John O’Connor

Hi, I’m John O’Connor, founder of Gene Food. I am passionate about nutrition, genetics, and startups. Gene Food combines all of these interests into one project for me, and I couldn’t be more excited to get our message of personalized nutrition out to the public.

So, how did I become a health nerd?

It all started with my trips to the Ping Clinic in Laguna Beach. I was living in New York City at the time, and started coming to California in the winter to escape the worst of the cold weather. A good friend of mine swore by the Ping Clinic, so I stopped in to see Mia. She promptly brought me under her care with treatment, herbs and love. When I came back to the City, multiple friends told me I looked like a different person. I certainly felt like one. The Traditional Chinese Medicine view is that a taxed liver contributes to a lack of focus and anxiety. (R) After years of restaurant meals, drinking, and city stress, I had both. But after treatments with Mia, and about a month in the sunshine, my mind felt clear and strong.

This opened a new paradigm for me.

Prior to my meetings with Mia, I believed the standard western party line that anything that isn’t a drug has no purpose, that ancient practices like acupuncture had no efficacy. I now saw things differently. My eyes were opened to the concept of self care, the practice of understanding what your body and mind need to be healthy. I saw that taking care of myself allowed me to be a better version of myself, a version better equipped to serve others. Reaching this conclusion put me on a quest for as much information about how my body works as possible. I started reading voraciously, and haven’t yet stopped.

My friendship with Dr. Brody taught me that there is a vast body of science available to people looking for information about their health, and that when it comes to health, details matter. For example, what may seem like “small” dental issues, can cause cardiovascular disease. The body is an integrated unit. I began to see that the “standard issue” regimen of surface lab testing is practical for large groups of people, but often not what’s needed to fully diagnose an issue, or to perform at your best. My interest in data and lab testing, led me to nutrigenomics. It was on my first Boston Heart Diagnostics panel that I was first introduced to MTHFR.

The idea that people process the foods they eat differently based on their genetics fascinates me. Put simply, I work on Gene Food as a passion project. I believe that a “molecular medicine” revolution is long overdue, and that the day is coming when doctors will regularly use genetics as a diagnostic tool.

I have seen benefits from incorporating my own genetic information into my daily health regimen.

My personal nutrition plan takes a number of SNPs into account (without a hyper focus on any). For example, I have a compound homozygous SNP for SOD2 A16V, which prompted me to have dental amalgams removed, and also motivates supplementing with antioxidants, such as glutathione, curcumin, and Vitamin C.

I cycle methyl folate supplementation, both to support a heterozygous MTHFR A1298C SNP, as well as to support healthy BH4 levels. Especially in light of my SOD2 status, I do what I can to prevent NOS uncoupling, and BH4 is part of that equation.

Yams drizzled with good quality olive oil are a staple of my diet, as an antioxidant source, but also to address a a BCO1 variant which makes it more difficult for my body to utilize beta carotene.

Due to some B vitamin SNPs such as MTRR, that are associated with low B12 levels, I supplement on occasion with methylcobalamin, but don’t mega dose so as to preserve lithium levels.

Understanding my AOC1 status, and how it contributes to lower diamine oxidase levels, was truly a revelation for me. I now watch my histamine intake, especially when it’s spring time in Austin.

I’ve learned through genetic testing that I am a slow metabolizer of caffeine, and generally stay away from coffee. Analysis of my Vitamin D Receptor genes has helped me explain why I sometimes have heart palpitations when I take high doses of MCT oil. I cycle protein intake due to some CPS1 SNPs, and the list goes on…

This sounds like a lot to some people, and yes, my friends think I’m a little crazy. While I understand where they’re coming from, I also believe in the value of working hard to understand how my body works. In his classic book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig divides the world of motorcycle owners into two camps: those who enjoy maintaining and working on their motorcycles, and those who don’t. The latter group can’t be troubled with details, they assume everything is working just fine beneath the surface. If an issue arises, they call a mechanic. By contrast, the first group know their motorcycles and become their own mechanics. This allows them to make small adjustments that prevent larger issues down the road.

Robert Pirsig is a big part of the inspiration behind Gene Food.

If you see the body (motorcycle) as a vehicle for exploration and discovery, as I do, it makes sense to take the time to learn how it works. I think we’re all in a better position to take advantage of life’s opportunities when we’re functioning at as close to 100% as possible. Should something break down along the way, the mechanics won’t be stuck by the side of the road. This gives access to more of the road, allows for more trips, and ultimately, may be the deciding factor in how life unfolds around you.

Genetics, nutrition and lifestyle play an important role in this journey and it is my hope that the work we do at Gene Food will help people live healthier, happier lives.

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