Can Genes Affect Your Eczema Journey?
With new treatments in eczema, has there been much research in our genetics? It's been on my mind lately, especially dealing with flare after flare rolling in. Sadly, I don't see much. However, that doesn't mean it isn't vital to recognize our genetics as powerful players in our disease.
Researching topical steroid withdrawal
About four years ago, I took a desperate leap into researching my health condition, topical steroid withdrawal. There had to be something connecting us in the atopic community. I was not ready to concede to the notion that our core issues were being addressed by a cream or pill.
How to get your genetics
Ancestry.com and 23andMe are massive databases for us to find our origins. Surprisingly, they are also a way for us to gather our raw genetic data. You order the kit, follow the directions, send your saliva, and wait for the results. Once in, it is a jumbled mess, rows upon rows of gibberish.
That is where GeneticGenie comes into play. You input your genetic coding into this service, and boom, an epic readout of what is going right and wrong in your double helix.
Heterozygous and homozygous mutations
If a strand of your genetic readout is fine, it will not be highlighted. If there is a heterozygous mutation, one of the genes will be mutated. When both are mutated, it is homozygous. On GeneticGenie, heterozygous will be highlighted in yellow. The homozygous will be in red.
What did my genetic readout look like?
My readout looked like a street light you either brake at or race through quickly before you get caught...
So, I had one piece of the puzzle - I have some difficult genes. The second piece is much harder to solve, still until this day. How do these gene mutations affect my skin, and what can I do about it?
The MTHFR gene mutation
Many in our community fret over this gene. Honestly, I don't think it's that huge of a player. This gene deals with methylation, meaning it can cause deficiencies if it is not working properly. Methylation is very important; however, this particular gene has taken the spotlight above others.
What does the MTHFR gene do?
The MTHFR gene deals with methylating folate. Folate is important, especially for expecting women. It is necessary to check what type of mutation you carry to put things into perspective.1 For instance, if you have a heterozygous MTHFR gene mutation, your production has been cut by 35% - not too significant. In contrast, those who have homozygous mutations will only have about 30% function. If you are the latter, checking on your folic acid/folate is important.2 Also, in general, you should speak to a professional if you are thinking of taking methyl-folate (a version of folate that has already bypassed the methylation process). Dosing needs to be discussed.
What should you know about a MTHFR mutation?
Even with this information, I have seen others capitalize on this, using the MTHFR defect as a way to make extra money from people who are suffering. It is always good to know if you have the defect (I am heterozygous for it, goodie), but more important is realizing how your mutation plays a role as a holistic element. How does it interact with other mutations? Does it, in turn, cause more harm if it is connected to other malfunctioning friends?
These mutations can act like dominos, one crashing into the other, fall after fall.
The COMT gene mutation
COMT is a gene I didn't know about. But, both versions of mine are in red. Eek.
Now, life, as you know, gets in the way of certain things. As soon as I started diving into research, my documentary took the forefront of my energy and time. I gave up researching my genes.
My COMT gene mutations
Unfortunately, I am still a mess and wandering the naturopathic world years later. I pulled out my genetics and saw the stark red of my COMT genes staring straight at me.
So, what did I do? I went down the rabbit hole.
COMT AA or GG mutations
If you carry the AA mutation version (so homozygous), you have lower activity (deficiency). This is associated with:3
- increased dopamine in the brain
- lower pain threshold
- increased stress activity and anxiety
- better attention to detail and retention
If you carry the GG mutation version (so, again, homozygous), you have higher activity. This is associated with:3
- lower dopamine in the brain
- higher pain threshold
- higher capacity to deal with stress
- reduction in cognitive performance
Why does this matter?
My homozygous mutation of the lower activity component means my body is not detoxing certain things, toxic things that can be harming my system. One thing the COMT gene aids in metabolizing is estrogen. Well, guess what? My recent stool test showed I am harboring estrogen. I am not getting rid of it properly, and it is having an extra stay-cation in my body. Not good.
A menstrual facial flare?
Currently, I am flaring on my face. This happened around the same time last month. I keep a record of my menstrual cycle (since I have bad periods), and I should be ovulating around this week. What happens during ovulation? An increase in estradiol in my system - one that is already overwhelmed apparently with estrogen.
Is that a coincidence, or am I connecting dots?
What will I do now?
I am no expert. I am only a stubborn, willful creature who will stop at nothing to find the truth. Since I have a nutritionist, I will be speaking to her on this subject and research. Hopefully, I can bring back more answers to you all concerning COMT mutations, things like...
- What foods or substances you should be avoiding
- What nutrients or meds should be utilized to help rebalance the system
- How long does it take to see improvement
- Does the COMT gene truly affect our skin health?
What can you do now?
What you can do now is jump on the genetics train and get your own readout. Reach out to me (if you're comfortable)! Together, perhaps we will be able to make a connection!
But, I leave you all with this...don't give up.
On an average day, how would you rate your level of anxiety related to atopic dermatitis?