We’ve been taught that our genes are our destiny. Well, not entirely. The study of epigenetics shows us that there are a variety of factors that can influence whether a particular gene can present as an issue in our body. Diet, toxicity, digestive health, or a significant trauma or life event can all play a role in gene expression.
Most of us have probably activated some of these so-called “bad” genes — life is stressful and we live in a toxic world. To ensure that your genes don’t get the best of you, look to the study of nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics seeks to find how nutrients, in the form of food and supplementation, can help us bypass our genes, so to speak.
You might think that getting your DNA analyzed is expensive. Well, it used to be, but in recent years some great services have become available to the public. For example, 23andMe.com is an affordable yet comprehensive test. With a simple at-home saliva sample and a few weeks you will have access to a sleek web-based interface that shows you where your ancestors came from.
Additionally, you have access to a data download which contains loads of information about your genome. Unfortunately, this more detailed information is only available in the form of raw data and you will need an additional service to make sense of it. GeneticGenie.org is one such free service where you can upload your data to see if you have any mutations
Below I will discuss six of the more common gene mutations and the nutrients you might need to include in your nutrition program to optimize your health if you have these mutations. Please note that there are countless other correlations similar to what I mention below, but the message is to recognize the capabilities of delving deeper into your DNA.
1. If you have an MTHFR mutation, folate in the right form could be critical.
Folate is a B-vitamin that plays a major role in a complex process that occurs in the body called methylation — it is critical in optimizing your body’s ability to detox. An MTHFR mutation can significantly impair the methylation process and has been shown to lead to toxicity, mental illness and a variety of other health problems.
In the presence of this mutation it is critical to have adequate food sources of folate or to supplement with the correct form. Folic acid won't do the trick; you need folate (5-L MTHF). Food sources of folate include — lentils, avocado, asparagus, and oranges, although you'll most likely still need supplemental folate.
2. If you have an MTRR mutation, you might need extra B-12.
MTRR is another gene critical to a properly functioning methylation cycle. When an MTRR mutation is present, a person may require B-12 in larger than normal doses and in a very specific form, namely methlycobalamin. Please exercise caution when supplementing with high doses of methyl B-12 as this can cause the methylation process to go on overdrive which can cause anxiety and mood swings.
3. If you have a BCM01 mutation, you might be deficient in vitamin A.
Vitamin A comes in two important categories. One, carotenoids (i.e. beta-carotene), are derived from plant sources such as carrots. The second is retinol, which comes from animal sources. Your body can't use beta-carotene to fulfill its vitamin A requirements and needs to convert this to the usable form retinol.
If you have a BCM01 gene mutation, your body may not be as efficient at making this conversion, and despite consuming carrots and sweet potatoes you may still be deficient in vitamin A. In this situation you may want to consider vitamin A from animal sources and/or adequate supplementation of retinol A. Animal sources of vitamin A include chicken liver, butter, cod liver oil.
4. If you have a VDR Taq mutation, you might need additional vitamin D.
Vitamin D is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies. If you consume adequate sources of dietary vitamin D, get adequate exposure to the sun and supplement, but have struggled to raise your vitamin D levels, this could be the result of a VDR TaQ mutation (VDR = vitamin D receptor).
In this instance it might be impossible for you to maintain adequate vitamin D levels with food, sun exposure and the levels provided in most basic supplements. Supplementation in higher doses, preferably bundled with Vitamin K2 could be crucial to support optimal levels of this all-important vitamin.
5. If you have a PEMT mutation, you should ensure that your diet includes choline.
Choline is a nutrient that plays a role in cell membrane health and nervous system function. If you have a PEMT mutation your requirement for choline is potentially more important. If you don't consume eggs or beef liver on a regular basis, chances are good that you're not getting enough choline. While present in nuts and some cruciferous veggies, it's difficult to meet the recommended amount through these alone. Consider supplementing with sunflower lecithin.
6. If you have the CYP1A2 mutation, you should be very careful with your caffeine intake.
Are you one of those people who has trouble tolerating coffee and other caffeinated beverages? Do you get jittery and have trouble sleeping? Well, there are a variety of reasons why that could occur, but one might be the CYP1A2 mutation. This has the potential to make you a slow metabolizer of caffeine. This means that you might feel the effects of caffeine longer than someone sans mutation.
Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, so that cup of coffee which injected 100mg of caffeine into your system will be down to 50mg in six hours and 6 hours later 25mg and so on. If you have a CYP1A2 mutation the caffeine could stay in your system even longer. In this instance you would want to be sure to limit your intake of coffee to the early morning only — and be sure to consume caffeine with adequate protein or fat, or eliminate intake all together.