The SLC6A4 Gene (Serotonin Reuptake Gene): Improve Your Mood and Anxiety through a Simple Cheek Swab
Featuring “DNA 4 KIDS” with “GENiE”
“New genomic elements will be linked to complex medical diseases, and the links will allow us to determine the ultimate causes of diseases”
– Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D.
“DNA+Evironment+Triggers+Chance = Your biological destiny. Make it your Mission to determine the future of your mood and anxiety through genetic testing.”
-Bruce Alan Kehr, M.D.
Welcome, reader, to your very own version of Mission Impossible. Picture this: There’s been an international incident in your hometown that has sewn mass chaos—and nobody seems to be in charge. The politicians have gone AWOL, the police are nowhere to be found. Citizens are focused on gathering their families, leaving the main city utilities completely unmaintained. As your Mission is being described to you, you realize moral panic looks even scarier up close: without electricity, without water, without basic supplies, it’ s only a matter of time before the whole system begins shutting down. People may get hurt. You have been chosen to carry out a single mission: Go out and find the regulators—the entities that can begin to bring order to this mess—and make sure they have a foolproof way of entering and exiting your little town so that they can reinstate order and balance as fast as they can. Make sure they have automobiles and a clear map, and that they know where the gas station is. They may be coming in and out for a while. Reader: Do you choose to accept this Mission? If so, you’re in great company—for this is the very mission of one of the most important genes in your whole body: SLC6A4 (cue the music!)
SLC6A4 is a gene involved in regulating the functioning of the entire serotonin system, particularly in the brain and gut. If you were born with a variation of this gene, your body’s ability to get the serotonin system regulation it needs on everything from sleep to appetite to mood to anxiety to OCD to aggressive behavior—may be at risk. The biological systems that regulate these conditions, much like the infrastructure of any town or city that sustains an international incident, become subject to “chaotic functioning.” In this case the “incident” is a mutation in your SLC6A4 gene—detectable through a simple cheek swab. Your Mission here is simple—TEST YOUR DNA.
Why SLC6A4 Gene Testing is Key to your “Mission”
You could think of SLC6A4 Gene Testing as a depression gene test or an anxiety gene test. Here’s how the system works when everything goes well: Your SLC6A4 gene, also known as the Serotonin Transporter Gene (yes, it’s that single-minded on its mission!) is responsible for “creating” or encoding a protein—likewise known as the Serotonin Transporter (gene testing here also acts as a “Serotonin gene” test)—whose sole purpose is to transport Serotonin to where it needs to be, and subsequently to recycle it so that it can be used again and again by the body. This picture will help you to understand:
If you were born with a variation of your SLC6A4 gene—research currently suggests that two short alleles versus two long alleles can create the most drastic problem—you are highly likely to be inclined towards a number of emotional ailments, including but certainly not limited to depression, anxiety, and a greater proclivity towards PTSD, phobia, bulimia, and even alcoholism. You may also be more likely to have functional bowel diseases such as IBS, as most of the body’s manufacture and storage of serotonin occurs in the gut. As you can see, disrupted regulation of the serotonin system, due to a mutation in the serotonin transporter (reuptake) gene, can wreak havoc in many locations in your body.
Reader, if that is all the gene could tell you about yourself, that knowledge alone is worth getting a genetic test. However, understanding your variation on this particular gene can also shed hugely important insights into what medication you might respond to—and what meds you would be better off avoiding altogether.
Genetic Testing as a Depression Gene Test, an Anxiety Gene Test — Also as an SSRI Selection Test
If you have been following along with this blog or have been in the therapist’s chair yourself, you may recognize the term Serotonin from my past work or from your prescription meds. A very popular class of antidepressants is known as the SSRI class—Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors—that block the serotonin transporter! Generally speaking, depressed or anxious patients are thought to have low serotonin. Our bodies are complex systems, and so there’s no such simple solution as taking a “serotonin” pill—instead, doctors prescribe a pill that helps prevent the body from recycling its serotonin back into the brain cell that released it in the first place (please reference the picture above once more). But if your body has a variant of the SLC6A4 gene, then SSRIs do not work very well at all—and can in fact have the opposite effect, sending your body into further chaotic disarray. These medications include; Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR), Paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR), and Sertraline (Zoloft). In this sense, a genetic test can also be considered an SSRI selection test—and can be crucial to your wellbeing. Depending upon other genetic variants (such as how you metabolize certain medications), other medications that boost dopamine and norepinephrine (for example Wellbutrin/Bupropion) may be more effective.
Genie, I wish to go on a Great Journey
Your wish is granted! In your body, you have an incredible network of roads called nerves. These nerves put together a complicated road map that allows information to travel great lengths from one part of your body to another.
Just as you would experience on a long trip, many of the roads in our body have certain toll booths where chemicals line up to get from one place to another. If you have ever travelled on one of the busier nights of the year (think about Sunday after Thanksgiving), you know that there can be a big difference in traffic between a road that has many toll gates open and one with just a few toll booth operators that seem to take forever with collecting money.
Serotonin, one of the feel-good chemicals in your body, uses a special toll booth made by the gene SLC6A4. The very purpose of this booth is to remove extra Serotonin off the road to avoid a traffic jam. These toll booths can be a target of medications that help kids who are anxious or depressed. They are particularly helpful for kids who are born with many functioning and efficient toll gates. For the kids who have SLC6A4 toll gates that might not work as well, it would be a good idea to think of a different route besides Serotonin to help them feel good. Genetic testing through Genomind can provide this important map to help you and your doctor figure out what the best directions are for your trip to feeling good. Buckle Up, and have a safe trip on your journey to feeling better!
Whatever It Takes
Reader, I’m on my own singular mission: To do Whatever It Takes to help you feel well, recover your health, improve your relationships and determine your destiny. A cornerstone of that mission is my belief that the DNA you are born with is only part of your destiny—and we should figure out together how to test it and (wherever possible) to modify its expression. By equipping yourself with the right tools, you can take control of your life and change it for the better. Genetic testing may help you to bring about astonishing results in improving your health and well-being. Allow me to join you on this Mission to create a brighter future for you and those you love.
If you would like to feel better and function more effectively through genetic testing and improve your love relationships, order my new book, ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, Becoming Whole: A Healing Companion to Ease Emotional Pain and Find Self-Love.
Proceeds from your purchase of my book will be used to directly help victims of child abuse.
(*Drs. Kehr and Novitsky hold no ownership interest in Genomind)