Why does your friend lose weight with intermittent fasting but you don’t, even when you follow the exact same protocol? How come your spouse can drink coffee with dinner and fall asleep easily while you will be up all night if you have anything with caffeine afternoon?
Obviously, we are all different, and that difference extends to how we digest, metabolize, and detoxify as well as what kind of exercise may reap the greatest benefit and how much recovery we may need to stay storing and injury-free.
Personalized medicine is all about getting to the bottom of those differences.
How is it done? By targeting the specific variables that can impact your goals and understanding your own history, your family history and your genetics, a personalized plan can be crafted to account for your own biology.
Here’s a personal example. I have prescribed Testosterone (T) to hundreds of guys with low T, and it almost always helps them feel more energetic and have an easier time gaining muscle and losing belly fat. When I tried it myself, I just felt heavier, and in fact, my belly fat got worse. This was beyond frustrating to me.
Then I looked at my genetic test from 3×4 Genetics – specifically at my hormone pathways. It turns out that I have a particular combination of genes that make the enzyme that converts Testosterone into Estrogen (called Aromatase) especially active. More Estrogen can cause an increase in fat build-up. Plus, when Testosterone gets converted more easily, less of it stays as Testosterone. Sure enough, when I tested myself, my T hadn’t gone up much – but my Estrogen sure had! When I switched my treatment from using Testosterone to simply taking a blocker of Aromatase, my T went up, and Estrogen went down, and the belly fat melted off. I felt much better.
Treating myself like I treat the majority of my patients with low T was not only unhelpful; it made me worse. The personalized approach, utilizing state-of-the-art genetic testing, was necessary to help me achieve my goals.
Such an approach comes in handy when I discuss exercise with patients or help them interpret their wearable data. Since I’m training for an Ironman, I help advise other triathletes on their training program. I know some people who kept getting injured – a big fear among competitors, as it can be quite a setback. They would try to follow the recovery recommendations from their Whoop band or Garmin, but still end up with strains. It turns out, that they often had particular genetic profiles that made them require longer recovery times because of an increased risk of soft tissue injury. With more stretching and a little more active recovery, the frequent injuries went away.
We are so fortunate in 2022 to have access to the technology for such an elegant personalized approach to recommendations for optimal health and performance. I just wish more clinicians would take advantage of it.
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Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has been a consultant with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on national television, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He was most recently National Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of a national medical practice, but is available to consult with individual patients interested in a personalized approach to optimal performance and health.