It’s true that prevention is always better than cure, but often the cause of your discomfort isn’t always clear. We all know at least one person who, even after countless medical tests, just couldn’t get to the bottom of what was causing their symptoms; has tried numerous diets but just can’t seem to shift that extra weight; or just can’t figure out why they’re so damn anxious all the time. You could take a general healthy lifestyle approach to life and hold thumbs, fingers, and toes that it works. But, what if you could take it one step further by applying personalised health care interventions based on your genetic makeup? What if you knew the steps you were taking to get and stay healthy were the most likely to help you now and in the future? Call me lazy, but when it comes to things like nutrition, exercise, and even health I want to know that the things I’m making an effort to do are worth the graft, and are going to work. Which is why I was so interested in doing a Genetics Test with 3×4 Clinic in Cape Town. It’s the most fascinating thing I have ever done and the results were pretty much life changing!

The 3X4 Clinic based in Zonnebloem, Cape Town launched in January and is the first clinical centre of its kind in South Africa. Offering personalised gene-based health care that takes into account scientific evidence when treating health, fitness, and nutrition concerns, this unique healthcare centre is all about results-driven health. What makes 3×4 so unique is its upstream approach to health care — rather than treating symptoms downstream with things like medicine or other, more extreme, symptomatic treatments 3×4 is more interested in the cause of the symptoms. By treating the ‘why’ 3×4 can help patients treat the root of the problem and even prevent similar or new conditions from cropping up in future. Founded by Dr Yael Joffe, a global expert in the field of Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics, the clinic is helping change the lives of patients looking for answers to ‘unexplained’ conditions as well as those who want to take a proactive approach to health care. Forget countless blood tests, this single cheek swab test is a single test solution with a multitude of insights for health optimisation and disease prevention.

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My results – giving a ‘healthy lifestyle’ new meaning

The great thing about this approach to healthcare is that it can help you figure out exactly how to live a healthy lifestyle customised to your body’s needs. From a nutrition and diet perspective, 3×4 can help you pinpoint what diet you should be following to reach your ideal weight. For example, my test results showed that I have what is known as the ‘buffet’ gene as well as the ‘snacking’ gene meaning I struggle to register when I am full and I have a need to eat more often (lucky me!), so when it comes to weight loss or maintaining my weight I need to be aware of these factors. The test also gives you feedback on your weight gain and weight loss resistance, helping you understand if there’s a genetic reason behind why you just can’t seem to shift those extra kilograms.

On the exercise and fitness front, 3×4 is able to help you optimise sports performance pinpoint which types of exercise you should be doing to build muscle, lose weight, or reach whatever fitness goal you have set for yourself. My test results showed that I have a genetic makeup that allows for high power and high endurance during exercise so things like high-intensity interval training, or endurance sports are best for me. However, the test also showed that I have a high risk for soft tissue sports related injuries so it’s not recommended that I participate in more than 2 or 3 high-intensity sports activities a week. Interestingly, I also discovered that the way my body burns energy from exercise isn’t super efficient so in terms of weight loss, diet is more effective than exercise in this regard.

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Hallelujah moments

One of the biggest benefits for me doing this test was dealing with chronic cold sores. For 3 years now I’ve been getting a cold sore every month (I know right, hell!) and for a while now I’ve been convinced it was linked to the contraceptive pill. I let it go on this long because I was told by many doctors that there is no link between cold sores and the pill (even after I found hundreds of people online convinced of the same issue!). I was given herpes medication (oh joy!) and basically told to accept my fate. As it turns out I’m not crazy, my genetic test results revealed that my body isn’t the best at breaking down estrogen or maintaining what is called a ‘favourable estrogen metabolism’ meaning things like the contraceptive pill aren’t the best for me and could, in fact, cause immune responses like, ahem, cold sores. Since getting my results three months ago I’ve ditched the pill and haven’t had a cold sore breakout since. This was a real hallelujah moment for me and taking this step to ditch the pill was key in helping my body break down excess sex hormones and prevent cancer in the long term.

Helping 3×4 clients figure out what they should be eating isn’t just about weight loss, the test can also give you the information you need to treat pre-existing conditions as well as prevent ones you may be predisposed to. Another hallelujah moment for me during this process was dealing with psoriasis. I have been struggling with scalp psoriasis for many years and while I’ve found things that have helped to ease my symptoms temporarily, I’ve never been able to treat it super effectively. My test results showed that my body isn’t the best at handling inflammation which can be exasperated by common dietary irritants such as dairy, soy, or gluten. Leaving this unchecked can lead to chronic inflammation and result in underlying conditions like eczema, psoriasis, IBS, and other diseases. Hopefully now, with this knowledge and dietary guidelines from my nutritionist at 3×4 I will be able to tackle the problem head one (excuse the pun) and treat the cause of my condition rather than the symptom, my irritated scalp.

Genes to Plate

Getting the answers you need with 3×4

While conventional, pharmaceutical-based medicine is very much about waiting until something is wrong and then treating it, this type of integrative medicine is prevention orientated and is more about lifestyle, what you can do in terms of your diet, exercise, sleep and managing stress. All of these factors not only have a big impact on preventing disease but even if you have a problem, can be carried out in conjunction with pharmaceuticals to really get to the core of your issues while treating the symptoms.

While quite a few genetic test companies have sprouted up in South Africa recently, 3×4 is unique in that it offers a physical clinic where clients can come in for consultations with a team of medical physicians as well as online support for clients based around the country. Clients who have done the genetic test can either book a consultation with a 3×4 physician to analyse their results in person or do a Skype consultation at a time and place that suits them. Your results, as well as your unique health care plan, are emailed to you so you can receive your test feedback anywhere. Also important to note is that, while conventional genetic tests look at the impact of single gene variants, independently, regardless of their interaction with other genes or pathways, 3×4 looks at pathway-based analysis, meaning the 3×4 test looks at how genes interact with one another and work together to impact key metabolic processes. The test includes 82 gene variants across 25 metabolic areas and encompasses cellular processes, body systems, energy and weight management, as well as exercise and sports performance optimisation – all in one single cheek swab test.

3×4 is also unique in how it relays and translates your results for you. The 3×4 report is structured in an infographic style with your results colour-coded from dark purple (very high) to light green (low), making it easy for you to clearly see what the most important key metabolic pathways are that need attention first. Your unique genetic story is simplified into an easy to read report and you are given personalised diet changes, lifestyle suggestions, and possible supplements or behaviour adjustments, making it easier for you to translate your complex genetic data into a clear plan of action.

Find 3×4 Clinics at 1st Floor, The Harrington, 50 Harrington St, Zonnebloem, Cape Town. For more information and to do the 3×4 Genetic test visit the 3×4 Clinics website.