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

Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

May 3, 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.

You May Also Like:

Why shouldn’t I eat that cake if I fancy it?

Why shouldn’t I eat that cake if I fancy it?

Many people have been telling me that they don’t want to live a life where they constantly must think about whether something is good for them or not. They tell me, they want to eat a piece of cake when they fancy it and not restrict themselves. While they do...

How do you manage to stay so slim?

How do you manage to stay so slim?

“How do you manage to stay so slim, when you are eating so much?” 3 “hacks” to stay slim without food restrictions I’ve recently been away with a few friends on a fully organised tour programme where meals were included and where we spent a lot of time eating. One...

How Golf helps you live longer and healthier

How Golf helps you live longer and healthier

Golf for longevity When we think why golf might be good for us, most people will think it's because of the exercise you're getting while out there. But most other sports involve some form of movement that is healthy and contributes to a longer life. What makes golf...