An Introduction to Using Epigenetics & Nutrigenomics to Support Your Mental Health

Published on: Mar 4, 2023

Listen to the podcast episode version of this article or read the transcript.

By now, you may already understand the connection between nutrition and mental health and the HUGE effect diet has on psychological well-being. But what you may not know is that the right good-mood foods and supplements for one person may not be the best option for you. It all boils down to your unique DNA code and epigenome — and nutrigenomics can help to paint a clearer picture of what your one-of-a-kind nutritional needs may be. Especially when it comes to improving your mental health and brain function from a holistic point of view!

Here are a few things you should know about epigenomics, epigenetics, nutrigenomics, and nutrigenetics so you can tap into your unique genes and choose foods that better support your psychological health and overall well-being!

An Intro to Genetics, Epigenetics, Epigenomics, Nutrigenomics & Nutrigenetics

The human genome is comprised of trillions of cells, and about 99.9 percent of these cells are identical to everyone else’s. The remaining .1 percent, however, is what makes us unique from others. We each have genetic variants (differences in DNA) that impact our physical appearances as well as other things like our cardiovascular and metabolic health. These genetic differences are also known as polymorphisms, with the most common type being single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs

Some SNPs can be beneficial to our physical, mental, and emotional health, or even protective against diseases, medical conditions, and the harmful effects of environmental toxins. Other SNPs can make us more susceptible to developing diseases and disorders such as cancer and diabetes or mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 

Some of the SNPs that correlate with mood, memory, and mental health include:

  • Methylation-associated SNPs: MTHFR, COMT, and MTR
  • Variations in HPA axis genes: OPRMI and OXTR
  • SNPs associated with neuroplasticity: ANK3, AKT1, APOE, and BDNF
  • SNPs associated with neurotransmitters: HTR1A, COMT, DRD1, DRD2, DRD3, DRD4, CHRNA5, GABRA2, FAAH, MAOA, and OPRMI
  • SNPs associated with neuron functioning: CACNA1C
  • Inflammation-associated SNPs: APOE and IL-6R
  • SNPs associated with oxidative stress: MNSOD, ENOS, NQO1, and APOE
  • Variations in detoxification genes: NQO1 and COMT

While many SNPs have no significant impact, it’s estimated that each of us has between five and 50 genetic mutations that predispose us to disease or disability. DNA testing and nutrigenomics can help us to identify these SNPs and make dietary and lifestyle choices that support our unique nutritional needs while reducing our risk of disease (including mental health conditions). 

You can learn more about DNA testing here; simply enter your email address to download a sample genetic test report!

Where Epigenetics & Epigenomics Come into Play

Though our DNA cannot change, epigenetics — the study of how cells control the activity of our genes — tells us that our epigenome can. This is because the epigenome — the chemical compounds responsible for telling the human genome what to do — is influenced by aging and development as well as various lifestyle factors like diet, lifestyle, physical activity, environment, and stress. 

These environmental influences result in epigenetic changes (such as DNA methylation, histone modification, or non-coding RNA) that affect the expression of our genes. However, these changes are reversible. And thanks to genetic testing, we can learn how to make changes to our diet, lifestyle, and behaviors so we can better support our health and well-being (including our psychological health and brain function!). This is where nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics come in.

Nutrigenomics & Nutrigenetics

Now that we’ve talked about epigenetics and epigenomics, let’s dive into nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics. Nutrigenomics refers to the study of how genes and diet interact, while nutrigenetics refers to how your unique body responds to specific vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (like vitamins B6 and B12, SAM-e, and folic acid). 

A few of the other nutrients that affect your epigenome — as well as some common dietary sources of these nutrients — include:

  • Methionine. Common sources include brazil nuts, sesame seeds, and spinach.
  • Choline. Common sources include liver, egg yolks, and chicken.
  • Betaine. This substance is commonly found in shellfish, wheat, and sugar beets.
  • Resveratrol. Common sources include red wine and grapes. 
  • Genistein. This isoflavone is commonly found in soy products.
  • Sulforaphane. You can find sulforaphane in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables.
  • Butyrate. This short-chain fatty acid is produced when dietary fiber is broken down in the large intestine. 
  • Diallyl sulphide. Common sources include garlic and garlic oil.

Genetic testing and nutrigenomics (or nutritional genomics) helps you to choose foods, supplements, and physical and mental activities (like yoga and sudoku) that support your unique genetic makeup and optimize your mental health. DNA testing can also be used to determine which types of foods, supplements, and activities should be avoided for that very same reason. Pretty cool, right? 

Remember, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to physical, mental, and emotional wellness! 

Personalized Nutrition is Just a Cheek Swab Away

Because the aim of this post is to provide an overview of using epigenetics and nutrigenomics to support your mental health specifically, this section is going to focus on the benefits of tapping into your genes for psychological wellness. Genetic testing, for instance, can tell you:

  • Which good-mood nutrients and probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods to eat more or less of based on your unique genetic makeup.
  • Which types of physical and mental exercises to engage in for improved brain function.
  • Which substances and environmental toxins to potentially avoid or limit. 
  • Which vitamins and minerals to consider supplementing with for improved mental health and brain function. 
  • How to best minimize stress, get better quality sleep, and balance your hormones for improved brain health. 

At The Fulfilled Fork, I use the 3X4 Genetics Test + Blueprint Report to help my clients tap into their unique genes so they can better support their psychological health and get to the root cause of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 3X4 Genetics tests more than 157 genes that affect everything from cognition and hormones to inflammation and detoxification — which allows me to make ultra-personalized nutrition and lifestyle recommendations that truly make a difference in mental health.  

A simple cheek swab is all it takes to get insight into your brain health, hormones, mood, behavior, and memory so you make long-lasting dietary and lifestyle changes that drastically improve your psychological and physical well-being. Simply download a sample copy of the genetic report I use in my practice or apply for coaching to get one step closer to living a more fulfilled life! 

Ready to tap into your genes and improve your mental health and well-being? Apply for genetic-based nutrition and lifestyle coaching or download a free sample genetic report to learn more about how DNA testing can benefit you! 

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Howdy! I’m Haley. A registered dietitian nutritionist, yoga teacher, personal trainer, and holistic mental wellness coach on a mission to help you transcend the struggle, stress, and suffering that life can bring. I’ve lived through it and discovered a path to feeling amazing in my mind, body, and soul. Now, I want to help you to live your most fulfilled life too through evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle practices!

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