Nutrigenomics: Supporting Your Immune System and Beyond
“The science shows that food is information, and it gives instructions. It can upgrade or downgrade your biological software with every bite.” This is a quote from Dr. Mark Hyman, and he is referring to the science of nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics is an exciting and rapidly growing field of study that looks at the relationship between the food we eat and our genetics in the prevention and reversal of disease. Macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, etc.) are some of the most influential compounds that can turn on or turn off genes that impact health. This means that every time we choose what to eat, we are either supporting our genes and strengthening our immune system, or putting stress on the body and increasing our chances of developing chronic illness. I hope this gives you a sense of empowerment in a time when many things are uncertain and people are doing their best to protect themselves and their families.
I can’t tell you how many patients come to my office, now over the phone or video conference, and tell me how confused they are about nutrition advice. “I’ve heard Paleo is good, but I am also seeing a lot about a vegetarian diet, and ketogenic, and intermittent fasting, etc.” “Is soy good or bad?” “Should I be low fat or high fat?” This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nutrition and diet-related questions, but my answer is almost always the same. Up until relatively recently, dietary advice has been developed based on large groups of people studied over time, not on genetics or personalization. There will always be conflicting diets and nutrition advice because each diet will help a subset of people, and each one will be detrimental to a subset of others. This is due, in large part, to genetics. In other words, everyone’s genetic makeup is different, and what works for you may actually hurt someone else. Thanks to nutrigenomic testing, we are closer than ever to answering the question “What diet is best for me?”
Nutrigenomic testing has come a long way, and we have been using these tests at The UltraWellness Center to put together practical and tailored nutrition advice. Through a simple saliva test, we are able to look at how your body responds to food, exercise, and toxins. We then prioritize recommendations based on the level of impact the gene, or grouping of genes, is likely to have on your health and disease. Here are the main areas that are explored in the testing we use:
- Cellular function. By looking at how well your body is able to detoxify, methylate, and protect against cellular damage, we can identify specific foods and food compounds that provide targeted protection against disease and support optimal immune function. For example, if you have a more difficult time with detoxification, you may need to eat more sulfur-containing cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, etc.). These contain sulforaphane, which supports detoxification pathways and protects against several types of cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, heart disease, respiratory illness, and much more.
- Your body’s response to certain dietary and exercise interventions. What balance of macronutrients is most likely to help you maintain an optimal weight and body composition? How much and what type of exercise will support the cardiovascular system, weight management, the immune system, and prevent disease? This depends on your ability to extract, absorb, burn, distribute, and store energy as well as remove waste. We can better understand how your body manages these tasks through nutrigenomic testing.
- Reaction to specific compounds and nutrients. The way you respond to salt and caffeine has a strong genetic link. These are key for supporting proper blood pressure, protecting bone health, and more. In addition to looking into the impact of certain nutrients, nutrigenomic testing can also identify your level of impact your genes present for vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, and sports-related injury.
With all the health concerns that the pandemic of COVID-19 presents, optimizing your health and ensuring a robust immune system has never been more important. At The UltraWellness Center, we are offering more ways to get the information you need to optimize your health. We are now offering Nutrition Packages that provide the latest and best in nutrigenomic testing as well as consults with one of our functionally trained nutritionists to help customize food and lifestyle recommendations specific to you. There is also the option to buy a package that includes Functional Nutritional testing that will give you more specifics on your current nutrient levels and biological systems and where you may need support. Call us today to get more details and schedule with one of our nutritionists.