7 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Genetic Testing
We already know the benefits of genetic testing here at Women’s Holistic Health Clinic, and know that it’s the key to providing more personalized care for our clients. Did you know that your genes can give you such specific insights into how your body works that you’ll be able to tailor your diet and lifestyle choices around what’s best for your body?
Many of us, however, are still learning about the full range of benefits that genetic testing can provide, and the real impact it can have on our lives — and our clients have a lot of questions, concerns, and curiosity as to what genetic testing is and the benefits it can deliver as well.
Here are a few common questions we encounter when it comes to genetic testing.
Q. “Aren’t my genes set in stone? If I can’t change anything, why get tested?”
A. It’s often assumed that we can’t change our genes — so why even try? The truth is that while we can’t change our DNA code, our gene expression is a bit of a different story. Our genes express themselves in different ways, and not only affect how we interact with the world around us, the world around us affects how our genes express themselves. That means that lifestyle and food choices we make can actually influence how our genes work. Our genes aren’t set in stone, and there’s a lot we can do to help them impact our health.
Q. “Isn’t genetic testing just used to determine my ancestry?”
A. Genetic testing has gained a lot of popularity in the past decade through ancestry companies who can test your DNA and track your family’s history. But genetic testing can be used for a lot more than seeing where you came from, and can be used a lot more proactively as well. Genetic testing can tell you how your body functions, right down to the cellular level, and can help you understand how your body processes nutrients, how it metabolizes caffeine, how well it handles inflammation, and much more. It can help you look forward to a healthy future as well as backwards to your ancestors.
Q. “Can’t my genetic test be shared? What if my employer finds out about my results?”
A. It’s a common concern to worry about whose hands your genetic test will fall into, and if it’ll be used for malicious purposes. But HIPAA laws prevent practitioners from sharing information about a client’s genetic test, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA, protects individuals from being discriminated against for what’s in that test. That means that your employer can’t make hiring or firing decisions, nor can your health insurance company restrict coverage, based on a genetic test.
Q. “Is the science even advanced enough around genetic testing to make it applicable?”
A. Our knowledge of all areas of science is always evolving. The study of genetics has certainly come a long way since DNA was first studied in the 1950s. Like any other science, our knowledge around genes, their expression, and how they impact health and functionality increases each day. And like with any other science, we practice with what we have, and expand our practice as our knowledge expands. We would never hold back the ability to help a client just because someone thinks the science “isn’t there yet”!
Q. “Isn’t genetic testing only really looking at one or two genes?”
A. While there may be some genes that are more popular or given more attention than others, genes can’t be looked at in isolation. What matters is how genes work together to create an overall picture of a person’s health and wellness. We like to say that knowing a person’s genes is like having a blueprint to how their system works. Just as you would never try to build a house with the plans for just one wall or floor, you wouldn’t just look at one or two genes in isolation.
Q. “Isn’t genetic testing just for genetic testing’s sake? Will I be able to use any of that information practically?”
A. Like the question above, a genetic test’s results don’t just stand alone. They can be used to make client recommendations much more personalized, can help determine better foods to eat, can influence better lifestyle choices, can lead to more targeted screening and testing, can point the way towards the best supplements, and more. Genetic testing isn’t something to take in isolation, but can be incorporated into the portfolio of healthcare approaches.
Q. “Isn’t genetic testing just used to predict the possibility that I have a specific disease?”
A. Genetic testing can certainly screen for certain genetic variants to determine if someone might be more predisposed to a disease — and many people use genetic testing in just that way. But like we’ve already seen, genetic testing can be used for much more, including informing lifestyle and food choices to address root causes of illness and disease before they even start. It’s important to understand which genetic tests focus on food choices and lifestyle changes — what we call nutrigenetic tests — and medical genetic tests that look for rare genetic variants that may by themselves cause disease.
When Carla came in, she had a lot of questions about genetic testing, and if it was right for her. After seeing an example report she decided to invest. She had some concerns about health challenges that ran in her family and wanted to learn more about her pathways and how she could further support her health. Her report gave her WAY more than she was expecting, understanding her metabolic pathways and why certain foods or lifestyle choices affected her the way they did. There were things she suspected that were verified through the genetics test and she was given the recommendations to keep those worries at bay. She felt empowered to make the best decisions for HER health and well-being.
The Biggest Question?
In many ways, genetic testing itself answers the biggest question most clients have: What can I do to get the best health, based on how my body uniquely works? Today can be the day to find out.
Ready to start your personalized health journey?