Oh no!!!! Your patient just found out they are compound heterozygous MTHFR of slow COMT… Doomed, doomed they think. Well, think again.

Genes are just that, genes, they have been with you since birth and have been manipulated by many things including diet and lifestyle. That is correct; your genes have been manipulated! Now get your mind out of the gutter, I meant they have been turned on and off by various things.

I am not talking about certain inherited genetic conditions, especially childhood diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or muscular atrophy. I am discussing the more recently popularized methylation and detox genetics. These are genetic polymorphisms that may predispose to illness or imbalances. I repeat, they may predispose – they show susceptibility, not a clear path to disease. This testing is now easily available to the population via multiple different sites and without medical orders. I fully support patients taking charge of their health and ordering their own labs but want to clarify the role these results have in my practice.

I regularly get patients who are very concerned about their genetics and believe their results to be a guaranteed sentence for illness given “the links” with XYZ condition. My best explanation of genetics and illness is that of a “health gun”: we are all born with a loaded gun based on our genetics and the health of our mother, then the gun continues to get loaded based on diet, lifestyle and environmental factors. Eat processed foods daily, work in a chemical plant, had multiple motor vehicle accidents, never exercise or go outside? – you are then quickly loading the gun. What I have seen to “pull the trigger”, or trigger disease, is usually that next big thing such as that really bad flu 2 years ago, working in that moldy building, the year of the divorce, etc. Once the gun is heavily loaded, the body reaches a point of saturation, a point of almost no return unless the gun can be unloaded quickly.

So, get it? Genetic polymorphisms, MTHFR or not, have been there since the beginning, what will make them express themselves is the environment. This is epigenetics. I therefore do not focus on the polymorphisms but what will support or block them, this inevitably supports health in general, and I can do that without knowing your genetics. Don’t get me wrong, I love pathways and medical puzzles thus genetics absolutely interest me but rarely change what I do medically in the beginning. The most common causes of illness are from one or multiple of the following: infections, toxins, digestive imbalances, food issues and trauma (emotional and physical). My role is to find the obstacles to healing, what is loading the gun, and help patients remove these obstacles, unloading the gun. Genetics will not change. What we can do however is optimize how our genes operate and what “manipulates” them and this starts with diet and lifestyle.

You may now rejoice in your MTHFR and COMT status and indulge in leafy greens! Here’s to thriving!