As Primal Health Coaches we understand the health benefits of living a modern-day version of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
We also understand that as individuals, we each have our own unique genetic and metabolic differences. These differences can impact how we respond to macronutrients, inflammatory allergens, and how well we tolerate fasting, to name a few examples.
Personal biological assessments are now commercially available. Services range from personalized genetic testing to individualized biomarker profiling from your own blood.
Whilst still relatively expensive, personal biological profiling has become more affordable and accessible to the general population in recent years.
Personal biological profiling can act as the ultimate guide to personalized lifestyle change, as it provides an individualized snapshot of someone’s disease susceptibility, food sensitivities and ideal exercise practices.
Before we delve any further, it’s important to stress that as health coaches we’re in the business of guiding our clients to better health through lifestyle changes. Diagnosing, prescribing, and treating disease is definitely not part of our job description. But in collaboration with a physician biological profiling can help your clients get the results they want.
Let’s explore what DNA and blood biomarker profiling are and how you can use these services as a health coach.
Our genes code for pretty much every aspect of what makes us our who we are. From the color of our hair to our ability to digest dairy.
Understanding the unique genetic profile of a client can help us devise an individualized nutrition and exercise strategy.
What Is DNA Profiling?
DNA profiling is the analysis of an individual’s genetic code, which is static and cannot be changed.
However, external influences such as the food we eat, to the type of exercise we perform, can switch our genes on or off, and this is known as epigenetics.
Every single personal has a unique DNA profile, and understanding a client’s epigenetic susceptibility can help them avoid specific unhealthy triggers, such as gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance.
DNA profiling, whilst still quite expensive, has been dropping in price as the technology becomes more popular, and is now a realistic tool to use for your clients.
There are several companies offering DNA profiling including:
DNA profiling is ideal for clients at the very start of their health journey, as it can guide their lifestyle choices, based on their genetic make up.
However, DNA profiling can also be useful for your more established clients. For example, Primal Health Coach founder Mark Sisson has had his DNA profiled. The findings from his genetic assessment confirmed many of his own personal observations regarding his health, metabolism and fitness endeavors.
How Does DNA Profiling Work?
In most instances, you’ll provide a cheek swab which will get sent to the lab. Here, your DNA will be extracted, processed and analyzed. You’ll then receive a report with your genetic profile, and a summary of what your results mean from a health and/or fitness perspective.
What Does It Tell You?
The contents of the report depend on the company and product that you purchase. Companies offer products that profile genes influencing nutrition and athletic performance, amongst other things. Some services also include an ancestry check.
For a Primal Health Coach, the following can be very helpful in directing the nutrition advice you give to a client:
- Carbohydrate and saturated fat sensitivity
- Detoxification ability
- Antioxidant requirement
- Inflammatory predisposition
- Vitamin and micronutrient needs
- Salt, alcohol and caffeine sensitivity
- Lactose intolerance
- Coeliac predisposition and other gluten sensitivities
How Can I Use This?
Sometimes it can be hard to convince someone to give up the pasta or bread. In collaboration with a certified nutritionist or medical doctor, being able to point out that they have a predisposition for coeliac disease could make that easier.
Also, if your client is struggling to maintain a healthy weight, then knowing whether to modify their carbohydrate or fat intake can be very helpful.
What Are the Limitations?
Scientists are fully aware that we haven’t fully uncovered how each and every gene contributes to overall health.
Also, DNA profiling from commercial companies such as DNAFit only scratch the surface of what we currently do know about our genes in relation to our health.
It’s also essential to keep in mind that just because you have a genetic predisposition for a particular trait, such as lactose intolerance, doesn’t mean your fate is sealed.
Lifestyle habits control the expression of our genes. We have the power to control whether our genes are switched on or off through our lifestyle choices.
Are There Any Concerns?
There are well-publicized concerns around genetic testing, particularly in relation to privacy.
Blood Biomarker Profiling
Blood transports oxygen and other nutrients to tissues and vital organs, and is also essential for the transport and removal of waste products from our body.
Many key blood biomarkers have been identified through medical research and are routinely used by doctors as indicators of disease.
However as health coaches, rather than using this information to diagnose, prescribe or treat an illness, we can use these blood biomarkers to help our clients optimize their health and longevity by providing advice on personalized lifestyle change.
What Is Blood Biomarker Profiling?
InsideTracker is currently the only blood biomarker profiling service available.
Their aim is not to diagnose disease. Instead, InsideTracker recommends lifestyle changes based on your current blood biomarker profile.
Unlike DNA profiling which is a static picture of your DNA, blood biomarker profiling provides a snapshot of your health at a set point in time. These biomarkers are directly influenced by your lifestyle choices.
As a health coach you can use this information to help your clients identify areas of their nutrition and lifestyle that can be tweaked for improved health.
The difference between InsideTracker’s blood biomarker profiling compared to that performed by a medical doctor, is that no diagnosis is made.
For example, if your health coaching client’s blood sugar levels are off the chart, then you should immediately refer your client to doctor for medical advise.
How Does Blood Biomarker Profiling Work?
InsideTracker offers several services including packages for customers residing outside of the US and Canada.
For US and Canadian based customers, the basic process works as follows:
- Your blood will be drawn from an affiliated blood testing facility
- It will be sent to the laboratory for analysis
- You will receive your results online with customized science-based recommendations on lifestyle change
What Does It Tell You?
Depending on what package you choose, InsideTracker will assess between 7 and 42 blood biomarkers from categories including:
- Metabolism – sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides
- Liver function – liver enzymes
- Inflammation – white blood cells and inflammatory markers
- Electrolyte balance
- Bone and muscle health – calcium and vitamin D
How Can I Use This?
The direct impact poor lifestyle choices have on our body is hard to visualize for many people.
Blood biomarker profiling provides this insight, and this is likely to have a huge impact on a client’s motivation and accountability while implementing new lifestyle change.
Testing at regular intervals throughout a client’s health journey may also be an effective method to monitor their progress.
What Are the Limitations and Concerns?
The scientific community is yet to agree on a defined healthy range for many blood biomarkers.
InsideTracker provides an “optimal” range for many of the blood biomarkers that is much narrower than what is advised by the National Institutes of Health.
For example, the National Institutes of Health states that a healthy range for vitamin D levels range from 20-50 ng/ml. Whereas InsideTracker’s optimal range is much narrower and suggests an optimal range from 40-48 ng/ml.
At this stage there is no concrete scientific evidence to suggest that these more stringent biomarker ranges provided by InsideTracker correlate to improved health compared to the normal ranges advised by the National Institutes of Health.
A concern would be for an InsideTracker customer to become overly worried by a slightly below average reading for any given biomarker, as it is still not scientifically proven to impact on health in any way.
More research is needed to draw these definitive conclusions, and this is not the job of a health coach.
Take Home Message
DNA and blood biomarker profiling have the potential to boost the services of health coaches now and in the future.
To summarize, genetic and blood biomarker profiling has the potential to help you and your clients:
- By assisting in the formation of personalized health goals
- By aiding with client accountability and motivation
- As an effective monitoring strategy
As scientific advancements are made, these services are likely to drop further in price, making them even more widely available to the general population.
It should be stressed that genetic and blood biomarker profiling should only be used as a guide, and if any red flags arise as a result of this profiling, you should refer your client to a doctor immediately.
We hope this information has helped address any unanswered questions you may have had regarding the benefits and limitations regarding the use of personal biological profiling as a health coach.
Maybe it’s time to start considering personalized biological profiling as one of your health coaching services?