More and more new clients I meet come to me appreciating that their genetics is not their destiny, but that the environment and how they live and have lived their life’s, is where we really should be looking for resolving their health challenges. I very seldom hear any more, “its in my DNA, I cant lose any weight, my mother was fat, my sister is, so its always been difficult, its the way it is”. The nature versus nurture in my opinion with the more savvy clients that come for lab testing to dig deeper know its nurture, the environment, their lifestyle and to a much smaller degree the hand they were dealt as seen through theories genetics.
However in many cases especially the more complex, knowing your genetics provides a missing piece of the puzzle. By running a DNA test, not to identify hereditary conditions but inbuilt inefficiencies or what are seen as blockages in your biochemistry at a genetic level, we can see tendencies to need more dietary support of; more vegetables and less meat, increased likelihood of more anxiety or depression when under or stress, as well as if these more negative genes are switched on you can have genetic reasons for low energy or fatigue conditions.
Stress, poor diet, lifestyle and the environment all can conspire to activate certain genetic pathways you have that lead to a speed up or slow down of the machinery in your cells that in turn use up the food and water that you consume, creating symptoms and health challenges. Therefore knowing your genetics and match that to your symptoms and then bring in some lab tests that help paint the picture of the exact effects of those genes also point out the support required. So many times running lab tests on clients and combining it with their history and current symptoms you realise that a “healthy” diet and going to the gym isn’t always enough.
Every test you use with clients you always learn that bit better what it can show you if you run it on yourself. Then use it to modify your own nutrition and lifestyle. Living by example and all that.
In my opinion regardless of the health challenges within lifestyle advice there always has to be exercise recommendations. It’s one of the most direct things you can be in charge of for your own health, whether it be practising breathing exercises, taking the stairs, going out for a walk or joining a gym.
I have competed in sport since I was a child, mostly in boxing and athletics, and have always loved going to the gym. I know thats not everyone’s bag but lucky me it is mine. So you would think someone who has a history of exercise and quite often intense exercise would be well use to the rigours of training day in, day out and be well adapted and therefore not experience the soreness, stiffness and post exercise grief “normal” people have to suffer.
The image above is from one part of my genetics report that I got from running my DNALife genetics test shows that when my genes come out to play I don’t tend to recover well. I have been using genetics tests with clients for the last 5 years so I had many years and training sessions to find this lack of recovery issue out first hand and many a morning have slid my legs out of bed before falling on the floor to know I get what’s called DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness and in spades.
However if you are new to exercise or about to up your game try new training programs or exercise classes knowing that you actually need to take specific steps to give your body the best chance to adapt would be a distinct advantage. How many times have you or someone you know gone to start a health kick knowing its going to hurt all over again or have you set off on a drive to once and for all kick your butt into action to find out even the beginner class has left your butt well kicked for days?
Many people come to me asking about genetics and talking about their methylation or COMT genes with issues of anxiety and fatigue. Trying to piece together the information on the following image (courtesy of a fantastic certification course, Michael McEvoy’s Metabolic Healing) can be fun, but thats what most genetics and health issues is about.
Or we use genetics to help establish the lie of the land with how you breaks down you oestrogen hormones and whether specific supplements can support your weaknesses. When you come to design the program to manage clients symptoms and combine it with the tests you have run also looking at the genes that are involved in exercise and how someone should train provides a guiding hand.
Now I like training intensely and lifting weights and going at it until I fall over as oppose to say running for 10 miles and more endurance and genes indicate that I will adapt and designed to do more of that type of exercise anyway, so thats handy. However knowing that I have genes that are found more commonly in those with frequent injuries and poor levels of recovery help me modify how I now use exercise.
In the past I would train anyway, not because I was young and foolish, although there is always that part, but because of sense of duty, thats what you do, fit people don’t quit, you certainly don’t phone (as it was in those days not text) your training partner to say you cant move your staying in bed. Now knowing this information I can modify my training, without guilt that I’m lazy or weak, but it’s just how my body is designed. I can still train hard but just take more days recovery and as an important to maximise that recovery I more frequently train for shorter periods, quite often 10-20 minutes as oppose to the 90 minutes to 2 hours as was typical maybe 10 years ago. Of course when your busy you can argue thats a time management thing but a balance has to be struck and if I do ignore my body and my genetics and train anyway or too long I then go proving my genetics is for real, they have a bigger part in my destiny than they should.
I also have some genetic support for my preference to train in the morning versus later in the day. Now maybe I concentrate better having trained then can get on with the working day or I might be too tired or busy with home life to be training after work. Whatever the correct detail is there I do know I tend to perform better when I take the opportunity to train in the morning. Then in terms of stress management I know I do get irritated if I have to train at night which admittedly isn’t often or in a situation where others I want to train with are training at night and happy to train then I need to make the decision as to whether thats the best for me. In the past assuming I wasn’t aching head to toe I would have still gone. For some working out later in the day impacts sleep quality and when the last meal of the day is, so there are as always several factors to consider, genetics being only one.
The preference to train more intensely out of pleasure and design along with drive to be ever more fit and strong directly proportionately increases the (what I have shown over the years to be inevitable) likelihood my genes for poor recovery and then increased injury risk kick in. I have be best friends with many physios, osteopaths, chiropractors and massage therapist’s over the years to support this contention. I even married a physiotherapist!
This genetic information also helps support not just how best to modify my training program but also what lifestyle and nutrition practices to employ. Early to bed, Epsom salt baths (very occasionally), hot and cold showers, combining days of more intensive exercise with easier, gentle exercise so deliberately walking when possible instead of driving, massages, maintenance work with your chiropractor, are all in the mix. In addition keeping hydrated is an obvious one but following more intense training sessions this is given more of a priority. Looking at my genetics report as a whole I will also focus more on the right types of protein and fat soluble vitamins from animal sources, increase certain vegetables to provide higher levels of the right types of B vitamins. My genes indicate adding creatine, one of the most popular exercise and sports related supplements, it also helps my heart function as well as recovery from exercise. I also wont then completely exclude starchy carbs many people would avoid. My genetics also come into play when looking at detoxification and the metabolic waste created in the muscles from intense exercise might be a natural toxin but a toxin none the less and again higher amounts of broccoli, cabbage and leeks as examples of some detoxification supporting vegetables.
Your genes and DNA is a complicated subject, the right tests to use and the companies to trust to be reliable, as well as the interpretation of the tests present challenges to practitioners and clients alike, there is still so much we don’t know and the field of research is expanding rapidly. However with the right approach, a holistic, whole body view from 40,000 feet bringing all the information together so much can be gleamed from deep inside the cells of your body that can help not just complicate health challenges or medical conditions but also day to day tips such as how to train, how often, how best to recover, food to increase energy levels, food to help boost your mood or health of your skin, heart health, brain health, how to support the immune and digestive as well as point towards further testing to add greater detail to how you work on the inside.