Is Your Child Wired For Anxiety, Inattention, & Irritability? The Role Of Genetic Testing

Genetic testing

I get asked this a lot... have you ever wondered?


Is this just how my child is wired?
Is there anything I can do to help them feel better and be more successful?

The answer isn’t a straightforward yes or no…

Both can be true.

Truth is, there may be genetic factors - or "wiring" that influence your child's stress capacity.

They may be "wired" to perceive stress differently than others.

Their brain may be "wired" to work a little differently.

But the other truth is, the brain can be flexible, and the research field of epigenetics has shown us that the expression of our wiring is highly influenced by environment and lifestyle.

So that means regardless of how they're "wired", kids can learn to adapt to stress better - if we change their environment.

This does not necessarily mean "changing" them. This does not necessarily mean "dropping diagnoses" if they are in place. But this does mean we can help kids feel better.

This is good news if you have a child who experiences anxiety, massive mood swings, loss of appetite, tummy trouble, sleep trouble, or irritability when they're under stress (aka faced with something that feels scary to them, or something that they don't want to do), understanding their genetics can help you strategically create the right environment for them instead of continually being frustrated by them.

When we understand our kids we can help them.

Once I started learning about genetics, epigenetics, and nutrition on how we feel, think, learn, and function I became fascinated by how understanding our children's genetics can influence our parenting decisions and help us create the best environment for our kids.

 

Key Questions To Ask About Your Child

 

Around here we like to say we're "parenting from the inside out and the outside in". This means we get curious and we try to understand our kids so we can create the best possible environment around them but also inside them.

To do that we need to do some digging.

Through our work with parents, we have discovered 5 major trends - five factors that put pressure on a child's nervous system from the inside and keep them stuck in a perpetual chronic stress state.

The 5 major stressors we've found are:

  • Nutrient Imbalances
  • Food Reactions
  • Toxicity/Detox Capacity
  • Gut Dysbiosis
  • Infections

When we understand which of these forces are putting pressure on a child and we relieve that pressure, kids feel better. They feel more emotionally flexible. They feel more connected and calm. They are less volatile. They are more accepting of your guidance as their parent.

Finding and relieving these stressors helps us parent them from the inside out - create an environment inside their bodies so messages of calm and safety override messages of threat, fear, and worry.

 

The Role Of Genetics On Stress Tolerance

 

Our genes are not our destiny, but they do contribute to our tendencies, especially when we're under stress. So if you want to know how your child is "wired" a genetic test will give you some answers.

But it doesn't end there. How you make USE of that information is important. 

The kind of genetic test we help parents access is different from diagnostic testing your doctor might do where gene mutations determine the occurrence of a particular disease. Our type of genetic test looks at predispositions that increase the likelihood of a result, but not necessarily a guarantee of that outcome occurring.

This type of genetic test is assessing the potential efficiency of enzymes. Enzymes are chemical messengers that carry out functions throughout the body. Genes tell enzymes what to do and they go do it. If there are variations in the directions a gene send to an enzyme, then how that enzyme does its job is likely to shift.

That's how genetic variants influence function.

Here's an example:

The COMT enzyme is responsible for breaking apart dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine in our brain and moving them out once they're no longer needed. Its function is dependent on magnesium and good methylation.

If there are variations in the instructions being sent from the DNA to the COMT enzyme, then how that enzyme does its job is potentially going to change.

It may work more slowly than is typical resulting in a build-up of those neurochemicals in the brain and helping you understand why your child is moody, agitated, anxious or aggressive; it may work faster than typical leading to low levels of those neurochemicals helping to explain addictive tendencies, fatigue, a cravings for dynamic or chaotic environment, poor attention.

If we can correlate symptoms with genetic variants relating to the COMT enzyme, then we know that supporting that enzyme (which we can do with nutrients) can help your child feel more even-keeled.

Make sense?

Here's another example:

The SLC30A8 and SLC30A3 enzymes are involved in the transport of zinc into cells.

Zinc is required for at least 100 different enzymes to do their jobs so it has an influence on detoxification, digestion, sleep, mood, and sex hormones. Zinc deficiency has been linked to attention issues, decreased appetite, depression, amenorrhea, poor sleep, and hormonal acne. Zinc supports structure and function in the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain involved in learning and memory. Zinc supports most of our digestive enzymes, and is involved in our senses of taste and smell.

Variants in the SLC30A8 and SLC30A3 enzymes may leave a person prone to zinc deficiency. So when we find them it's time to correlate with symptoms and diet. Are they eating zinc-rich foods? Are they experiencing symptoms relating to zinc deficiency? Is it time to check blood for zinc levels and consider supplementation?

Is the impact of genetics on mood and behavior becoming more clear?

Genetic variants are established in utero and do not change through life. However, their expression is largely influenced by environmental and lifestyle factors.

That means things like diet and nutritional status affect how genes express themselves and how enzymes perform their jobs. So when you know your child's genetic tendencies you can make strategic decisions about how to help those enzymes function better.

 

Introducing our NEW Custom Genetic Panel!

 

It's the first genetic panel I know of that's designed and interpreted specifically for parents of kids with mood instability.

After using a variety of standard DNA tests on the market we decided to design our own. We partnered with the amazing team at Toolbox Genomics and asked them to design us a panel that looked at the most well-researched genetic variants associated with a child's development and mood regulation.

Running this panel gives parents insight into key genetic variants pertaining to the 5 Core Stressors - the ones I listed above that keep kids in a chronic state of stress.

Our panel looks at variants relating to:

  • The transport of key nutrients
  • Methylation 
  • Mood and stress tolerance
  • Gut function and food
  • Detoxification, chemical sensitivity, and oxidative stress
  • Inflammation control and brain resilience
  • Histamine breakdown

When we combine genetic tendencies with functional lab work and observed experience we get a clear picture of the most impactful leverage points at your disposal to help your child feel more calm, safe, secure, connected, and become more resilient.

We understand their "wiring" and we get some clear direction on how to support that specific wiring.

 

The Bottom Line

 

The Resilience DNA Panel reveals genetic strengths and vulnerabilities so you know your child's tendencies when they're under stress.

Since genetic expression is largely influenced by environment and lifestyle factors, this can help you can make decisions around diet, supplements, and lifestyle for your child that support them as their body and environment change.

When you ask different questions you get different answers.

 

 

About Jess Sherman, FDN-P, M.Ed, R.H.N

Jess is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition¬ģ Practitioner, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and a trauma-sensitive Family Health Educator specializing in brain health & resilience for kids.¬†She is also a teacher, with a Master's degree in education. Her¬†Calm & Clear Kids¬†introductory course,¬†her Amino Acids (with kids!) Quickstart program, and her signature¬†Roadmap to Resilient Kids,¬†¬†along with her book¬†Raising Resilience,¬†have¬†helped families¬†in at least 44 countries¬†improve the lives of their children with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, and mood disorders and reduce¬†their reliance on medication.¬†She is the 2019 recipient of the CSNNAA award for Clinical Excellence for her work¬†with families, and she¬†continues to¬†bring an understanding of the Nourishment Needs and Biological Stress to the mainstream conversation about children‚Äôs mental health, learning, and overall resilience through her blog, courses, workshops and as a contributor to print and online magazines.¬†

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The content on this website and in the guides and courses offered here is meant to provide information so that parents can make informed decisions and discuss these issue with their health care teams. It is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or individualized care.