In today’s episode I interview Christine Burke. She is a Forensic Genetic Genealogist, law enforcement expert, trainer and private investigator. She specializes in helping people who have discovered information about their biological family through genetic testing.
After experiencing “DNA Drama” resulting in the almost complete loss of her identity as she knew it, Christine created an innovative process using Genetic Genealogy to help others quickly and easily find biological family.
Since genetic testing has become more available, people are getting access to information that they didn’t know about themselves or their families, or perhaps they want information about their families that they haven’t been able to get anywhere else.
It was particularly interesting for me to talk with Christine from my perspective as a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in MTHFR and helping patients understand how their genetic variations are affecting their health, and what they can do to circumvent those effects.
Over the past decade, I’ve been helping people to understand the influence of their genetics in terms of polymorphisms, such as MTHFR, that affect metabolism and health. I then guide patients to do testing, including an ancestry.com panel that I then run through software to identify the most pertinent gene variations, as well as tests to show whether those gene variations are being expressed. I developed my MTHFR protocol to optimize methylation based on my own case and working with thousands of patients.
In the process of identifying gene variations, people do often report being surprised at what else they discovered in their ancestry, finding out something about their family members or making connections with family members who they didn’t know.
Genetics vs Genealogy
What’s interesting about genetics is that for so long we’ve relied on the genealogy to know our history but that is just the record. When you bring in the genetics it provides people with information that they may had not known before.
In the interview, Christine shares that she herself is an example. She recently found out (by doing a 23andMe test) that her father, whom she never knew because he died when she was young, was not her biological father and that she has half siblings who she had never met.
This could be quite shocking to receive this type of information. It is common not to know what to do with the information or how to process it. For Christine it was shocking to find out that there are people who are biologically related to her. It shook her sense of identity. That is when she realized that she wanted to bring much needed awareness and support for people in a similar situation.
It can become even more complicated when parents or families perpetuate the lie. That’s why having support and realizing that there is a healing process is so important. People have the right to know. Everybody deserves answers, not only from a medical perspective, but to try to understand what happened and to deal with the grief that this new information could cause.
Dealing With the Shock of Finding Out About Your Genetics
A lot of people feel hesitant to share the truth with their own families for many reasons. They might feel they will be judged or criticized for sharing what really happened. And yet, when the person involved finds out the truth, it can be quite shocking for them.
People could feel that information that they had a right to have, was “pushed under the rug.” This is what inspires Christine to support people in this process.
The healing needs to come from people being honest. For example, in the case of Christine’s mother, who passed away recently – her father was not her biological father either and she would always say “I don’t know why my dad doesn’t love me.” This is the kind of trauma that can be generated when people are not honest with their family members.
Christine believes that parents have a responsibility to their child, to put their child’s emotional and physical health first. When people continue a false narrative, it only ends up damaging their child’s health.
If you are observing intergenerational trauma in your family and you have information about the truth of what happened, then you have the power to stop the intergenerational trauma from continuing by sharing information. In doing so, you can change the future of your family. When the truth is not told, it is just a form of abuse that gets handed down and handed down, and that’s what we need to stop.
When people find out about their relatives through a genetic test, it can be a really hard place to be because, first, they need to cope with the shock of having this new information; then they could try reaching out to the people who they would normally reach out to, but they may not be there for them anymore; and then the new people they just found out about may not want to be present to listen to their identity crisis. This is why it’s critical for these people to find the right person to talk to about all this. Otherwise, one trauma leads to another.
Christine clarifies that she is not a counselor. Her background is as a detective. But after going through this herself, she wanted to offer tools for other people to be able to find out information they need in order to move forward. She is able to help people find biological relatives, and she has created training programs to show people how to look for this information themselves.
While finding new information about your family of origin can be shocking, Christine finds that it is also the first step in the healing process.
Genetics and a Sense of Empowerment about Your Health
When I review genetic reports with patients (Dr. Doni speaking), it is common to first feel a sense of fear – what am I going to find out about myself that I didn’t know before and am I going to be able to do something about it. Then, once we review all the information, people often report feeling validated, realizing that the information in their genetic report makes sense in terms of their real day-to-day experience in their body.
It can actually be quite empowering to understand the blueprint behind your biological and metabolic processes, and responses to stress.
And then, to realize that we have the power to turn off genetic expression through diet and lifestyle – it’s mind blowing! Our health and future is not 100% determined by our genetics.
Our genes simply show potential tendencies. What has more power in determining our health destiny is what we do each day to recover from stress and trauma, and how we take care of our bodies, in terms of diet, sleep, nutrients, exercise, and activities that our bodies reset.
That is how I realized that our Stress Type – how we each respond to stress – is determined both by our genes and our past stress exposure.
For example, some people tend to have higher adrenaline levels when exposed to stress. This is related to gene variations of COMT and MAO, but it is determined by levels of inflammation, toxicity, and nutrients in their body. I can see all this when reviewing test results, and then guide patients to correct the elevated adrenaline levels so they can feel well and not be constantly in a state of high adrenaline.
Others tend to become depleted in adrenaline, which means they are more likely to feel tired when under stress. In that case, I can suggest the precursor nutrients to take to correct the deficiency and help the person keep up when under stress.
Overall, understanding your genetic variations, and how best to find out whether those variations are affecting your health, and then having guidance to support your body to navigate around those metabolic traffic jams, can make a significant difference in your health.
There is a lot of confusion out there on this topic. Many practitioners will prescribe based on a genetic variation, without finding out first whether you even need that prescription. So I often find myself warning people to work with someone like me who has extensive training and experience guiding people, so that you can feel better and not worse.
Where to Start with a Genetic Test
There are many genetic tests available now. Some tests are specifically designed for health purposes and can give you a sense of your genetic predisposition to health issues. There are other tests that give you information about your biological relatives.
23andMe and Ancestry.com are accessible to the public and can provide both health and ancestral information. There are some more specialized tests for identity, such as GED Match or FT DNA, which are the only databases that law enforcement is allowed to utilize to help identify unknown deceased and to catch criminals.
The important thing is to have someone who can help you evaluate and understand these reports correctly.
A genetic test result is like the blueprint of the person, which is amazing!
Everything needed to make the unique you is right in there and it’s just fascinating what you can do with this information. We can take action in our lives to influence how this genetic information will affect us. Our longevity can be influenced by our lifestyle and by both our stress exposure, and our recovery from it.
Receiving genetic information and having support to allow ourselves to go through the healing process of having that information, makes it possible to integrate the information into our lives and our understanding of ourselves. All of this actually helps to decrease the probability of developing health issues in the future.
As traumatic as it could be to find out a truth that you didn’t know before, it can also be liberating. Once you have information, then you can become proactive and make choices based on that information.
If you want to learn more about how I help patients with genetic variations, such as MTHFR and others, be sure to watch my FREE MTHFR Masterclass.
To understand my approach to helping people recover from stress and trauma with my Stress Recovery Protocol, you may want to start by reading my book Master Your Stress Reset Your Health. I talk about genetic variations and how to address them in the book too!
In my book, I also share the quiz I developed to help you identify how stress has affected your cortisol and adrenaline levels. You can also take the Stress Type Quiz online.
For the most comprehensive support to recover from stress and trauma, even with the most difficult health issues (physical or mental), it is best to meet with me one-on-one, which is available to you no matter where you are in the world (via phone or zoom). You can set up a one-on-one appointment with me here.
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