Biohack Your Genetics to Unlock Your Superpowers

Everyone knows that genetics are hardwired: little coils of protein and cement determining our fate. Unchangeable, out of our control. We are at their mercy, right? Wrong.

You might find it fascinating to know that only about 20-30% of what makes us healthy is determined by genetics. The other 70-80% is determined by our behaviors (how much we exercise, how we eat, how we handle stress) and social circumstances (whether we have our basic needs met).

So, that means that the inverse must also be true: we have A LOT of influence over our genetic expression, and therefore our health, simply by our choices (and to a certain extent circumstances).

Suddenly the Superwoman has a secret weapon: biohacking her genes.

This is not some experiment that has you swirling beakers and drinking mysterious green, bubbling concoctions (unless the green stuff is a kale or spinach smoothie). Let me explain.

Our genes are incredibly responsive to inputs–all kinds of inputs. Genes can be expressed or shut down by certain factors. One of the most important inputs is nutrition. Healthy food choices suppress genes associated with high cholesterol levels or even certain tumors. Genes for Alzheimer’s disease can be altered by exercise and meditation, decreasing the likelihood that they will be expressed–even with a strong family history of the disease. We call this incredible influence epigenetics .

What we once thought was complete out of our control is now within reach. We can act today and influence the future–talk about power!

Before we jump into some solid biohacking, let’s go through some genomic language basics. Genomics (the study of the entirety of a person’s genetic material) is not the same as genetics (the study of inheritance), although there is obvious overlap. Some additional key terms to understand include:

  • Base pair : genes are formed by pairs of four amino acids (the building blocks of protein)–adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine (A, C, G, and T for short). These base pairs form bonds (a kind-of “hand holding”) that make up DNA. “A” can hold hands with “T”, “C” likes “G”. Often the base pair bonds with the same amino acid (A-A for example).
  • Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP, or often just called “snip”): occurs when one or both of the base pairs is different from what we would expect (or consider normal). For example, we might expect a certain base pair to have A-A and instead we see A-T.
  • Enzyme : these are chemicals in the body that make all of the reactions in the body work the way they should. Sometimes they speed things up; other times, they slow things down. Enzymes are EVERYWHERE in the body and they make all of the body’s functions run efficiently. Many of our genes code for enzymes.
  • Heterozygous SNP : this describes a variant in one of the two amino acid base pairs. In the example above, seeing an A-T result instead of an A-A result describes a heterozygous SNP. Typically this makes an enzyme that runs a little less efficiently (or might make it speed up a little more than usual).
  • Homozygous SNP : when both base pairs are “abnormal”–instead of A-A we see T-T. The implication is that the resulting enzyme’s function will be even more affected than if the change were heterozygous. The enzyme is still functional, but it’s function is lower.

You now have the language you need to dig into the world of genomics (or at least look really cool at your next cocktail party!). With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of my favorite SNPs and the hacks you can put into place to enhance your genetic power:

  • FADS1 : this gene helps us make omega-3 fatty acids, which are highly anti-inflammatory and contribute to brain development, especially in infants.
    • HACK: take in higher omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fresh, wild-caught cold water fish (like salmon, halibut, barramundi, and cod), a supplement (either fish oil or the vegan version of algae omega-3s). Note that vegetarian versions of omega-3s, like those in flaxseed and walnuts, need to be converted to omega-3s. If you have a FADS1 SNP, you won’t do that efficiently.
      • SUPERHACK: test for FADS1 and check your omega-3 fatty acids levels, so you know what you’re dealing with.
  • MTHFR : this gene helps us convert folate (an important B vitamin) into its active form, methylfolate (5-MTHF). Problems with this gene are implicated in the development of heart disease, depression, and possibly autoimmunity.
    • HACK: take methylated folate (5-MTHF) instead of folate. Doses of 400-1000 mcg are typically recommended.
      • SUPERHACK: test for MTHFR, and its related genes MTR and MTRR and check 5-MTHF and B12 levels.
  • DIO2 : this gene is connected to thyroid health and is responsible for the conversion of inactive thyroid (T4) into active thyroid (T3) in the brain . This is how the brain uses thyroid. If you have low functioning thyroid and are still feeling a little foggy in the head, this may be why.
    • HACK: you may need more T3 directly, such as can be found in T3/T4 combinations medications (like Armour, NP-Thyroid, Nature-throid, or West-throid) to get enough T3 into the brain. You may also need to increase iodine, selenium, magnesium, iron and zinc to support your thyroid function.
      • SUPERHACK: measure this gene along with TSH, free T3, free T4, thyroid antibodies, and reverse T3 levels. Don’t just settle for a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to evaluate your thyroid status. While you’re at it, check iodine, selenium, magnesium, iron, zinc levels!
  • COMT : this important gene is connected to biochemicals responsible for behavioral health (dopamine, adrenaline) and is also involved in estrogen metabolism. People with SNPs in this gene can experience anxiety, insomnia, and ADD/ADHD and develop problems detoxifying estrogen.
    • HACK: support this gene with magnesium, copper, and vitamin C.
      • SUPERHACK: measure this gene along with magnesium, copper, and vitamin C levels. If you are considering hormone treatment, evaluate your COMT function so you know how well you can manage to detoxify estrogen. This can be done through a simple urine test at home.

There are many, MANY, more genes to consider when optimizing your superpowers. But genomics is a complicated subject. I recommend partnering with a physician or clinician who can help you understand your genomics and guide you through your epigenetic biohacking!

At Vytal Health, we focus on solving health problems others can’t. Our video appointments bring experts from across the country into your home or office and are great for everyone as they fit into our crazy and hectic schedules and ensure that you have the time you need to feel heard and get all of your questions answered.