Understand Your DNA. Understand Your Health: Innovation Boulevard Interview with Dr. Lois Nahirney of dnaPower
January 7, 2019
If you could easily learn more about your roadmap to better everyday health, wouldn’t you take that journey? Do you want to know more about what factors specifically drive better health outcomes for your unique genetic makeup? How do you handle people’s worries about their health data?
These types of questions were at the core of my discussion with Dr. Lois Nahirney, the visionary helming dnaPower – a BC-based company empowering individuals to healthier lives by helping them understand (and act on) their unique DNA profile. I met Lois earlier this month and am pleased to share Lois’ vision with you.
IB: Thanks so much for your time. Please tell me what dnaPower does.
Lois: First, I need to provide a bit of background. Your DNA is essentially your body’s blueprint for health. So, by understanding your DNA, you can take significantly greater power over your health. Genetics tell us so much about how our individual bodies work. We can learn what fuel our bodies need to flourish (carbs, fats, or proteins) and we can learn how to support our bodies the most, through diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors.
dnaPower empowers individuals to take more ownership of their health. We offer our clients four comprehensive reports related to preventative health, enabling them to make better daily health decisions. These reports cover:
- Detoxification, inflammation, hormones, methylation
- Mental wellness
These reports – based on the client’s unique DNA – provide personalized nutrition and lifestyle advice. And we work with key partners to provide clients with a more complete experience to drive changes that will improve health.
IB: How do you go about getting my DNA?
Lois: It’s pretty easy. You simply order a cheek swab online. Once you mail your swab back to us, you can expect to receive your online results within 4 weeks. During that period, we take your swab and test targeted 250 SNPs (pronounced “SNIPS” and short for single nucleotide polymorphisms.) These 250 SNPs are genetic variations that identify the most common DNA markers scientifically studied and proven to be associated with common health conditions.
IB: What markers of the DNA do you look at?
Lois: We look at the genetic markers that impact everyday health – those markers manage how our body is genetically set up to manage inputs like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, gluten, lactose, sugar, salt and vitamins. We also look at key markers that regulate hormones, detoxification, inflammation and methylation that can impact your wellness and risk of chronic disease. In addition, we look at the genes related to fitness (like tendon and muscle strength) as well as mental wellness (like a concussion, depression, and Alzheimer’s.)
IB: How will this help my health?
Lois: By knowing where you are genetically weak, you can take actions through diet, exercise and lifestyle to support your body better. By eating and exercising for your DNA, you provide your body with the fuel it needs to thrive. By making simple changes, many of our clients have experienced:
- Weight loss
- Increased energy
- Improved digestion
- Improved detoxification
- Hormone balancing
- Proper supplementation
- Healthier looking skin
- Inflammation and pain reduction
IB: Why wellness and diet, as opposed to something else?
Lois: Everyday health is the most important asset we have. Chronic disease is affecting the population in epidemic proportions. A good part of this is related to factors we control. Our DNA test can give you information to live according to your genetic makeup, so that you can make better decisions to stay healthy and live longer.
We feel this is the most useful application for everyday health. We report on genes that are greatly influenced by diet and exercise, which means the changes you make can have a huge impact on your long-term health.
IB: Can you share the story of how dnaPower came to be?
Lois: Sixteen years ago, I adopted identical twin girls and that started my fascination with DNA. My twins – although identical – were incredibly different, and I was curious about how DNA plays a role in those differences. (One of my twins is transgender and identifies now as a boy.)
A friend introduced me to a new DNA health company and suggested I try the genetic testing to learn more about my children and myself. I was surprised to find information about myself that addressed years of health issues. For many years, I had struggled with shortness of breath, restless leg syndrome, gynecological issues, and fatigue. Of course, I’d been to many doctors over the years without a lot of success. After the DNA testing, I learned that my symptoms were related to a simple genetic issue relating to my body’s ability to process vitamin Bs. When I supplement with vitamin Bs, all of my symptoms go away.
At the same time, I also learned important information about my twins to support their long-term health. I wanted to bring this information to the world with a vision to create a healthier you and a healthier world. I now own the company and am passionate about helping people improve their everyday health by understanding their DNA.
IB: Who is your target market?
Lois: We focus on several key groups:
- People who are already health aware. They want to stay healthy and keep their family healthy.
- People who love data. These “bio-hackers” love using data and technology to make better health decisions.
- People who are, as they age, starting to deal with health issues like weight gain, inflammation, lack of energy, diabetes, arthritis, allergies, eczema, menopause, heart & stroke issues, dementia, and others.
We also work with partners (nutritionists, personal trainers, health professionals) who support people in being healthy to provide a more complete service to our clients. These practitioners are certified in using our reports and can help provide our customers with personalized action plans to increase success.
IB: What’s your approach to finding customers?
Lois: We sell online and through word of mouth. We attend trade shows to reach fitness professionals and nutritionists to help them learn how they can use DNA to provide more targeted results for their clients.
IB: I look at your website and see the testimonials from a lot of elite athletes, nutrition coaches, trainers, etc… What about regular folks like me?
Lois: Most of our clients are regular folks! They either just want to be healthier or are starting to have health issues and are looking for clues on where the challenges may lie. Everyone should know their DNA.
IB: Where are your customers located?
Lois: Currently the majority of our customers are in Canada as that is where we have done promotion work. However, we have a growing number of clients in the US, Mexico and globally.
IB: I find many entrepreneurs have one of those moments “Hey, we had not anticipated this.” Have you had any of those moments?
Lois: What surprises us is how cautious people are in learning their DNA. There is a fear about what happens to the data or what they will learn.
I want to stress that dnaPower focuses on common DNA variations that we can all do something about. Few of us have rare genetic variations and for those who do, we know the power of epigenetics (proper attention to diet, exercise, sleep, stress, environment) can decrease possible negative health impacts.
For the data, we only collect 250 “letters” on you (the specific 250 genes related to our tests). The DNA swab is connected to a bar code separate from your name. Your sample is destroyed and we do not sell your data (unlike 23andMe and Ancestry.) We have double encryption on our site, but even if we were ever hacked all that would exist are some letters. (For context, you need 3 billion letters to have someone’s full code.) This data isn’t useful for anyone.
We suspect Google learns more about you in a few clicks than what someone else can learn from your DNA swab!
Helping people understand their information is safe and cannot be compromised in any way is an important part of supporting our customers and business.
IB: Tell me something dnaPower has done that makes you particularly proud?
Lois: We change lives every day. We are very proud of how our information is giving people insight into their unique health blueprint and providing data to make positive changes for their health and their lives. Recently we had a woman who had suffered from eczema her entire life. Using her DNA information, we were able to show her the changes she needed to make to her diet. In just two weeks, her hands cleared and she had reduced the amount of eczema dramatically.
IB: What are your company goals for this coming year?
Lois: We are focussing on the growth of our online sales and marketing, as well as the development of new partners in the US, Mexico, and other countries. We have a new DNA training and certification program for partners that we will expand in the coming year.
IB: How about over the next 5 years?
Lois: Our goal is to become the most trusted source for DNA health information for customers globally. We are in discussions with channel and strategic partners around the world to grow our reach.
We have many product innovations to provide targeted DNA information for cannabis, arthritis, diabetes, allergies, mental wellness and more.
IB: How did you come to be a member of Innovation Boulevard?
Lois: We wanted to be part of a community focused on health care innovation with access to resources that could support our growth. Innovation Boulevard is dedicated to supporting the economic growth of companies like us. We appreciate the networking, introductions, and resources made available to us through Innovation Boulevard.
IB: Tell me about some of the awards dnaPower has won.
Lois: dnaPower was selected for programs like Hypergrowth Life at BC Tech. We are strong contributors in the community. As CEO, I’m honored to have received several awards including the BC Medal of Good Citizenship, YWCA Women of Distinction, BIV Influential Women in Business, and WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100.
IB: This has been really interesting. Any parting words you’d like to share?
Lois: We are here to help you live a happier, healthier life. Know your DNA. Empower your life.
Dr. Lois Nahirney is the President and CEO at dnaPower. Lois has a doctorate and a master’s in business and has held a number of international senior executive roles. She has been honoured with numerous business awards and volunteers extensively in the community and overseas. Her mission is to help people make better health decisions and live healthier lives based on their unique DNA. Visit www.dnapower.com and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can also check out the ebooks Eat for Your DNA and Exercise for Your DNA.
Alison Berg is the Director of Marketing and an EIR at Innovation Boulevard. She loves to chat with interesting people and learn how their businesses thrive. When she’s not doing “marketing stuff,” she’s starting businesses, watching Netflix, and hanging out with her 2 daughters.