Q: I keep hearing the term biohacking. What is it, and will it make me healthier?
A: The term “biohacking” really is everywhere these days. And since it generally has to do with viewing the body as a system and then tweaking that whole system for optimum wellness, I’d say it can definitely be in line with living a Nutritious Life.
But first, you’ve got to understand what it is, how people are applying the term to different situations, and what it could mean for your own life.
To help, I teamed up with my friend and superstar functional medicine physician Robin Berzen, MD, founder of Parsley Health. She’ll be sharing her expert thoughts on biohacking, more of which you can find here, with me live on Facebook today, Monday, November 20, at 1:00 p.m. Tune in then to learn more. If you can’t make it, get my personal take on the topic, below.
What is Biohacking?
First of all, lots of scientists use the term to apply to work they’re doing in labs. In the most simplistic terms, it can refer to an approach to scientific learning that involves building or changing things quickly and monitoring what happens. Some researchers even apply it to their own bodies in dramatic ways, like these recent examples of biohackers altering their own DNA.
But when you hear biohacking in wellness, that’s not usually what people are talking about. The most well-known proponent of the prospect is Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey. In his guide to biohacking, he says,”The main thing that separates a biohacker from the rest of the self-improvement world is a systems-thinking approach to our own biology.”
If your body is a system, it’s got inputs (food, exercise, etc.) and outputs (energy, mood, etc.). Biohackers believe making constant tweaks to those inputs (like, really fine tuning them) can lead to immediate, measurable changes in the outputs. And they generally don’t wait around for a peer-reviewed meta-analysis of a new therapy or approach. They try it, see what happens, and make decisions from there.
In the biohacking world, you’ll see a lot of practices that many people swear by although the health benefits haven’t been confirmed by research. Think cryotherapy, EMS training, and taking supplements like adaptogens.
Also important to note: Biohacking is now a trendy term that’s being thrown around to describe nearly any change you might make to your health. (Add a new nutrient-dense fruit to your smoothie? Biohack!)
The Nutritious Life Take on Biohacking
If you’re someone who loves data and have an independent streak when it comes to taking charge of your health, incorporating elements of biohacking into your healthy lifestyle can totally work. I’m all about trying new things, and if something doesn’t have negative effects, why not try it and see how you feel?
But I’m also a firm believer in solid, peer-reviewed research, so I say it’s always a good idea to do your homework, and to remember that changes you observe on your own are not necessarily indicative of the bigger picture.
Also, no tiny tweak is going to change your life if you’re not focused on the big picture stuff that we definitely know makes a difference. In other words, if you’re not eating vegetables at every meal, making your coffee Bulletproof isn’t going to help. If you’re sedentary 24-7 and then use EMS to electroshock your muscles, you’re not getting the cardio benefits of exercise. Focus on the big stuff, first, and then get into the nitty gritty if you want to take it further.