Monday, March 7, 2022

Personalized Nutrition: Going beyond Vitamin B12 for Vegan Diet Support

 Written by: Dr. Roberta Kline 

The research is pretty unequivocal: eating a plant-based, whole food diet is overall one of the healthiest strategies. But there are many ways to implement this into one’s diet. For some people, this looks like a Mediterranean Diet. Paleo is another common choice. Others opt for a vegetarian or even vegan diet. And many people will thrive on their chosen version. 

But did you know your genes play a large role in what foods best support your health, and if you don’t choose accordingly the best intentions can actually harm you? Fortunately, there is an easy way to solve this problem: know your genes.

 Genes are the sections of DNA that form the blueprint for every protein in our bodies, including how we digest, transport and utilize the very nutrients in our food. When we have small errors called SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs for short) in these genes, that can impact any of the steps along the way. (also see: genomics review article)

 While personalizing nutrition to each person’s genes is a powerful way to optimally support each person’s biochemistry and health, some diets can pose particular challenges. One example is a vegan diet. A vegan diet is comprised completely of plants and plant-based foods; no animal products are consumed. There are many support groups that educate people on the need to supplement with Vitamin B12, as this is a commonly nutritional deficiency for people eating a vegan diet. But there is so much more to know.

 Unfortunately, not all of us are designed genetically to thrive on only plants. While most of the nutrients we need are found in various forms in plants, a number of them require specific enzymes to convert them from the form found in plants to the active form our cells need. But if a person’s DNA has SNPs in one or more of these enzymes, the enzymes don’t do the job that is needed, and nutrient deficiencies occur.

Some nutritional issues are not specific to a vegan diet, such as needing a special form of folate called methylfolate; this can happen with any diet because of a person’s genetic makeup. But other nutritional issues are very specific to vegan diet-gene mismatches.

 Some of the most common mismatches involve vitamin A, vitamin D, omega fatty acids EPA & DHA, and CoQ10. In each case, the nutrient forms found in plants have to be converted by enzymes into their active form needed by cells to function optimally. If a person has SNPs and as a result these enzymes don’t function properly, deficiency results. These nutrients are critical in the functioning of hundreds of biochemical reactions and many biological systems. Over time, deficiencies can lead to mild or serious health issues including fatigue, skin issues, brain fog and difficulty focusing, depression, autoimmune conditions, heart disease, cancer and more.

 Each of these can be prevented by including additional foods that meet these needs, or by choosing specific supplements to fill the gaps. Knowing a person’s unique DNA blueprint enables informed choices  to help each person support their unique biochemistry, and their health, based on their genes.

Nutrition & the Skin:
Choosing the Path of a Certified Nutritionist

By: Mary Nielsen

The skin performs incredibly complex and vital functions for survival. It’s the first line of defense in protecting the body from infection, allergens, and irritants. Secretions of sebum keep the skin soft, supple, moisturized and hydrated. Touch receptors affect our ability to feel pressure, pain and pleasure. The skin’s surface absorbs whatever is applied to it and an exchange of oxygen occurs through the superficial capillaries of the circulatory system. The skin also synthesizes Vitamin D through the absorption of ultraviolet light.

Although we’ve intuitively known this, there is now mounting scientific research that the relationship between a person’s overall health and what their skin reveals is strongly connected. For the skin to function optimally, it needs the right nutrients. There are vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins and more that specifically nourish the skin and regulate the release of hormones and enzymes that optimize its functions. And, all of this is tied to how our individualized DNA affects skin aging, moisture levels, UV reactions, and collagen production, for example. 

Rosacea is a baffling skin condition, characterized by skin redness, sensitivity, acne-like papules and pustules, that can progress to a condition called rhinophyma, an overgrowth of tissue on the nose or even affect the eyes. It has a genetic component and is often seen in people of Nordic descent. People who have an infectious process due to the h.pylori bacteria, which can cause stomach ulcers, are often prescribed a medication, defined as a proton pump inhibitor. This is the same medication people take for acid-reflux. Uniquely, people who have rosacea and acid-reflux who are prescribed medication for their acid-reflux notice an improvement in their rosacea symptoms. New recommendations for treating rosacea include having the client take a proton pump inhibitor, intended to reduce acid-reflux.  Once I read about this study, I was hooked! The connection between the gut and the skin is undeniable. 

There is a protein growth hormone called Brain-Derived-Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF, that functions in the process of learning new information and memory. Some brain disorders, like depression and Alzheimer’s Disease, have been linked to low levels of BDNF. Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. Multiple studies have shown that supplemental curcumin increases levels of BDNF which could lead to potential in treating these disorders.[2]

I’m a late bloomer and an early adapter. That’s why I’ve decided to add to my skillset and become a certified nutritionist. I was in my 40’s when I decided to chuck the nursing career and attend esthetics school. Despite an initial substantial income loss, following my heart and my gut is a decision I have never regretted. I was in my 50’s when I decided to jump into the deep end of the entrepreneur pool. My successful medspa transitioned into owning an esthetics school and empowering others to success in their career passions. And, now in my mid-60’s, I’ve enrolled in an online college program that will guide me to a stronger understanding of nutrition, hormones and DNA. And I plan to build that knowledge into a stronger esthetics program because I believe that an understanding of the connectedness of our skin to every other function in our body is the future of professional skincare. 

So, I am confident that getting certified in nutrition is going to create a stronger esthetics program. Skincare professionals need to have a knowledge of nutrition and I want to create a protocol for a skincare consultation that includes probing deeper into our clients’ genetics and diets and creating individualized treatment plans based on that data.  I don’t believe esthetics education is about beauty. Its about health. Nutrition plays a significant role in homeostasis in our bodies. When our bodies are out of balance, it is evident in the skin. The truth is that we are what we eat!

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ROBERTA KLINE, MD (Educational Dir. /Women's Diagnostic Group)
Dr. Kline is a board-certified ObGyn physician, Integrative Personalized Medicine expert, consultant, author, and educator whose mission is to change how we approach health and deliver healthcare. She helped to create the Integrative & Functional Medicine program for a family practice residency, has consulted with Sodexo to implement the first personalized nutrition menu for healthcare facilities, and serves as Education Director for several organizations including the Women’s Diagnostic Health Network, Mommies on a Mission. Learn more at

MARY NIELSEN (Founder/ Faculty Director - Spectrum Advanced Aesthetics)
Mary established and manages a certified aesthetics institution in Portland Oregon supporting the academic leadership and technical ability to grow a med spa profitably. Through collaborative relationships with evolving aesthetics business, her programs (Fearless Beauties and Cascade Aesthetic Alliance) functions to help the esthetician, whether newly licensed or a veteran with education and networking. She is also a published author of best selling textbooks in aesthetic wellness including ADVANCED AESETHETICS and FEARLESS BEAUTIES. Mary is dedicated to bringing change to the esthetics/beauty industry through comprehensive education and empowerment through knowledge.

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