BioHacking! What is it? How does is it help? Could I be doing it already?
I’ve been tasked with writing about a subject that I’ve recently become very passionate about. That subject is “BioHacking”.
Many of you probably don’t know what “BioHacking” means, because it’s a fairly new term.
It’s seem like an odd combination of words. “Bio” referring to all things “Biological” and “Hacking”, a term borrowed from its original sense of “taking things apart and putting them back together in a new, better way“.
In a nutshell it’s the emerging set of practices that average people are adopting that help “manage one’s own biology using a combination of medical, nutritional and electronic techniques“. Whether you want to learn faster, perform better, live longer, and enjoy more what you wake up to do every day, average people like you are discovering the latest in wearables, internet of things, nutrition, digital health, and mobile apps to increase performance, be healthier, stay fit, and get more done.
In more general terms, “BioHacking” is really just a combination of many different fields that converge on self-improvement and development.
So biologists, health scientists, psychologists, nutritionists, fitness experts, personal trainers, yoga practitioners, epigenetics specialists, and many other professionals are essentially part of the BioHacking movement.
Why should this interest you?
Well, essentially the term BioHacker applies to any human being who “systematically tries to improve their lives“, whether by eating a better diet, working out, taking supplements, practicing yoga and meditation, or simply using more sophisticated technology like heart rate and sleep trackers (eg. Like a FitBit, Nike+ Fuel, or Polar device, among others) to collect data and improve overall wellness.
BioHacking activities are therefore very wide ranging. From mild, such as simply taking vitamin or brain supplements and non-invasive quantified-self biological data tracking, to more-invasive body augmentation with hardware, and finally to the extreme practices of exploring genetic modification.
BioHackers also have their own personal preferences regarding self-improvement. For many it’s about combating the cognitive decline that come with aging (see above graph). There’s definitely a large number of people who are eager to improve their brain through memory and cognitive tasks that lead to gains in fluid intelligence (Such as through using apps like Lumosity, Fit Brains Trainer, Elevate, Peak, CogniFit Brain Fitness, Dual-N-Back, etc.). To give you an idea, Lumosity claims that nearly 70 million users access their services.
Those who strive to quantify whether they actually are boosting their brain’s abilities can now use well researched low-cost EEG Neurofeedback devices like the Emotiv EPOC+, Neurosky, or the more expensive BrainMaster Freedom series among others. They can both track brainwaves as well as use sophisticated brain-entrainment software like Mind WorkStation to actually automatically train their brains to work faster, improve academic scores, improve meditation, induce hypnosis, and even use it as an effective non-chemical intervention to decrease health issues like pain, headaches, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, racing thoughts, hyper-vigilance, Alzheimers disease, autism, insomnia, cognitive dysfunction from chemo-therapy, etc.
More and more of the general public are now inclined to dabble in well researched nootropics (ie. like Onnit’s Alpha Brain). By enhancing and maximizing their brains with smart drugs they can improve cognitive performance, enhance memory and the ability to learn, support brain function, enhance the efficiency of neuronal firing, protect the brain from chemical and physical damage without side effects.
There are even pharmaceutical grade nootropics like Modafinil (Provigil). Some people have even hypothesized that the movie “Limitless” with Bradley Cooper is actually based on this real-life smart drug. Scientists from both Harvard and Oxford Universities have now definitely concluded that this particular prescription drug really does improve thinking skills, particularly in long complex tasks. It was also found to help with planning, decision making, flexibility, learning and memory, and creativity. Because of this it has now raised some ethical questions with academic institutions, as it can give those who use it an unfair advantage in the learning environment.
Some BioHackers are more inclined to experiment with different types of nutrition to help enhance their health. A popular advocate of this is CEO and BioHacker Dave Asprey, who follows a Bulletproof Diet, while others, like health expert Rob Wolf are firm believers in the healing power of a wheat-free Paleo Diet. The science behind low-carb and even ketogenic diets is slowly starting to become more mainstream as people recognize their health benefits, particularly with dealing with obesity and neurological disorders like parkinsons, alzheimers and dementia, as well as reducing other health risks like coronary heart disease. More research is needed to see how low-carb diets assist with diseases like cancer and other ailments.
So where does that leave you?
As the term becomes more mainstream more and more people who strive to improve their intelligence, have more energy, lose weight, live longer, reduce stress, and “radiate limitless energy, focus, health and flow in everything they do” will call themselves BioHackers.
Curious? Want more information about BioHacking? Able to travel to North Surrey?
Check out the free upcoming BCBioHacking Meetup event hosted in North Surrey on “Nootropics (brain supplements). What are they? How can they help me” set for Monday May 30 from 7pm – 9pm at 10850 City Parkway. Dave Keighron, owner and Manager of the local health food store YesWellness.com will be presenting on their full line of brain boosting supplements, along with potentially some incentives for attendees to try them out. You can also check out more information online at the BCBioHacking Facebook page.
Click here for a link to the event details: http://www.meetup.com/bcbiohacking/events/231199885/
Want to stay informed?
Stay tuned to this blog, as I’ll be following up this article with an entire series on many of the new cutting edge BioHacking products on the market. Our journey will take us deeper into the art and science of optimizing and maximizing your well-being and performance with biological and technological tools.
To give you a quick tidbit, we’ll review some of the well researched methods to prolonging life and enhancing happiness, such as the Blue Zone’s project. I’m definitely excited to be able to bring you lot’s more on new and innovative ways to monitor your metabolic processes and improve them through diet, supplementation and other practices. Happy BioHacking!