By Scott Sedlacek, OD
You already possess the skills to survive as a practicing optometrist. What you may not know is how to thrive as a true health care provider. Optometrists are looking for disruptive innovations that provide better care and generate higher income. Implementing preventive care that benefits ocular and non-ocular health and applies to most of your patient base is ideal. One such approach can be Optometry’s Blue Ocean innovation – Nutrigenomics.
Nutrigenomics is where food meets genetics. With a cheek swab we may eliminate the guesswork and identify precisely what foods are good for you and which ones should be avoided. Vegan, Gluten-free, Low carbohydrate, Raw, Mediterranean? None of these diets are ideal for every one because we are all so uniquely different. Using genetics to determine a person’s precise nutritional requirements is part of a broader movement toward personalized medicine where the goal is to achieve overall wellness, avoid chronic illness, and prevent eye disease simultaneously.
What you eat impacts all 75 trillion cells in your body including the cells in your eyes. Your long-term eye health and overall wellness is not based solely on the genes you have, but rather how you manage your genetic predispositions. Epigenetics allows us to control genetic expression without changing our DNA. One of the most important epigenetic influences is food choice and it can determine whether genes get turned on or off. Genetics loads the gun but Epigenetics pulls the trigger. This is rewriting the way we manage wellness and disease.
Unlike behavior or stress, diet is one of the more easily studied, and therefore better understood environmental factors in epigenetic change. The nutrients we get from food enter metabolic pathways where they are turned into molecules the body uses. The Methylation Pathway makes methyl groups that are critical epigenetic tags that silence genes and control our DNA. Familiar nutrients like folic acid, B vitamins, and SAM-e are key components of this powerful pathway. Diets high in these methyl-donating nutrients can rapidly alter genetic expression, especially during early development.
Food is life, but sometimes food causes inflammation and ill health. If we all ate perfectly, vitamins and supplements would probably not exist. However, today’s combination of busy lifestyle, poor soil quality, the way food is processed, and having a longer lifespan makes the use of targeted nutraceuticals valuable in support of longevity and quality of life. Telling patients what to eat, not eat, and what supplements they need based on their genetics certainly ushers in the era of Personalized Optometry.
Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are healthy, but certain ones may not be healthy for you. Why would a raspberry be something that a genetic test recommends you avoid eating? Raspberries are high in histamine and if one has a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) or error in the DAO gene of the Methylation Pathway, they may want to avoid high histamine containing foods including raspberries, walnuts, vinegar and even avocados. Certain histamine-rich foods are thought to be beneficial, however if your body is unable to properly break down histamine it can lead to migraine, IBS, insomnia, and other health conditions. Welcome to the world of Nutrigenomics. It may prove to be what dramatically changes and advances our profession and makes us a relevant part of the solution that saves our failing healthcare system.
Photo: Copyright: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo
Dr. Scott Sedlacek is a forward-thinking optometrist who began practicing in 1998. He owns The Eye Place, a private practice in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. In 2012 he became the Director of Optometry for xR, an innovative telehealth company that deploys personalized medicine into doctor’s offices. Dr. Sedlacek was the first Optometrist to fully embrace and implement a personalized approach to treat and prevent ocular and non-ocular illness with genetic testing and precise epigenetic care plans. He believes this valuable approach to overall wellness may allow Optometry to thrive in emerging models of health care. Contact: SLSedlacek@yahoo.com More information: www.xrmd.com/od