Biohacking : Science or Snake-Oil?
Real or Fad?
Don't Immediately Dismiss It
If you’re like me, you hear the term “biohacking” and envision a maniacal comic book character undergoing experimental surgery in hopes of becoming superhuman. Of course, the experiments go horribly wrong, and the once likeable character becomes a bitter hybrid-being bent on destroying the world as a misguided attempt to get his life back.
Who Are Biohackers?
While some biohackers who call themselves “grinders” do undergo technological body augmentation -although not to the same extent as comic book characters- biohacking isn’t as “mad-scientist gone wrong” as it seems to be (for most people at least). Everyone from "normal" people to the insanely adventurous participate.
Are there any studies supporting Biohacking?
A quick google search will turn up sources both for and against biohacking, some calling it another brief pseudo-science fad, others supporting its “innovation” and envelope pushing. The answer -as with many things in life- more than likely lies somewhere in the middle. Is biohacking just a way for companies to sell you snake oil packaged as the fountain of youth? It can be. Is biohacking just another thing for your hipster friends to randomly insert into your next conversation? Definitely. But this doesn’t mean that biohacking is a farce. Rather, it’s like any other possibly beneficial thing; exploited by some, used to sound smart and interesting by others, and a beneficial part of many people’s lives.
What is Biohacking About?
At its foundation, Biohacking is just finding what activities awaken our physiology, broaden our horizons, and help us to be more in tune with our spirit, mind, and body. By pushing your body into unfamiliar territory, one hopes to find one's “sweet-spot”; find the activities that slow or negate ageing, increase your daily motivation, and overall improve your life.
These are the various methods by which people attempt to “hack their bodies”.
- Since Biohacking is about “optimization” of the self, turning inwards through meditation is a great first step. There is no way to “hack your physiology” without knowing yourself outside of the endless daily bombardment of stimuli. Biohacking is more than just physical, it is also mental and spiritual.
- Changing Your Environment
- Everything from the amount of sunlight we get, to the world of colored screens we shove in our faces, influences our behaviors, motivations, desires, and moods. As a result, controlling our environment helps us to see how that environment's stimuli affects us. What sort of light or weather picks up my mood and increases my motivation? Do the clothes I wear, the amount of plants I am surrounded by, affect my creativity? Many biohackers change their environments to see how these changes affect the titular parts of their lives.
- Grounding is the act of creating skin-to-earth contact. Theoretically, by putting our bodies in direct contact with the earth, we connect our body and the earth’s frequencies (a good thing). Scientifically, grounding has been shown in at least one study to improve our cardiovascular health and overall mood. In order to “ground”, one may walk barefoot, submerge oneself in the ocean, or even just lay bareback on the grass.
- Light Therapy
- One form of light therapy is spending more time outside, but another, more “new-age”, form of light therapy, is Photobiomodulation (PBMT) therapy. Brought into main-stream consciousness by Bella Hadid, professional hockey player Duncan Keith, and even Jack Dorsey, red-light rooms and PBMT are being incorporated as ways to speed up the healing process and counter the effects of aging.
- Temperature Control
- Cryotherapy and Infrared Saunas plunge the body into uncomfortable states. With Cryotherapy the body is “awakened” by the extreme cold, while in Infrared Saunas the body is “awakened” through extreme heat. In response to the extreme temperatures, blood flow increases and both adrenaline and endorphins are released by the body. Athletes often use these extreme temperatures to treat injuries. Infrared Saunas are popular for detoxification, relaxing, and improving circulation.
- Changing Your Eating Habits
- Intermittent Fasting
- Eating habits directly correlate to energy levels. By controlling the intervals at which you eat, you can find the eating schedule that both keeps you energized throughout the day, and optimizes your calorie burning in conjunction with your exercises.
- Bulletproof Coffee
- By adding melted butter into your daily morning coffee, the increased fats along with caffeine boost brain function, while adding MCT oil soothes hunger pains. Many biohackers use bulletproof coffee as morning “pick me ups” that eliminate the downside of the coffee crash. I recommend trying it with Cacao butter, as an all-around healthy vegan option.
- Blood Transfusions
- In order to slow the aging process, some people undergo a blood transfusion, taking the blood of a younger (and presumably healthier) person, and injecting it into their own bodies. Obviously, this is not FDA approved, extremely dangerous, experimental, and has no track record of actually providing results.
- Wearable Technology
- Wearable technology is everywhere, on your wrist as an apple watch or Fitbit, or even on your ankle as a step counter. But don’t worry, you won’t perform a life changing experiment that goes horribly wrong (yet). The Wearable technology allows you to monitor your body, tracking the effects of various biohacking methods, therefore allowing you (if you interpret this data correctly), to optimize your activities to benefit your biology.
- Wearable technology doesn’t just stop at the beeping wristbands or the Oura Ring, some people even go as far as implanting tech into their bodies. While some do this for the convenience factor, others do it to store information or listen to music. Magnets are implanted into the ear cartilage for “permanent” earbuds, magnets are put under the fingers in order to “feel” magnetic fields -creating a sixth sense- and transmitters are implanted in the body to relay biometric information. This form of biohacking though, does not seem to be as much about health, and more a look towards the “future” of humanity.
On some level we are all biohackers. We are always looking for the next exercise, practice, or superfood that will boost our mood and improve our life. But the idea of actual biohacking carries with it a factor of uncertainty; a factor of risk. Biohacking can be expensive and it can be dangerous. But, it all comes down to what methods will help you live the life you want to live. Getting out of our comfort zones and experimenting with new ways of life opens our horizons and prevents stagnation. While aging is an inevitable bodily occurrence, it also occurs in the mind; and staying young and vibrant in both your approach to life and your living of life is important. Biohacking is another way to understand the physical/ biological self, in order to understand the self as a whole, and improve the areas in our lives we wish to improve.