3 vital aspects of tailor-made medical care
As humans, we like to celebrate our individuality. Whether we do this through the clothes we wear, the cars we drive or the pastimes we pursue, we make a point of filling our lives with things that complement and accentuate our personalities.
However, there are certain times in life that we favor the generic over the unique, especially when it comes to our health and well-being. From popular diets to prescription medicine, we are usually pointed in the direction of treatments that work best for the majority, with the assumption that they will work for us too. In reality, this is not always the case, as Dr. Matt Dawson, founder and CEO of Wild Health, explained during his presentation at the Alltech ONE Virtual Experience.
“You are not a statistic, and medicine shouldn't treat you like you're a statistic,” Matt said. “We really should not be giving you medications or treatments based on epidemiology and population studies.”
This ideology creates the foundational ethos of Wild Health, which endeavors to deliver personalized and precision medicine based on an individual’s genetic makeup and lifestyle. In order to formulate this bespoke medical care, there are certain fundamental aspects that Matt and his team look at.
The idea for Wild Health came when Matt’s cofounder, Dr. Mike Mallin, learned that his cholesterol numbers were less than ideal. Matt found this shocking and worrisome, mainly because he could not understand why.
“At the time, we were in our mid-30s, we were eating what we thought was a perfect diet, we were doing ultra-marathons, and this just didn’t make sense,” explained Matt. “We thought we were doing all the right things.”
To combat the problem, Mike went down the typical treatment route. Matt advised a well-researched and supported diet, and his doctor prescribed him the same medication he would for any patient with high cholesterol. However, Mike’s situation got worse, so the pair started investigating other options. This was when they came to realize that, by looking at a patient’s DNA, it was possible to tailor personalized treatments. Looking at Mike’s genetics, they were able to pinpoint the exact strands of DNA that were inhibiting his recovery, and they altered his diet in order to work around those issues. From this initial success, they furthered their research, developed their process and finally established the business they run today.
According to Matt, genomics can tell us a lot about what our body needs and wants. Beyond nutrition and diet, studying our DNA can show us what types of exercise we are most suited to and much more. This information is key to developing tailor-made and personalized treatments.
2. The overall picture
While genomics plays a huge part in your overall health and is the first thing that Matt looks at when developing treatments, he admits that it is not the only factor taken into consideration.
“Looking at your DNA is really important; it's like your human operating system,” explained Matt. “But it's not the whole picture. Health and wellness, and your longevity, is about 20% genetics, but most of it is actually epigenetics too.”
This is because our lifestyle affects how our genetics operate, and if they do not support one another, we cannot achieve optimal health. Matt reckons that there are four foundational needs to be accounted for:
- Stress and relationships
This means that when creating the ideal treatment, Matt needs to look at the patient’s current state of well-being, too, through both medical tests and by simply having a conversation about their lifestyle. By doing this, he can see how a person is already addressing, or neglecting, the strengths and weaknesses in their genetic makeup.
“As much as we like to talk about peptides and all these small molecules and other medications that can make a big difference,” admitted Matt, “they really dwarf in comparison to the basics.”
For example, a person’s DNA may show that they require more than the average dose of vitamin D — but if they spend a lot of time outdoors, they could already be taking in the necessary amount.
By combining these results with the genomic profile, Matt can begin to set a person on the right path to optimized health.
3. Personal preference
The final consideration for the perfect, personalized health plan is the most subjective of them all: personal preference. After all, as Matt reasons, the perfect treatment is the one that appeals most to the patient.
“That’s critically important,” stated Matt. “If we give you the perfect diet for you, but it’s not things you’re going to eat, then we’ve wasted our time.”
By combining all of these factors, Wild Health is at the forefront of a new way of approaching medicine. Matt’s work shows and continues to build on the fact that by taking our individual quirks and traits into consideration, we can find medical care that not only optimizes our health but appeals to us too.