Written by: Seeking Health
Genetic testing at home has become very popular in recent years. With greater accessibility, more people than ever are getting their genes tested and learning about their DNA make-up.
Still, if you’re new to the concept, you might wonder what exactly can be learned from this process and whether or not it’s actually helpful.
Home genetic testing has made a lot of progress in recent years as far as what it can tell you. Research has been ongoing in understanding how genes affect health and what can be done with the resulting information.
It is important to understand, however, that genetic home test kits are not medical testing and are not qualified to diagnose you with anything. What they can do is provide you with education and information that can guide your lifestyle choices. A qualified healthcare provider can also use your results to customize a supplement and treatment plan that is based on your unique DNA.
So, what type of information can be gleaned from taking a DNA test at home? Here’s a list.
Within the genes that are inherited from your parents, there are certain variations. These are known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. They are also referred to as genetic variations or genetic mutations.
DNA is built off of nucleotide bases. Of these bases, there are four types: A, T, C, and G. Each human has three billion pairs of bases, resulting in a total of six billion letters in all. These letters are strung together in a specific sequence that makes up your individual DNA. No one else has the exact same combination as you, unless you have an identical twin.
Your unique set of letter sequences is referred to as your genome. The results that you get from home DNA test kits let you know which letters are present at many different genes. The letter combinations that you have identify many unique factors about your physical health, such as what color of eyes you have, hair color, skin pigmentation, and beyond.
While no home DNA test kit is going to map your entire genome, your results will typically provide you with detailed information on a few hundred different genes and the SNPs that might be present.
Some propensity or risk factors for disease or health conditions are also associated with certain SNPs, or variations.
Information detected can range from “you have a gene that means cilantro might taste like soap to you” or “this genetic SNP means your body has a harder time activating folate.”
While most people do genetic testing to get in-depth health answers, it’s important to realize that no genetic test result alone is a diagnosis. Genetic risk and the presence of certain polymorphisms or variations are all about the probability. However, even with a combination that indicates a higher probability, there are still multiple factors at play when it comes to the actual follow-through on health implications.
Your genes are influenced strongly by the environment you live in, externally and internally. This could mean chemical exposures, the geographical location that you live in, your stress load, and the type of diet you eat.
The health information you glean from a home DNA test kit can be used to help inform your health decisions, typically under the advisement of a healthcare provider who understands how to optimize your wellness and health based on the information given.
Genetic variations, then, can serve as a guide or roadmap forward—not as a guarantee of what will happen no matter what. For example, if you discover that you have a homozygous (or two-copy) variation of the MTHFR gene, your healthcare provider might recommend a more targeted approach to vitamin B supplementation. This could help your body better utilize the nutrients, requiring fewer conversion steps internally, and optimizing your methylation pathways.
Instead of focusing on genetic results as a sign of what is or could go wrong, your healthcare provider can help create a plan that will strengthen your potential weaknesses and keep you moving upward in your health journey. Sometimes this is as simple as supplementing with a nutrient in a specific form or knowing that, to protect your wellness, you can avoid other types of nutrients.
Some people do better when they have more information about their health. Instead of existing in a gray area of wondering what could be going on, they feel empowered when they know what is present in their genetic make-up. With all the talk of MTHFR and methylation in recent years, for example, it can be empowering to realize that you don’t have any problematic SNPs. It can also be freeing to learn that you do, and no longer have to wonder if the supplements you’re taking are right for you.
Understanding the specificity of your personal set of genetic variations can help to optimize your diet, lifestyle, and supplement routine and help make sure that your efforts are targeted in useful areas. It’s like playing darts with all your wits about you. When you are unsure of your genetic methylation status, or other similar SNPs, you may feel that supplementation is like wearing a blindfold and throwing as many darts as you can, hoping some of them will stick. Understanding your genetic variants takes the blindfold off and allows for a better targeting and guidance system for your wellness efforts.
While the information you get from home tests can be accurate, it won’t tell you everything. Here’s what you can’t learn from an at-home DNA test.
The kind of genetic testing you get from an at-home service can provide accurate results. However, home DNA tests do not test every single gene that you have. Medical doctors want patients to understand that while this information can be helpful for many things, it cannot replace predictive medical genetic diagnostic testing for serious gene-linked conditions, like breast cancer or Fragile X syndrome.
If you have a family history of an inherited disorder, it’s still important to follow through with the testing that your doctor wants. An at-home DNA test kit cannot replace this.
Genetic home tests do not diagnose any condition or disorder. They simply provide information about which raw material is present. Even if you have multiple homozygous (or two-copy) variations in your test results, it does not mean that those genes are automatically working against you or problematic.
Ideally, you should find someone skilled at interpreting DNA data to help educate you about the optimal way forward for your wellness. Thankfully Seeking Health provides numerous resources to help you with that, and even has a database of qualified practitioners to guide you, in the event that you aren’t already working with one.
Regardless of the type of test kit you complete, you’ll likely receive some boxes that are not filled in or “no call” for some of your genotypes. This does not mean that the information does not exist, but rather, that the computer algorithm that analyzed your genes was not able to properly identify this particular area with confidence. For example, the lab may have received a poor quality saliva sample, and could not accurately report on some of your genes. As technology continues to advance, there will probably be fewer of these, but nearly every test result will include at least one of these. It does not mean the other information included is questionable, simply that one particular slice of information was too close to call.
Even with the helpful resources that Seeking Health provides, you might still view your test results with confusion. If you’re not a practitioner skilled in creating wellness plans based on genetic results, chances are, you’re not going to read the entire report with 100 percent understanding. And that’s okay!
The point of getting your genes tested is not to have complete knowledge, but rather, to offer a launch point for moving forward in your wellness plan. Your genetic data will give you an informed place to be working from, but as research continues to develop, you may still be learning new things from your test results for months and even years down the road!
Some people avoid getting their genes tested because they fear that the information will be used against them at some point in the future. However, genes are not diagnoses, and so they can’t be used as a “pre-existing condition” to rule you out of future insurance coverage.
In fact, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act keeps insurance companies from being able to raise your rates or deny coverage based on your genetic test results.
Still, when you get your test results, you should safeguard them and not publicly share. Treat it the same way you would any other personal medical information.
Your genetic information can be a helpful and proactive tool in understanding your genetic make-up and how to pursue the optimal route for wellness and health.
The StrateGene® Report is a customized genetic report. The results help you determine if you have genetic variations that can give you susceptibilities to specific health issues.
But StrateGene® does much more than tell you what your problems are. StrateGene® gives you solutions.
For instance, your comprehensive results will show you exactly which nutrients are supportive and potentially problematic based on your unique genetics. You'll also be guided toward your ideal lifestyle, diet, environment, and other factors that will optimize your unique genetic profile.
Ever wished you had an instruction manual for your life? Here you go!