Call (503)408-0790

To schedule an appointment

Lee Dennis, ND

Naturopathic Physician

Call (503)408-0790

To schedule an appointment


Namaste Natural Healing Center
12616 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97233

Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs)

Have you struggled with depression for most of your life? Have you been treated with medications such as Prozac, Zoloft or Paxil only to find that they didn't do much or that they only provided a temporary benefit? Have you been switched from medication to medication, only to find the same pattern occurring - temporary benefit, with no long lasting relief? If you've been through this, you could have a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) that affects your body's ability to adequately produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

So, what is a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) anyway? To understand this better, we have to go back to what our DNA/genes are made of - nucleotides. DNA is made up of long sequences of just four different nucleotides - adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. The sequence of these nucleotides determines the structure of proteins that our body makes. If one of these nucleotides gets switched for a different one, it may cause our body to make a protein with a slightly different structure. Now, you may think of proteins as the building blocks of muscle, and you would be correct, but proteins also have all sorts of other functions in our body. One of these functions is to act as enzymatic catalysts, or more simply, enzymes. Enzymes are not only necessary for digesting food, but for pretty much every chemical reaction in our body. One of the chemical reactions our body uses enyzmes for is the production of neurotransmitters. The structure of the enzyme (protein) can in turn affect the "speed" at which an enzyme functions. This is where SNPs play a role. An alteration in just one of these nucleotides can sometimes change the structure of a protein to the point where it significantly effects it's function. But, depression is just one possibility. There are actually a number of possible effects of having a SNP and there is still plenty of research being done to identify these SNPs and their possible effects.

One of the most common and most researched SNPs is in the MTHFR (methylene-tetra-hydro-folate reductase) gene. The MTHFR enzyme is responsible for converting folate into one of its active forms - methylfolate. Folate naturally comes in a number of forms, from dihydrofolate to folinic acid to methylfolate, that having varying functions. For the proper conversion and recycling of folate, MTHFR is one of the enyzmes needed. A SNP in this gene, often in combination with other lifestyle and dietary factors, can significantly slow the enzymatic function of this protein to the point where noticeable health effects occur. One of these effects can be depression. Another may be increased homocysteine and adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. While yet another consequence may be an adverse effect on detoxification. Sometimes simply supplementing with methylfolate is enough to effectively bypass this enzyme and provide adequate active folate to prevent the unwelcomed consequences mentioned above. But, oftentimes, this isn't enough because of each individuals unique biochemistry and the complex interactions of multiple enyzmes with the possibility of mutiple SNPs.

This is where a properly trained professional comes in. With the advent of relatively inexpensive genetic testing, it is possible to identify the presence of multiple SNPs and determine the most effective protocol(s) to support proper enzymatic functioning and improved health. Some SNPs, such as MTHFR, are often available through standard lab testing and may be covered by insurance, while other SNPs can be identified through specialty labs or kits that offer genetic testing. In addition to SNPs, a number of diet and lifestyle factors can play a role in balancing our biochemistry and affecting enzyme activity. The best way to properly address SNPs is generally through a combination of short to long-term nutrient/herb supplementation in combination with lifestyle & diet alteration.

Dr. Dennis can help guide you through the complex interactions of these SNPs, determine the best supplementation route (if necessary) and help you make the necessary lifestyle changes to minimize any detrimental effects of SNPs while promoting and improving your overall health


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