What is biohacking and how can it help you?
Biohacking is do-it-yourself biology—when people, often referred to as biohackers, make changes to their lifestyles to make improvements to their overall health and well-being. If you’ve heard the term before, you might immediately start to think of sci fi-esque embedded technology meant to enhance human performance.
And that’s for a good reason—more extreme biohackers leverage biotechnology tools to enhance the abilities of humans beyond their natural capabilities. But these are the extreme, outlier cases. More often, biohacking is achieved by making small, incremental changes to your lifestyle.
In fact, you may have tried biohacking in the past without even realizing it. Let’s look at a few ways you can biohack and how it can help you live a long, healthy life.
Meditation: the most basic form of biohacking
If you’ve ever practiced meditation, you’ve undergone one of the most basic forms of biohacking. Meditation has been around for thousands of years before the term “biohacking” was even a thought in someone’s mind. The ancient practice helps you train your brain to focus on a single thought to be mindful and present.
The benefits of meditation are numerous and well-documented—it may help to reduce stress and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease; it may slow down the cognitive aging process; it increases your focus and emotional intelligence; and it may help you age actively.
So, how is meditation biohacking? Meditation is known to affect the amygdala—this is the part of the brain that processes emotions. When you practice mindfulness meditation regularly, it can alter your brain chemistry. Studies have shown that meditation helps to lower cortisol levels to reduce stress, help with pain management, and even improve telomere regulation.1
Intermittent fasting as biohacking
Intermittent fasting is another prevalent form of biohacking. Intermittent fasting is a diet that requires you to fast—abstain from eating—for specific periods of time.
There are many different approaches to intermittent fasting, but some of the most commonly used include the following2:
- Alternate-day fasting. This requires you to eat a healthy diet one day, and the next day you would completely fast or have a small meal (less than 500 calories).
- 5:2 fasting. You eat a regular diet for five days and then fast for two days.
- Daily time-restricted fasting. You have an eight-hour window each day to eat normally. So you could choose to eat from 9 am to 5 pm or 12 pm to 8 pm—any eight-hour window that works for you.
Why is intermittent fasting considered biohacking? The practice of fasting alters your metabolism—instead of burning sugar, your body starts to burn fat which disposes of cellular waste. Studies have found intermittent fasting is a great anti-inflammatory diet because the body begins to flush inflammatory cells.
Managing your genetic expression
On the Beyond Age podcast, leading alternative medicine expert, Bryce Wylde shared about the powerful biohacking practice of nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics focuses on how food and genes interact. It involves having your DNA tested by a specialized lab and looking at certain genes in your DNA.
“You can’t alter your DNA. It’s what mom and dad have dealt you in this game of life. However, you can manage your genetic expression,” explains Wylde. But you can test your DNA to reveal your genetic aptitude and do something about it.
Once you have your findings, you can adjust your diet and add certain supplements to your routine that can help manage the genetic expression of some of these genetic traits.
“DNA is a wonderful thing. There are dozens and dozens of genes that we look at with the notion that you can’t change your DNA but you can manage or modify your genetic expression should you be predisposed to high degrees of anxiety and stress from a genetic place, for example.”
The power of a (really) cold shower
If you’re ready to get cold, then cold exposure is your biohacking method. Cold exposure involves immersing yourself in water that is typically below 15°C (59°F) for a maximum of fifteen minutes. This could be achieved with an ice bath, cold plunging, a freezing shower, or swimming in open water.
A review conducted in 2020 found that cold water exposure can positively affect your cardiovascular, immune, and endocrine systems and your mental health. Another study looked at people with type 2 diabetes and found that acute and repeated cold exposure improved insulin sensitivity and reduced fasting glycemia.
However, there are severe risks to cold water exposure including frostbite and hypothermia, and it should always be done under the supervision of a trained professional—an acclimatization program will ensure you can build up your tolerance safely.
Trying a biohack
The world of biohacking is still in its infancy, and people will continue to try to push their experiments to the extreme—remember that there is always a risk that comes with any new biohack, as there is no institution regulating biohacking and biohackers.
Remember, health is very personalized and what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. When you decide to try biohacking, approach it as a trial-and-error experiment—not every biohack is going to work for every individual. So have some fun experimenting!
Additionally, you must remember that biohacks aren’t a replacement for foundational healthy habits. Biohacking isn’t the magic solution to your health and well-being journey—biohacks should be used alongside other healthy lifestyle behaviours.
That being said, there are so many biohacks that have been tried and tested for years.
With so many accessible avenues, anyone can incorporate biohacking into their life. These small, incremental changes—from taking supplements to meditation—can help you live a longer, healthier life.
Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.