Kerry Song is a writer and producer with a background in economics and finance. Her passion is to create meaningful content that engages and empowers the audience to become more mindful and more compassionate with themselves and with others.
Biohacking for beginners
3 easy changes you can make today to improve your health
You’ve heard of hacking computers, hacking smartphones, hacking email. You’ve even heard of hacking elections. But what about hacking your body? The concept is called biohacking. At first, it sounds like something out of Brave New World. But biohacking is really all about self-improvement. And while it can range from at-home DIY projects to high-tech lab experiments, there are a number of ways you can start to incorporate methods of biohacking into your daily routine.
WHAT IS BIOHACKING?
Let’s start with the fundamentals. Biohacking is essentially the practice of changing our chemistry and our physiology through science and self-experimentation. It’s a broad definition, but that’s also because the idea of “biohacking” is constantly evolving. It can be as simple as implementing lifestyle and dietary changes that improve the functioning of your body. It can be as daily as using wearable technology to help you monitor and regulate physiological data. Or it can be as extreme as using implant technology and genetic engineering.
The possibilities are endless, but they are all rooted in the idea that we can change our bodies and our brains, and that by doing so we can ultimately become smarter, faster and better as human beings.
So where do you begin? You can easily start using wearables like the FitBit or the Apple Watch to track the way your body operates. Or you could start experimenting with the power of music in your everyday life and incorporating more foods that reduce inflammation. But if you’re ready for something new, and something different, consider one of these non-invasive methods from our biohacker’s guide and see what benefits you reap:
1. RED LIGHT THERAPY
Have you ever spent a lot of time indoors and begun to feel just a little… off? Our bodies and brains need light to function at their best. Not only does the sun give us an important dose of vitamin D, but it helps us in a number of other physiological and emotional ways. Let’s look a little closer – specifically at the light wavelengths between 600 and 900 nanometers (nm). How does this range of light waves impact our bodies?
Studies have shown that your body responds particularly well to red and near-infrared wavelengths, which range from 600 to 900 nm. This particular range of light waves are absorbed by the skin to a depth of about 8 to 10 millimeters, at which point your mitochondrial chromophores absorb the photons. This, in turn, activates a number of nervous system and metabolic processes.
In simpler terms, red light therapy has become an increasingly popular form of technology used to treat a number of conditions that require stimulation of healing, relief of pain and inflammation and restoration of function. And because it is a non-invasive and non-chemical treatment, it’s not as intimidating as other forms of biohacking.
We talk a lot about cardiac health. After all, heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States. Everyone should be aware of cardiovascular diseases and how to protect themselves as best they can. As a culture, we also talk a lot about skin health – slathering on sunscreen as part of our daily routine and supplementing our diets with collagen-boosting foods. Weight loss, inflammation, memory, GI health – these are all at the forefront of our minds. But how often do you think about the health of our bones?
The thing with bone health is that it creeps up on you and most people are unaware of how bone density changes over time. Roughly up until the age of 30, men and women actually build more bone than they lose, so we are constantly strengthening our bones and working on bone density. But when we hit our mid-30s, things change. And if you’ve passed that benchmark, you may have felt that shift.
After reaching the mid-30s, women lose about 2% of bone density every year, and that continues for a few years following menopause. This leaves women with a high likelihood of experiencing osteoporosis.
Men, on the other hand, lose bone density at a much slower rate, but they continue to lose bone mass until the age of about 65. So even though they may have adequate bone mass for a longer period of time, the older they get, the more susceptible they are to developing osteoporosis.
THE SOLUTION TO BONE DENSITY IN DECLINE
So what do you do? Consider trying OsteoStrong, a non-pharmaceutical way of improving bone density, strength and balance.
According to OsteoStrong’s website, research indicates that the stimulus required to activate the growth of healthy bone tissue is 4.2 multiples of body weight. However, this level of force would be exceptionally difficult to achieve on your own. That’s why OsteoStrong utilizes the Spectrum System, which is part of a new category of devices called the Robotic Musculoskeletal Development System (RDMS).
The Spectrum System consists of 4 separate devices. Under the supervision of a trained technician, each device allows you to easily and safely achieve forces in excess of 5 to 12 times your own body weight.
The company behind OsteoStrong maintains that this system is not meant to replace exercise, but to supplement it. In fact, their system is meant to increase bone and muscular strength in a way that you can’t achieve in a gym, but will show immediate results in the way you perform while working out. This biohacking technique is meant to improve your overall health by providing extra support to your skeletal system. It is meant for everyone and every age – and, it only takes about 7 minutes per week. Customers have seen increases of 4 to 12% in bone density per year.
3. INTERMITTENT FASTING
Carb-light meals. Eating the right kinds of fats. Abstaining from sugar. We hear a lot about what is best for our metabolism, but new research has found that it’s not just what we eat, it’s when we eat that can make a huge difference. Many experts have turned to intermittent fasting, a type of biohacking diet, that can help you optimize your body’s nutrition intake. Intermittent fasting will not only help you lose fat but also gain muscle and energy.
If you just flinched at the idea of “fasting,” we hear you. You probably envisioned the notion of prolonged fasting – not eating for 48 to 72 hours – which isn’t exactly practical for the average person. But intermittent fasting offers a happy in-between. In fact, it’s more of an eating pattern that you follow throughout the day, not an old-fashioned diet, and still reap many of the benefits of a true fast.
To understand why intermittent fasting works, you need to make the distinction between your body being in a “fed state” and a “fasted state.” When your body is in a fed state, you are digesting and absorbing food. Generally speaking, you are in a fed state for about 3 to 5 hours after eating. During this phase, your insulin levels are high and your body is focused on digestion.
When your body is allowed to rest – during the fasted state – you experience a number of benefits from your biohacking diet. First, when you fast, you increase your levels of growth hormones as much as five times their normal rate, which boosts your metabolic rate. Fasting can also reduce your insulin resistance, which lowers your blood sugar and makes stored body fat more accessible to burn. Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting may also reduce LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol”) which is a known risk factor when it comes to heart disease.
Fasting may also provide a number of other significant benefits including improved cognitive function, cancer prevention, increased cellular autophagy (cellular waste removal) and lower levels of inflammation.
While there are many versions of intermittent fasting, the most user-friendly is the “16/8” method (also known as the Leangains protocol). This method revolves around a simple structure in which you restrict your daily eating period to 8 hours. For example, each day you eat from 1pm to 9pm, and fast for the other 16 hours.
Does this still sound intimidating? Try starting with a 14-hour fast for one week. That would mean, you can eat from 10am to 8pm, then fast the next 14 hours. Then, when that becomes comfortable, cut back to an eating period of 11am to 8pm for a week, and so on until you reach a fasting period of 16 hours.
BIOHACKING FOR YOUR LIFE
Biohacking is about changing the way your body looks, feels and functions so that you can better reach your fitness and health goals. It’s not about creating a quick fix, but about adapting biohacking methods into your lifestyle for better long-term health. Biohacking results can be seen by changing when or what you’re eating, and you can also implement techniques that use supplements or light therapy to achieve your goals. Whatever course you decide upon, you need to find the solution that’s right for your body. No two bodies are the same, and you’ll see the best results by personalizing your approach. Speak with a professional, like a coach, and read as many materials as you can about biohacking. Once you’re ready to begin, your body will thank you for all the hard work you’ve put in to making it the best it can be.
Header Image © Shutterstock / Jacob Lund