Biochemical Individuality and Functional Medicine
Healthy Planet – November 2015
Functional Medicine is focused on overall health by using personalized and system-oriented medical care. We are all truly unique in our genetic makeup and in how our environmental exposures impact us. There are two different components that contribute to biochemical individuality.
First, the genes inherited from your parents and ancestors determine physical strengths and weaknesses. Second, the influence of the environment on your genes can influence them to express or not, or to turn on or turn off. The internal, genetic makeup and external environmental (epigenetic) influence for each person creates a person who is truly unique.
Parents contribute genes to their child’s unique genetic makeup at birth, and these genes pass from one generation to the next. All families have inherent weaknesses that predispose them to certain diseases, like heart disease or diabetes. In the instance of heart disease, a common genetic weakness has been observed in the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase gene – referred to as MTHFR. Taking the activated form of vitamin B9 allows us to jump over the weakness and support the pathway to function properly. In other words, we support the body to do its own job.
Epigenetics is the study of the influence of the environment on the expression of genes. Your observable traits result from interactions between your genes and the environment. As a person goes through life they are exposed to many external influences in the environment. Things like chemicals pollutants, pesticides, cigarette smoke, and heavy metals can all impact the gene expression – for example, whether cancer genes are turned on. Healthy nutrients can favorably impact the genetic environment to protect from disease states. Conceptually, this approach enables us to favorably impact genes that could otherwise create disease. In the case of heart disease, it matters greatly whether or not you smoke, exercise, eat healthy and have reduced stress in your life. Just having the gene doesn’t mean you have to get the disease. The choices you make can and do contribute to the outcome!
The power of understanding your biochemical individuality can be profound. Targeted support of your predisposed genetic weakness results in optimizing your biochemical functions. Individually targeted nutrients enable the body to overcome inherited weakness with better outcomes for your future health.