I have known about bio-individuality for more than three decades now, and have always believed that there is no “one size fits all” approach to wellness. So it’s exciting for me to see functional medicine actively acknowledge the potential that exists to use our own bodies’ information to prevent, diagnose, and treat health conditions (even if mainstream medicine isn’t quite there yet.)
Precision medicine has been called a “broad-based research program that is focused on creative approaches for individual patients.” The recommendations that emerge from the studies that are conducted would then be tested and used to build an evidence base that can more effectively guide clinical practices. That may sound technical or scientific, but what it really means is that, finally, individual health statistics would be tracked in a massive database and we could begin to learn from what we know about others who face the same conditions or share similar genes.
Understanding that we are all different, at least on some level, is not a totally new concept for the medical community. We’ve known for some time that there are different blood types and that a Type B can’t receive Type A blood, for example; some differences between human bodies are openly acknowledged and understood by everyone.
But taking that blood type idea even further and applying it more broadly to acknowledge variances among our proteins, metabolites, genes, cellular assays (secretions) and more on a person by person basis, is an exciting concept to consider!
Could we ever know enough about our individual body functions to be able to target prevention and treatment strategies that are unique to our own physiology? Someday, I think so.
Precision medicine is underway now and is already having an impact on the treatment of cancers. Many cancer incidence rates are increasing and cancers overall are among the leading causes of death both here in the U.S. and all over the world. We know now from research that there are characteristics that are universal across all cancers but there are others that are unique to each particular kind of cancer: every cancer has its own “genomic signature.”
And we are learning more every day about those signatures. While we know now from research that cancer is predominantly a lifestyle disease, resulting from damage to the genes based on things like our food choices, exposure to chemicals and toxins and stress, we also know that there is a genetic component and that inherited gene variations can also play a significant role in cancer development.
Knowing this, precision medicine scientists are already adjusting their risk assessments, their diagnoses and therapeutic strategies based on the variances among the genes that they observe, enabling targeted therapies, drugs and antibodies to be developed that are already having incredible results. Imagine what they can do when they have access to a huge database of information that they can study!
We are just starting … and as we analyze more cancer genomes and conduct more trials, the precision medicine initiative hopes to build a “cancer knowledge network” to store the data and the conclusions and enable scientists, health care workers — and even patients — to access it. This will enhance existing cancer treatment practices, making them more precise, and may also improve preventative measures. It will also empower patients to take more control of their own health.
As amazing as this foray into bio-individuality in the cancer realm is to me, the really exciting part of all this is what may be coming down the road: scientists hope to build a database and a longitudinal “cohort” of over a million Americans to gather and track health information and eventually develop better understandings of disease mechanisms, disease risk, and optimal therapies.
They hope to include a wide range of biomedical information, including genomic, cellular, behavioral, molecular, clinical, environmental and physiological parameters. What that means is that researchers can use details our bodies can give us, from our genes to our cells to our lifestyles, gather the information into a database where it can be studied and cross-referenced, and then they can develop some powerful applications using advancing technologies.
For example, one possible application might be a high-tech solution such as real-time monitoring of blood pressure, cardiac rhythm and glucose via your mobile phone. Another possibility might address a recent headline about a woman who received a fecal transplant and became obese as a result: fecal sampling might determine the specific patterns of gut microbes contributing to obesity.
Blood tests might be able to reveal tumors cells or enable early detection of cancer through tumor DNA. Or we may be able to use genotyping to uncover the specific variants among genes that lead to certain conditions, enabling more effective treatment, earlier detection and ultimately, prevention.
While the greatest benefits will likely take some time, it is also hoped that another shorter-term benefit may be found in pharmacogenetics: getting the right drug to the right patient in the right dose. For those on medications, this can be very impactful.
We have always always known that every woman is different; our philosophy has always been to meet her wherever she is and work with her own unique physiology, biology, lifestyle and “story.” We treat the whole person and accept that there is no one size fits all approach.
But over the last thirty plus years, we also have come to see first-hand in our clinic that while there is always some tweaking and adjusting patient by patient, certain lifestyle and dietary choices and key nutritional supplements seem to bring tremendous results universally for almost every woman.
We see every day that lifestyle and what we put in our mouths is the most important aspect of our health: food is the most powerful drug (for harm and for healing) that we have. At the Women to Women clinic, we’ve spent more than three decades identifying the common denominators that help virtually all of our patients restore hormonal balance, thyroid and adrenal health, and overall wellness.
We’ve helped thousands of women alleviate mood swings, fuzzy thinking, hot flashes, anxiety and other debilitating symptoms and finally feel like themselves again. You don’t have to wait or feel badly another day. We can help you too.
To learn more about our hormonal balance support products, click here.