In our modern medical world, everyone is often treated the same. If you have a certain set of symptoms or certain results in particular lab work, it’s not uncommon for you to receive the exact same treatment as someone else. The problem is that this other person may have a totally different background. After all, everybody has different genetics, different environments, different nutrition, and different external factors such as lifestyle habits. And these different factors result in one unique and vital factor that’s absolutely crucial to take into consideration for your health: your biochemical individuality.
Think about it: No two people are exactly the same. So, why should your medical treatment be? You deserve a treatment plan as unique as you are! After all, what works for one person may not work for you, and vice versa. Let’s take a look at what biochemical individuality actually is and how it impacts your health and treatment plans.
What is Biochemical Individuality?
Think of your body and your health needs like your fingerprint: No one else has ever or will ever have the same fingerprint as you. It’s a marker unique to your body.
Well, think of your biochemical makeup in the exact same way. While your body will have certain nutritional requirements to support your biochemical processes, someone else will have very different requirements. This is known as biochemical individuality, and it impacts every biochemical process in your body—from your body’s stress response to your blood sugar regulation to your immune system response to your thyroid function.
But where did this idea of biochemical individuality come from? How do we know we don’t all share the same nutritional requirements to support our biochemistry? In the 1950s, American biochemist and researcher Roger Williams conducted research and revealed that the recommended daily allowances (RDA) of nutrients weren’t enough to meet bodily requirements of most people’s nutritional needs, though it would meet some. As a result, he became interested in the concept of biochemical individuality and how the body’s nutritional needs for repair and restoration differ. 
How Biochemical Individuality Works
The RDAs we see today largely depend on the notion that everyone metabolizes and absorbs nutrients in the same optimal way. Here’s the problem with that: We are all genetically different and come from different backgrounds, so how can we all absorb and metabolize nutrients the same?
Think of all the variables we’ve discussed. Do you remember how stress causes adrenal fatigue and how adrenal fatigue impacts everything from your ability to digest and absorb your foods to your blood sugar levels to your heart health? If someone is under chronic stress, how can he or she possible metabolize and absorb nutrients as efficiently as someone who carries very little stress? They can’t.
Another variable is someone’s predisposition to certain illnesses. If digestive disorders run in your family and you’re unable to find the root cause, it’s pretty safe to say that you won’t absorb the nutrients you need for optimal bodily function as well as someone without digestive disorders. If diabetes runs in your family, your body may be under extra stress to maintain your blood sugar. And when that happens, attention is diverted away from nutrient metabolization and absorption.
The same goes for food intolerances. Do you know someone who’s lactose intolerant or has a gluten sensitivity (or maybe even celiac disease)? Not only are they unable to metabolize and absorb the nutrients from those foods, but the body’s internal stress of trying to do so actually causes inflammation in the body, which further prevent nutrient absorption.
As you can see, your RDAs of different vitamins and minerals are naturally going to be very different from someone else’s. And, as a result, your treatment and personal nutritional goals should be as well.
How Biochemical Individuality Impacts Your Treatment
So, by now, you’re probably thinking, “OK, Dr. Pingel, I get that I have unique nutritional needs, but what do I do now if I can’t depend on the USDA’s RDAs? Where do I start?”
I get it … it can be a bit overwhelming to process this information. After all, it likely goes against everything you’ve been told your entire life, right? But you can’t quite let it go, either, because it makes too much sense. Things are starting to click, like why a certain diet that worked for other people didn’t work for you. Why certain exercises don’t help you or keep you motivated. Why certain medications didn’t help you like your doctor said they would, perhaps even causing side effects that were “very rare” or “unlikely to be from this medication.”
Here are the top action points I want you to take away from the concept of biochemical individuality: Have an honest conversation with your doctor about your desire to not simply “treat the symptoms.” (Click here for more tips on how to cultivate a strong doctor-patient relationship that will help you to have these conversations.)
Explain to your doctor that you want to be treated as an individual and your desire to conduct a full investigation of your symptoms to get to the root cause. You want to leave no stone unturned. You don’t want to assume you have a certain illness or condition simply based on your symptoms. Instead, you want to uncover the root cause so you know exactly what areas of your body need the most support.
So, how do you conduct this investigation? You start by asking your doctor to conduct a thorough exam and order thorough lab work and genetic screening. If your doctor doesn’t support your efforts to truly achieve your best health, it may be time to consider finding a new one—or seeks a function medicine physician or naturopathic physician to assist your efforts.
After all, simply being handed a medication for symptoms without taking your unique body—your biochemical individuality—into account is like being just another number. And aren’t you and your health worth more than that?
- Everyone has different nutritional requirements to support their biochemical processes, a concept known as biochemical individuality.
- The USDA’s recommended daily allowances (RDAs) assume everyone metabolizes and absorbs nutrients in the same way. As a result, they don’t meet most people’s nutritional requirements.
- To find a health plan that works for you, start by having a discussion with your doctor. Make sure to tell him or her that you want to follow a plan that’s custom to your unique needs and background so that you can reach your optimal health.
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