Things like the temperament of being a plate-spinner are intimately connected to our genes. Just as we all have varying approaches to undertaking anything in life, we all have unique physical responses and capabilities, many of which are genetically determined, and can impact your overall health.
I see this all too often with tolerances, for example to medications and herbs. It is not one dose fits all, not one medication cures all, nor is one approach successful for all.
Years ago I had a new patient walk in my doors. She had a history of elevated blood pressure and she was on an antihypertensive medication. She was having such severe joint pain and lack of energy as side effects to this particular medication that she grew into a pattern of doing her best to accomplish what she could before noonbecause she had to lay down for the rest of the day.
What kind of life is that? How could her prescribing doctor think that was OK for the patient?
For my part as an RN and an Acupuncturist, I will never take a patient off of a medication nor will I encourage patients to discontinue or alter prescribed medications.
However, I did encourage her to seek out a new cardiologist, to report her side effects, the impact of those side effects to her life, and to inquire if a different medication could be prescribed. (The patient did find a new doctor and started on a different antihypertensive. Eventually, with her new MD supervising, she actually transitioned off the medication because her blood pressure so radically improved with regular acupuncture.)
I’ve lost track of the times that patients complain of suffering from profound side effects from medications but being told that the side effects are in their head. Unfortunately. it is fairly common for side effect complaints to be ignored by medical practitioners who should have a professional set of skills to consider another agent, a different dose or an alternate therapy.
The ability to metabolize medication is linked to your genes.
Though it is not yet standard medical practice to do genomic screenings to figure out your tolerances or intolerances to medications, did you know you can do this yourself? Yes! It is relatively easy and not terribly expensive. The unique and scientific information you discover can give you amazing insight into your healthcare decision-making. Not only can you share it with your doctors, but having the knowledge can help you head off suffering and wasted time and money.
The company that I used to explore my own genome is called 23andMe. 23andMe is one of many companies offering direct-to-consumer genetics testing. It is based in Mountain View, California. For $99, 23andMe offers a saliva-based test from which is generated a “Health Overview.” The overview provides personal genomic information broken down into the following sections: health risks, inherited conditions, drug response, and inherited traits. Additional online options for companies who offer genetic testing include: Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, and Complete Genomics. It’s definitely worth checking them out.
23andMe reports are broken into four broad and valuable categories:
- Health Risk: Your risk for things such as type 2 diabetes, cancers, or heart diseases.
- Inherited Conditions (also known as Carrier Status): For genetically passed diseases such as sickle cell anemia, Tay Sachs disease and cystic fibrosis.
- Drug Response: How your system uniquely processes medication.
- Inherited Traits: Eye and hair color, male pattern baldness, lactose intolerance, and cholesterol levels.
So next time you hear someone you love say, “This medication is causing X, Y or Z symptom,” it might be worth a second opinion medically, as well as some exploration into their genetic blueprint.