Genetic testing seems so simple, doesn't it? Buy a kit online, send it off and learn about your heritage and potential relatives. Easy peasy…except for maybe those new relatives.
But there is so much more to learn about your body from genetic testing. We've spent a lot of time talking about the various genes involved in helping your body clear histamine and that's only the beginning.
Why to do genetic testing...
When I work with patients and clients using genetics, we are focusing on how to improve the biochemical pathways in the body. It is a way to address and prevent chronic disease by literally going to the cellular level (or even smaller!) and supporting the function of the cellular machinery. There is no interest in judging genetic results as good or bad, right or wrong…it's just another opportunity to learn more about how your body responds to different situations.
Those different reactions and responses are when epigenetics really comes into play. Epigenetics is the understanding and study of all the different behavioral and environmental factors that impact how your genes function. The way you were put together (genetics) isn't the only determinant in how your body works.
In fact, epigenetics helps explain the "why" behind all of those things we "know" are good for your health, e.g. eating fruits and veggies, exercising, lowering stress, etc. We can actually see how those things affect individual genes and the related pathways.
We can modify genetic function using epigenetics. We do not change the genes themselves.
Genetic testing options...
Want more information about your body so you can optimize your health and understand what your body is saying to you? Consider doing your own genetics testing! When/if you're ready, you have some options (I love options!), but here are my top two…
Ancestry and Strategene
This one is a two-step process. First, you order the basic kit from Ancestry. In general, Ancestry tests more genes than 23andme, but you can use either company and the process works the same. You only need the basic kit, not the special health kit. The Ancestry basic kit is usually about $99 (but does go on sale regularly throughout the year). You order it (and feel free to use an alias!), collect the specimen and send it back. And then you usually wait about 4-6 weeks for your results. Flip through those results…but then let's dig into the health stuff!
To do that, you'll want to request a download of your raw data file from Ancestry. There is a process which ultimately has them sending you a link to download a long list of all the genes they tested and the results. It's not very user friendly and that's why I love the Strategene Report by Seeking Health ($95). Strategene is a 140+ page book about you. It uses many (not all) of the genes tested and puts them into known biochemical pathways so you can actually see how all of the genes work with each other.
Which brings up a really good point here - never focus on just one gene. Just like an assembly line, if one step changes it impacts every other step on the line. And changing the function of one and not supporting the others will usually create a bit of chaos. (And no one likes biochemical chaos!)
The Strategene also gives you a TON of information about each gene - all of the epigenetics for that gene. It can get overwhelming, especially when you're not sure where to start. At this point, you might consider working with a provider or coach who is experienced in this kind of genetic work. Neither Ancestry nor Strategene require a doctor's order or, in fact, any involvement at all! That also means insurance is not even going to consider covering the costs.
This Australian company is privately owned and is pretty strict on confidentiality. They do not collect genetic information for research, like Ancestry and 23andme do. So, if you're wanting a little more privacy, you might consider this option. It is a one-step option which again is going to be solely self-pay; no insurance will cover this testing. You are looking for the Advanced Pathways Test.
In general, it works the same. You order the kit, collect the specimen and then send it back in. One difference is SmartDNA releases results to a provider, not to you directly. When you order the kit you will be asked to identify your provider, so you need to have that figured out before ordering. The other thing to note is, as of this writing, prices are listed in Australian dollars. Be sure to check the conversion rate from AUS$ to US$ to get a feel for how much you'll spend. Right now, expect to spend about $300 US (which is a good bit less than $400AUS).
This report organizes the results by biochemical pathway and does color code them based on function. While it does not give you the pathways like Strategene does, it does test for more genes than either Ancestry or 23andme. If you really want to dig in deep with genetics and epigenetics, consider this test. And, again, consider finding someone who can help you learn how to read the report and then how to get started in using all that amazing info!
The disadvantages of genetic testing
Overwhelm. I truly believe this is the biggest disadvantage to this kind of testing. The amount of information you get is overwhelming and then integrating it all into a plan can be a challenge. Where to start? What does it all mean? How do you balance things out so you don't feel worse? And most of us, when we get overwhelmed, just stop looking…and then you've missed out on an amazing opportunity to learn more about your body!
The anxiety of knowing too much. While the kind of testing we're talking about is not looking for specific cancer genes or Parkinson's genes, we are identifying potentials for disease. Sounds great, right?! But just knowing there is an increased risk of a disease can be enough to cause anxiety, worry and distress for some folks. Are you willing to work through that sudden information surge and what it may include?
Wasting the testing. This is a classic medical decision-making point - if you're not going to change a treatment or behavior based on a test's results, why do the test? I think that's pretty self-explanatory so I'll just leave that one right here.
Isolation. The bigger challenge these days is finding a provider or coach who knows this genetic/epigenetic world well enough to be able to help you navigate through the mountains of information. When you can't find someone competent, you can feel very isolated. A couple options for finding potential providers to help are to check out the providers page on MTHFR Support and MTHFR Support Australia (not related).
Privacy concerns. For some, the potential of their genetic information being out there in the world in someone's database is a very real concern. The world is becoming a strange place and this particular risk may be more than some are willing to accept. Not to try and change minds, because we all need to make our decisions here, but one potential option is to use an alias (I used my dog's name!) and a burner email address when you register your Ancestry kit. This is one reason I like to offer SmartDNA as an option - they do prioritize privacy.
And you know you can always contact me for support! I'm curious - if you're up for it, which testing option makes the most sense for you?
Sixty-second self-care tip…
You know what, this post is already crazy long! Self-care for today - go outside (!!) and identify five different things you can sense with each of your five senses. Sounds wonky, but it's as simple as listing in your mind or saying out loud...
That's it! It's a great way to calm your nervous system and simply enjoy the world around you!
Food Sensitivity Code is going to be opening up later this summer. It's my totally revamped 5-week course to get you back in control of what you eat and how you feel. Thinking about joining the waitlist? If so, consider ordering your own genetics testing so you can use your OWN results during Food Sensitivity Code!