Last year I started researching my genes in detail. This mostly entailed running my 23&Me data file through various genetic health reporting systems and researching the most interesting genes listed. One gene caught my eye because it was stated that it had an impact on pain sensitivity. I had been dealing with various levels of nerve pain on my left shoulder and arm which impacted sleep and other activities, so I decided to put some of my focus on this COMT gene.
Ever since an illness back in 1993, I’ve had issues digesting milk. Not the normal issues people talk about that require a nearby bathroom, but these horrible headaches that would last two days. Pain relievers didn’t help these headaches, and they were incapacitating.
I eventually realized the headaches were triggered by milk and assumed it was some form of lactose intolerance. I mentioned my symptoms to my doctors, he shrugged it off without any tests or any answers. Instead I was told wasn’t possible to get headaches from drinking milk, so it wasn’t happening. I was getting the old I-don’t-know-what’s-up,-so-you-must-be-crazy trick. Yet every time I drain milk I got these headaches.
A while back I worked with a group that decided to throw a science fiction convention in the city of Detroit. This group was run by white suburbanites. Their normal events only had limited racial diversity in their ranks and attendees, but because the event was being held in Detroit proper they decided to make it a goal to reach out to black folk living in the city to be both participants and attendees.
A greater racial diversity was certainly present compared to the suburban events they’d thrown in the past. Yet how diversity was implemented felt so awkward to me. Not smooth. Not natural. Not fully respectful. I don’t claim to have all the answers concerning this topic, but I wanted to discuss the experience because I think it’s a valuable discussion, and quite frankly it bothered me quite a bit.
Research into gut bacteria is an interest of mine. I started occasionally reviewing the DNA of my own microbial boime over a year ago. I was curious if I’d be able to witness known research, or my own hypotheses, in action after dietary changes.
Last summer, after a simple diet change, I saw a very dramatic drop in bacteria diversity. At first I wondered if the DNA analysis was faulty, as the drop was huge, but later I read a study on emulsifiers and realized it was possible I was viewing the findings of this study.
Here’s a graph of my uBiome data.
Each color represents a different category of bacteria. The dramatic dip in the middle shows the variety of bacteria in my system being dramatically reduced.
To understand why I’m interested in this topic, I should mention that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease over 20 years ago, but have been able to keep it in remission using diet. Cane sugar seems to trigger an autoimmune reaction, so I avoid it as best as I can. Beet sugar, the other common white sugar, does not trigger this reaction, and luckily I live near the heart of beet sugar production.
One item I could never find with beet sugar was ice cream.