Biohacking: What Is It & Does It Work?
What do wrinkle creams and ice baths have in common?
Both are elements used to keep your body looking and feeling young. Retinol and Vitamin C creams work on the outside to keep the signs of again off your skin. Ice baths give a quick burst of energy and revitalize a tired body and mind.
The anti-aging industry is booming, and part of that is a term known as biohacking. Dave Asprey coined the term in a 1988 Washington Post article (1). The biohacking movement has since gained popularity across the world.
So what is biohacking, and is it safe? We’re bringing you the details on what it is, different types, potential risks, and final thoughts from our founder.
What is Biohacking?
Hacks are everywhere today and exist to make your life easier and (hopefully) better.
Biohacking is a big word that sounds complicated but really isn’t. It simply means finding ways to change your body or lifestyle to enhance and optimize your health and well-being.
The principles, techniques, and therapies behind biohacking enable you to have more energy, better memory, and a more enjoyable human experience.
You might be wondering what the difference is between biotechnology and biohacking. Biotechnology is the integration of technology with biology to improve or manipulate cells, tissue, etc (2). Many biotech discoveries set the foundation for a lot of biohacking ideals.
Types of Hacks
When it comes to biohacking, there are several types. Typically, they fall into one of three categories (3):
- Nutrigenomics: This is the study of how food interacts with our genes. Biohackers believe eating certain foods (and avoiding others) can influence gene expression (4).
- DIY Biology: Within nutrigenomics is a small but growing social movement called Do-it-yourself Biology, or DIY bio. People in this community tend to hold a degree. Their goal? To provide cheap and easy ways to use biomaterials for self-diagnosis and environmental management (5).
- Grinder: People within this category love the idea of modifying the body. This is most commonly done with mechanical or chemical alterations. Their curiosity and use of technology to tap into unknown territory (6) are often risky and not advised.
Within these categories, here are 7-8 bio hacks that people do to optimize their health and elevate their quality of life.
- Intermittent Fasting: What if you could simply change when you eat instead of needing a complete menu overhaul? Intermittent fasting means that you set aside a day to eat at specific times. This practice has been shown to improve insulin levels, aid in weight loss, and reduce your risk of developing certain diseases (7).
- Heart rate Variability training: Stress often increases heart rates. By using wearable technology, you can detect when your heartbeat increases due to stress, then show you how to best cope (8).
- Cold water therapy: Ever seen people sink into an ice bath after a workout or finish a shower with a cold blast of water? This therapy is thought to boost your immune system, lower muscle inflammation, and release endorphins. More research is needed to confirm these claims (9).
- Wearable technology: Since the invention of the smartphone, innovative technology allows you to be more in tune with your body. Some of the most popular include smartwatches, fitness-tracking bands, and head mount displays.
- Inversion therapy: By hanging upside down, blood can travel to your brain, strengthening existing blood capillaries. The extra oxygen and nutrients are thought to enhance cognitive capabilities (10).
- Nootropics: In addition to herbs, certain natural and semi-synthetic “smart drugs” have been said to boost physical and mental performance (11). Examples include caffeine, L-theanine, Creatine, Bacopa Monneriri, Rhodiola Rosea, Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, and Noopept, as well as prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.
- Earthing: Directly connecting with electrons on the Earth's surface has interesting health effects. Research suggests walking barefoot on the dirt can improve sleep, reduce inflammation, and relieve joint pain (12).
- Meditate More: Allowing yourself to break away from the noise and enjoy a few moments of solace can help slow down heart rates, lower blood pressure, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety (13).
- Neurofeedback: A technique used by therapists since the late 1950s, neurofeedback (also called NF or NFB) can retrain your brain by regulating brain waves to optimize nerve communication. Research is mixed, but it seems to help with brain disorders like ADHD, stroke, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and some PTSD (14).
Risks and Safety Concerns
Is biohacking safe? That answer depends on your current state of health, what resources are available to you, and which methods you’re interested in trying.
Biohacking takes on many forms. Some types, like fasting and taking supplements, may be safe as long as you don’t have any preexisting health conditions.
Others, like many in the grinding or neurofeedback category, deserve caution. Talk with your doctor or trusted health professional about whether biohacking is right for you.
Getting a comprehensive blood and hormone panel can be a great place to start. From there, you’ll be able to get an idea of where you are and how to make adjustments that will be the most effective.
Biohacking is a term that blankets many categories of health. Some of the ideas are cutting-edge, while others stand the test of time.
It’s important to do what’s best for your body, your lifestyle, and your needs. Hot trends and new gadgets might seem cool, but they may not be necessary.
Making small changes to your diet, lifestyle, and mindset can go a long way in helping you reach your health goals. Our founder Dr. Kara understands how confusing all the information out there is. In his signature program, The Metabolic Makeover, he shares insights that are easy to understand and practical to apply.
Biohacking has many names, and at KaraMD we want you to take your health into your hands! Ready to see how you can benefit from a metabolic makeover? Head over to our program overview to learn more (15).
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author