Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS April 18, 2016
Have you heard about SNPs (pronounced “snips”)? So many people are talking about them. Some people are obsessed with finding out if they’ve got them. So, what are SNPs?
SNPs are Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms. They actually are tiny errors within the coding of our cellular DNA. Here is how they may develop.
When cells grow, they divide into two new cells. Just before their division, their DNA also duplicates and divides. Sometimes there could be an error in a tiny section in the DNA when they divide. Think of this coding error like a “typo” in a document that gets copied and duplicated over and over again. Genetically, this error in DNA gets duplicated as the cell continues to grow and divide.
Interestingly, SNPs are very common. We all have SNPs. In fact, there are roughly 10 million SNPs in each person’s total DNA makeup. While many people are concerned if they have various SNPs, the far majority of us do not need to fret because most SNPs have no effect on our health or development.
However, some of these distinct copying errors may affect an individual’s response to certain drugs and environmental factors. Some of these SNPs also could increase the risk of developing specific diseases. It is noteworthy that there is new research that may allow medicine to repair specific harmful SNPs in the future. However, this technology has not been perfected to date.
There also has been some research suggesting that there are SNPs that could increase the risk of gum disease.
So, what’s a person to do?
Two important questions you need answered:
- Do you need to know if you have specific SNPs?
- If you did in fact have potentially damaging SNPs, does it matter?
In my opinion, it is not critical to know if you have SNPs since there are no specific treatments to repair them. Also, if you had SNPs, the effects of SNPs could actually be controlled about 90% of the time by manipulating the environment through changes in diet and lifestyle.
Science today supports the power of controlling our environment. It is possible to protect yourself from potential harm related to SNPs by eating a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet. A Paleo-type diet fits the bill by eating real foods and avoiding processed foods. Also, living a primal lifestyle that incorporates restorative sleep, efficient exercise, and reduction of all forms of chronic stress could offset the potential problems from SNPs.
Still, if there were more serious issues that you could not control by changing your environment, then a functional medicine practitioner might be able to recommend genetic testing and recommend specific supplements to improve your health.