Is there anything I can do if a disease runs in the family?

Creating personalised nutrition plan with DNA test
Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

May 3, 2021

updated 26 Nov 2021

Is it in your genes or is it your lifestyle?

We know that genetics can play a part when it comes to our health and our risk to develop certain diseases. And many of us fear an outcome of a genetic test – especially if we have seen loved ones suffer from a chronic disease for a long time.

When I heard of a DNA test that will show me a personalised nutrition plan based on my genes, I was really interested and scared at the same time.

What if they tell me I have the Alzheimer gene? It was terrible seeing the decline of my grandmother for years and years.

What if I have the same heart condition that my father died of?

However, when I learned that whatever the test will bring up, the report will also come up with a solution of what needs to be done. For me, that sounded very empowering! I gained some very interesting insights from this test report. For example, that I am actually prone to gain weight. This is a direct copy of my report from the DNA test: “You have a compromised gene for fat absorption into cells. This gene converts excess dietary energy into fat. The worst combination are foods containing unhealthy fats and sugars such as doughnuts, pizzas, white breads, biscuits, muffins and waffles. It is the unhealthy fats and sugars together that are bad for this gene expression.”

The other interesting finding was something that has always puzzled me. While I spent a lot of time outdoors, my Vitamin D levels (which I started checking after learning about the connection between my autoimmune thyroid condition and lack of Vitamin D) were always quite low, and I couldn’t understand why. It seems that due to a specific gene, I am not converting sunlight well into Vitamin D and therefore it is important for me to supplement for the rest of my life! “The T allele means a person does not readily absorb vitamin D from sun exposure. This may also contribute to seasonal depression, particularly when the sun is at its lowest in the Autumn/Winter season. Studies have noted a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and neurological degeneration. VDR taq should be analysed along with the COMT enzyme, as the VDR also impacts dopamine levels.”

Reading this, confirmed that I need to be extra vigilant when it comes to eating certain foods.  And it confirmed that I am doing the right thing and that I’m not just “lucky”. While these foods are generally deemed to be unhealthy, if someone has that gene, these are even unhealthier. It also explains, why some people might be “getting away” with eating these kind of foods. Knowing about my genes has made it so much easier to stay away from donuts!

And with all the findings of the importance of Vitamin D in reducing the risks of a Covid infection, I make sure I am taking my Vitamin D every morning.

Are you still worried? The beauty of a DNA test is that it won’t tell you anything that you won’t be able to influence. It means only that you have more power than you might previously have thought. Of course, this also means taking on responsibility and charge of your own health. What it is not and never can be is a guarantee or solution for not getting any disease in the future. It’s a bit like putting on a seat-belt to be best prepared though.

Are you curious to find out what your genes could tell you?

All of my clients who have done the test with me said they feel empowered and find it easier to stick to a healthy eating regime. In many cases, the test confirmed something my client had suspected anyway, but seeing it black on white, made all the difference. The test together with a lifestyle assessment and a consultation with me will provide you with a very personalised nutrition plan that helps you optimise your wellbeing not just for the moment but into the future. Knowing that it’s not just a piece of “general” advice but that it is really specific nutrition for you, makes it easier to stick to the recommendations.

Many of us think we cannot influence our genes. This is correct for certain genes such as whether we have blue eyes or our looks or our height. But many of our genes depend on their expression, i.e. we can turn them on or off.

From the website: For optimal health, your body needs the right balance of nutrients, environment and lifestyle in order to function properly. Think of your genes as nature – your inherited ability – and your environment and lifestyle as nurture. This means that the wrong habits and food choices can contribute to symptoms which is often the early warning signs of health problems developing.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how your genetic variants influence your ability to metabolise nutrients found in the foods and drinks you consume. This information provides an overview of the metabolic efficiency of key nutrients that provide protection from developing health problems.
Epigenetics is what happens when genes are in action and responding to environmental and lifestyle triggers including sleep, stress, diet and toxins. In these processes, genes are modified slightly and act differently. In short, epigenetics is where nature meets nurture. Your genes are controlled by and respond to the daily choices you make.

If you wondering why you might be so tired all the time, why you cannot get rid of the belly fat around your middle, why you have high cholesterol even though you are eating a healthy diet and why you might be constantly craving sugar – you might find the solution in your genes!

The downside of the test however is that you can’t use it anymore as an “excuse”. “Well, you know diabetes just runs in my family, there’s nothing I can do about it!” – that’s a sentence I hear often when I speak with people. Luckily, there is plenty that can be done – even and especially if you know it runs in the family.

The best way of looking at our genes that I have heard is the following (and I have to apologise that I can’t remember who it was who used this imagery):

Imagine you have a super speed boat but you never bring it to service, you never wash it, you fuel it with the cheapest of fuel. You completely neglect it. Yet, you push it to its limits when you’re driving it across the ocean.Good genes

Imagine now that you have a simple sailing boat, and you lovingly tend to its every need, you mind it’s sails, you make sure everything is in order, you drive carefully and make sure it receives its annual check and service. This boat might bring you across the ocean just as far as the shiny new boat.

DNA test compared to a boatThe morale of the story: You could be born with the best genes (the speed boat), but if you constantly neglect your body, you will notice it at some stage in your life (the ocean). Equally, you could be born with some challenging genes, but by feeding your body well and in line with the specific personal recommendations, you can give your body the best chances for optimal health.

Would you like to find out more about how I can help you create a personalised nutrition plan that suits you and is specific to your genetics, why not book in a Health&Energy Review Call with me and we can have a chat about it.

Mulled wine

This delicious mulled wine is sweetened naturally with a little cider and the juice of an orange.

If not sweet enough just add some xylitol.


2 bottles of fruity red wine
150ml apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of one orange
The peel of one unwaxed lemon
5 whole cloves, stuck in an unwaxed orange
A pinch of nutmeg
5 cardamom pods (optional)
I tbsp of xylitol (optional)


Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the wine rest for an additional 10 minutes before straining and serving.

Healthy Mince Pies

Ingredients for the filling:

1 large apple
75g raisins
75g sultanas
75g currants
65g dried, ideally unsweetened cranberries
60g other dried fruit (sour cherries,
blueberries, mango, apricots
– dried but unsweetened)
Zest and juice of an orange
50g coconut palm sugar
4 tbsp butter, cubed
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp brandy (optional)

Ingredients for the pastry:

150g of almond flour or ground almonds
75g of coconut flour
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
zest of an orange
115g butter, frozen
(plus a little extra for greasing)
1 egg, lightly whisked


Pre-heat the oven to 175˚C, then put the almond and coconut flours in a bowl with the sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the orange zest. Grate the frozen butter into the flour and mix together with your fingers till a crumb forms.

Stir in the egg and mix with your hands to form a dough. Divide the dough in half; wrap each in film and place in the fridge for 1 hour (or overnight). Grease the moulds of a muffin pan with a little butter.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place between 2 sheets of baking/ greaseproof paper.

Roll with a rolling pin to flatten out the dough until it is pie-crust thin.

To make the filling:
Put all of the filling ingredients (other than the brandy) into a large saucepan over medium heat and stir.

When the butter is fully melted, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir through a tablespoon of brandy, and decant into sterilized glass jars.
Leave to cool with the lid slightly ajar, then secure tightly and store until required.
Using a biscuit cutter (or an upturned jam jar – needs to be about 8cm diameter), cut out 25 circles and lightly press into the muffin pan moulds.

The pastry can be tricky to work with, as there is no gluten holding it together. Be patient. If the pastry
splits just push it back together with your fingers and use any pastry scraps to fix it up.
Fill up each pie mould with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat. Using the remainder of the dough, cut out 25 stars to top each pie. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tins, before gently easing them out. Don’t be tempted to remove from the
tin when they come out of the oven – they WILL fall apart if you do this.

(Recipe from Zest4Life Christmas recipes)

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