How do your genetics affect you?

How do your genetics affect you?

Introduction to Nutrigenomics: How Nutrients Interact With Our Genes

Have you ever wondered why some people can eat broccoli every day, but it makes you bloated after one serving? Or why your friend can drink four cups of coffee while one cup makes you anxious and jittery? Or maybe you have noticed that the vitamin D3 supplement you are taking daily doesn’t seem to increase your levels on your annual blood work? What you may not know is that all these things are due to your genetics and how your genes are expressing and interacting with the food you eat and the environment you live in.

As the nutrition field strives to create a more personalized approach to patient care, more and more interest has focused on the nuances of how our bodies are influenced by the choices we make. This has led to the development of a new field of study called nutrigenomics, which is the study of how individual genetic differences change our response to diet and how diet changes our genetic expression.

So what does that mean in practice and how is it going to help you feel better? Well let’s look more specifically at one gene that has garnered a lot of interest recently, the notorious COMT gene!

The COMT gene codes for an enzyme called catechol-O-methyltransferase, which breaks down or metabolizes the neurotransmitters dopamine and epinephrine/norepinephrine (aka adrenaline). These are brain chemicals that regulate our mood, sleep, and nervous system. The COMT gene is responsible for controlling the amount and availability of these chemicals.

Each person’s COMT gene works a little differently. It can either work too fast, too slow, or sit somewhere in between. If it works too FAST, it is going to break down dopamine and adrenaline quickly, which can leave you feeling tired, depressed and unable to focus. This can lead to “dopamine seeking” behavior such as food cravings, addictions, and an engagement in extreme sports or video games. Things that increase stress may actually feel good and you also may recover more easily from stress and physical injury – so it’s not all bad news!

If COMT moves too SLOW, it increases dopamine and adrenaline which can make you feel more motivated, excited, and competitive. These traits have often been described as the Type A personality. However, you may also feel anxious, distracted, irritable, and have difficulty sleeping especially when stressed. You may also have a lower pain tolerance. This can lead to feeling “wired and tired” because your brain is constantly on, but your body is exhausted and drained from trying to keep up and not getting enough rest.

So how do we support COMT? Like most things in the body, the Goldilocks’ rule is best – not too much and not too little. COMT is powered by magnesium and needs proper methylation balance. If you are deficient in magnesium, either due to a high demand for magnesium or poor intake, then this may slow your COMT gene down too much. This is why when you take magnesium, it may help you feel more relaxed, less irritable, and help you sleep.

While this sounds simple enough – “take magnesium and feel better”- it is a little more complicated. There are many different types of magnesium, and they all work slightly differently. At BeWell, we make sure to look at specifically what YOU need based on your biochemistry and genetics to ensure that you are getting the right nutrients for your body. This allows us to develop treatment plans that are tailored to your specific needs so that you see results and are better able to reach your health goals. If you are interested in learning more about nutrigenomics or about the COMT gene, contact us and we will get you scheduled with a consultation.


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