Check Your Dirty Genes

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As a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist, there is a mantra that is permeated through all of my training, “Identify and address the root.” In fact, this is the most defining difference between my trainings and more conventional or western medicine practices. I consider, “What are these symptoms a product of?” I do it with every patient that comes across my desk. Rather than simply addressing the symptoms, we work to address the underlying cause of the illness.  

I’ve been super intrigued by how our genetics affect our health. So many of the most common presentations I see can be attributed to “dirty genes” or genes that aren’t able to do their job. What’s even more fascinating is the concept of epigenetics; how your environment dictates genetic function. Think of identical twins. One twin eats vegetables, sleeps, meditates and exercises while the other twin smokes, eats processed foods, drinks alcohol and is sedentary. They are genetically similar, however the vegetable eating twin is less likely to get cancer, be depressed and have other diseases; our genes load the gun, but it's the environment that pulls the trigger.  

Take the quiz below from the book Dirty Genes by Ben Lynch to see if your genes are dirty. Included are what Dr Lynch refers to as the Super Seven; some of the most metabolically significant genes known to date.

For those of you scoring 3-5, take action!

Check each box if the condition has occurred frequently within the last 60 days or is generally true:

MTHFR

  • I suffer from headaches.

  • I sweat easily and profusely when exercising.

  • I take supplements with folic acid and/or eat foods enriched with folic acid.

  • I struggle with depression.

  • I have cold hands and feet.

DAO

  • I tend to suffer from one or more of the following symptoms after eating leftovers, citrus, or fish: irritability, sweatiness, nosebleeds, runny nose, and/or headaches.

  • I’m sensitive to red wine or alcohol.

  • I’m sensitive to many foods or suffer from leaky gut syndrome.

  • I generally feel better two or three hours after a meal as compared to twenty minutes after eating.

  • I felt better during pregnancy and could eat more varied foods.

COMT (slow)

  • I get headaches.

  • I find falling asleep a challenge.

  • I easily become anxious or irritable.

  • I suffer from PMS.

  • I’m sensitive to pain.

COMT (fast)

  • I struggle with attention and focus.

  • I’m easily addicted to substances or activities: shopping, gaming, smoking, alcohol, and social media.

  • I’m prone to feelings of depression.

  • I often lack motivation.

  • I feel an initial happy rush after eating lots of carbs or starchy foods, but feelings of depression return quite quickly.

MAOA (slow)

  • I’m easily stressed, panicked, or made anxious.

  • I find it hard to calm down after becoming stressed or irritated.

  • I enjoy cheese, wine, and/or chocolate but tend to feel irritable or ‘off’ after I eat them.

  • I’m plagued by migraines or headaches.

  • I have difficulty falling asleep; but when I do, I tend to stay asleep.

MAOA (fast)

  • I fall asleep quickly but wake up earlier than I’d prefer.

  • I’m prone to depression and lack of desire.

  • I find that chocolate gives me a great mood lift.

  • I tend toward smoking or alcohol addiction (or excessive use).

  • I achieve better mood after eating carbohydrates, but that improved mood doesn’t help my focus or attention.

GST/GPX

  • I’m sensitive to chemicals.

  • I breathe air and drink water (you read it right, this gene is a bit dirty in all of us these days).

  • I develop gray hair easily.

  • I have a chronic condition such as asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune disease, diabetes, eczema, or psoriasis.

  • I have a neurological disorder that results in symptoms such as tics, tremors, seizures, or problems with gait.

NOS3

  • I have above-normal blood pressure (higher than 120/80).

  • I have cold hands and feet.

  • I tend to heal slowly after an injury or surgery.

  • I’m a type 2 diabetic.

  • I’m postmenopausal.

PEMT

  • I tend to have generalized muscle pain.

  • I’ve been diagnosed with fatty liver.

  • I’m a vegetarian/vegan, or I don’t eat much beef, organ meat, caviar, or eggs.

  • I have gallstones or have had my gallbladder removed.

  • I’ve been diagnosed with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Create a separate score for each gene, awarding one point per question.

  • 0 points: Excellent! This gene is likely quite clean and functioning well!

  • 1 point: Quite impressive! Your gene needs a bit of attention, but most likely because of problems in other genes rather than this particular one.

  • 2 points: This gene seems to be a bit dirty.  Fortunately, the ‘Clean Genes Protocol’ will be a good first step in cleaning out the gunk.  Cleaning the rest of your other genes will also help this gene function better.

  • 3-5 points: This gene is definitely dirty.  Two weeks on the Clean Genes Protocol will give you a great start.  When you run through Laundry List 2, you can see whether this gene needs some extra attention.