First and foremost, I must give credit where credits due. I learned the majority of the information below from Dr. Ben Lynch‘s book, “Dirty Genes”. If you want to know more about gene mutations, “Dirty Genes” dives into much greater detail and includes Dr. Lynch’s “Clean Gene Protocol.”
There is so much to know about dirty genes and I’m barely going to dip our toes in the water. This post was intended to be a brief overview of my understanding of the topic. Make note: I am no doctor, so this post is purely based on my personal experiences, research, and education. If you suspect you might be suffering from a gene mutation, I highly encourage you to reach out to a functional medicine practitioner, or Nutritional Therapist (like myself), to perform an evaluation and identify what is going on in your body, speficially.
For general purposes, I want to give you a brief lowdown on dirty genes. Because it wasn’t until I was personally diagnosed with the MTHFR gene mutation, that I first heard about the idea of gene mutations. And it wasn’t until much more recently, that I started to do my own research to gain a better understanding of what dirty genes are, how we can be affected, and what to do about it.
*How I felt when I found out I had the MTHFR gene mutation:
First Thing First: What Are Dirty Genes?
Obviously, we are all born with genes and a lot of them- that’s no secret. However, we are also affected by something called epigenetics, which is defines as the way in which our genes are expressed. As crazy as it sounds, the role of epigenetics means that no matter the genes you’re born with, each gene can express itself differently based on various factors, including but not limited to: diet, lifestyle, stress, toxins, and more.
Now, enter: dirty genes. Dirty genes contain various SNPs, or single-nucleotide polymorphisms, that affect the function of our genes and often cause them to function subpar, at the very least. According to Dr. Ben Lynch, there are 7 main gene mutations, aka dirty genes. Each gene mutation affects various functions and processes in the body. One of the most affected processes is methylation, which controls inflammation and stress in the body, detoxification, energy production, immune function, and cell repair. As you can see methylation has some big shoes to fill. No wonder we feel so crummy when our body is affected by dirty genes and cannot methylate properly.
The Top 7 Gene Mutations (According to Dr. Ben Lynch):
- MTHFR- The MTHFR gene is responsible for converting folic acid to folate. When you have the MTHFR gene mutation, your ability to convert folic acid to folate is greatly reduced. There are two versions of the MTFHR mutation: homozygous and heterozygous. Homozygous means there are two copies of the same gene, while heterozygous means there is only one. Those affected by the homozygous version may only process 30% of the folate they consume (like your girl over here). Symptoms of the MTHFR mutation include: fatigue, depression, low immune function, high homocysteine levels, bipolar disorder, and more.
- COMT- The COMT gene processes catechols, estrogen, and neurotransmitters, like dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. With the COMT gene mutation, a body’s ability to process these substances can be slowed down or sped up. A fast COTM gene looks like: someone who is peaceful and calm, has trouble focusing for long periods of time, depends on caffeine and sugar, and can fall asleep easily. On the other hand, a slow COTM gene might look like: someone who exudes confidence and energy, has difficulty calming down, de-stressing, or sleeping, and notices a sensitivity to caffeine and chocolate.
- DOA- The DAO gene is responsible for processing histamine. Therefore, it is most commonly know as the “food sensitivity” gene. If you suffer from this gene mutation, it is likely that your body frequently over-responds to histamine from foods. Common symptom are many food allergies and sensitivities, leaky gut, SIBO, and nausea.
- MAOA- The MAOA enzyme processes the neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are known for regulated your mood and stress. Like the COMT mutation, the MAOA mutation can perform too fast or too slow. A fast MAOA mutation looks like alcoholism and addiction, depression, and carb cravings. A slow MAOA looks like headaches, irritability, and mood swings.
- GST/GPX- These two genes help your body transfer glutathione, which is primarily responsibly for detoxification. As a result of GST and GPX gene mutations, your body cannot detox properly, especially chemical toxins. Symptoms of these dirty genes are hypersensitivities to chemicals and smells, high blood pressure, fatigue, irritability, and graying hair.
- NOS3- NOS3 has a large impact on heart health by producing nitric oxide and effecting blood flow and vessel formation. As a result of the NOS3 mutation, your body does not dilate your blood vessel efficiently, potentially leading to blood clots. Symptoms may look like: angina, high blood pressure, congestion, and wounds that heal slowly.
- PEMT- The PEMT gene works with the methylation process to produce phosphatidylcholine, which has many roles. It absorbs nutrients in your cells, aids in bile flow, and supports liver function, brain health , nerve function, and muscle movement. Symptoms of a PEMT gene mutation look like: gallbladder disorders, muscle pain and weakness, and fatigue.
How Do I know if I Have Dirty Genes?
Now that we’ve covered the most common gene mutations, how do you know if you have a dirty gene? As far as I know, there are two main ways to identify dirty genes:
- Check your symptoms- Dr. Lynch’s book, “Dirty Genes” does a great job thoroughly describing symptoms of each dirty gene (while I just gave a brief overview). It may be pretty easy to identify which of your genes are dirty, if an, based on symptoms alone.
- DNA testing- Lab testing can confirm your suspicion of any gene mutations. However, it’s important to work with a health professional to accurately diagnosis a gene mutation.
*It’s important to note that “clean” genes may “act” dirty, even if they technically aren’t. However, cleaning up dirty genes and “dirty-acting” genes are done in the same way.
I Have Dirty Genes- Now What?
If you have been diagnosed with one or more dirty genes or are suffering from clean genes that “act” dirty, there is good news!
The good news is there are many factors that contribute to the helpful or harmful nature of our genes and we can control most of these factors, like diet, stress, exercise, toxins, and environments.
Diet– To help our genes function optimally, diet is key! For the most part, it’s best to avoid inflammatory foods, like: gluten, pasteurized dairy, processed foods, refined flours and sugars, GMO products, herbicides and pesticides, food additives and chemicals, conventional meats and produce, and excess alcohol and caffeine. Alternatively, we want to fill our diets with dark, leafy greens, organic fruits and vegetables, high quality meats and eggs, wild caught seafood, nuts and seeds, soaked and sprouted grains, raw dairy, healthy oils (like olive, coconut, and avocado), and filtered water.
When we stick to a whole food, raw, nutrient-dense diet, our body receives the nutrients it needs, like vitamins and minerals, hydration, fiber, and more. For more help on this, I recommend working with a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner!
Stress- Along with a nutrient-dense diet, managing emotional and physical stress is essential. Emotional stress may look like: a demanding job, unhealthy relationships, depression, etc. On the other hand, physical stress mat be caused by: working late hours, over-exercising, consuming excess sugar, alcohol, or caffeine, etc. Learning to effectively manage the sources of stress in your life is unnegotiable. We can treat symptoms all day long, but they will not be healed until we address the root cause. Personally, I’ve found a few methods to best cope with on-going stress:
- Prioritizing prayer time and my relationship with Jesus.
- Getting outside everyday- wether for a walk or just to soak up the sun for a few minutes.
- Taking time to stretch and breath throughout my day.
Exercise- Exercise is very important to mental and physical health. However, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Everyone is different, including how much stress (or exercise) our bodies can handle. To gauge this, we have to tune into our bodies . When you’re tired, rest. When you feel strong and energized, hit the gym or go for a run. Yes, exercise is important, but when we over-exercise, our bodies experience an overload of stress.
Toxins and Environment
Toxins are everywhere, today:
Herbicides and pesticides in produce
Antibiotics and hormones in meat
Blue light/EMF’s from technological devices
Chemicals in personal care and beauty products, like make-up, deodorant, shampoo, etc.
Processed foods and trans fats
And this is just the short list! But, working to dwindle down this list as much as possible can make a big difference! Keep these tips in mind: opt for organic produce and high quality meats, protect yourself from blue light and EMF’s, shop for clean household and beauty products, and stick to a whole, raw diet.
Wrapping it Up
This post is just the start of a very complex topic and there is so much more to know. If you have a dirty gene or want to know something specific about dirty genes, let me know in the comments below. And, be sure to stay tuned for more information on dirty genes and how to live optimally with them.