What is Genomic Counseling?

Genomic testing is different than genetic testing which is testing for what diseases that you might acquire like Parkinson's as well your ancestry.   In genomic testing, it looks at those misspellings referred to as SNP's that can lead to metabolic imbalances like diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, migraines, obesity, and even hormonal imbalances.  This is the field of nutrigenomics which includes genomics and epigenetics with a focus on nutrition and metabolism.

Are There Genes that Can Impact Your Nutritional Status?

These slight mutations affect our ability to absorb, metabolize, and utilize nutrients from your food.  They also impact your ability to make nutrients like vitamin D which has over 5 different mutations related to its metabolism.  Discovery of these mutations can explain why you might be low in these nutrients or are having the symptoms of nutritional deficiencies.  This nutrigenetics is also highly related to autoimmune conditions and usually, you will find that those who have autoimmune conditions like psoriasis and Hashimoto's, will have these slight mutations or SNP's.

Genomic counseling takes these tests results and combines them with your health goals and conditions bringing together a truly personalized approach taking into consideration both your SNP's and nutrition genetics.  With my clinical background, I also look at how your genomics has impacted your health through your lab work and may recommend lab work.  For instance, looking at high homocysteine which is a cardiovascular risk factor, we can determine just what is going array in this metabolic pathway by looking at your genomics.

What should you look for in a Genomic Counselor?

You finally took that step into genomics and had a test done which came back with a lovely report and a table of letters with an explanation of these SNP's which look like Dutch to you.  Most of the reports will focus on the basics and emphasize nutrients or some will try to sell supplements to you.  Be careful with testing companies that sell supplements with their reports as their reports do not take into consideration the complicated biochemical pathways that are involved and those supplements might actually make things worse for you.

Genomics and nutrigenomics is an extremely new science with just emerging educational and credentialing for counseling.  There are many different types of healthcare professionals including doctors, clinical nutritionists, and others that are researching this new science and counseling people on their genomics.  It is, however, a bit of the gold rush going on including many “counselors” and bloggers selling supplements and solutions to “heal your genes” without an educational background and using common misconceptions and misinformation on the internet as their training.  Misinformation on MTHFR is probably the most widespread and most bloggers without a biochemical background are not versed in the complete and complicated methylation pathway.

 What should you look for when hiring a genomic counselor especially for nutrigenomics? 

Start by making sure the counselor you hire has a background in biochemistry, nutrition (masters or higher), and has some educational background in genomics.  In addition to my masters in human nutrition, I have been studying this field for the last 3 years, taken courses in genomics including culinary genomics, and have just completed my certification in functional medicine nutrition which included course work in genomics most notably autism, GI health, MTHFR, food intolerances, neurotransmitter balance, autoimmunity, and metabolic health.  I have also taken course work from Dr. Ben Lynch.

There is much to learn from this new science and how it can be applied to healthcare so make sure to do your homework when choosing a counselor.  Without a comprehensive education in biochemistry and metabolic pathways, you could be greatly misinformed so make sure whomever you hire, you inquire about their education.