Since we published our first blog post in January 2016, the most popular and frequently asked question that we receive is the following: "is there any way to know if I will become chronically ill?" This question has been asked by both the "healthy" population and those in the midst of recovering the quality of their lives.
It is a difficult question, but a hugely important one, particularly when it comes to prevention. However, I am neither a doctor nor a fortune teller, so all I can offer is my experience as a patient in the underground world of chronic recovery. Please note, though, as a disclaimer, that The Accidental Purist is not dispensing medical advice, and that all material in this post is in the spirit of sharing cutting-edge information, much of which is solid and grounded, but has yet to reach wider allopathic medicine.
With that disclaimer in place, there is one concept that continues to stand out when it comes to illness and dis-ease, and it is this: our unique genetic imprint loads the gun, but environmental factors inevitably pull the trigger.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that our genetics lay the foundation for potential illness in our lives, but that it is the way we live our lives, what we are exposed to, what we endure, how we handle external circumstances, and more, that can literally turn those predisposed genes on and off like a light switch, and that can, in turn, alter the very mechanisms of our bodies.
The environmental factors that can turn on these "predisposed genes" are infinite. Even in a "predisposed" individual, not all environmental factors will trigger or affect these sensitive genes; however, clinical and medical observation in the treatment of the chronically ill show that we are essentially playing Russian roulette--that if we have these sensitive genes, we never know which of the factors or combination of factors or length of exposure to these factors will ultimately pull the trigger. We just know they do.
Case in point: my illness arrived in a myriad of factors: (1) exposure to a water-damaged government building where I spent 40-50 hours a week working, (2) drinking tap water in this same building, (3) pregnancy, (4) financial stress, (5) unresolved historical emotional trauma, (6) a dog scratch, (7) ineffective coping mechanisms for stress, (8) high dose Vitamin D supplementation, (9) ongoing and ignorant exposure to food and product sources, and (10) history of birth control use, antibiotics, and vaccinations.
So am I saying that these factors would make anyone chronically ill? No. Am I saying that these factors in and of themselves are harmful? Not necessarily. Am I saying that this unique combination and history of factors for me and for my unique genetic predisposition were enough to unravel my metabolism, microbiome, health, and quality of life literally overnight? Absolutely.
Many people ask me, was there anyway you could have known? They wonder if there was any way I could have prevented it. If something could have been done. And the answer is YES. Yes, there were red flags (had I or my primary care physician known what to look for) that could have served as a powerful and preventive measure in the course of my health.
So what are these red flags? Well, without going all Gattaca on everyone, I now realize that there are markers in my genetic code that
- make me a part of this "predisposed" group and
- suggest a sensitivity to "everyday factors" that do not seem detrimental for the majority of the population, but are for me.
Am I saying that genes are our destiny? Absolutely not! Have I witnessed how we can rise above our genes, turn them off and on, and heal from misfiring genes gone awry? Yes, and it's miraculous. However, the point here is that genes load the gun, and our lifestyle can pull the trigger or keep it in neutral.
So, what are these red flags, and what do I (as a mere patient) recommend for the everyday person, either currently healthy or in a journey towards recovery?
Before I list these factors, and what you can do to empower yourself, you first need to answer this difficult question: Do you even want to know?This is an odd question, but I have received a wide spectrum of answers, including
- "ignorance is bliss,"
- "if my health collapses, I'll deal with it,"
- "hell no,"
- "hell yes!"
- "I want to KNOW; knowledge is power,"
- "I want to make the best choices for myself and my family," or
- "leave me alone; you're just a weird freak of nature. All of these so-called environmental factors are safe, so stop creating conspiracy theories."
And these are all perfectly reasonable responses, but at the end of the day it all comes down to this: do you want the red pill or the blue pill? If you take the blue pill, the story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. If you take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and you'll see how deep the epigenetic rabbit hole goes.
Okay, so if you're still reading this post, I assume you have swallowed the red pill, and are ready to go down the rabbit hole. So here we go. The information presented below is a summary of my entire 4 years of collective knowledge and study as a patient and student of some of the top minds in the epigenetics world. Everyday, we are learning, and everyday we are edging closer to better preventative care, but for now here is where the current thinking resides. As always, continue to submit your excellent inquiries. Knowledge is power, and conversation is awareness, and as the science continues to emerge, we will continue to post.
Step You Can Take Today:
Know Your Genetics
- Get a 23 and Me genetic test. It's $99. You can order online, spit into the lab container, and mail. You will receive your results in the mail.
- Run your report through the Variant report on MTHFR Nation. It costs $30.
- Make a consultation appointment with an MTHFR Nation specialist to understand your genetic predisposition, and direction in how to tell if they are expressing, and, if they are, what to do about it. Consultations run between $175-$500 depending on the practitioner. For personal recommendations, please contact The Accidental Purist by Facebook messenger or via our Contact Us page.
- I would also HIGHLY urge you to run your HLA genetic panel, as the Variant report above does not fully include all HLA genetic information. These HLA genes are some of the most important, so I would not skip them, particularly because 98% of people who have health concerns, have these genes! And they are expressing. The good news? Insurance covers it. Here is the lab order to bring to your doctor. It's the first row in the Test Requisition Sheet (HLA DR by PCR).
Flag and Follow Up on Predisposed Genes
At this point in time, clinical research--and even a decent collection of PubMed publications--has begun to notice that human beings with chronic illness and/or health concerns (allergies, asthma, other) generally have one or groups of these predisposed genes.
If your Variant Report is marked (in the red, or yellow) for any of the following allele makers, I would urge you to read this fabulous article as to why they are worth looking at it, and what they mean, and then to seek out an MTHFR Nation specialist to determine the degree to which they are expressing in your body or potentially setting you up for a crisis. Here are the genes to pay attention to:
- F2 (Prothrombin 20210A)
- APOE 2 and 4
For your HLA panel, most allopathic doctors do not know how to interpret these tests, even if they know how to order them. So, to determine your HLA alleles, you need to use your lab results and plug in your numbers into this HLA calculator. This will generate your HLA alleles. If you have any of these HLA alleles as shown in the image below, it is strongly encouraged to run additional labs via your local doctor to determine the degree of expression.. These labs are listed on this lab order form that you can take to your local doctor (and that insurance usually covers). These labs include the following:
- MSH (LabCorp)
- C4A (Quest through National Jewish Medical Center only)
- TGF Beta 1 (Quest)
- MMP9 (LabCorp)
If your HLA genes are expressing, then strongly consider consulting an environmentally-aware doctor. You can see an excellent list of doctors here
Know the List of Potential Environmental Triggers
If you have significant gene predisposition via your Variant Report or HLA panel, I strongly encourage you to seek out preventive care from the specialists linked above, to follow-up on lab work to determine degree of expression (if at all), and to consider that the following environmental triggers may be a factor for your health.
Note that not all environmental factors are triggers in the same person. There are infinite possibilities, combinations, duration, and history that must also be taken into account. As I mentioned above, the science currently on what factors ignite what genetics is still in progress, and, hence, we are essentially playing Russian roulette. For that reason, it is advised to examine one's own life, and make changes one day at a time to increase your odds of maintaining your health--which is the ultimate goal and passion of The Accidental Purist.
- Presence of mold or mycotoxins in your work or home life--even if water damage history is not present, or even if a building or home has been remediated.
- Herbicide, insecticide, or other pollutants on your produce.
- Chemicals and other preservatives (including MSG) in your processed or take-out or restaurant food.
- Flouride in your water.
- Pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, NSAIDs, antidepressants, birth control, or other off the shelf medications.
- Metals in your amalgams, cookware, or implants.
- Root canals or cavitattions from teeth extractions (including wisdom teeth)
- Food or water poisoning
- Breast implants.
- GMO food
- Significant life change: divorce, pregnancy, new job, loss of job, loss of home, loss of financial security, breakup, etc.
- High stress, lack of stress management or meditation
- History of emotional trauma, even if it has been addressed in therapy
- Taking high Vitamin D, folic acid, methyl B vitamins, or other vitamin supplementation.
- Low self esteem
- Burning the candle at both ends/Type A personality or controlling behavior
- Tick, mosquito, or spider bites
So, are you still glad you chose the red pill? We at The Accidental Purist feel that the red pill is the smartest, safest way to go, and that eyes wide open is the first step towards awareness, acceptance, prevention, and refinement of this knowledge for (hopefully) standard application in allopathic medical care.
Please keep asking questions. Keep learning. Keep reaching out, and thank you for including us in your journey.