Recently I feel like my health has been failing me. I’ve always prided myself on having a robust immune system, I’ve been quite lucky that I can shake off colds and viruses in a couple of days, and I hardly ever need to take time off work due to ill health. Yes, I am one of those people who are always on the go but I usually have good energy and get up and go, and rarely have had to not do things due to feeling ill.
However something has changed in the last few months and I’ve been ill on almost a monthly basis – to the point where it’s affecting what I can and can’t do. It’s also kind of ironic as I’ve recently just started at an intensive workout program, being more mindful of my diet, and I’m taking supplements on a regular basis. I decided to really embody the whole “practice what you preach” thing and yet my health seems to be worse for it. Maybe this is what happens when you hit your mid-30s!!
So here I am, alone on the Saturday night of the bank holiday weekend, because I can’t attend one of my best friends’ 40th birthday party because I’m too ill. This sucks. And this also ends here.
So I’m going to tell you what I’ve tried to do so far to monitor and modify my health and I’m going to keep you posted on my progress every month. You can hold me accountable!
DNA tests are all the rage now, but are they any good? I decided to try them out and see. I’m not that into the tests that tell you your percentage risk of getting dementia – I’m not sure how empowering that knowledge is for me. So I decided to have a full spectrum of tests done that look more at processes in the body; to look at my hormone metabolism, the processes of detoxification and methylation in the body, and DNA diet and sports tests to guide me on what to eat and how to exercise.
The tests are really easy to carry out, using a cotton bud-type swab to rub on the inside of your cheek. You post it off and get the results in 3-4 weeks. The test looks at Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs.
SNPs are a variation in a single nucleotide that occur at a specific position in the genome. SNPs underlie differences in our susceptibility to diseases. The point of the test is to identify specific SNPs that can lead to diseases, and then use this information to take certain supplements, nutritional and lifestyle changes that help support the body’s pathways. Helpful, personalized and empowering information. The results were definitely interesting.
Firstly, I am not that great at methylating. What does that mean in English?
Methylation is essentially the process of converting folate in food or folic acid in to methylated folate. This is essential for many processes in the body such as balancing hormones, detoxification, it can also effect mood, sleep and even vitamin D absorption. It can also put your risk up for heart inflammation. The main reason I wanted this test done is because of the profound effect it can have on your mood. I have real issues managing my stress and mood, and it has always felt a little out of my control. As soon as I heard about how methylation can effect this I instinctively knew I had this, as the way I react to things is often more extreme than I would like it to be. So it was almost a relief to see that any issues I have with stress and mood aren’t entirely due to my inability to deal with things, and taking a supplement will help. Now that I know I don’t methylate well, I am taking a supplement of methylated folate and B vitamins which I will probably have to take forever. I am fine with this, as it is better than taking medication forever plus it is going to cut down my future risk of health issues.
My body is pretty good at detoxification and my liver works pretty well. The most important antioxidant in the body is called glutathione and my body can make it pretty well – phew! But I have a SNP on the receptor for glutathione so my body is going to be less able to use my glutathione. Therefore taking extra glutathione, or the building blocks that help to make glutathione, will be useful for boosting my immune system and will support my body’s detoxification.
Bad news, my body doesn’t metabolise my oestrogens as well as it should do. But not to worry, I am going to improve my methylation and take certain supplements that will help me with this. Who’s ever heard of a hormone doctor who can’t deal with her own hormones?! 😉
DNA diet and sport
The best diet for me is a Mediterranean one according to my genetics. This makes sense as my oestrogen test said having no carbs at all would not be good for my oestrogen metabolism. There’s always lots of talk about high protein and high fat diets, but based on my genetics, only moderate fats are good for me, even the ‘good fats’. The DNA test also looks at the number of MET hours I need to do to stay healthy and fit and maintain my weight. MET stands for Metabolic Equivalent Tasks and are a way to measure how much energy you burn up during an activity. Every activity has a MET score, from watching TV to going to a run. The more vigorous the activity and higher the MET value.
Unfortunately to manage my weight and stay healthy I need to have a high level of MET hours, 24 a week! This is the equivalent of hitting my 10,000 steps 5 times a week and doing about 3x 1 hour vigorous gym sessions. So it’s great to know what I have to aim for.
So I think this sort of information is really empowering and I am so happy I had my tests done. I have been able to change my supplements to what my body actually needs based on my genetics, and can now make well-informed decisions about my diet and how I manage my exercise.
For the women I see taking hormones, I think the hormone balance genomics testing is a game changer. Women often worry about taking hormones, and this could help put their mind at ease. But it is also great to see how the liver is working, check methylation and build your nutrition and fitness program around what you actually need, and take all the guess work out of it. I want to stay healthy and happy for a very long time, and a lot of it can be out of our control, or even luck, but lots of it isn’t, and this sort of information can help us achieve our goals.