database that carries the complete set of instructions for making all the proteins your cells will ever need. The DNA in each chromosome is composed of many genes and also has long stretches of non-coding DNA, the function of which is not yet completely understood.
Every gene in your body contains a particular set of instructions to build a particular protein. There are between 50,000 and 100,000 genes, and every gene is made up of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of chemical bases called nucleotides.
Genes orchestrate every aspect of our lives from the big things including development and maturation; to daily activities such as digestion, sleep, and movement. Nothing happens in our bodies without directions from our genes.
What controls genes?
Think of genes as a vast library with more books than you could read in a life time. In fact, you have thousand of genes you will never express. Inactive genes are protected in tight coils of DNA and can only be accessed by a trigger from the environment. Environmental triggers are transmitted through the epigenome. The epigenome is attached to the DNA and is both inherited and impacted by diet, stress, chemicals, and beliefs. The epigenome can turn on or off both good traits, like intelligence, and bad traits such as cancer or diabetes.
What this means is that we can’t change our genes, but we can alter our genetic expression by changing our life style.
What are SNPs?
SNPs is the acronym for single nucleotide polymorphisms, where one nucleotide, in the sequence of thousand of nucleotides making up a gene, is substituted for a different nucleotide. This substitution does not make the gene inactive, but does alter its effectiveness. Undoubtedly the most famous SNP is the MTHFR SNP. MTHFR, which stands for methyl-tetra-hydro-folate reductase, is a protein that puts methyl groups onto a folate molecule. MTHFR is famous because this is responsible for a very important step in the production of methyl groups. Methyl groups are used throughout the body for DNA repair, reproduction and development (making healthy babies), processing of environmental toxins and hormones, building immune cells and making neurotransmitters. As you can see, methylation literally makes the world in your body turn.
Genotype and Phenotype
We are learning a lot about how SNP alter genetic expression AND how to change genetic expression with nutrition. For instance, if you have a SNP in a gene that increases the risk of developing cancer, you can increase nutrients, such as B12 and magnesium to compensate for your SNP and reduce your risk of cancer. Your genes make up your genotype, which you can’t change. However, you can change your genetic expression, also known as your phenotype. This concept explains how altering your life-style by eating better, exercising, living a happy fulfilling life and avoiding environmental toxins alter your risk of developing diseases that are common in your family.
Why Test Your SNPs?
Knowing your SNPs allows you to customize your nutrition and other lifestyle factors to optimize your phenotype, or genetic expression. It also helps you understand why you may react differently to toxic exposures and stress. If you are planning a pregnancy, knowing your SNPs helps you avoid specific risk factors to optimize the health of your baby. When you have a strong family history of chronic disease, knowing your SNPs gives you some real tools to protect your future health.
How Do You Have Your SNPs Tested?
- Order your kit online from 23andMe for $99. The site offers genetic ancestry reports and tools but will also provide data for over 50 SNPs
- Mail the kit with your saliva sample back to the company.
- 23andMe will email you your results in 4-8 weeks.
- Go to GeneticGenie.org a free site for processing your data
- Copy and paste your raw data from the 23andMe report and enter it in the methylation and detoxification profiles on Genetic Genie to receive both reports
- Email your reports to info@BonnieND.com
- Schedule an appointment with Dr. Bonnie to review your results and discuss nutrition options.