What your DNA can reveal about your mental health

Thanks to advances in human genomics and DNA testing, as well as innovative companies like DNAlysis Biotechnology, we now have insight into what our own genetics reveal about our mental health status (as well our overall health status, our diet and exercise preferences and even which medications we should avoid etc.)

I’ve had the opportunity to have a few DNA tests done with DNAlysis and can’t wait to share all my results with you, but for now, let’s focus on the latest test I’ve had which is DNA Mind.

ALSO SEE: My mental health journey 

What is DNA Mind?

This DNA test looks at key genetic variations that could have a direct effect on a person’s mental health. Weaknesses in certain areas, together with lifestyle factors could increase the risk for a range of neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, plus the test looks at whether you might be more susceptible to mood disorders or addictive behaviours – such as binge eating or an addiction to smoking, recreational drugs or alcohol.

Registered dietician with a special interest in genetics, Jessica Pieterse took me through my results and explained that DNA Mind is also an important tool for health professionals in the mental health space such as psychologists and psychiatrists, as it sheds more light on the patient and assists with a more accurate diagnosis, so that the correct lifestyle changes and medications can be recommended and implemented.

What my results revealed 

Overall, I was happy with the results of my DNA Mind test. While we went through the comprehensive report, Jessica explained that a person’s genetic profile is like a loaded gun, but it’s the lifestyle choices we make daily that can pull the trigger. So, the aim of the report isn’t to diagnose any condition, but rather to highlight certain risk factors and arm people with tools and knowledge to make lifestyle changes.

My inflammation markers 

My results showed that my inflammation markers were a little high and there’s a strong link between inflammation and mental health. To manage the inflammation in my body, Jessica suggested I up my omega-3s, even though I already have around 1000mg a day. This is because omega-3s really help to manage inflammation – as they’re essential oils linked to fats.

Jessica says that when we alter our body’s fat intake and focus on good fats such as fish oils, avocado and olive oil etc, we really improve our mental health. Because I’m a vegetarian and don’t eat fish, Jessica recommended that I lower my saturated fat intake from dairy products and up my omegas.

My methylation markers 

Have you ever heard of methylation? In a nutshell, this is a process in the body involved with DNA repair. Jessica says that if this process doesn’t work properly, it can leave my DNA permanently damaged from daily wear and tear. This can also contribute to an increase in mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

The DNA Mind test showed that one of my genes linked to mood has lost 30% of its functionality. To help rectify this, Jessica suggested I switch my B-vitamins to a methylated kind, which is better absorbed by the body. B-vitamins help to maintain a healthy nervous system and can help with stress and anxiety.

My mood disorder markers 

While my genetics showed no increased risk for addictive behaviours – such as binge eating, smoking or alcohol dependency (yay!), some results did show a slightly increased risk for depression and anxiety. This might be why I suffered from PTSD after having Bella.

However, some other markers showed that my lifestyle choices have made a positive impact on how my body internalises stress. I am a huge believer in getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet 80% of the time, resting when I need to, and getting plenty of exercise – to help regulate my mood. My DNA results proved that these strategies have helped to boost my happy hormones such as oxytocin.

The test did pick up that I could be at higher risk for depression and anxiety if I don’t keep my dopamine and serotonin levels in check. Low levels of dopamine could also mean that you don’t tolerate stimulants like caffeine well, and this is true for me.

My results also showed that I might not be picking up enough serotonin in my body. Serotonin is another mood-regulating hormone, and not enough serotonin has been linked to anxiety and insomnia – which I do have on occasion. Jessica mentioned that 80% of serotonin is produced in the gut, therefore she suggested that I focus even more on gut health and eat more fibre-rich foods, as well as foods rich in probiotics.

ALSO SEE: What DNA Sport has taught me about my body

Important contacts 

Considering having a DNAlysis DNA Mind test done? Click here for more information, as well as a list of accredited practitioners.

Need help? Call the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 0800 205 026 for a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or support group.

The SA Federation for Mental Health also has a list of mental health societies across the country. Call 011 781 1852.