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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Your Healthier Future: Understanding Your Genetics and Epigenetics

Jan 31, 2020 09:00AM ● By Gary Kracoff

With recent advances in DNA analysis and better understanding of how DNA can affect our current and future health, science has shown us that we can have a say in what the future may bring. The old thought is that if there is familial history of heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, arthritis or high cholesterol, it is in our genes (genetics) and it is inevitable that we will have these problems as we age. We now know that each of us does have some control over our future health.

Functional genomics is a new field that can provide insight as to how our DNA impacts specific functions in the body, and how these errors in our DNA can cause some roadblocks to optimal wellness.

We have no control of what genes we inherit from our parents. We are born with our genes and will have them for the rest of our lives. This is our genetics. We now realize that we are in control of our epigenetics, the external factors that can turn on or off these genes. Our lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise, sleep, stress, exposure to toxins, relaxing and enjoying relationships, travel, hobbies, etc., can have a positive or negative impact on our health. If we have a poor diet, filled with toxins and lacking in nutrients, this can lead us to some of the above conditions. If we have a good diet and lifestyle, we can help prevent many of these conditions.

Genetics is like a loaded gun, pointed at us, and we have our finger on the trigger. Epigenetics can either take our finger off the trigger or pull it, causing damage. Even if the trigger is pulled, if we change our epigenetics and remove the finger from the trigger, the damage does not continue, and with the proper support, health can be re-established.

Here are some examples of how a functional genomic analysis can show how variants (snps) in the following genes may be impacting your health and some nutritional help if there is an issue:

Snps in the HLA and KIAA genes may increase the chance of gluten intolerance.
(Enzyme products are available to help break down gluten that is hidden in food.)

ABP1 snps may impact your ability to digest high histamine foods leading to digestive disturbances due to undigested histamine. (DAO enzyme is now available in capsule form to break down histamine in the gut from food.)

Sult snps can cause sensitivity to toxins, hormones, xenobiotics and heavy metals.

NRF2 snps can decrease the body’s ability to make antioxidants needed to lessen inflammation and toxicity. (Formulations to assist with the manufacture and release of antioxidants are now available.)

HFE and SLC snps may cause unresolved inflammation because it can cause iron to become a free radical leading to the Fenton reaction and major inflammation. (Hydrogen water is now available to help break down excess hydroxyl molecules being generated.)

Snps in NOS can lead to problems making nitric oxide which can lead to cold hands and feet, high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction. (Supplements containing organic beetroot, grape seed extract, olive leaf, theobromine, hawthorn and potassium citrate are available to boost nitric oxide formation and utilization.)

Many people have had minimal genetic testing done such as MTHFR by itself. The “take this for that” prescription does not work well when analyzing the genome. Most find that adding methyl folate if they have the MTHFR gene snp does not fix their issues and many feel worse. 

A functional genomic approach is to look at 200,000 genes, symptoms, health issues and look for patterns in the results. It looks at the metabolic pathways that these genes can affect, and at how the genes and compromised pathways could affect one’s health. Also, the epigenetics of the individual must be considered. Then, a picture begins to fall into place, and your practitioner can help you unravel many of the underlying imbalances that have been created due to your genetics and epigenetics. Addressing “why” there is a problem is very important.

With the greater understanding of our genetics and epigenetics, there becomes clearer ways to help the body respond in a healthier way by supporting the weakened metabolic issues. Working with a practitioner that will work with you to understand your genetics and epigenetics and design a protocol specifically for you can help you live a happier and healthier life.

Dr. Gary Kracoff is a naturopathic doctor and registered pharmacist at Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center, located at 577 Main St., Waltham. For more information on functional genomic testing, call 781-893-3870 ext. 2 or visit