Ep 3: An Introduction to Using Epigenetics & Nutrigenomics for Mental Health

Published on: Mar 15, 2024

Throughout this conversation, I peel back the layers of how a mere 0.1% variance in our DNA not only bestows us with our unique traits but also interweaves with our nutritional intake to impact our mental well-being. 

In this episode you’ll also…

  • Discover the science and real-life impact of epigenetics, epigenomics, nutrigenomics, and nutrigenetics
  • Explore the connection between what we eat and how we feel on a day to day basis
  • Understand why a personalized approach to eating is not merely beneficial, but essential for mind-body-soul clarity, balance, and fulfillment
  • Learn about the test that I, Haley, use with clients here at The Fulfilled Fork


Read the original article here.




Please note that the following transcript was generated using AI technology. Yes, that means the transcript probably has a few minor mistakes.


[0:48] Hello. We are going to read a blog post today.
I am going to read a blog post today. I said this in the last one too.
I am going to read a blog post to you today about an introduction to using epigenetic and nutrigenomics to support your mental health.
So, if it sounds like I’m reading, it’s probably because I’m reading.
I am going to do my best to make it fun and also interject as applicable.
So let’s get into the blog post.

[1:19] All right, so by now you may already understand the connection between nutrition and mental health.
If you have been around for a little while, if not, welcome and let’s talk about it.
We’re going to talk about the genetics and epigenetics and all that fun stuff today.
This is my absolute favorite topic, I would have to say. It is so fascinating to me.
If you know me, if you’re like my friend or an acquaintance or whatever, if you see me on the streets and a topic comes up, I, if we’re talking anything nutrition health related, I am probably wondering what your genetic report is like.
It connects connects so many dots for me, and it really helps me help you.
So, we’re going to get into the details on this today, and I guess why I love it so much, really, at the heart of this.

[2:19] So, we know that nutrition and mental health has a huge effect on psychological well-being.
So, diet has a huge effect on psychological well-being.
What you may not know yet is that that the right good mood foods and supplements for one person may not be the best option for you.
This I cannot stress enough.
What I do in my life is probably not what you should be doing.

[2:48] I just thought of the what I eat in a day posts and videos.
Those drive me nuts.
It’s cool. I, you know, it’s interesting to see what somebody eats in a day.
It drives me nuts when people think that that’s what they should go do too, just because somebody that they like watching is eating that.
And that can be really problematic for us because we are not taking our our own values into consideration.
We are not taking our own DNA and needs into consideration when we are doing that.
So this all boils down to your unique DNA code and epigenome, which we will get into that definition in a second, and nutrigenomics can help paint a clearer picture picture of what your one-of-a-kind nutrition needs may be.
So again, what is healthy for somebody else is probably not the same thing that’s healthy for you because you are different people, literally down to your DNA.
Not just your values, not just your lifestyle. Those are very, very, very, very, very important also.
And what health conditions you have can also be very, very, very important if you do have a pre-existing health condition.

[4:09] Taking all of those factors into consideration, including the nutrigenomic piece, is so key.
It is so key, and this is when, this is like the biggest part of what I do as far as mental health and improving brain function from a holistic point of view.
So here, we’re going to talk about a few things that you should know about epigenetics.

[4:36] Epigenomics, nutrigenomics, and nutrigenetics.
That is a mouthful. But by learning about these four different genomic topics, you can tap into your unique genes and also choose foods that better support your psychological health and overall well-being.


Understanding the Human Genome and Genetic Variations

[4:57] Let’s get into the introduction to the genetics, epigenetics, epigenomics, nutrigenomics, and nutrigenetics.
Wow, I did so good and I didn’t even flub one time.
Okay, the human genome is comprised of trillions of cells.
So that’s about 99.9% of these cells that are identical to everyone else’s.
So our human genome is 99.9% identical to the next person.
So we’re talking about that that difference and that difference is the remaining 0.1% that makes us unique from other people.
It doesn’t seem like a lot, but there’s actually a lot of variation clearly that happens in that 0.1%. So that is impacting our physical appearances.
So like my hair color, my eye color versus somebody else’s skin, hair, eye color, nose shape, literally everything on our bodies, That is what this 0.1% is doing.
So we each have these genetic variations, these genetic variants in this 0.1%.
Difference in our DNA. And that also not just impacts our physical health, but it also impacts our cardiovascular health, our metabolic health, literally all of the healths. It impacts everything.

[6:21] So, like, in my case, it impacts my cardiovascular health a lot, a lot.
And the next person, they may not have a high risk of cardiovascular disease genetically.
That doesn’t mean they’re not going to get it though because environment also like nature versus nurture it’s a thing so all of these genetic differences are known as polymorphisms so the most common type of polymorphism is the single nucleotide polymorphism also called snips so snps snips if you hear me talking about snips that is absolutely what i’m talking about is these genetic variations Side note, some people call them other things than variations.
Words aren’t happening right now. Some people call them genetic mutations.
Mutations i personally do not prefer that uh because i feel that this type of genetic variation.

[7:25] Is not necessarily a mutation but rather just a difference in what uh our genetics are doing right just a difference in spelling of a word so like um c-o-l-o-u-r for color or c-o-l-o-r are.
Just a different spelling is all that these SNPs are.
So some of our SNPs can be beneficial to our health. Our physical, mental, emotional health is what we’re talking about here. All the health.
And it can also be protective against diseases, medical conditions, and the harmful effects of environmental toxins.
So yes, we can have protective genetic variations, right? right?
Not all of it’s bad. It’s really interesting to see, and none of it’s bad.
Also, I should say that. None of it’s bad. We just perceive some of these things as bad.
So the other SNPs that make us more susceptible, some people might perceive them as bad.
When we talk about epigenetics, we’ll get into it. This is not a causation. This is a.

[8:34] It’s a chance. It’s a probability, almost. It is a likelihood.
So the genetic test that I use, it categorizes groups of genes based on the scientific research and categorizes like cardiovascular health, memory and brain health, detoxification, methylation, all of these different areas, it puts them into categories of risk.
So how high is the risk for a particular person in this one area?
So like for me and the cholesterol piece, I have a high risk of high cholesterol given if I have the environment that promotes high cholesterol and I have these genetics, I’m probably going to end up with high cholesterol, right?
So just a really, really, really helpful piece of information.
I have found it incredibly helpful. You probably already know that.
Many of my clients have found it super incredibly helpful and insightful on their journey and really just so that they can get to know their bodies better and how their unique body works.

[9:49] That is so important as we’re moving through the world.
So, other single nucleotide polymorphisms, the SNPs, can make us more susceptible to developing diseases and disorders such as cancer, diabetes, or mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.

[10:09] Some of the SNPs that correlate with mood, memory, and mental health include.
So we’re going to go down this long list here.

[10:21] Methylation associated SNPs. So these are probably some of the most mainstream in the media.
We’re talking MTHFR, the COMT, and the MTR. And, These have been widely studied and have a huge impact on mental health, myself included.
We’re also looking at the variations in the HPA access genes like OPRMI and the OXTR genes, the SNPs that are associated with neuroplasticity.
So these are the ANK3, the AKT1, APOE, which is is highly correlated with Alzheimer’s disease and inflammation, and BDNF.
SNPs that are associated with neurotransmitters are HTR1A, the COMT, DRD1, DRD2, DRD3, DRD4, CHRNA5, the GABRA2, FAAH, MAOA, and OPRMI.
So these are all associated with neurotransmitters. The SNPs that are associated with neuron functioning are the CACN-A1C.

[11:40] Inflammation-associated SNPs are APOE, like we talked about with Alzheimer’s, and IL-6R.
So this is the interleukin-6. SNPs associated with oxidative stress, so this is the rusting on the car, aka the rusting on our cells.
This is the MNSOD, ENOS, NQO1, and APOE.
You will notice that many of these genes show up in many of these categories.
That is because they act on many different parts of the body a lot of the time.
Like, it’s not…

[12:27] It’s not isolated, is what I wanted to say. And lastly, but not least, the variations in detoxification genes that can impact our mood, memory, and mental health include the NQO1 and the COMT.
While many of these SNPs have no significant impact, it is estimated that each of us has between 5 and 50 genetic variations that predispose us to disease or disability.
Again predisposition a risk not a causation so dna testing and nutrigenomics can help us to identify these snips and also make also help us make those dietary and lifestyle choices that support our unique nutrition needs and this can reduce our risk of disease including mental health conditions.
You can learn more about the DNA testing on my website, so head to the show notes if you’re listening to this, and there will be a link there for you to get more information on the genetic testing if you’d like to read up more on it.

[13:33] And on that page, there is a box where you can enter your information, and you can get a sample genetic test report.
That way you can look look it up and down all over and see what the heck I’m talking about.
I also have a walkthrough video just to give you a better idea of how I look at the genetic test specifically and how I use it in my practice.


Exploring Epigenetics and Epigenome

[13:58] So this is where epigenetics and epigenomics come into play.

[14:04] Let’s talk about what all these are. So though our DNA cannot change epigenetics, this is the study of how cells control the activity of our genes, tells us that our epigenome can.
So our epigenetics is the study of how cells control the activity of our genes, and our epigenome is the chemical compounds responsible for telling the human genome what to do.
So our epigenome can change, but our epigenetics are, but our DNA does not change.
So the DNA, the actual genetic code, the strands, that double helix strand, if you’ve ever been in a science class that you’ve seen a DNA photo, or probably all over my website.
So our DNA strands, strands. Our DNA cannot change, but our epigenome can.

[15:03] And our epigenome is influenced by aging and development as well as those various lifestyle factors like diet, lifestyle, physical activity, environment, and stress.
This is epigenetics, folks. This is epigenetics.
So we’ve talked about how epigenetics is influenced by aging and development and those other factors, diet, lifestyle, physical activity, environment, and stress.
These environment influences result in epigenetic changes.
So there are a couple of different types of epigenetic changes that this results in.
So that is DNA methylation and histone modification or non-coding RNA.
So these epigenetic changes affect the expression of our genes.
So this is like when I talk about the turning on or off of a specific gene.
We can alter our DNA based on what we do and don’t do in our lives.
So this is like the more confusing, perhaps, science-y way to talk about it versus just my light switch analogy.

[16:21] So because of genetic testing, we can learn how to make changes to our diet, our lifestyle, and our behaviors.
That way we can better support our health and well-being, and this includes our psychological health and brain function.
So really, this is where nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics come in.
Because if we know that the epigenome can change, we know that the stress, the diet, the lifestyle, the physical activity, our environment, that can change our epigenome and result in those epigenetic changes, turning the light switch on or off, that’s where we know that food, aka nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics, can come into play.
So let’s dive into that. Now that we’ve talked about the epigenetics and epigenomics, we are going to look at nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics.

[17:14] So nutrigenomics refers to the study of how genes and diet interact.
On the other hand, nutrigenetics is referring to how your unique body responds to certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.


The Impact of Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics

[17:31] So the nutrigenetics, that is how our body responds to the specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, while nutrigenomics is just the general study of of how genes and diet interact, so nutrigenetics is much more specific.

[17:53] Some of the nutrients that can affect our epigenome, as well as common dietary sources of these nutrients include, besides B6, B12, SAMe, and folic acid, we’ve also got methionine.
Common sources of methionine include Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, and spinach. We’ve got choline, super, super important for our mental health.
It is not something that is talked about widely enough.
I, I believe personally, and this one is personally something that affects me.
So common sources of choline include liver, egg yolks, and chicken.
I love my eggs. Thank God.
Then I can get my choline in.
Betanine, betanine is commonly found in shellfish, wheat, and sugar beets.
Resveratrol is commonly found in, of course, red wine and grapes. types.

[18:52] Sulforaphane is one of my absolute favorites. You can find sulforaphane in broccoli and other cruciferous veggies.
Sulforaphane is a bioactive compound that basically puts inflammation out in the body.
So if inflammation was like a dumpster fire, sulforaphane would be the compound that just like comes and puts water on the fire. It just like puts that inflammation out.
So that is one of my favorite fun things to talk about is sulforaphane.
It helps so many, so many things.
For inflammation, it is just incredible.
Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that is produced when dietary fiber is broken down in the large intestines.
And last but not least, we’ve got dielsulfide.
The common sources of this include garlic and garlic oil.

[19:50] So we’ve got genetic testing and nutrigenomics, also known as nutritional genomics, helps you choose food supplements and also physical and mental activities, yoga and Sudoku, for example, that support your unique genetic makeup and optimize your mental health.

[20:07] The genetic testing greatly helps with determining the types of food supplements and activities activities that we should either perhaps look into or that maybe we should avoid.
It is just, it helps get a lot of clarity on next steps.
And if you are somebody who is unsure of what supplements perhaps that you, that would be beneficial for you, like this is one of the most common questions I get all the time is, hey, what supplement should I be taking?
Should I be taking any supplements?
And the answer is, I don’t know unless I’m working one-on-one with you.
And I know if I have a really comprehensive health history and I prefer to have genetic testing done for somebody before I answer that question for many reasons.
But yeah, it is just super, super helpful to have that information.
So we have to remember that there There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to emotional wellness, mental wellness, physical wellness.
There is just not that much.

[21:22] One special diet, that one thing that everybody should be doing, because seriously, if that was the case, every fucking person would be doing that by now, right?
Like, we wouldn’t have 60,000 different diets coming out every year or, like, people cycling between diets if one of them truly worked for all people.

[21:44] It’s not a thing. It’s such a myth that one diet can help everybody, right?
So figuring out what works for you is the best damn thing we can do um because this chat is just to provide you an overview of using epigenetics and nutrigenomics specifically to support your mental health um we are really just talking about the benefits of tapping into your genes for psychological wellness so genetic testing can tell you which good mood nutrients trans and probiotic and also prebiotic rich foods to eat more or less of based on your unique genetic makeup.
Also, which types of physical and mental exercises maybe would be beneficial for you to engage in for improved brain function.
So some people are at much higher risk of cognitive decline than others.
And a lot of times we have an idea that, yeah, Alzheimer’s runs in my family, or some people have had memory loss, whatever it is, we can do things to prevent that.
And that includes, of course, physical activity, mental activities, and also nutrition.
So improved brain function is a real thing from food.

[23:04] And then it can also, this nutritional genetic testing can tell us which substances and environmental toxins we might potentially want to avoid or limit.

[23:15] This one’s huge. And this one can be a scary one for a lot of people.
For myself with an autoimmune disease, this is something I’ve looked into.
And my gosh, since like my early teens, I mean, late teens, I have been going through my like health and wellness products and trying to be more mindful of the types of toxins that I’m putting on my body, in my body, all that fun fun stuff.

[23:47] The genetic testing can also tell us which vitamins and minerals that we might want to consider supplementing for if we want to improve our mental health and brain function, and also just overall wellness and functioning in general.
This includes for physical activity recovery and for like bones and joints and all the whole body, the whole body.
But specifically, of course, we’re talking about mental health right now.
So not that that stuff doesn’t also trickle into improve your mental health because it absolutely does.
If somebody has joint pain and we can help improve that joint pain through nutrition and perhaps some different exercises sizes and stuff, oh my goodness, that can absolutely improve our mental health.
So don’t discount the connections between improving one area and how that can also trickle into improving your mental health.
And also we can learn from our genetic test how to best minimize stress, get better quality sleep, and then also balance our hormones for improved brain health. This one’s huge.


Utilizing 3×4 Genetic Testing for Personalized Recommendations

[25:02] So here at The Fulfilled Fork, I use the 3×4 genetic test and a customized blueprint report that I make you.
And I do this to help my clients tap into their unique genes so that they can better support their psychological health and also hopefully get to the root cause of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
We will never find one root cause because I am I’m a believer that there are like, there’s so many factors and yeah, but we can really look at root causes that might be impacting your mental health and physical health.
So the 3×4 genetic tests more than 157 genes.

[25:49] This affects everything from our cognition to hormones and inflammation and detoxification.
Education, this is what allows me to make those ultra-personalized nutrition and lifestyle recommendations that truly make a difference in your mental health, not just right now, but literally for the rest of your life.
Literally for the rest of your life. Your DNA does not change.
Yes, your environment changes. Yes, you will need to make some tweaks.
But in general, you will have a super, super solid plan moving forward, right?
Super solid plan. all in it and all it takes is a super easy cheek swab so so so easy just a quick cheek swab and that is what you ship back to the company to test your dna and we get all the amazing insights into your brain health your hormones your mood your behavior your memory that way you can make those long-lasting dietary and lifestyle changes that drastically improve your psychological and and physical well-being.

[26:51] So if you would like to, please download a sample copy of the genetic report, also in the show notes, and this is what I use in my practice.
If you are ready right now, book that complimentary support call, and then we can have that quick chat to find out if we are a hell yes to working together.
If we are, hell yeah, let’s do it. And I cannot wait to get started with the Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching and or a genetic test report with you.


Friend, thank you for listening to Unforked. If you enjoyed the episode, we’d love it if you’d send it to a friend and rate and review the show on either Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Then email us a screenshot of your review to howdy@thefulfilledfork.com for a one-time credit to use towards our wellness services. Chat soon.



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Links & Resources –

    Thank you to Chelsea @ladyfolk for cocreating the Unforked podcast/newsletter name and helping me bring The Fulfilled Fork voice to life
    thank you to YOU, the listener, for being here on this journey together.


    With a full heart (but always room for a slice of pizza),

    Haley Schroth, RDN, LD, CPT, RYT | Founder & Integrative Mental Health Coach


    P.S. Have a question you’d like Haley to answer in a future Unforked episode?
    Submit your (concise) question here.


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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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