Your Genetic DNA Data: Privacy Concerns and Benefits to Testing
As a Functional Nutritionist there is a lot I can do to help clients improve their health. I gather data from my clients regarding family history and their symptoms. This may, or may not be, enough information to make smart nutritional and lifestyle changes. For many clients achieving optimal health and relief from chronic illnesses requires running some genetic testing.
Tests, like the standard “Chem Panel” that your physician probably orders annually, help us to see what is going on inside your body. These sorts of tests can shed a lot of light onto what may actually be contributing to your condition or preventing you from feeling your best.
One of the most powerful tests you can get for your health is an epigenetic test. This test shows you not only your genetic potential, but also gives us a clue on how your genes may be expressing themselves, both positively and negatively.
Genetic Testing Empowers Us to Take Action
This data generated from this epigenetic test gives me powerful insight into your specific body’s genetic makeup. I can use that data to develop a plan for disease prevention or to restore health—a plan that is unique to you.
Some people might be afraid to learn if they have a genetic predisposition to a serious illness, I know that knowledge is power! Rather than hiding our head in the sand and hoping for the best, we can learn what we need to do in order to minimize the effects of disease, and potentially circumvent it altogether.
It is important for you to know that having genes that reveal you have a higher risk of developing a condition does not mean you WILL get it. Especially when armed with that knowledge we create a plan that minimizes that genetic expression while strengthening other positive genetic.
For example, in my family, we have generations of family members who’ve developed Alzheimer’s disease. Pretty scary stuff, but I use my genetic test to find the weaknesses that make me vulnerable to this horrendous disease and take steps to reduce my risk. The same can be done to limit my risk for breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, and more.
Privacy Concerns with Genetic Testing: Who Sees My Data
Many people have concerns about how the genetic data is being used and who has access to it. The specific test I use and recommend is “Your Genomic Resource.”
With this test, the only people who know your genetic data is yours is the NutriGenetic Research Institute and me. The lab that runs your saliva sample is given no name or other identifying information.
And, the NutriGenetic Research Institute is committed to never selling your genetic data. This institute isn’t interested in big pharma. Instead, they spend their resources learning more about how to support your epigenetic expression so you can have optimal health through natural means such as foods, supplements, sleep, and more.
This is not the case with 23andMe. 23andMe has partnered with GlaxoSmithKline Plc, the British drug company. For $300 million, if effect, your genetic data has been sold. Both 23andMe and Glaxo have reassured the public that the data is secure. I, for one, hope it is since my data is included in that. You see, anyone who agreed that their genetic data could be used for research had their data sold.
Why I’m Not Overly Concerned My Genetic Data is Out
Because of my family history with some pretty serious illnesses, I was eager to allow my genetic data to be used for research. I ASSUMED it would be used for research, not big pharma. I was wrong. Sort of. It is being used for research, AND it is being used by big pharma
This likely isn’t all bad, however. For a while now, genetics have been studied to determine which chemotherapy drugs may be the most effective or to determine which drugs may not work in an individual’s case. I like that. And if using my DNA helps lead to ways to cure Alzheimer’s, I’d be all for that as well.
What Does Concern Me as a Functional Nutritionist
My concern with the 23andMe/Glaxo deal is the usual problem with big pharma: pharmaceutical companies never look to support the body naturally.
Pharmaceuticals definitely have an important role to play in our health, at the right time—especially when it comes to emergencies. For example, I can’t imagine living in a world where we didn’t have access to antibiotics. When my father had surgery, and when I had a major infection from a cut, I was very grateful to have the power of pharmaceuticals to treat us both. That being said, our over-reliance on so-called “miracle drugs” has created super-bugs that are resistant to antibiotics. That is why working with our body’s defenses as much as possible is so important.
Pharmaceutical drugs are very powerful and shouldn’t be an automatic first choice. When they are taken, or being considered, it is important that you, the person whose body is being affected, are educated in the risks and benefits of the drug, so you can make an informed decision.
I believe that we have the best of both worlds when we combine integrative care with western medicine. We are very fortunate to live in a country where we have the latest medical advances. I recommend we all do everything we can to take care of our bodies as naturally as possible. In this way, we can delay, reduce, and even possibly avoid the need for those advances.
There may be times when you decide that taking a pharmaceutical is the best choice for you and your family. In that even it is a good idea to check with a nutrition professional because many drugs will deplete the body of critical nutrients. Often adding certain nutrients into your diet temporarily will help the pharmaceutical work even more efficiently and allow you to return to health with a smaller dose.
The Easy Solution Just Doesn’t Work
My frustration stems from how quickly a prescription gets handed out when it is clear dietary adjustments need to be made. For example, one of my client’s adult children was given drugs to lower his blood pressure. This person is in his early 20’s and is overweight, sedentary, and follows the standard American diet.
This physician never said a word about the elephant in the room. Instead, he patted the young man on the back and said all he needed was that prescription. In my opinion, that is malpractice.
Because large pharmaceutical companies have a lot at stake financially, they promote their “solution” (drugs) to doctors—and to the general population through advertisements in print and on television in the USA. This many leads Americans, patients and physicians alike, to continue to swallow the belief that if they just take this pill, their health problem will be fixed.
Regrettably, a prescription rarely fixes a health problem such as this. What it may do is relieve some of the symptoms a person is experiencing in the moment. But the health problems continue, masked by the medication, until one day down the road the bad lifestyle choices the patient has been making overpower that mask!
Why shouldn’t they profit from their research? I have no problem with that. Where I have an issue is when they promote a drug that perhaps solves one issue, but potentially creates another—maybe even bigger one.
Big pharma develops drugs that are internal nuclear bombs causing almost as many negative effects as positive ones.
For example, did you know that pantethine can lower your cholesterol? I doubt you did. Most likely, your doctor doesn’t know either. Your doctor knows that statins can lower your cholesterol. But statins also increase your chance for dementia, not to mention muscle pain, type 2 diabetes, and may cause liver damage.
For me, I’ll keep looking to provide the body what it needs to optimize health and support the removal of the things that rob it of health. That includes eating healthy foods, drinking clean water, getting exercise and good quality sleep, and learning how we can support our unique DNA structure through genetic testing.
If I do eventually need a pharmaceutical, I’ll take it with gratitude that I live in the greatest place on earth for medical technology.