If you've ever had a relative that's had a soul sucking health condition then chances are you've considered how it would affect you personally if that condition were, say, genetic. Conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Cystic Fibrosis or Cardiomyopathy all wreck havoc with many people's lives and the lives of their families and for the most part, are terrifying.
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene's had major media miles lately thanks to Angelina Jolie, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene are both strong genetic candidates for causing breast cancer. Private genetic testing for these two genes can run into the thousands and the NHS simply doesn't have the capabilities to test everyone unless there's a known genetic history (even then you're not guaranteed to be tested). On the same note, you'd also run into financial issues if you were planning to start a family and wanted to know about your risk of passing on conditions again. People who are on minimum wage simply couldn't afford that. Even autoimmune conditions such as fibromyalgia and M.E, lupus, MS or thyroiditis are hard to live with so imagine if you could find out if you were at risk of those conditions before they happened.
Would you go through with the test?
For me personally I came from a family who were affected by a variety of conditions, on one side all of the females suffered from a range of autoimmune and debilitating conditions as well as thyroid issues and Alzheimer's. On the other side, there was mental health issues, digestive issues and addiction. It was too pattern like to be anything other than genetic, I was sure of it and my presumption was, sort of, proven when I too fell into a similar run of poor health issues that snowballed (even though I lived a very healthy lifestyle) just like my female relatives.
Growing up private genetic testing wasn't something that I could afford and I never believed I would ever manage to afford. Many of my friends didn't understand why I wanted to get it done so badly, for them it was a novelty but for me it felt like I could finally find the last piece of the health jigsaw puzzle.
Late last year I found out about 23andMe which is run by Google. They're a pretty major company in the US and had finally made their way to the UK after approval from the government. The test itself covered both ancestry and genetics and only cost £125. Don't get me wrong £125 isn't pocket money but when you consider the savings that would be made from getting individual tests such as the Alzheimer's or BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing done privately it's a drop in the ocean. I took the leap and purchased the test. I was sent a box about a fortnight later which included a tube to spit into, once you've done the deed you simply send it back and wait for your results to track on the 23andMe website - this does take around six weeks because the test is sent abroad, the wait time feels like a lifetime and it can be frustrating, it's a great time to take up yoga or meditation that's for sure.
So what can this particular test tell you?
✓Ancestral composition / Are you 100% British or do you have a surprising admixture of countries that make up ''you''? It's very unusual to find someone who's 100% of anything so finding out your composition is very exciting.
✓ Haplogroup / Haplogroups are basically genetic groups where your line originated from, it shows where your ancestors traveled from to get to where you are today, if you're a history buff then you may be surprised to find you are in fact related to the Vikings, fighters, farmers, Romans or other historically important groups of people.
Have you heard of the Seven Sisters? Apparently we all came from a sister and progressed from there - basically a haplogroup is equivalent to the 'sister' you came from. If your male you will find out haplogroups for both maternal and paternal sides of your genetics. If you're female you'll only find out the maternal side - I am haplogroup I2 on my mums side (I know I'm haplogroup C3 on my paternal side, but that was outside of this test).
✓ Neanderthal / How caveman like are you? genetically speaking of course.
✓ Major health risks / Alzheimer's, cardiomyopathy, BRCA genes, parkinsons, cystic fibrosis, cancers and plenty of the big scary health conditions that we all fear. These results can help you take action now or rest assured that you don't have the mutations.
✓ Minor health risk / If you are protected from certain strains of norovirus, methylation mutations, IGG and IGE mutations, autoimmune mutations and many more.
✓ Fun genetics / Are you sensitive to sounds, are you more of a sweet or salty person and is your earwax wet or dry (seriously). It also covers hair colour, eye colour, if you're prone to freckles and lots of other fun mutations that make us unique.
For many people, the fear of finding out negative results can be overwhelming. 23andMe actually hide these results under lock and virtual key for you to open only if and when you decide to, I hope that helps you rest assured that you won't see any major health results by mistake. There's also a fantastic forum on the website which offers a great deal of help with results, answering questions or simply just for fun. There is no bitchiness over on the websites forum unlike many others across the interwebs - and - everyone has something in common - the need to know more about themselves.
I do have my results, but there's so much information that I want to cover it in a second post and possibly third. I've also since had my husband tested which was very interesting because it allowed us to put together our mutations (kind of) to see where our sons may be affected - we plan to get all three of our sons tested once they can spit proficiently.
What I will say is that the test, or more importantly the results have shown me that my initial thoughts of my families health issues being genetic were correct. Every single one of them. It's also allowed me to see how my own health may be impacted as I age and I've now come to understand the processes that genetically cause those conditions to take effect, having this information and this new knowledge has also allowed me to make changes medically and in my lifestyle that hopefully will slow the progression of both major and minor genetic mutations. My husband, on the other hand, had no major health mutations, but some of his minor ones and his fun genetics made me go 'ahh now that makes sense' on more than one occasion.
You can find out more about the test and the company here. Personally I can't recommend it enough, it's like having all of the pieces to your own jigsaw puzzle right there in front of you.