The world of genetics is a tricky one to navigate. There are countless genetic profiling options out there, and I have written before about complexity versus utility of the reports that you can purchase. It’s not cheap, either (though it’s a lot cheaper than it was).
This year I have decided, after much deliberation, to incorporate Genetics into my practice. My existing clients will know that, where appropriate, I have been using it for some time with them to assist treatment personalisation. However, I have had several requests recently for standalone genetics consultations. After much thought (the content of which will be explained in this post), I have come to the conclusion that this is actually a service that people really want – and I am finally confident enough in the software, programs and analysis tools that I am using to feel happy offering it.
In the last few month a couple of things have changed which mean that there are now tools in the public domain that make understanding the true role and importance of genetic information much more simple. The first was the DNALife panels which I discovered and trained to utilise last year – of which more below. The second, was Dr Ben Lynch’s completion of his exceptional book, Dirty Genes – which this month will be the basis for the first ever Dirty Genes Summit.
Whilst the book is not yet here, I have been lucky enough to listen to Dr Lynch live on various Facebook Q&A sessions. His approach to genetics is not actually anything to do with knowing your own DNA or genome. His approach has been to start from the health issues and symptoms people experience and work backwards to link those to the poor functioning (or excessive function – i.e. ‘slowing down’ or ‘speeding up’) of certain key genes that we have a lot of data about. In this way you use your current struggles to assess where your genes might be ‘Dirty’ – and because each gene is also tied to a host of nutritional and/or lifestyle factors which directly influence its performance, you can ‘clean it up’.
This is a wonderful tool – it’s the Functional Medicine equivalent of using case histories to assess treatment direction rather than complex and expensive testing. Whilst it’s not foolproof or fully comprehensive, it’s a great place to start for anyone who wants to dip their toe in the water. If this is you, I heartily recommend joining up to attend the Dirty Genes Summit where you will learn lots about genetics, genes and how to decode your own gene picture.
My Hesitation Over Offering Genetic Analysis
When it comes to Practitioners offering of genetics we go beyond general symptom analysis to actually offer comprehensive DNA assessments and guidance based on these reports. My reservations when it comes to utilising genetics in my practice has fallen into two broad areas:
- I do not want to encourage the impression that genetics are deterministic
- I do not want to encourage the impression that the genetics reports we are currently able to obtain tell us everything about the human body, or the human experience, or even what we should do to effect healing (or guarantee health) within the human body
Genetics are not our destiny. It is all too easy to read every SNP on a genetics report and assume the worst case scenarios. In fact, there are even reports that encourage this. When we look at gene information we are not seeing confirmation of anything whatsoever. Instead, within our genetic makeup, we are seeing predispositions, tendencies, quirks of metabolism and biology which we can utilise to guide our decisions and our dietary and lifestyle choices. We can understand where we have strengths, and where we have weaknesses. By analysing our genetics we can comprehend how our bodies are best served. It is almost like a way to self-select from the myriad of options and choices so that we can understand which steps will have the biggest impacts on our lives, given how we’re built from the ground up.
What we cannot understand is the impact of the lives we have lived thus far solely through analysing our genetics. This means that a recommendation to eat in a certain way which is based on an algorithmically created genetics report may be entirely at odds with the complicated health journey that you have lived to date. For example, genetically you may appear suited to a higher fat diet but life may have meant that you struggled with your gallbladder at one point and therefore had it removed. High fat diets without a gallbladder are not the greatest choice. Therefore, life – and what you have lived through – often trumps genetics.
This is where a Practitioner’s help comes in – understanding the test result in the context of the rest of the case history is fundamental. Just like any other Functional Medicine test, DNA Analysis should be interpreted by someone who knows how to integrate all of the disparate parts of genetics, biochemistry and psychology – all of which affect health outcomes.
When it comes to the ways to ‘remedy’ our wellbeing, utilising genetic reports can be immensely useful. However, chalking everything we experience up to our genetic milieu is a touch short sighted. We are a long way from knowing everything about our genetic code and what all the bits mean.
We have no way of knowing if one SNP that we do know a bit about is offset or compensated for by a SNP that we know nothing of. Even the most ‘comprehensive’ of genetics panels are still just tiny snapshots of the whole picture. Much is yet to be discovered about the way genes shape, mould or colour our existence.
So Why Decide to Offer Genetic Analysis?
The journey that I had within my own health evolution was constantly underpinned by one thing: seeking self understanding. Throughout all of my challenges, the theme that I kept coming back to was simply an attempt to learn about myself (body, mind and emotions) in order to comprehend what was happening to me physiologically – and why.
This mission for self-awareness is a common thread in those who come into my clinic. Quite often my clients have seen a number of practitioners before consulting me and they end up sending me countless disparate test results that they’ve acquired along the way and beg for an explanation which can help them, at least in some small way, understand themselves. This is the biggest part of why I do what I do – to help people understand, accept and finally feel safe within their own bodies and their health journeys.
It is here where I see genetic analysis playing a huge role. I believe it is human nature to seek self-understanding, almost by way of seeking understanding of the world in which we live. Whilst genetics can offer only a minor part of this, sometimes it is a fundamental and necessary puzzle piece which completes a picture and helps us navigate the world a little better. My own acceptance of certain things that I needed to do in my life to stay well was enhanced by reading my genetic report – as I shared here. I realised that if genetic analysis can, at least in part, help people to more deeply accept their reality – and consequently assist them in making the decisions that are best for their wellbeing – then I believe it is a really important tool.
It’s also great for gaining commitment and dedication to any treatment plan – as are all test results. If we can see, in black and white, the harsh reality of our own situation then it makes it a lot easier to make decisions that are going to be the healthy and sensible ones for us.
I also know that whereas some within the genetics world are completely blinded by the science and the seeming soothsaying of someone’s gene map, I am always a sceptical and slightly conservative practitioner. I hope that with my training in interpretation and synthesis of all the data, coupled with my extensive professional and personal experience of attempting to understand the complexities of any health picture, I will be able to offer people their genetic information without hype or hyperbole and with the correct emphasis on what is known, what is unknown and what can be done given the data in the reports (and the rest of the information that I know about their case).
How I Propose To Offer Genetics
The panels that I use now for genetics analysis are from DNALife, and they are excellent. Just the right level of complicated!
The way these panels are constructed is that the DNA Health Panel is the foundational analysis – providing all the SNPs you’ve heard of, alongside some that you haven’t, and delineated into sections which cover different areas of wellbeing.
On top of this, three further panels can be ordered: Diet, Sport and Oestrogen. Perhaps self explanatory, these cover nutritional guidance and food behaviour genetics, muscle/activity preference/recovery potential and hormone production/metabolism, respectively.
These panels all come with ‘reports’, which is essentially a host of data points without real context. The benefit of having these interpreted is that we, as clinicians, know how to weight the results and interpret the importance of each marker, designing a specific set of recommendations and guidelines for our clients.
I am offering a reduced consultation fee to anyone who orders all four DNALife panels through me along with a subsequent consultation. The cost for the four DNA Panels is £399 (plus approx. £8 postage). My typical consultation fees for an Initial Consultation would be a further £325 but I am going to reduce this to £250.
This means that for the total price of £657 you get all your genetic panels, plus you will have a 1 hour chat with me about all of your health concerns and the information you want to gain out of the genetic testing. I will then create a bespoke set of written recommendations which includes a comprehensive overview of the data obtained and a list of strategies to implement based on these.
Of course, you can also just order your genetic panels and look at the data yourself. If you want to do this, please just email me with the subject “DNA Life Panel Request” and I will get back to you ASAP.
However, if you want to find out more about yourself and understand your health, dietary needs, food behaviours, neurotransmitter and hormone production and metabolism, cardiovascular health risks and exercise predispositions etc. etc. – AND have a professional interpretation of this, contact me today to find out more, to order your genetics panels and to benefit from my Genetics Interpretation Services
And remember, if you’re at all interested in the background to genetics which doesn’t involve paying for any analysis whatsoever and yet can show you the essential steps you might want to take to safeguard and protect your health, then the Dr Ben Lynch Dirty Genes Summit runs from 22-30 January. This is the PERFECT primer on genetics, covering some of the most notorious genes that we know about and busting through all the myths (and the nonsense) which you may have read online.