Do genetics tell the whole story?

Have you ever seen the stories that try to figure out how and why identical twins may have different health conditions?  Why does one end up with heart disease or cancer and the other doesn't?  They have the same genetics, right?  It's a concept that has always fascinated me.  

What is it that makes us truly unique?  It can't simply be genetics.

Or what about the same food or supplement that is really good for one person and yet wreaks havoc in the life of another.  Or, even more frustrating, the food or supplement that worked really well for you at one time now causes problems.  

What causes these changes over time or differences between individuals?  We are each unique creations!  Yes, we can think about the complexity of genetics but when we incorporate epigenetics and how our individual life story impacts how some of our genetics work (think of a light switch flipped on or off), we increase the potential for a unique biochemical person infinitely more!  

That's why I believe it is so important to hear someone's story.  It's important for you to share your story.  (The trick might be finding a provider who can sit still long enough to really listen!)  

Let's put this into a real situation, ok?!

Let's talk food allergies and sensitivities - the discussion always comes back around to histamine.  It's the stuff that causes allergic reactions, right?  

Truth be told, histamine is involved in over 23 different physiologic functions.  Everything from allergies, like we're used to thinking, to immune function.  It is actually one of our neurotransmitters!  It has a lot of important work to do.

The issue comes when our body has a hard time maintaining biochemical balance.  To get rid of histamine, your body primarily uses two different enzymes: diamine oxidase (DAO) and histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT).   

By looking at the information available in your or 23andme testing, we can see how these two genes are coded in your body.  Are they coded to be fast?  Slow?  Just right?  The answer is easy enough to find - but it's only a fraction of the story!  (And keep in mind that these enzymes do not work in a vacuum!  THere is an amazing, intricate web of reactions that supports that body you're sitting in!)

We also have to look at our Four Cornerstones of Epigenetics - stress, sleep, food and environment.  This is where the significance of your story comes into play!  Let's look specifically at the DAO enzyme.

This is simplified, but here are a handful of ways we may be increasing our histamine load by slowing down the DAO enzyme:

  • Environmental exposures which impact the gut microbiome causing inflammation which slows DAO;

  • We live with high levels of stress - including sleep deprivation - which has significant impacts on the gut microbiome, as well;

  • We drink alcohol, black tea and/or coffee, all of which inhibit the DAO enzyme;

  • We take antihistamines to help manage our allergy/sensitivity symptoms.  Antihistamines decrease DAO activity;

  • We eat foods that either decrease DAO activity or add histamine to our system, e.g. bananas, spinach, strawberries, green peas, and citrus fruits are just a few examples.  

Regardless of how your genetics are actually coded, your unique story determines a great deal of how well those genetics and your biochemistry actually function.  Say your DAO gene is coded to work quickly.  If you have gut inflammation (leaky gut, SIBO, IBS, etc.) or drink multiple cups of coffee every day, you are slowing down your DAO enzyme.  Is it enough to cause allergy or sensitivity reactions?  It depends!

But notice this, these are all things you can control.  We can't change our genetics - and that's not the goal - but we can change how some of those genes work.  

This is one big reason why some foods and supplements are good for some folks and not for others, or why a supplement may work really well right now and then seem to backfire.  Your body is an ever-changing universe impacted by every decision you make.  Literally!    

Sixty-Second Self-Care Tip...

Ever heard of xenoestrogens?  Those chemicals that mimic estrogens and other hormones in our bodies?  DAO is one of the enzymes that also helps get rid of xenoestrogens.  To help DAO do its job more easily and efficiently, get rid of as many xenoestrogens in your life as possible.  

Easy-ish place to start?  That plastic bottle you may be carrying around.  Be sure it's at least BPA-free, although that's no guarantee!  Consider changing to a steel or, if you're brave, glass bottle instead.  Same with the plastics you may be using to store and cook food!

Have questions?  I hope you do!!!  Head on over to Facebook and ask away.  Or you know you can always email me your questions!


60-second self-care, epigenetics, histamine, self-advocate, stress, Your Story

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Postcards from Me to You

Sign up to get a weekly e-postcard (aka blog post) delivered straight to your Inbox.  It'll turn Sunday into Self-Care Sunday and give you super quick, practical tips for thriving through the craziness and stress of another week!