As functional medicine practitioners, we’ve been saying it for years: When it comes to effective treatment, personalized care is a must.
And now, it looks like conventional medicine is finally listening.
A new study found that your genetic changes may play a huge role in leaving you susceptible to high blood sugar. While this isn’t surprising to me, I would also add that genetics, while a primary factor in high blood sugar imbalance, is not the only thing that separates one patient from another. I would argue that there are actually four major elements that we must take into account when personalizing our patients’ treatment plans. Take note, and make sure you doctor addresses at least these four factors.
As I’ve just mentioned in discussing this new study, genetics can undoubtedly give way to chronic illnesses like diabetes. Your genes can inhibit the pancreas from releasing insulin, they can interfere with the liver’s production of glucose, and they can heighten your risk for obesity and inflammation, which are pathways to type 2 diabetes. It’s important that your health care provider can pinpoint these gene variations and target them in an individualized treatment plan with your specific vulnerabilities in mind.
So we have our genes, and those are pretty much set in stone, right? But, as suggested by the field of epigenetics, we have the ability to control the way our genes express themselves.
Our environment and lifestyle can heavily impact which genes stay quiet and which ones turn on.
For example, being overweight, eating an unhealthy diet, and not exercising all increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, it goes both ways. Changing these unhealthy habits in an effort to turn on your “good” gene expression can reverse your symptoms.
3. Immune System
Your immune system, like your DNA, is specific to you. It’s always changing as a result of your exposures, and so no two patients are going to have the same immune system. Your immune system will fight a certain infection and remember it so that it can attack it if it happens to come back. Many type 2 diabetics have a compromised immune system. They may have an inflammatory response to a variety of foods, environmental exposures, or even insulin. When we aim to treat diabetes, we need to find a way to balance the patient’s immune system, and that means pinpointing a patient’s unique triggers.
4. The Gut
The fourth individual element that is necessary to personalize in a treatment plan is the way we go about treating your gut. The microbiome is a unique community of microbes that have found a home in your gut. These microbes influence your risk of obesity, glucose metabolism, inflammation, and autoimmunity just to name a few. In a treatment plan, when we take the specific conditions of your microbiome into consideration, we’ll be able to increase your body’s ability to stop disease progression.
Simply managing your diabetes symptoms with a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to get you anywhere, really. And if you consider yourself an individual, why would you settle for a treatment plan that doesn’t take that into account?
It’s great that conventional medicine is catching on, but genes are just the tip of the iceberg.
At my clinic, we use cutting-edge testing to pinpoint the specific conditions of your genes, environmental exposures, immune system, microbiome, and more to come up with an individualized treatment plan for each patient. The way I see it: We’re not treating a disease; we’re treating the person, and I believe that makes all the difference when it comes to healing.