Have you ever overeaten?
Drank too much?
Skipped the gym and stayed glued to the couch when you were stressed out?
These “unhealthy coping strategies” might feel good in the moment, but long term they leave you not only feeling worse - but can also leave you feeling ashamed and disappointed in yourself.
You’re left wondering… Why didn’t I have the willpower to do the right thing???
So let me stop you right there!
First of all, self-hatred is doing nothing for your health.
Secondly, your tendency toward unhealthy coping mechanisms may not be your fault. It may actually be an honest genetic vulnerability that tips you into unhealthy coping strategies and symptom expression especially in times of increased stress, trauma, and illness.
Your Body Came With An Instruction Manual
We think of our genes as what controls our eye color or height, but your genetic blueprint actually plays a major role in many more subtle aspects of your behavior and personality - including your weight, coping strategies, likelihood to develop certain conditions, ability to focus, and even conditions like depression and anxiety. I think of your genetic blueprint as an instruction manual for your body.
But just because it’s “in your genes” doesn’t mean it’s your destiny! With an understanding of your genetic makeup, you can move from a place of self-hatred to one of self-compassion, where you understand your tendencies and can move to make any necessary tweaks to better support your body - from adding in extra nutrients to changing up your workouts to better suit your body.
Depending on your unique genetic blueprint, you might not be able to get an adequate amount of a particular nutrient from food alone. Another critical piece to the body’s healing mechanism is to know the precise nutrients your body will have a higher demand for in times of increased stress, trauma, and illness. And fortunately, your genetics can tell you that!
We’re Talking About SNPs, Not Mutations
Before we go any further, let’s clear up exactly what I mean when I say things like “differences in your genetic blueprint” -- I mean single nucleotide polymorphisms, more commonly called SNPs. (we pronounce these as “snips”)
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are common variations in DNA that account for many inter-individual differences, including blood type, nutrient utilization and drug responses. These common variations, or “genetic typos,” have served beneficial purposes throughout evolution, allowing populations to adapt to changing environments. For example, a variant in the MTHFR C677T gene had an evolutionary advantage to protect the Mediterranian region from malaria infection.
SNPs of medical significance cause a substitution in the regulatory or coding regions that affects the expression or function of the protein. Certain SNPs may place us at risk of tipping into nutrient depletion, unhealthy coping strategies, unhealthy behaviors like reward seeking behaviors or falling apart under pressure.
SNPs are not the same as mutations. A mutation is a rare DNA sequence variation that creates a different version of a gene. Like SNPs, mutations can involve one nucleotide (point mutations). Alternatively, they can involve deletions of large sections of DNA or entire chromosomes. In contrast to polymorphisms, mutations have potentially serious phenotypes that are more difficult to modify through diet, lifestyle and environment.
Variations in SNPs are very common. Mutations are not common, and most people do not have true mutations. SNPs are also commonly called genetic variants.
With that understanding in place, let’s talk more about genetic variants.
Your Variants Are Like Light Switches
Think of your genetic variants like light switches. Just because you have a switch, doesn’t mean it is always turned on. This is called gene expression.
Our environment and nutrition can help control what genes get turned on to their beneficial or adverse settings and which stay turned off.
Just because we are vulnerable doesn’t mean we have to tip into unhealthy coping strategies, behaviors or symptoms expression. It just means we need more nutrient support to make better lifestyle decisions and unlock our fullest health potentiential.
When an adverse variant is switched on, it may result in a breakdown of absorbing, utilizing, and transporting nutrients and detoxing toxic substrates.
But conversely, making specific choices with your environment and nutrition can also help switch adverse variants back to the “off position.” Your genetic variants can also provide a roadmap for exactly what nutrients you may need to prioritize and supplement.
Hopefully, this can help you stop beating up on yourself or thinking you can’t make healthy sustainable lifestyle changes...it’s not just a lack of willpower. You have honest vulnerabilities that need compensation so you can rise to the occasion.
How To Read Your Instruction Manual
Now you know that your genetic blueprint contains common variants that can impact all aspects of your health, including how you cope with stress and adversity.
Even better, with an understanding of these variants you can tweak your environment and nutrition to support ideal gene expression in your body.
But even if you’ve already had some genetic testing done, you may have no idea where to start. What variants matter? What do they mean? What can you do to support ideal expression?
That’s where a trained Functional Medicine practitioner comes in! Your practitioner can look at the relationship between your genes, environment, and nutrition to create a personalized care plan.
A great place to start is with a PureGenomics genetic report. It gives actionable recommendations for the diet, lifestyle and supplements your body needs to compensate for these vulnerabilities to restore balance and better handle the current challenges.
Work With Your Body, Not Against It
No longer do we have to guess what diet or exercise will work for you, or what supplements you can benefit from. Your DNA can tell you exactly where you need more support, particularly in times of stress and increased trauma, and guides lab recommendations to get actual biomarkers to steer supplement and dosing.
In Functional Medicine, we call this precision nutrition.
What Can You Do?
Register for our webinar and learn about Nutritional Genomics and our genetic interpretation tool PureGenomics - with it, you can feel confident knowing the diet, lifestyle, and precise nutrients that are right for you.
Written by Kara Ware.