Knowing Your Personal Genome Is Empowering

Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Healing & Natural Remedies, Health, Prevention with 1 Comment

By Dr. Todd Ovokaitys and Mary Kennedy, Ph.D.

Have you ever wondered why a program failed for you and worked for someone else? Whether this was a supplement, a diet program, even a medication? Of course the reason is that we are all genetically unique, and have a precise path that is best for us.

For the first time since the discovery of the double helix, you can now know your own code – for a song! “23 and me” is a test of each person’s unique genetic variations. 23 refers to there being 23 pairs of human chromosomes to make the full complement of 46 chromosomes for a human.

While there are approximately 30,000 human genes, there are millions of variations of these. Most of these are a single change in a gene that may have hundreds of nucleotide bases in a sequence. Such a change is called a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP (pronounced “snip” by nerds in the know).

The type of “snip” that matters is when the change in nucleotide results in a different amino acid in a protein chain. If this is in a critical location, the function of the protein or enzyme can be altered or even eliminated.

23 and me screens for numerous key SNPs that if present create blocks in critical chemical pathways. The good news is that with the correct interpretation, which is also available, you can have a personal road map to identify and work around these blocks.

In 2013, I couldn’t turn the television on without seeing “23andme” advertisements. I was immediately captivated. In my schooling as a human development professional, I adopted the belief that generally “knowledge is power” – especially if it something you prefer not to face. Yet, when faced with this tantalizing opportunity to know what diseases I could be at risk for put me in a personal quandary. Do I really want to know? So I discussed the idea with Dr. Todd on several occasions. Ultimately, my answer was yes and now believe that knowing your DNA code is nothing to fear and can even be empowering.

By the time I decided to dive in, I found out the FDA had shut down the “health report” portion of the “23andme” website (you can read about the details on All was not lost, I discovered there are researchers that provide interpretations to help sort out what supplements, drugs and dietary interventions may work well given your personal SNPs profile. All you need to have is your raw genomic data file which you can get from 23andme as well as other providers.

After waiting somewhat impatiently for my results (it takes about 6 weeks after you send in your completed kit) — I got my SNP results! I can’t tell you how many light bulb and aha moments fired off in my brain as I poured over the details. I think the most comforting thing for me was there were potentials or risk factors for diseases that would have shown up in my earlier years that clearly had not and in fact I have quite the opposite physical expression in the “real world.”

Other metabolic SNPs gave me ideas of why certain nutritional interventions weren’t giving me the satisfaction I desired and what to do about it. This is the beginning of understanding the real power behind knowing some of your key SNPs.

The reason I’m not in fear over my results rests in epigenetics, statistics, and believing that I can actively do things that impact how my DNA is expressed. For example, although you may show a SNP associated with aggression and one with alcoholism it does not mean you are destined to be an alcoholic, aggressive person. Many factors, including physical environment, stressors, diet, and the ability to absorb and process vitamins, minerals and amino acids within your system play a role in how your DNA is expressed.

One thing that sometimes isn’t clear to non-researchers is that SNP research is predominately based on science that looks at associations between a particular SNP and whether or not a person has a particular disease; much of which has been based on patients self-reports of disease which can also be subjective. In other words, researchers observe what diseases or deficiencies occur or are reported when certain SNPs are present. This is correlative research based on the people that have had genome testing. This type of research is not designed to yield cause-and-effect answers but instead assesses risks, associations and potential outcomes (positive and negative). I had a couple of SNPs that were described as positive mutations.

I believe as people, we are 100% nature and 100% nurture and the expression of who we are is a result of the interaction of these two spheres of influence. Our DNA responds to our environment through chemical switches that regulate gene expression by receiving cues from stress, diet, behavior, toxins and other factors. Epigenetics is the study of these “on-off switches” and what influences them. Epigenetic switches actually surround DNA and either constrict around it or cause the DNA to relax. This is what influences whether a gene is expressed or not. These epigenetic changes can be as stable as gene mutations. This ability to change the expression of DNA based on epigenetic switches has catalyzed much debate and opportunity to explore new therapeutic options in the fields of medicine, nutrition, psychology, and the healing arts.

I understand that some are concerned about “big brother” or insurance companies. There are ways to do the 23andme testing confidentially – it takes extra time and effort. If you have these concerns, you may find it a worthwhile option. For help with this, I found this blog article by attorney Sarah A. Downey:How to use 23andMe without giving up your genetic privacy

What does it all mean?

There are several online sources for interpretation of your raw, genomic data most of which are looking at methylation defects and detoxification pathways which are often related to chronic fatigue, Multiple Sclerosis. Some physicians and nutritionists offer interpretation and you can also find interpretations that will tell you what SNPs you have that are found to be related to certain diseases. My results printed out on about 100 sheets of paper and included disease potentials with dietary and nutritional recommendations based on my SNPs.

While I have been working in the nutrition industry for years, I am not a nutritionist and I feel it is important to do this in conjunction with a qualified practitioner that understands the human biology and chemistry that the report gives you. Many of my results were contradictory so it becomes necessary to prioritize the recommendations based on a variety of factors. For most, it is still going to be a little more trial and error and self-observation to see what your optimum combination is.

I had over 20 suggested nutritional interventions based on the SNPs that were analyzed. These were predominantly related to methylation/energy production defects, brain and mood support. I was able to obtain several of the mood and energy support locally and began using several of them. I could feel a huge improvement in energy levels and was almost giddy. I had to adjust some of the supplements because it drastically affected my desire and ability to focus. I would recommend keeping a journal on what you are trying and reflecting on how your mood, focus and energy are on each day while you are seeking optimal levels. This will also help you discuss your needs and progress with your practitioner.

There are also lists of things that are best to be avoided. Sometimes these lists give conflicting information due to having mutations on different SNPs that suggest opposing remedies (one SNP mutation benefits from the methyl donor known as “betaine” whereas another SNP benefits from the avoidance of betaine.) This is another reason to work with someone in the know to help you find an alternative pathway or nutrient to do the work of betaine.

The field of SNP interpretation is in its infancy in many ways and our generation will be the pioneers on which much of this new epigenetic learning is built. There are several modalities that Dr. Todd and I have been reviewing and practicing to including sound, frequency, nutrition and conflict resolution — that have an amazing potential to affect our personal epigenetics.

It is our goal to make these modalities available to more people through trainings, research and events. There is more and more information on how you can affect your genome by altering your personal environment – it makes what seemed a scary proposal of destiny in the beginning into a compassionate exploration of self and a better understanding of a part of what makes me – me; and best of all how I can reach new levels of optimum health and well-being.

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About the Authors

DrTodd - thumbDr. Todd Ovokaitys is a Johns Hopkins trained physician who founded the nutritional supplement company, Gematria Products, Inc. He spends much of his time sharing complementary medicine modalities for creating optimal health, and wellness with a focus on longevity and stem cell research.


Mary Kennedy - thumbMary Kennedy, Ph.D. is a specialist in Human Development and has worked with Dr. Todd since 1999. She uses her expertise in behavioral statistics to assist with research in the areas of nutrition, light frequencies, and pineal toning. You can learn more about them on and

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  1.' Nigel says:

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