Today I want to talk about feeling unwell and not knowing what to do about it.
When you are not exactly on death’s door, but you are just not thriving.
Maybe you are tired all the time. Maybe you are wired all the time. Maybe you have weird aches and pains for no apparent reason. Maybe you struggle with all of the above.
Maybe you’ve been to the doctor. Maybe you’ve been to multiple doctors. Maybe you’ve had tests run. And maybe you’ve had prescriptions filled.
And still… You just don’t feel well.
Guys, I have been there. That was me for way too many years. I was tired. I had headaches at least a couple of times a week. I had PCOS and pre-diabetes. I had anxiety. I was depressed.
I just wasn’t well. And it got to the point that I thought I was never going to get better. I faithfully went to the doctor every six months. I faithfully took all the pills I was prescribed.
And I never got better.
Until I did.
Until I finally figured out that I was doing it all wrong. Until I figured out that the issue was my lifestyle. Until I figured out that there is no prescription that can fix the consequences of inadequate sleep, poor stress management, not living in alignment with your personality, and eating the Standard American Diet (SAD).
When I finally saw the light and started addressing each of these lifestyle factors – one by one – my physical and mental health problems vanished and my general well-being skyrocketed.
As part of this quest to maximize my well-being, I’ve been deep-diving into the topic of food as medicine for the past couple of years. On this twisty turney journey, I have discovered two important facts:
- There is no one diet that works for everyone. While there are some universal rules (eating five pounds of candy per day isn’t good for anyone), what exactly you should eat and in what proportions varies widely from person to person based on gender, age, genetics, activity level, and past health history among other factors.
- Genes are not your destiny. Not that long ago, everyone thought that your genes were what they were and that there was nothing you could do about it. However, in recent years, scientists have discovered that your gene expression can be greatly affected by lifestyle factors. You might be genetically predisposed to a certain disease, but there are a whole bunch of factors that influence whether that gene is actually turned on or off. And one of those factors is what you do and don’t eat.
Related to these two facts, I was also excited to discover that there are now companies offering DNA tests specifically designed to help you figure out what foods to emphasize and what foods to avoid based on your unique genetic makeup. And as soon as I found out about it, I just knew I had to do it!
I did some digging into the various companies doing nutrition DNA testing and decided to order my test from a company called Nutrition Genome, because they seemed to offer the most comprehensive package.
This turned out to be a really positive and eye-opening experience, so I decided to write this Nutrition Genome review to help you decide if this kind of testing might be of benefit to you.
Nutrition Genome Review
How Does Nutrition Genome Testing Work?
So here’s how the testing works:
- You order a test kit from Nutrition Genome’s website.
- When you receive the kit, you do a cheek swab to collect a saliva sample.
- You send the test kit back to Nutrition Genome’s lab where they will analyze your sample.
- In a few weeks, you will receive a report with your results and dietary recommendations.
What Exactly Do You Get?
When I received my report, I was seriously impressed with the level of detail. The report was 60+ pages long and here’s what was included:
- A brief explanation of genetic testing in language that an average human being can understand.
- An overview of your genetic strengths and weaknesses.
- A “grocery list” with foods to emphasize and foods to avoid.
- A list of blood tests that you should get routinely based on your genetic vulnerabilities.
- Your DNA test results for 85+ genes. The actual results are followed by an analysis of any potentially problematic gene variations, with a brief description of relevant research and a listing of factors that will improve the gene function and a listing of factors that will decrease its function. The results are divided into the following focus areas:
- Hormone Health
- Neurotransmitters & Mental Health
- Inflammation & Antioxidant Protection
- DNA Protection, Damage, & Repair
- Cardiovascular Health & Athletic Performance
It’s quite a lot to digest, but I think the most value comes from these pieces of information:
- Finding out what vitamins and minerals you might need at higher than average amounts or from specific sources.
- For example, I found out that my body has trouble converting vitamin A and omega-3s from plant sources and I’m better off getting these nutrients from animals sources.
- My husband found out that his vitamin A conversion rate is so poor that he would need to eat something like 30 cups of carrots to reach the recommended daily allowance, which we think likely contributes to his extremely poor eye sight.
- I also found out that I might have problems with vitamin B12 absorption.
- Finding out what foods, drinks, drugs, and toxins you might be sensitive to.
- For example, the testing confirmed that I’m genetically unable to digest lactose.
- Finding out potential root causes of health problems, and therefore, being able to target treatments more accurately.
- For example, I was able to identify two potential causes of my anxiety. (Which, by the way, made it abundantly clear why SSRIs didn’t work so well for me! My anxiety likely had nothing to do with serotonin.)
You can see a sample report here.
Is This Testing Actually Accurate?
Before I ordered my test kit, I read some articles online about DNA testing in general, and one of the criticisms that kept coming up was that, at best, these tests will give you a small sliver of the full pie. You have 20,000+ genes and these tests will tell you about less than one hundred of them. So the test could tell you that a particular gene is fine, but then you have five other genes that affect the same body function and that were not tested for.
I think that’s a valid concern, but so many of my personal test results mirrored my actual real-life health history that I would declare them highly accurate even if there is a chance that they could be incomplete. Basically, what this testing said could happen, already had. Here are just a few of the health problems the Nutrition Genome test said I was at risk for that I have actually already faced:
- Lactose intolerance
- Low levels of vitamin B12
- Type 2 diabetes even with a low BMI
Is This Testing Actually Useful?
When I first read through my test results, I cried.
I cried from relief. From feeling validated. No, the anxiety wasn’t just in my head. No, the tiredness wasn’t just laziness. No, I wasn’t just being a party pooper – ice cream actually makes me feel like shit.
I also cried from grief. Grief over all those years that were lost, because I didn’t know why I was feeling so bad or how to help myself.
The only regret I have related to this testing is that it wasn’t available sooner. Yes, I had already figured out many of the things I needed to do before this test confirmed it all, but had I had these test results twenty years ago, it would have saved me SO much trouble:
- I wouldn’t have agreed to treating my anxiety with SSRIs when it likely had nothing to do with serotonin and was much more likely caused by poor conversion of glutamate to GABA.
- I wouldn’t have agreed to treating my PCOS and pre-diabetes with Metformin when it was going to decrease my B12 levels, something that my body has a hard time with even without the extra burden, and when they were much more effectively treated with stress management, exercise, and diet.
- I wouldn’t have ever taken the birth control pill to balance my hormones when it was going to just mask some health problems and make others worse.
- I wouldn’t have fallen for the “healthy whole grains” propaganda and would have cut out all grains decades ago.
- I wouldn’t have kept eating dairy for 35 years, thinking that I shouldn’t be so fussy and I must be imagining the stomach problems.
So yes, you might be hit with the “shit, if only I had known sooner” by taking this test. 🙂 But I still found it overwhelmingly worth it.
For the validation that I was NOW on the right track.
And for the countless tips on what I could try to do to feel EVEN better.
The beauty of what Nutrition Genome does is that they don’t just hand you a bunch of risk factors so that you can freak out and not be able to sleep at night. Instead, they arm you with concrete actions you can take to help you feel better and optimize your health from here on out.
Who Might Benefit From This Testing?
So in my humble opinion, Nutrition Genome testing is totally worth a try if:
- You are not feeling as well as you would like and you would like to explore potential causes that traditional medical testing is unable to identify. (And by the way, there is a list of Nutrition Genome verified practitioners on Nutrition Genome’s website if you would like to consult about your results with a doctor.)
- You are like me and already feeling pretty well, but you would like confirmation that you are on the right track and would like information about preventing potential future problems.
And you know who this testing is REALLY useful for?
I am SO beyond happy and excited that I, as a parent, can give my kids the gift of this information, so they will know from the get-go what their particular bodies need to grow healthy and strong and stay that way!