Can genetic testing provide the secret to a healthy diet and lifestyle that works? Paving the way for an era of truly personalised medicine, DNA testing in Singapore can help your gut health and determine when to take health supplements. Functional Medicine practitioner Dr Menka Gupta explains how using gut microbiome testing and nutraceutical supplementation, can help you find a diet that works for your genetic profile.
It’s been two years since I first interviewed former gynaecologist Dr Menka Gupta about her move to Functional Medicine (FM) and her growing Orchard Road practice. As I’m about to find out, she’s been extremely busy since then!
Why should you consider DNA testing in Singapore?
From an FM perspective, says Menka, knowing your genetic makeup can be amazingly useful in preventing chronic disease. That’s because the future of individualised health care lies in nutrigenomics – how our nutrition affects our genes – and it all starts with DNA testing.
Nutrigenomics: The study of how our genes and nutrition interact, and how the food we eat affects our genes by either expressing them or suppressing them.
SNP: Pronounced “snip”, SNP stands for “single nucleotide polymorphism”. SNPs are common genetic variations. Their practical relevance is that they may act as biological markers, as they can relate to the genes associated with all sorts of diseases.
Which DNA test do you use?
I chose the European lab test and its various panels for their practical usefulness, and because the gene variants or SNPs they analysed are selected according to rigorous scientific standards.
Unlike some other DNA tests in Singapore, they don’t merely present a list of risk genes. Importantly, they also give actionable recommendations for nutrition, supplements and other lifestyle factors. Our NutraNourish DNA testing panels include: NutraNourish Health, NutraNourish Mind, NutraNourish Oestrogen, NutraNourish Methylation, and many others.
What are your most popular and useful test panels?
Our NutraNourish Health panel. It’s designed to optimise wellbeing by personalising lifestyle and diet choices – and, where necessary, supplements tailored to offset any particular nutritional deficit based on specific SNPs.
For one patient with troublesome cholesterol levels, our DNA testing in Singapore revealed various SNPs related to his dyslipidaemia. After adding certain nutrients to his diet, along with supplements based on his genetic profile, his lipid markers normalised, to the delight of everyone – himself, his doctor and me.
Can you help with our common bugbear – overweight?
Yes, we have a panel for that: NutraNourish Diet! It’s now understood that maintaining a healthy weight is based on much more than the simple calories in, calories out equation.
In fact, It was just recently shown that 40 to 80 percent of body weight variance in the population is due to genetic factors. Some good news is that nutrigenetically tailored diets result in better compliance, longer-term fat loss and improved blood glucose levels.
Gut Health and Microbiome Testing
All disease begins in the gut, said Hippocrates more than 2,000 years ago. Today’s scientists are just starting to find out why that’s so true, and how it all works.
The gut microbiome is the ecosystem of about 100 trillion bacteria that live in your digestive system at any one time – most of them in the colon. And when it comes to bacterial species, it’s a case of the more diverse, the merrier.
Numerous studies have linked low microbial diversity to almost every chronic disease: allergies, diabetes, obesity, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, endocrinal diseases and autoimmune conditions. That’s just for starters.
In fact, keeping the microbiome healthy is often a matter of achieving and maintaining the right balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria.
How does the gut microbiome become disrupted in the first place?
In many ways. Even how you are born, say via Caesarean section, has a huge impact. Stress is a major factor, along with medications such as antibiotics and NSAIDs; a diet low in fibre or high in sugar and ultra-processed foods; and not exercising or spending time in nature.
Who could benefit from gut microbiome testing?
Symptoms of a gut health imbalance are wide-ranging, and go far beyond bloating, gas, abdominal pain, IBS, diarrhoea and constipation. Other, less obvious indications include reflux, fatigue, chronic skin conditions, anaemia, and even autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis.
What does your gut microbiome test look for?
Viral, parasitic and bacterial pathogens such as H.pylori, commensal and keystone bacteria, opportunistic and overgrowth microbes, fungi or yeast and more. It also includes numerous markers for gut health and function, including zonulin, a marker of leaky gut. Based on these, we can make Functional Medicine protocols to work on the root causes of your gut health issues.
It would be nice if “all” we had to do to ensure optimal nutrition was to make the best food choices – plenty of ideally organic fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, wild caught fish, pastured meat and so on. But it’s not.
That’s down to food being substantially less nutrient dense than in our grandparents’ day. Largely, it’s because the drive to increase crop yields by modern irrigation, fertilisation and harvesting methods has disturbed soil health through interrupting essential interactions between plants and soil fungi.
Therefore, Menka agrees, most of us would benefit from some degree of health supplements added to our diet in Singapore.
How did you go about selecting the range of health supplements that you stock?
For me, it’s important to look for purity and bioavailability. Functional Medicine is deeply rooted in nutritional biochemistry, and when I launched NutraNourish seven years ago, Singapore lacked the top-quality, reliable and efficacious health supplements I needed. So I researched the top FM brands in the US, and liaised with them so as to bring their products here.
Both Klaire Labs and Design for Health make pharmaceutical grade supplements that – unlike most of the generally unregulated supplement market – have to comply with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices. They’re also certified by the Australian TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration).
Name a couple of your favourite health supplements.
Here are just three:
- Pure Paleo is a bone broth-derived protein sourced from cattle raised in Sweden, free from hormones, antibiotics and GMO feed, with a high concentration of functional peptides for quick assimilation.
- CoQnol 100 combines ubiquinol (the bio-available form of heart-healthy CoQ10) and trans-geranylgeraniol (GG). GG not only enhances the absorption of CoQ10, but supports your body’s own production of CoQ10 in the body.
- OmegAvail TG1000 comes from omega-3 fats from sustainably caught wild Alaskan fish. Using the latest innovation in technology, vitamin E tocotrienols protect the precious yet fragile EPA and DHA oils from oxidation and rancidity.
Here’s to your good health in 2023, and that of your family!
Dr Gupta is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP, US) and has a UK Master’s Degree in Personalised Nutrition.
This article first appeared in the January 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!