How To Interpret Genetic Ancestry Reports

Source: 123rf.com
Image ID : 111916745
Copyright : Ioulia Bolchakova

 

If you’re curious about your genetic makeup, and you are considering obtaining a DNA kit, don’t be surprised if there are some inconsistencies, especially if you order kits from more than one company.  Variations in sample populations are quite common, resulting from closely related genetic populations which may be lumped into one broad category.

The first kit I ordered was from 23andme, and the results were consistent with what I expected to find on my report.  It confirmed that I was pretty much 50% (49.6%, to be precise) Japanese, and the other 50% was mostly Hungarian, 5.6% Greek, 2.3% Italian, and1.8% German and French.  Several years later, I ordered kits from Ancestry and MyHeritage, which only served to complicate the picture.  Ancestry’s report was the most simplified, with 50% Japanese, 45% Hungarian/Eastern European, and the remainder scattered among Italian, Greek, and English.  MyHeritage reported 46% Japanese, 36.8% Eastern European (no breakdown for Hungary specifically), and the remainder broadly European with no breakdown for Greece, Italy, Germany or France.  Once I sifted through all three reports simultaneously, I was able to interpret my genetic background, but I could definitely see how some people might be thrown off by a genetic report which was too general or broad.

Genealogy Strand Genes DNA Research Genealogist Word 3d Illustration

 

One important and confounding factor to consider is that we don’t express all 50% of the DNA we get from each parent, which skews the DNA analysis even further.  The best thing to do when interpreting a genetic analysis is to take it all with a grain of salt.  The science behind genetic analysis, while mostly accurate, also has a margin of error.

If you are trying to decide on a company to use for your genetic testing, it really depends on whether your primary objective is to uncover your genetic makeup for your family’s genealogy, obtain health information, or to connect with lost family and relatives.  For those more interested in genetic health markers, 23andme constantly expands its testing, so you will get regular reports as new genetic markers are added to the list.  Ancestry and MyHeritage are both fantastic for exploring your genealogical tree, and both offer multiple resources and archived records to members.

Genetic Ancestry Tests And The Rabbit Hole

Image ID : 62594744
Source: 123rf.com

If you are considering ordering and completing one of those genetic ancestry tests (popular ones are 23andme, Ancestry, and MyHeritage, all of which I have now completed), be prepared for the possibility that you might be on the crest of a journey down into the rabbit hole.  I’ve heard far too many stories of people who made startling discoveries relating to their genetic background and genealogy which at times resulted in conflict within the family.  Mysteries may unfold which leave you with more questions than you may have ever had about your family members or your ethnic makeup.

If we consider the phrase, going down the rabbit hole, we can enter said rabbit hole without thinking that the journey will be as long or as confounding as it can be.  That’s how it was for me initially, and now I find myself searching more than ever before for the puzzle pieces which could solve the many mysteries my biological father left when he died. Although I knew the circumstances surrounding my conception were akin to a soap opera, I never in my wildest imagination expected my story to unfold the way it has.

Before I dive into my own story, and wiggle through the proverbial rabbit hole, I’m going to share this passage from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland”:

“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled `ORANGE MARMALADE’, but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

`Well!’ thought Alice to herself, `after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?’ she said aloud. `I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think–‘ (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) `–yes, that’s about the right distance–but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I’ve got to?’ (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)”

Source: 123rf.com
Image ID : 42904359
Copyright : Eugeniu Frimu

 

Thanks to 23andme, a half sister I had never known about contacted me at the end of January with the startling news that we were indeed siblings.  Three days after our initial contact, another half sister surfaced on the site, and we slid down the rabbit hole even farther.

It took some time for the other half sister to respond to our connection requests, but we three are all now in communication with each other.  I have met one half sister and was even able to help her celebrate her latest birthday in February.  The other half sister is lining up a visit so that we can all three see each other face to face and forge the bond we never got a chance to develop as children.

We also have a half brother whom we are trying to locate, but there are numerous barriers, including the fact that we don’t know his name or birthdate, are unaware of which country he currently resides in, and the fact that he evidently is the type of person who would not welcome the news that he has three half sisters.  I have known about this half brother since our father’s death in 1997, but he never signed up for genetic testing analysis, which means we don’t have the convenience of a genetic testing service to do make the connection for us.

We want to find out more about our family tree, but it will be difficult at best to ferret out such information because I have limited knowledge of our father’s mother tongue (Hungarian), and I have no idea who would be privy to such information.  Our father’s place of death is also a mystery, which also means that it will be challenging to discover where he was interred.

Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

Progesterone and Stress

We all know that constant stress can play havoc with our health and well being. In this post I will focus on the effects of excessive stress on progesterone levels.

Progesterone is produced in the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and in the placentas of pregnant women. It has a calming effect, is a natural diuretic, regulates menstrual cycles, and prepares the body for conception and pregnancy. Some women can experience excessive levels of progesterone, which usually produces symptoms of PMS, but in general, progesterone is a vital and beneficial hormone.

Let’s examine what happens to progesterone if you are a woman under constant and chronic stress. When the body is pummeled with endless stress, the adrenal glands simply cannot keep up with the demand for more cortisol, so they convert more pregnenolone into cortisol to make up for the deficit. However, this has devastating effects on progesterone levels, since progesterone is also synthesized from pregnenolone. Basically, a woman who deals with excessive amounts of stress not only overtaxes her adrenal glands, but progesterone concentration also drops to a precipitously low level. So that calming, diuretic effect of progesterone falls away, and menstrual cycles become erratic or periods cease altogether. Sounds like fun, huh?

I cam tell you that running on an empty tank of progesterone is no fun at all. You retain water, you get irritable and cranky, and you lose your ability to navigate calmly through stressful situations. If you depend on a regular menstrual cycle as a reassurance that all is right with the world, then living with the mystery of whether or when you might have a period can be maddening. I found out during perimenopause that I actually WANTED a period, and I thought I would never feel that way.

I began retaining water like crazy after attaining IFBB Pro Status last July, and I knew something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel like I was in my own body, as strange as it sounds. I began flailing, and went through a rebound which was disturbing and unexpected. My emotional barometer was all over the place, and I couldn’t get out of the funk that I was in. Gaining eight pounds (which is considerable for me), most of which was water weight, made me even more depressed.

Another completely irritating set of symptoms which suddenly popped up at the end of January 2015, and which persisted every single night is that I would wake up at around 4 a.m., completely drenched in sweat and with a sensation which could best be described as being lit on fire from the inside. I would throw the covers off and quickly disrobe, then rather quickly fall asleep, only to awaken about 30 minutes later, shivering and pulling the covers over me.

The nightmare finally subsided to a great extent once I began replenishing my body with bioidentical progesterone in late February 2015. Though I still retained a bit of water for several months, my weight returned to a reasonable 120 pounds, versus the 125 I had been at in the Fall of 2014, my hot and cold episodes subsided, I felt much calmer, and more like myself. Now that I have been on bioidentical progesterone for two years, I have maintained balance and feel infinitely better.

Had I removed the stressors that I had some control over, I am firmly convinced I would not have bottomed out with my progesterone levels like I did. Even if I had engaged in meditation more regularly a couple of years ago, I think I could have saved my progesterone levels from bottoming out. Trust me when I say that progesterone depletion can be incredibly disruptive and upsetting. And don’t think for a second that this is only a problem which women past the age of 45 deal with. I have come across female patients as young as 32 who had almost no progesterone in their lab tests.

If you do one thing to improve your health, please reduce your stress! You can do this by removing the stressors that you have some control over, performing breathing exercises, tai chi, yoga, and meditation, enjoy time with friends, loved ones and pets more often, and letting go of anxiety and worry.

Why Zinc Is So Important

zinc-image

Here is an article which I wrote a few years ago and which still applies to general health:

Zinc is a vital mineral which is found in every tissue in the body due to its involvement in cell division. In the world of fitness and bodybuilding, zinc has a number of roles, including maintenance of normal hormonal levels, proper endocrine function, body composition, energy levels, optimal physical performance and protein synthesis. Thus it is crucial to maintain normal levels of zinc in the body when training or prepping for a competition.

Zinc is highly concentrated in meat, dairy and some seafood. This is why vegetarians most commonly suffer from zinc deficiency. So how can you tell if you suffer from a zinc deficiency? Common symptoms include an altered sense of taste which leads to cravings for sweets and salty foods. Other symptoms of zinc deficiency include low energy, infertility, low libido, memory problems, poor immunity and diarrhea.

A relatively easy way to test yourself to see if you are deficient in zinc is to do a taste test. Take 1 to 2 teaspoons of zinc sulfate (you can get this at health food stores) and add to a cup of water. If it tastes just like water, you are very zinc deficient. If you experience a slightly metallic taste, you are moderately zinc deficient. If it is strongly metallic and unpleasant, you most likely have normal zinc levels. Please bear in mind that this test is never as accurate as a blood test, but at least it will give you an idea of what your levels are.

For those of you who want to know the specific health benefits of zinc, here is a list of benefits.

Enhances Strength and Athletic Performance:

Zinc plays a major role in anabolic hormone production which makes it a key player in optimizing athletic performance and strength. When zinc levels in the body are normal, more growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 is released, which result in enhanced muscle growth and performance. Researchers have also noted that zinc enhances the conversion rate of androstenedione to testosterone, which improve strength gains during the recovery phase.

Enhances Reproductive Health and Fertility in Both Men and Women:

The cells of the male prostate require an extremely high concentration of zinc for proper function. To give you an idea of how much zinc is necessary in the prostate, male prostate tissue requires ten times more zinc than other cells in the body for normal function. There is a correlation between low zinc levels in men and increased risk of developing prostate cancer and infertility. There is also evidence to support the link between low zinc levels and low libido. Another implication with low zinc levels is its importance in maintaining optimal testosterone levels. Men with low zinc also tend to have low testosterone, which puts them at greater risk of andropausal symptoms.

In women, proper levels of zinc are essential for egg maturation and ovulation. Zinc also optimizes utilization of estrogen and progesterone and regulates their levels. During pregnancy, zinc plays a vital role in ensuring proper cell division in the growing fetus and helps to prevent premature delivery.

Essential For Taste, Smell and Appetite:

Zinc activates areas in the brain that process information from taste buds in the mouth and olfactory cells in the nasal passages. In addition, levels of zinc in the plasma influence taste preference and appetite. Many programs which treat anorexics use zinc to revive taste and appetite.

Makes Skin, Hair and Nails Healthy:

Zinc accelerates skin cell renewal which is why it is commonly used in diaper rash creams, acne treatments and creams which are used to treat dermatitis. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties and has a soothing effect on rashes, burns and blisters. Some shampoos contain zinc to help prevent dandruff. What you may not know is that zinc is important for healthy hair and that low zinc levels can cause hair loss, dull and thin hair, and loss of pigmentation.

Essential For Vision:

Zinc is found in high concentrations in the retina, but this level declines with advancing age, precipitating age-related macular degeneration which is characterized by a partial or complete loss of vision. Zinc also has a protective effect against the development of cataracts and night blindness.

Supports Cardiovascular Health:

Zinc is vital to normal cardiovascular function. When levels of zinc are low, the endothelial layer in blood vessels becomes inflamed and accumulates cholesterol deposits, both of which increase one’s risk of heart disease. Low levels of zinc can amplify the negative cardiovascular effects of diets which are high in fat and cholesterol, whereas adequate levels of zinc will inhibit the progression of heart disease.

Increases Insulin Sensitivity:

The presence of zinc is essential for normal function of most hormones, including insulin. Zinc binds to insulin and aids in storage in the pancreas as well as release of insulin in the presence of serum glucose. In addition, zinc is found in the enzymes which enable insulin to bind to cells so that glucose can be utilized for fuel, a process better known as insulin sensitivity. Why is this important? If zinc levels are low, enzyme levels drop, insulin sercretion drops and glucose remains in the bloodstream, a process which can lead to diabetes if it is chronic.

Improves Mood:

Dopamine, a chemical in the brain which boosts mood and energy, is partially regulated by zinc, so zinc once again plays an important role in the body. There is also evidence to support the theory that the presence of zinc boosts serotonin levels in the brain.

Supports Immune Function:

Zinc supports T cell function and is thus strongly tied with combating inflammation. T cells are responsible for mounting an immune response to invaders such as bacteria or viruses.

Has Potent Antioxidant Effect:

Zinc can remove toxins from the body and prevent accumulation of harmful compounds in tissues. This mechanism has a protective effect against the development of cancers, especially in the prostate, ovaries, pancreas, breast and colon. In addition, zinc prevents the buildup of heavy metals in the brain such as aluminum, which has been closely linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

If you suspect that you are deficient in zinc, you can supplement daily with 20 to 30 milligrams.

(Original post can be found here: http://www.rxmuscle.com/blogs/the-lab-supplement-school/7294-why-zinc-is-so-important.html?hitcount=0)

Men Going Commando

men commando

There are brave men out there who prefer to allow their twigs and berries to sway freely, without the confines of briefs. Fans of the commando lifestyle say it is more comfortable and completely liberating, but the underwear-clad crowd may argue that it is not very sanitary or dignified. In defense of the unencumbered male, the practice of abandoning underwear can offer a number of benefits.

Some men are prone to intertriginous dermatitis, aka jock itch, and can often benefit greatly from ditching their drawers. Jock itch occurs when the skin undergoes friction, and is intensified by heat, humidity, and excess weight. Severe cases of jock itch actually produce a musty odor, and can become infected by fungi and bacteria. The general recommendation for those who suffer from this condition is to keep the area cool and dry, which is best achieved by using powder and wearing cotton underwear. Since the testicles tend to become sweaty when snug fitting clothing is worn, those most susceptible to jock itch might want to consider omitting the briefs altogether.

Another significant medical issue which benefits from banishing the briefs is fertility. Men who have low sperm count should avoid wearing tight pants and underwear, opting for looser designs which will result in a cooler scrotum. This is one scenario in which going commando on a regular basis could make the difference between being childless and continuing the family name.

What if you don’t have a medical issue, but just want to experience the thrill of banishing your bloomers? The times have certainly changed, and now celebrities like Justin Bieber are being caught sans briefs. In addition, Kimberly Clarke’s Cottonelle brand is now encouraging real people in their television ads to strip off their skivvies in celebration of having clean rear ends. Now that it is summer, you might want to explore going commando and try to catch an extra breeze down south as a result. No one will ever know!

Running On Empty – Progesterone And Stress

Stress meterWe all know that constant stress can play havoc with our health and well being. In this post I will focus on the effects of excessive stress on progesterone levels.

Progesterone is produced in the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and in the placentas of pregnant women. It has a calming effect, is a natural diuretic, regulates menstrual cycles, and prepares the body for conception and pregnancy. Some women can experience excessive levels of progesterone which usually produces symptoms of PMS, but in general, progesterone is a vital and beneficial hormone.

Let’s examine what happens to progesterone if you are under constant and chronic stress. When the body is pummeled with endless stress, the adrenal glands simply cannot keep up with the demand for more cortisol, so they turn to progesterone, converting it into cortisol to make up for the deficit. Eventually, however, not only do cortisol levels plummet, but progesterone levels also drop to precipitously low levels. So that calming, diuretic effect of progesterone falls away, and menstrual cycles become erratic or periods cease altogether. Sounds like fun, huh?

I cam tell you that running on an empty tank of progesterone is no fun at all. You retain water, you get irritable and cranky, and you lose your ability to navigate calmly through stressful situations. If you’re like me and you depend on a regular menstrual cycle as a reassurance that all is right with the world, then living with the mystery of whether or when you might have a period can be maddening. I found out that I actually WANT a period, and I thought I would never feel that way.

Though I had regular periods until very recently, I began retaining water like crazy after attaining IFBB Pro Status last July, and I knew something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel like I was in my own body, as strange as it sounds. I began flailing, and went through a rebound which was disturbing and unexpected. My emotional barometer was all over the place, and I couldn’t get out of the funk that I was in. Gaining eight pounds (which is considerable for me), most of which was water weight, made me even more depressed.

Another completely irritating set of symptoms which suddenly popped up at the end of January and which persisted every single night is that I would wake up at around 4 a.m., completely drenched in sweat and with a sensation which could best be described as being lit on fire from the inside. I would throw the covers off and quickly disrobe, then rather quickly fall asleep, only to awaken about 30 minutes later, shivering and pulling the covers over me.

The nightmare finally subsided to a great extent once I began replenishing my body with bioidentical progesterone in late February. Though I still retain a bit of water, my weight is back to a reasonable 120 lbs. versus the 125 I had been at in the Fall, my hot and cold episodes have subsided, i feel much calmer and I feel more like myself.

Had I removed the stressors that I had some control over, I am firmly convinced I would not have bottomed out with my progesterone levels like I did. Even if I had engaged in meditation more regularly a couple of years ago, I think I could have saved my progesterone levels from bottoming out. Trust me when I say that progesterone depletion can be incredibly disruptive and upsetting. And don’t think for a second that this is only a problem which women past the age of 45 deal with. I have come across female patients as young as 32 who had almost no progesterone in their lab tests.

If you do one thing to improve your health, please reduce your stress! You can do this by removing the stressors that you have some control over, practice breathing exercises, tai chi, yoga, and meditation, enjoy time with friends, loved ones and pets more often, and let go of anxiety and worry.