FAIRMONT, W.Va. – The DNA service 23andMe is known for checking your ancestry, but a woman from Fairmont recently found out she had Celiac’s Disease through their health test.
23andMe’s genetic test requires the customer to spit into a tube, which is then sent to their laboratory, where they can test genetics for health predispositions, ancestry, wellness, carrier status and traits. The service outlines the results on their mobile app.
“I originally got it because there’s a lot of diabetes on one side of my family. Both my grandmothers had mastectomies due to breast cancer and my mom had the aggressive form of ovarian cancer,” said Carolyn Mayes, “The thing that stuck out to me the most is that I have a higher risk of Celiac disease. I’ve never heard of that and neither did my husband.”
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where eating gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Mayes said when she started reading the symptoms, it started to make sense.
“I always had migraines that never went away and my dad said, ‘Why don’t you do Tylenol?’ I said, ‘Tylenol doesn’t work for me,'” Mayes explained. “I always try to donate blood and each time I can never do it because my iron was always low. I asked my doctor, ‘Can you test me for Celiac disease?’ And I came back with my test results and I was positive for Celiac disease.”
Since then, Mayes eats a strict gluten-free diet.
“And I can tell with certain things, like I started getting nauseated really quickly. I don’t feel good. And I just automatically can tell, and now I get bloated,” said Mayes, “I have to be aware of certain medications now. Even vitamins, all my medications have to say certified gluten free.”
Those who use 23andMe can test their likelihood of many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and certain types of cancer. The company can list genetic health risks and if you are a carrier for certain conditions. However, 23andMe does not diagnose any health conditions.
“Any time a customer receives a variant detected result, it’s important for them to partner with their healthcare provider and get that confirmed in a clinical setting,” said Altovise Ewing, medical liaison for 23andMe.
Because Celiac’s Disease is a hereditary condition, Mayes said she knows what health conditions to look for in her children, and now she wants her husband to get tested, too. She said her daughter is already showing symptoms of a gluten intolerance.
“I know like most people are kind of wary about like genetic testing done, but I feel like it’s really important to know what your genetics are because I wouldn’t have even known I had Celiac disease and I ate bread. All my friends have said, ‘Carolyn you’re eating sandwiches every single day.’ I was like, ‘I love bread’,” said Mayes. “I would’ve never known I have Celiac disease, and I would continue [to eat gluten], and I know Celiac untreated lifelong can give you intestinal cancer or colon cancer and it can do a lot of damage within your body. So I was really glad I did 23andMe.”