• Caroline O'Hagan

Epigenetics - a group of factors that could be affecting your health, and what you can do about it!

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

We all know about genes, genetics and DNA - well, we know of them. Obviously its an extraordinarily complex area, and not one that is easily understood without significant amounts of study and research. What we do know is that DNA make up the building blocks of every cell, and that all the important stuff about who we are and how our bodies work are contained in those little double helix of codes.

In the last few years though, a new buzz word has made an appearance.....Epigenetics. It sounds complicated (and it can be) but the main things we need to understand about Epigenetics is that they are a collection of factors that can effect our DNA, and that to some extent we can control how our genes are modulated, using epigenetics or being aware of them!

So what are these factors? Essentially everything has an effect on our bodies, our genes and our genetic expression.

- Diet - what we eat and drink, our nutritional status, if our body is absorbing the nutrients we do consume and using them in the best ways possible.

- The pH levels in our body - are we overly acidic or too alkaline?

- Are we rested? Do we get good quality and restorative sleep?

- Are we stressed? Overly emotional? Anxious?

- Have we been exposed to toxins, heavy metals and chemicals that could be blocking our natural processes internally, and creating problems with our detoxification pathways, eliminations through liver and kidneys, and digestive issues.

- Are we taking chemical medications? Most medications will have some effect on epigenetic modulation, and the more medications you are taking, the more effects there may be.

- Are we going through a natural period of change such as pregnancy, growth (childhood-adolesence), menopause or aging?

- What is our daily environment like? Are you being exposed to heavy pollution, oppressive urban environments, or are you getting a healthy dose of nature frequently like the beach or countryside?

- Do you drink alcohol, smoke, take recreational drugs, or gamble?

If your answers to those questions are leaning towards the less than desirable side, then you are likely to be experiencing epigenetic modulation on some level. That isn't always a bad thing, but there can be unwanted issues that arise from these things, of course.

I know what you're thinking....."well, duh!" and you would be right. We all know that certain lifestyle choices, a poor diet and bad sleep will effect your health - that is most definitely not a new concept. But if you have particular genetic mutations, known as SNPs (Single Neucleotide Polymorphisms) then the effects of epigenetics could effect you more than if you don't have those SNPs. Your ability to process various nutrients that are essential to making sure vital functions in the body take place can be impaired by these genetic mutations, and then compounded by the diet and lifestyle/Epigenetic factors listed above.

There are a particular group of SNPs that directly effect a process called Methylation, which is a group of cycles that occur at a cellular level to give you energy, build your immune system, produce red blood cells, keep the chemical messages related to your mood and emotions flowing properly, keep your cells healthy, and detoxify you of chemicals and excessive hormones.

If these SNPs are effected further by epigenetic factors, you may find yourself with one or more chronic conditions that are related to these functions in one way or another.

The good news is that we can test for these genetic SNPs now, and if we identify that you have one or more of these polymorphisms in your DNA, then it gives us clues as to the right way to treat your conditions - starting from the most basic level - the cellular level. Rather than treating symptomatically like western medicine, we can actually target the components that are struggling at a cellular level. Thats a pretty big deal!

SO, if you have mood disorders or mental health issues, cardiovascular and heart problems, nerve pain, migraines, thyroid conditions and some kinds of cancer, as well as a whole bunch of other conditions that have been linked to these genetic issues, consider having a test for MTHFR genetic mutation.

Then with the power of epigenetic modulation (meaning we might have to clean up your diet and lifestyle, and reduce your stress levels) and some carefully planned nutritional and herbal supplementation, it is possible to reduce the effects of these chronic conditions. It is important to note that the list of conditions above is not extensive, nor does it mean that the conditions on the list are definitely caused by these specific genetic mutations. There are of course many factors that can cause chronic disease, and together we can work through your symptoms and signs and find the root cause - which may or may not be directly effected by genetic predispositions.

I would like to add that as a general rule, I do not immediately turn to testing. As a Naturopathic Practitioner, I believe that our starting point should always be addressing the things you can change first - your diet, how you manage stress, how you sleep, and other lifestyle factors. If we don't see improvements after making basic changes and possibly supplementing things that are lacking in your diet, then testing can be the next step. Depending on your condition/s we may choose genetic testing, we may choose food intolerance testing, hormone levels, or stool anaylsis...there are many to choose from. I can arrange every test your doctor can, only from me it will be at your expense (as opposed to some tests being covered by medicare through your doctor).

If you would like to discuss DNA testing or any other testing, how to manage an MTHFR diagnosis, or anything else relating to your health, please give me a call on 0433 280 621 or send me a message!

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