How Genetic Testing Helped Solve a Crucial Component in My Battle Towards Health


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I have wanted to check out for awhile now. After watching a few friends go through the process of having their spit analyzed via this genetically fascinating website… I started to get a hard core crush on the concept (like “80’s prom movie” level of crush). Finally, I decided to bite the medical bullet and go for it (and for only $99 for the everyday citizen, the amount of information you get back is baffling). Thinking this would hold no medical relevance and be a silly foray in to senseless geneticism, I started the process. But what happened after (spoiler alert: it’s crazy interesting), was literally the last thing I expected…

How It Works (It’s Silly Easy):

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It breaks down like this: get your package in the mail, register your profile online, spit in to a plastic cup thing (harder than you’d think when you’re dehydrated like me), stick in the ready-to-roll envelope/box, and send it on it’s way. I got an email notification when the sample had arrived, with a 4 – 6 week wait time on processing results. In actuality, my results popped up in my Inbox a lot sooner than that, and all I had to do was pop on to the [private] website to see “what was what”. Simple!

Top Reasons To Try It (Plus, What I Discovered):

Figure Out Your Weird History: The first thing you find out from 23andMe is your genetic lineage, family tree and historic origins. If you’re a history nerd like myself, this is cool enough in of itself. Apparently, I am 99.1% Eastern European, and 0.4% Subsaharan African (technically, aren’t we all?) As a distant relative of Jesse James (I’m guessing the outlaw and not the overly tatted, Sandra Bullock slanderer), I have a higher inclination towards caffeine, and higher odds of living until I’m 100. Of course, given my personal health history, I doubt those are my odds, but my maternal grandfather did kick it until his late 90’s… so it’s sure in the genes! Yep, my profile actually showed all of these things just from my spit. Disgusting and fabulous all at the same time.

Improve Your Weight Loss: If someone wanted to improve their diet and exercise results, 23 and Me is about as good a personal trainer as you can get, since it’s somewhat
“inside your head”. In my case, my genealogy showed a smaller waist line when eating foods with fat, rather than fat-free (um… maybe because fat free tastes yucky?) I average a couple centimeters shorter than the everyday person (somewhat true), and have a typical-to-low BMI. My body’s response to exercise is typically not enormous: maybe about 5 pounds lost overall with an increase in fitness. This pretty true, since (when not sick) I tend to only fluctuate a few pounds since I was about 14! How did my spit know this? Of course the website also shows who has increased or decreased risk for certain diseases so you can stay on top of things. In my case, for example, we are at an increase for coronary heart disease and celiac, which (being that my girls and I have celiac, and my paternal grandfather passed unexpectedly from heart issues at a young age), is not a shocker. Still, nice to be aware, right?

Learn About Health Risks: Ok, so enough is enough about my ancestral arbor and predilections towards lattes… What was the big shocker from my 23andMe experience? Firstly, as most of you know, my health is not the best (just check out Instagram to see an onslaught of scurry hospital pictorials and abysmal pouty faces). Recently, I’ve been approved for nighttime oxygen- among other seeming “downgrades”- and thus the stress of a somatic decline has increased as of late.

So what, after dozens of specialists and research panels, could a genetic database actually find? Apparently… a lot! Even though a lot of genetic testing requires a huge hospital and physicians (let’s be honest, guys), 23andMe did find something no one else had even tested for: “Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency.” Nicknamed AAT, this hereditary disorder doesn’t replace my current running diagnosis, but certainly adds another piece to the puzzle that my specialists may not have found. Basically, this means that my lungs and liver don’t produce a necessary protein to ward of infections and future disease… sexy, right? Even though the prognosis and ongoing treatment is likely the same, some of the options (replacing the protein with new therapies, for example) were not on the metaphoric table before, and now the dialogue is open to new concepts! It makes tons of sense to an almost eery level.

Really, could it get any more interesting?

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Health Sound Off: Would you ever try genetic testing?

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2 comments on “How Genetic Testing Helped Solve a Crucial Component in My Battle Towards Health
  1. Mayan Avitable says:

    I am also related to Jesse James! Found out on 23&Me. T2B

  2. Samantha Clark says:

    I would like to share genetic profiles with you on 23andMe. It sounds like we are not-too-distantly related! (We are definitely within the same Maternal line, since I could tell from the haplotype reference to “Jesse James”). I also have a significant portion of Eastern European, but not that high (sounds like my ancestral group moved away from yours then). Email me if you’re interested!

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