Micronutrient and Genetic Testing: What They Are and Why to Do Them
Micronutrient-focused eating and genetic testing are both popular topics right now in the health and nutrition community. In this blog post, we are going to discuss some facts around these topics, along with the advice of Dr. Richard Harris. This blog post is a continuation of my discussion, my interview with Dr. Harris, from my last blog post. Let’s cover the conversation around the combination of genetic and micronutrient testing and its impact on your health. It's truly a fascinating topic.
Who is Dr. Richard Harris?
As mentioned in my last blog post, Dr. Harris was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but raised in Houston. Dr. Harris is a board-certified internal medicine physician and pharmacist. Dr. Harris attended the University of Texas at Austin for pharmacy school, then pursued medical education at the Magovern School of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Harris completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston after finishing his residency. Dr. Harris worked for a large group in Houston, but left that practice to pursue holistic medicine. Dr. Harris has a client-centric view focusing on building relationships and trust through a comprehensive lifestyle medicine system combined with genetic and micronutrient testing.
Why Micronutrient and Genetic Testing?
Due to our current food environment, and because of a high intake of processed foods, we live in a society where most people have an abundance of calories, but a deficit in nutrients. So micronutrient testing is looking for all of the minerals in the blood and seeing what their levels are. But, it's more than just that. Micronutrients and genetic testing look at what is important. They look at what body functions are important for that specific vitamin or mineral and how those are doing.
Unfortunately, based upon the reference ranges, you can show as normal but still be deficient in something. The only way to know your levels is by checking all the processes surrounding what they say, for example, B12 is supposed to do. This is actually quite common where people have normal B12 levels but then you check the byproducts of what B12 is supposed to do. Then, those will be abnormal, indicating that for their body and for their genetics, they actually don't have normal B12 levels. Some of the micronutrients that we commonly see are deficiencies in our magnesium, zinc, and iron This is especially true for women or people with certain nutrition plans. You know, the further your nutrition plan is away from eating.
How to Avoid Deficiencies
Typically, the more extreme you get with your plan, the more likely you're going to get a nutrient deficiency. We classically see this in vegans. We classically see this in people who do keto and people who are carnivores. There are some things you have to supplement unless you cycle on and off of a plan. So, nutrient deficiencies are not uncommon. A major study last year showed that about 32 million people in the US have severe nutrient deficiencies causing chronic disease. And some of the functional medicine people, such as Dr. Harris, estimate that about 90 percent of people have some type of nutrient deficiency. Although they may not be severe enough to cause chronic disease yet, there is still some type of nutrient deficiency.
When to Test for Deficiencies
You may be wondering if you should do micronutrient and genetic testing on a regular basis, or when to do testing in general. The truth is, it depends on what you are experiencing. If you are experiencing severe health problems, it is best to get tested immediately. However, if you are not experiencing severe problems, you should start a nutritious diet plan for at least four weeks. Then, implement great exercise and do it consistently. If you are still having problems, then consider getting nutrition and genetic tests.
Should You Use At-Home Testing Kits?
There are many at-home testing kits. Dr. Harris says he does not recommend using them. Instead, contact a local functional medicine doctor or an integrative medicine practitioner. These are the type of people who do this type of comprehensive, holistic evaluation. This is more associated with the holistic space, wellness space, functional medicine, and integrative medicine. There are a million different names for people who do what I do, but most of them will have access to running these types of tests.
Dr. Harris’ Findings
Dr. Harris’ success in testing his patients is eye-opening. At first, he ran tests on himself and his girlfriend. His girlfriend has polycystic ovarian syndrome, commonly referred to as PCOS, which is hard to believe because she is in a healthy weight range. Usually, people in that situation are insulin resistant. But they did her micronutrient testing and her genetic testing. They found that she had a couple of severe vitamin deficiencies caused by genetics that were worsening her PCOS. So she started eating a whole food nutrition plan and started exercising. We supplemented specifically targeting what her body needed and she now feels amazing. She feels better than she's ever felt before, has no real long-term ramifications from PCOS currently.
“I tell people, give it at least a month. Your brain didn't stop finishing development until you were twenty-five years old. Your skeleton turns over every 12 years. So the body in terms that we're used to takes forever to adjust. You really don't even know if something's working until you've done it consistently for 30 days. You really don't know the effects until about 90 days. You get the test back in a week or two, and then you implement the regiment.” After about 30 days, many people report to Dr. Harris that they start to feel better. If they continue to feel great after 90 days, he recommends continuing the diet.
Conclusion for Micronutrient and Genetic Testing
When in doubt, test first. If you don't want to test first, then please do your research. It's very easy to look up some of these supplement products online from sources like Healthline. Healthline is a great website that actually lists their research. So, you can see when they talk and what the data shows. So, it is encouraged people do their own research if they don't want to do the testing. Be sure you know exactly what a product can do, what it can't do, what it can interact with, and then don't overdo it.
If you have been having some health issues, be sure to get tested to see the underlying causes. Your body will thank you and you are sure to feel great.