Do our genes play a role in our digestive health? Discover the different ways genomic science can help you learn more about what’s happening in your body.
How much do you know about what’s going on in your gut?
You might have heard about probiotics from yogurt commercials or articles about the importance of incorporating fermented foods into your diet. However, if you aren’t well acquainted with the wonders of gut flora, you might not be aware of the miraculous microbial communities we carry in our digestive systems.
Those of us without a background in medicine or the biological sciences might think of bacteria exclusively as agents of infection, and not without reason. Until the discovery and widespread availability of the antibiotic penicillin, infections from minor cuts and childhood coughs could easily be fatal. When we see the term “antibacterial” on any household or even cosmetic product, we still typically consider it a selling point.
However, bacteria aren’t necessarily our enemies – the microorganisms are essential to the proper functioning of our organs. Bacteria even outnumber human cells – we carry up to five pounds of bacteria in our bodies. Considering all the work these microbes do – including aiding digestion, synthesizing nutrients, protecting us from harmful bacteria, and much more – we can certainly afford the extra weight.
A growing body of research shows that the bacteria in your digestive tract, or the gut biome (also called the gut microbiome), can significantly impact health, especially metabolic conditions. The numbers and types of bacteria in your gut can change drastically due to diet, lifestyle, and, you guessed it…your genes!
While lifestyle has a major effect on the health of our gut biome, research is increasingly showing that the majority of bacteria in the gut biome is inherited. Moreover, our heritable bacteria might significantly influence our innate immunity. In the latest genome-wide association study (GWAS), researchers evaluated gut microorganisms, certain genetic variants, and factors associated with innate immunity-related to cardiometabolic syndrome (CMS) in a large Colombian study population.
The study looked specifically at 20 variants of 12 genes related to innate immunity and found that 10 of the variants in 8 genes were significantly correlated with gut microbes. The majority of the associations discovered were found with nucleotide-binding oligomerization (NOD) genes 1 and 2, which have previously been shown to alter the susceptibility of Crohn’s disease.
Researchers found that having the rs2066842 variant of the NOD2 gene was highly associated with increased “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL) and a plethora of beneficial gut bacteria such as Coprococcus and Oscillospira. The rs2075820 variant of the NOD1 gene was also associated with a valuable Coprococcus species; however, it was also highly correlated with Blautia and Lachnospiraceae species, which have been found abundantly in people suffering from metabolic disorders such as Crohn’s disease and liver disease.
These results provide more evidence for the complex associations of genetics and the gut biome on disease risk. Researchers also evaluated other aspects of CMS in relation to these factors and found other intriguing associations.
Are you wondering what these latest scientific findings might reveal about your genetics and gut biome? If you’ve taken an at-home genetic test from a service like AncestryDNA or 23andMe, you already have access to your raw DNA file. Just visit your testing provider’s website and download your file – the team at Genomelink will do the rest.
By confidentially providing your DNA test results to the experts at Genomelink, you will unearth a wealth of valuable genetic information that could help you make more informed wellness and lifestyle choices. We will provide an in-depth analysis of your raw DNA data, revealing genetic characteristics that will help you better understand your body and its potential.
Learn more about your genetic makeup today!