Genetics, epigenetics, nutrigenomics, genetic coding – these terms have enveloped our field of study here at The Maas Clinic of late, and below we are sharing why.
We are also sharing how transformative we have found epigenetics to be when used as part of our client treatment programmes. This is an exciting and pioneering area of complementary medicine and one which we believe will be the ‘next big thing’ in Functional and Integrated Medicine.
If reading the above has left you with a quizzical expression, fear not. We are going to explain exactly what epigenetics and nutrigenomics are, what genetic coding is, and how we use the study of all factors to optimise our clients’ health.
Alongside this, we offer therapeutic practices including infrared light therapy, IV vitamin drip therapy and ONDAMED therapy. You can read more about our clinic in our introduction to The Maas Method – our signature approach.
So, where do genetics, epigenetics, nutrigenomics and genetic coding come into play?
As the National Institute of General Medical Sciences shares “Genetics is the scientific study of genes and heredity—of how certain qualities or traits are passed from parents to offspring as a result of changes in DNA sequence. A gene is a segment of DNA that contains instructions for building one or more molecules that help the body work.”
In our field of work, it is the ‘instructions for building molecules’ that we are particularly interested in. How do the sequences passed on by your ancestors impact your health today? Just as you inherit your eye and hair colour from your ancestors, you also inherit gene coding which impacts your health. Diseases and chronic conditions such as heart disease, allergic responses and neurological illness can be passed down via DNA sequences. The good news? Epigenetics and nutrigenomics (which we explain below) can be used to ‘correct’ gene code errors and help to prevent disease and chronic illness.
Genetic coding shares similarities with computer coding. Coding, when working properly, can allow for systems to work harmoniously—be that a computer program or biological system. However, when an error code is present, something will go wrong. This is true of both computers and humans.
On a human biological level, when a genetic error code is present, a health challenge will exist. This can take many forms.
Understanding your unique genetic coding equips you with a ‘blueprint’ to your body. If you can see where error codes exist, you can use epigenetics and nutrigenomics to ‘fill in the gaps’. It is possible to correct error codes, thus improving your chance of great health, free from inherited disease and illness.
As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shares “Your genes play an important role in your health, but so do your behaviours and environment, such as what you eat and how physically active you are. Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviours and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence.”
In other words, epigenetics can be used to improve your gene expression.
We use the study and application of epigenetics to assist in the treatment programmes for our clients. How can we adjust lifestyle factors, mindset, exercise and environment to optimise gene expression?
Nutrigenomics refers to the nutritional changes you can make to alter your gene code expression. Epigenetics refers to lifestyle: social connection, environment and outlook. Whereas nutrigenomics covers diagnostics, supplementation and foods.
In other words, epigenetics is the ‘Integrated Medicine’ part of genetic expression and nutrigenomics is the ‘Functional Medicine’ element.
Just as Integrated and Functional Medicine do, epigenetics and nutrigenomics work hand in hand.
Epigenetics and Nutrigenomics are the missing link
Our founder, Dr Laurens Maas, began studying genetic coding, epigenetics and nutrigenomics some 20 years ago. As a Functional Medicine doctor, Dr Maas came to realise that no matter how forensic the investigation into some clients’ biochemistry and nutrition, there remained a ‘missing link’.
Why was is that some clients would do ‘all the right things’—taking the correct supplements and following the correct diet and lifestyle prompts—yet still experience, for example, high cholesterol, poor liver function and heart problems? Genetics was the missing factor. Since this realisation, Dr Maas has implemented genetic testing into our client protocols.
Genetic testing was once an optional part of our clients’ treatment programmes; we now believe that genetic testing is a fundamental part and one which needs to be completed at our clients’ onboarding. Genetic testing allows us to create a ‘blueprint’ to our clients’ health. We can see clearly, through the study of genetic codes, why someone has a chronic disease and how we can go about treating it using epigenetics and nutrigenomics.
Excitingly, over the past twenty years, the interpretation and understanding of how genes work has improved at the same time as the technology used to computerise it. Thus, as computerisation has got better, our understanding of genetics has also got better.
Using epigenetics and nutrigenomics at The Maas Clinic.
Epigenetics and nutrigenomics are the application of lifestyle, nutrition and very specific supplements, based on an individual’s gene codes to improve genetic function and expression.
Every gene code needs what is called a ‘co-factor’ to operate. Co-factors are influenced by lifestyle and behaviour.
Genetic testing allows us to see which co-factors are missing from a client’s genetic profile and put a treatment programme into place to fill in those co-factor gaps.
For example, B vitamins are a co-factor. If an individual does not have the adequate amount or type of B vitamins in their body, we can suggest an optimal format of B vitamin supplement for the individual to take. In doing so, we are able to correct the gene code error, and thus that individual will feel more well.
We are not able to change the gene configuration, but we can make that gene configuration work better.
So, how do we go about doing that?
Step 1 is to get a genetic test.
Testing allows us to see exactly what gene code is setting that individual up for disease. The code sequences which comes through on the test results tell us which co-factors are needed to improve that individual’s genetic expression, and to turn that disease-causing gene in to a longevity gene.
Code sequences can flag the likelihood of a number of diseases including cancers, allergies, auto-immune and heart disease.
At The Maas Clinic, we use a cheek swab sample for genetic testing and send it off to our external lab partner Lifecode. The reports we receive from Lifecode are incredibly thorough; they allow our practitioners to see which interventions can be made to correct gene code errors. We also run thorough blood chemistries to establish a baseline prior to the epigenetic and nutrigenomics treatment programme, and continue to re-test to gauge how well the treatment programme is working. As with all our treatment programmes, we regularly re-test and make adjustments as needed.
Step 2 improve the gene configuration.
Our genes are constantly responding to our environment: the foods that we eat, the way that we think, our sleeping habits, exercise regime and other behaviours. By optimising all of the above, we can create significantly better genetic expressions. Our practitioners at The Maas Clinic are able translate the codes that come back from genetic testing, allowing for us to create treatment programmes which include behavioural, diet and lifestyle instructions, which can beneficially influence genetic error codes.
For example, some individuals are not able to absorb certain forms of vitamin B due to their genetic makeup. This can cause problems as adequate levels of vitamin B12 are essential for good detoxification, brain function, cardiac function and inflammation control. Once our practitioners know that an individual’s genetic makeup makes it more difficult for them to absorb certain forms of B12, they can suggest alternative forms which can be absorbed. Thus, improving the body’s detoxification, brain function, cardiac function and inflammation control. Remember too, that vitamin B is a co-factor, therefore it is essential for levels to be optimal in order for certain gene codes to work well.
Step 3 is to test, and re-test
To continue with the example of the B12 uptake, we are able to test an individual’s B12 levels using a simple blood test. As with all our treatment programmes, we test regularly to track how well the body is responding to lifestyle, diet and supplement adjustments.
Test, don’t guess!
The Roundabout Theory
As Lifecode shared in a 2021 Methylation Report: “Methylation, also referred to as one carbon metabolism, is a process by which methyl groups are added to molecules. It is involved in almost every biochemical reaction in the body, occurring billions of times every second in our cells and contributing to numerous essential bodily functions, including: detoxification, immune function, DNA integrity, regulation of gene expression, energy production, neurotransmitter balance, inflammation control and telomere protection (ageing).”
Anything which hinders methylation, such as missing or inefficient co-factors, can contribute to disease and chronic illness.
When we use epigenetics, we are trying to ensure the very best methylation, so that the body can experience optimal health.
The ‘roundabout theory’ allows us to demonstrate
how 5 ‘methylation roundabouts’ play an instrumental role in this.
The methylation sub-cycles (i.e. roundabouts) are as follows:
The Folate Cycle
Energy / Immunity
This gives the body the ability to absorb folate B9 to start the process of methylation and detox and to produce healthy red blood cells.
Co-factors include: Vitamin B3, B6, B9 and Folate.
The Methionine Cycle
Repair / Rebuild
This occurs in the liver and ensures proteins can change into different useful protein tools for detox, digestion and repair.
Co-factors include: Magnesium, Betaine, Choline, Zinc, 5-MTHF and Methylated B12
The Transsulphuration Pathway
Detoxing / Body function
This process builds detox proteins, helps control the sulphur balance in the body and is critical for optimal cellular function throughout the body.
Co-factors include: Molybdenum, B6, B12 and Glutathione
The BH4 Cycle/Neurotransmitter Metabolism
Mood / Stress management
This cycle helps create neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Dopomine supporting our ability to detox from stress and anxiety.
Co-factors include: Folate, 5-MTHF, 5HTP, Vitamin D and SAMe
The Urea Cycle
Elimination / Oxygenation
The process allows the body to eliminate toxic ammonia, and waste, supports the regulation of blood pressure and improves heart and blood circulation.
Co-factors include: BH4, Folate, Vitamin C and L-Citrulline.
A reminder: Co-factors are your ‘helper molecules’.
As you’ll see from the overview below, many co-factors need to operate well, in order for each roundabout to ‘flow’.
It’s comparable to roundabouts and car traffic. Imagine five roundabouts along one road, if the traffic is moving well then the roundabouts will continue to operate traffic-free and without accidents. If the drivers are driving erratically, or there’s no driver at all(!), the cars will likely crash and the efficiency of the roundabouts will be stunted. The same is true of the methylation ‘roundabouts’. The correct co-factors are needed to keep them flowing.
If you’d like to read more on this subject, we recommend diving into the 2021 Lifecode Methylation Report.
What is the future of epigenetics?
At The Maas Clinic, genetic testing provides the foundation for our client treatment programmes. It is the first thing we test when onboarding news clients. We encourage our existing clients to explore genetic testing too.
As Dr Laurens Maas shared with us: “the future of genetics, epigenetics and nutrigenomics is booming. It is the silent giant, that’s going to be able to genuinely help people with reversing their diseases and curing them, rather than chasing pharmaceuticals to treat symptoms. I think that the strength of genetics, epigenetics and nutrigenomics is so profound that it’s going to challenge the old ways of treating disease.”