Many of the exciting new discoveries in functional medicine involve the science of genomics. Gene mutations, also referred to as SNPs, can predispose you to conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, neurodegenerative disease, cancer, chemical sensitivities and many more diseases.
Detoxification is a word that has many meanings. In the context of human biochemistry it refers to specific metabolic pathways which are at work throughout the body processing unwanted chemicals and toxins for elimination. These pathways involve a series of enzyme reactions that neutralize unwanted chemicals and transport them to the liver and kidneys so that they can be excreted. Excess hormones, prescription drugs, inflammatory chemicals, environmental chemicals, and toxins are eliminated by this same process.
Your genes help create the enzymes that assist your body with detoxification reactions. Most of this takes place in the liver. A decreased ability to detoxify can be caused by gene mutations. A poor diet, chronic nutritional deficiencies, exposure to environmental toxins, cigarette smoking and excess alcohol consumption can all contribute to change your gene expression and promote disease.
Genetic testing can help identify potential detoxification weakness that you may have. Based on your particular findings, it is possible to modify gene expression through precise, targeted, and individualized interventions.
Cytochrome P-450: a group of important detoxification enzymes found primarily in the liver. These enzymes represent the body’s first line of defense in removing unwanted chemical toxins. Gene mutations in this group are known to be linked to diminished capacity for detoxification of pesticides, herbicides, pollutants, and some steroid hormones. Impaired activity of this group of enzymes is closely linked to numerous adverse drug reactions.
COMT is a key enzyme in a detoxification reaction called methylation, or the reaction used to deactivate dopamine, norepinephrine, estrogens and various other chemical toxins. Reduced activity of this enzyme has been linked to increased risk of anxiety, panic disorder, nervousness, fibromyalgia, breast cancer (especially when coupled with long term estrogen exposure), and acute coronary events.
MTHFR is another key enzyme in the methylation cycle. Down regulated activity of this enzyme has been linked to a broad spectrum of health problems including increased risk of autism, depression, schizophrenia, essential hypertension, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and neural tube defects.
GST is a group of enzymes involved in the detoxification of heavy metals (mercury, cadmium and lead), carcinogens, steroids, herbicides, fungicides and solvents. Defects in GST can contribute to fatigue syndromes and many cancers.
NAT are a pair of enzymes that detoxify tobacco smoke, exhaust fumes, other environmental solvents. Decreased activity of this enzyme group is associated with increased risk for lung, colon, bladder, head and neck cancer.
SOD is a group of antioxidant enzymes. Mutations affecting these enzymes can lead to increased free radical activity and cell damage. There may also be an increased risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders with impaired SOD activity.
Testing for detoxification gene defects is science-based, affordable, easy, and results are available in about 7-10 days. The sample is obtained by placing a small piece of paper in your mouth for a few minutes. Gene mutations can also be identified with blood testing.
Nutrition and lifestyle-based treatment protocols are available to assist in addressing enzyme weaknesses. Whether or not you choose to test your genes, they will continue to play an important role in your health. By testing, you have the opportunity to influence the outcome and more actively promote a healthy life.
Dr. John Dixon can be reached at the Natural Medicine Group (760) 345.7300.
Sources:1) Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine , 2008; 2) Genova Diagnostics website; 3) PubMed