Integrative Health Blog

5 Genetic Tests You Should Get Now

Posted by on Mon, Mar 27, 2017

The human genome was mapped only 13 years ago, and already it is changing healthcare.

Genetic testing can identify common, important and modifiable quirky genes called SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, which create vulnerabilities to many kinds of allergic, infectious, immune, toxic, nutritional and psycho-emotional stress.  Autonomic fight or flight stress is usually blamed on vocational, economic and interpersonal factors- but actually it has a lot more to do with unseen physiological, biochemical toxicity and genetic variables.

Depending on your health interests, several panels of genetic tests are available at National Integrated Health Associates (NIHA) in the on-site lab, and can be ordered by your practitioner. Most tests are non-invasive, involving only a mouth swab, and may be covered by insurance.

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Tags: genetics

Methylation 102: A Deeper Look at the MTHFR Gene

Posted by on Tue, Jun 03, 2014

Chas Gant  MD, PhD

Given the exuberant response to the article Methylation 101: What it Means for Your Health, I have been encouraged to write a second article to continue the discussion.  In the first article, I introduced the idea that those with “methylation defects” are relatively less capable of methylating away the fight/flight neurotransmitter noradrenalin and are thus likely to incur a more heightened and sustained stress response from stressors of any cause (emotional, metabolic (e.g., low blood sugar), infectious (e.g., candida), toxic (e.g., mercury) or energetic (e.g., wi-fis and microwaves).  Having a heightened tendency to be motivated by extra stress, the up-side of having methylation defects can compel such people to have increased drive to succeed and be more productive.

The Good and Bad of Genetics

The same argument has been made for another common genetic quirk which you may be more familiar with, sickle-cell disease. The genetic abnormality which causes hemoglobin to be made in a different way provides protection against malaria, a disease which has been so devastating that some medical anthropologists suggest it has killed more human beings in history than all other diseases combined.  Those who have one sickling gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other parent – called sickle-cell trait - have the best of both worlds.  Their hemoglobin is fairly functional because the normal gene from one parent covers up the expression of sickling gene.  The sickling gene however, gives protection against malaria.

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Tags: methylation, MTHFR, genetics

Methylation 101: What it Means for Your Health

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014

Chas Gant MD, PhD

Methylation, a Chemical Reaction Critical to Life

We are carbon-based creatures, chock full of carbon containing molecules.  So it should come as little surprise to you that one of the most important chemical reactions in all of life simply sticks one carbon and 3 hydrogens together to  form a methyl group, and that adding that on to molecules (called methylation) to transform them into other molecules is a chemical reaction that is critical to life. Dozens of methylation reactions exist in our bodies, which perform many diverse tasks.  Notable examples are the synthesizing of melatonin to help with sleep, making special lipids (phospholipids) that cell membranes are primarily composed of, slowing down cell division to prevent cancer and causing the main fight/flight neurotransmitter (noradrenalin) to go away so we can relax. 

Generally, those who are genetically less capable of methylation or adding a carbon group on to a molecule to turn it into another molecule, are diagnosed as having “methylation defects,” as if such people are genetic misfits.  In fact, one can make the opposite case.  Methylation “defective” people are often more productive, robust workers, emotionally sensitive and creative, because they are less capable of metabolizing away the primary, fight/flight neurotransmitter, noradrenalin, from their brains. 

Genetics or Personality?

The down side to being an “under-methylator”, as I am, is a tendency to be more compulsive, perfectionistic, anxious, addiction-prone and moody.  In our younger years, when we are more physiologically able to withstand extra fight/flight, sympathetic stress, those of us who are under-methylators can become over-achievers.  We are driven by our genes to work harder and make more money.  We can appear to be extroverted movers and groovers, and be attractive as mates, which is why these genes are so common.  We pass them on during our reproductive years to produce under-methylating children.  Later, after midlife and the child-bearing years, the extra sympathetic stress caused by under-methylation tends to take its toll in the form of higher cancer and heart disease rates.

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Tags: methylation, MTHFR, genetics

Integrative Health: What Keeps You From Being Healthy?

Posted by on Tue, Oct 08, 2013

Bob Johnson DMD

 

Health is the most important “possession” you have.  Unfortunately, health comes with a price in time, energy and money.  Additionally we all have certain handicaps that we begin the health and life journey which must be overcome to live a healthier life.

These handicaps include genetics, toxins, infections, lifestyle and mindset into which we are born.  The good news is that limitations in time, energy and money can be overcome while the handicaps we acquire in utero up to the point at which we make our own health decisions don’t necessarily prevent us from reaching a healthy ripe old age.

An  integrative health  natural approach incorporates nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, and integrative medicine as the building blocks of your healthy life. Start slowly. Try working one  nutrition tip (e.g. cutting back on sugar) into your daily routine until it becomes a habit. It is never too late to quit smoking or start eating more vegetables.

Are You Blessed with Good Genetics?

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Tags: integrative health, genetics, toxins

Sleep Loss and Your Genes

Posted by on Tue, Jun 04, 2013

Lowell Weiner DDS

Do you feel like you are not getting enough sleep?

If so, you may find that you experience a wide variety of health problems.

These medical problems tend to become additive over time-and according to a new study at the University of Surrey in England reported in the March 23 Science News, even a small deficit in sleep may affect your circadian rhythm, immune system,  and lead to health problems.

Sleep Loss May Change Your Genes

The volunteers in the study slept at least 8 hours a night for the first week. Then they were only allowed to sleep for up to 6 hours in the second week.  According to the Science News article, Sleep Loss Affects Gene Activity, “People were sleepy and sluggish after that week, and blood tests showed that the activity of 711 of their genes had changed,” researchers reported. In just 2 weeks and going from 8 hours of sleep to just under 6 hours of sleep- caused a change in over 700 genes including those that govern the immune system!

Better Sleep for Better Health

Is it any wonder that people who have lived the longest and have experienced the increased additive effect of lost sleep, have more illnesses? While it’s true that there are many causes for decreased sleep, sleep apnea and snoring will decrease the oxygen supply and thus decreases sleep. We tend to push on with less sleep and accommodate as best we can with an inefficient system, but this adds up over time to create health problems.  

Make restful sleep a priority. Get help for sleep apnea or snoring, which inhibits good quality sleep.

Sleep is not a luxury- our genes require it.

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Tags: sleep, sleep disorders, genetics

What You Can Do Now for a Healthier Future

Posted by on Mon, Nov 12, 2012

Robert Johnson D.M.D.

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Tags: nature v. nurture, integrative health, genetics

Re-empowering Parents Through Predictive Genomics

Posted by on Tue, Nov 15, 2011

by Chas Gant MD, PhD

The best-seller and Pulitzer Prize finalist, The Nurture Assumption, Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, by Judith Rich Harris makes a compelling case, based on sound research on identical twins and other data, that within reasonable attempts to provide our kids with a non-abusive environment, typical parenting does not matter much in how our children turn out!  I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but since the dawn of the scientific age, nutty assumptions and superstitions such as the earth being the center of the universe, have been challenged and abandoned.  The belief that parenting matters in how kids turn out is just another sacred cow destined for the waste bins of history. 

But take heart, because now you may assertively point out to those obnoxiously, proud parents who raised exceptionally talented and gifted children, that they are full of braggadocio hot air.  And if despite your best efforts, you’ve raised a kid who became a dropout, an addict or an academic flunky, you now have good cause to stop feeling guilty.

Identical twins, separated at birth and brought up in utterly different circumstances, turn out pretty much the same.  In fact their quirky traits, talents and behaviors have astonishing similarities, down to the ice cream they like with the same nut or chocolate sprinkles on top.  So, in other words, using our “fur-children” (dogs) as an analogy, within reasonable limits of a nurturing, non-abusive environment, raise them however you want; the Mastiffs will generally turn out to look and act like Mastiffs, and the Chihuahuas will generally turn out to look and act like Chihuahuas.  The only variable that seems to matter much is genetics - case closed, end of story, next.

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Tags: autism, nature v. nurture, addiction, genetics

The Solution to the Health Care Crisis- Functional Medicine, Genomics and a New Standard of Care

Posted by on Wed, Sep 28, 2011

Chas Gant MD PhD

I recently read that about 50% of the pharmaceutical industry’s profits are channeled into marketing and advertising, which explains the bombardment of utterly offensive and misleading media drug ads I am forced to experience when I fail to click the mute button fast enough. But I confess to having cashed in on some of Big Pharma’s, physician-focused marketing efforts, by accepting coffee mugs and other trinkets from drug sales people, and even getting paid to have a free dinner now and then and listen to the latest pharmaceutical pitches.  I have even been offered a few six figure research “bribes” in my 35 year career, to “test” the latest drugs on my patients and make sure the outcome data supports the efficacy of the drug.  Through the years these research grants were hard to reject when you are struggling to give your kids the best, but I decided my soul would have been forsaken forever if I went down that route, so I have always politely declined such lucrative offers.

I don’t mean to suggest that drugs are not useful. I prescribe them for most of my patients. Drug treatments, like all therapies, should be based on 3 main criteria – safety, efficacy and expense (in that order) – and sometimes drug therapies rise to top of the decision tree.  However, drugs are toxins, and since toxicity from plastics, heavy metals, pesticides, preservatives, antibiotic-laced food and many other modern era poisons are common causes of chronic medical and psychiatric problems, one might wonder why the prescribing of potentially toxic pharmaceuticals, which could worsen ones total toxic load, is not done with far more discretion. 

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Tags: functional medicine, integrative medicine, genetics

The Nurture Assumption and Genomics

Posted by on Wed, Sep 07, 2011

by Chas Gant MD, PhD

Having certain genes which guarantee me lifetime struggles with insomnia and restlessness, I am a voracious, nocturnal bibliophile.  And as I travel frequently, books will somehow come my way which I use to bore me into a good snooze. While visiting relatives recently, I happened upon a Pulitzer Prize finalist copy of The Nuture Assumption, why children turn out the way they do, by Judith Rich Harris.  Sometimes well-written, provocative books have the opposite effect and keep me awake into the wee hours. Such was the case here. The Nuture Assumption  makes a compelling case, based on sound research on identical twins and other data, that within reasonable efforts to provide our kids with a nurturing, non-abusive, “normal” environment, parenting does not matter much in how our children turn out!

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Tags: nature v. nurture, functional medicine, genetics