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What Is Biohacking, And Should You Do It?

biohacking

What Is Biohacking, And Should You Do It?

Biohacking encompasses a wide variety of things to take control of your biology. In its purest sense, biohacking is taking control of one’s biology through means of their own control. This can sometimes be embodied by a hacker ethos, being very DIY, or it can be something with actual medical backing and practices.

Biohacking isn’t a new thing by any means, and more basic forms of it can be seen dating back through history. Modern biohacking can still use these traditional methods of operation, but in some cases can go above and beyond it. Biohacking can be broken down into a few disciplines, which we’ll be covering:

  • Natural biohacking,
  • Technological biohacking,
  • Augmented biohacking.

Natural Biohacking

In its basic state, biohacking can be seen as methods of biological control, like intermittent fasting, dietary control, ice baths, and other naturally available methods.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting refers to the practice of not eating for a set period of time. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is a strong supporter of this method, and it does have some very strong benefits. Fasting can allow for boosts in working memory, improved blood pressure, and aid in the reduction of glucose levels for type 2 diabetics.

Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular trend, as it requires zero investment to get started. There are a number of different eating patterns you could adhere to as well, but the basic principle remains the same. There are certain days when you eat a reduced amount or nothing at all.

Dietary Control

biohacking
Nutrotional genomics study the relationship between the human genome, human nutrition, and health.

Dietary control sounds simple on the surface but does have a little bit of tech running through it. Nutrigenomics is the mapping of your diet to certain genetic markers from a provided DNA sample. There are a number of companies that have sprouted up which can make bespoke diet plans for those who provide a sample.

This has the benefit of giving meal plans that best suit someone’s genetic markers. Contrast it with potentially digesting things that could cause inflammation or other negative side effects.

There is a bit more investment into this, as you will have to contact a company specializing in the technology. It does, however, bear some promise if you have certain markers which could lead to developing more severe illnesses and diseases in the future.

Ice Baths

This a relatively self-explanatory method, but there is the prevailing thought that the human body responds better to the cold when burning fat. This is also a zero-investment method of trying biohacking for those interested in it.

There are alternatives like cryotherapy. Cold showers and ice baths seem to work just as well for those seeking to burn fat and lose weight. Cold thermogenesis, as biohackers term it, does bear some risks, though.

Immersion in ice isn’t the body’s natural’s state and can be a shocking experience. You can also suffer from afflictions like ice burns. It is an interesting take on controlling your biology. It seems to share many of the same purported benefits of intermittent fasting.

Technological Biohacking

This is for those looking to enhance the human form, or even just embrace wearable technology. Technological biohacking is using outside methods to extend or aid the human body.

There are some overlapping aspects, but there are differences as well. In essence, technological biohacking can be seen as two disciplines:

  • Wearable Technology,
  • Embedded Technology.

Wearable Technology

fitbit sense vs apple watch 7
Common types of wearable technology include smartwatches and smartglasses.

Think for a moment about the devices in your personal life. If you have a smartwatch, fitness tracker, or some other smart device, you’re already biohacking. Wearable technology in biohacking refers to the use of devices that help prepare more detailed information about the function of the body.

Popular smartwatches and fitness trackers already provide a massive amount of data for owners. Things like heart rate, sleep cycles, menstrual cycles, and more are all readily available upon purchase.

This also comes with the benefit of visualizing the data you produce, as well as providing easy-to-read charts and graphs for later analysis. Wearable technology is the least intrusive of technological biohacking, as the device is never actually inside the body.

Embedded Technology

biohacking
An RFID microchip implant allows its wearer to pay with his hand.

Embedding technology in the human body is a very intrusive means of hacking the body’s function. Implanting devices and receiving specialized tattoos is an alleged enhancement of their lifestyle.

Popular devices to embed in the body are things like magnets, RFID chips, GPS systems, and medical information stored on a memory chip. This method of biohacking does take things beyond what some would consider.

It is a very different thing to have something surgically implanted in the body over just wearing an Apple Watch for example. There are perhaps some practical applications, with the use of NFC and RFID implants when paying for goods and services only require having the embedded device.

Augmented Biohacking

Human augmentation goes beyond just dietary changes or even the implantation of simple electronic devices. These can be more extreme methods of implantation, like Cyborg Nest’s North Sense. It’s a device with a simple aim and purpose, letting people know where the north is at all times.

The North Sense is embedded into the skin and anchored with a quartet of titanium piercings to the chest. There are those who take biohacking and augmentation to extremes beyond just external piercings to the body.

Grinders

Grinders view themselves as cyborgs. They take advantage of body modifications, body enhancements, and the culturing of cells and tissues to make their bodies superhuman. One such example is Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof Nutrition, and an ardent believer in biohacking.

Asprey has spent a considerable sum to hack his biology via the usage of harvested bone marrow, a regimen of a hundred supplements consumed daily, a strict diet, and some rather unusual sleeping habits. The harvested bone marrow was an incredibly invasive procedure.

Subsequently, this also led to an infusion of stem cells in Asprey’s cerebral fluid and spinal column. Culturing tissues and cells is beyond most ordinary folks, for whom painful procedures and expensive elective surgeries might not be appealing.

Asprey claims these procedures, repeated every six months, will lead to a lifespan of 180 years. DNA injections, stem cell injections, invasive implants, and extreme dietary changes are all considerations to push the human body past its normal human limits.

Grinders are the tenets of biohacking pushed to their logical limit. While there is some restraint to methods like intermittent fasting, there is seemingly no limit to modern snake oil in the form of unnecessary medical procedures and transfusions.

One of the dangers of biohacking is it being co-opted by people promoting legally questionable dietary fads and potentially dangerous medical procedures; all for the sake of reversing age or promoting health.

Should You Do It?

Wearable technology and intermittent fasting are great additions to anyone’s lifestyle. Medical professionals have backed up the benefits of intermittent fasting, and having regular data sets for your body and how you use it is always helpful.

However, with implants, cell and tissue infusion, and other augmentations, that is a bit harder to suggest. These are potentially damaging procedures that might not have a clear benefit if you’re perfectly healthy. Biohacking can be as simple as an adjustment of the diet, getting regular sleep, and fasting a day or two a week.

Alternatively, you may also find the concept of implanting single-purpose chips and devices in the skin and your body to be ridiculous. The more doable forms of biohacking, those that are heavily within your control, do offer some benefits.

Subjecting your body to elective and potentially harmful procedures can’t be recommended. As with all dietary changes and lifestyle changes, please consult your doctor before undergoing any changes. You may find they have some advice of their own which could be a more effective form of biohacking.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose in implanting a RFID or NFC chip?

Ostensibly, it is to allow for easier access to things like work passes, computer logins, and mobile payments. In practice, you could easily just use your smartphone or compatible devices and forego having to place foreign objects inside your body.

Implantation is an interesting subject in biohacking because for some it’s the whole point of modifying their body. But it can be seen as somewhat foolhardy to implant simple devices which have a limited range of purposes, especially when it’s just a matter of holding a device or object instead of the implant site.

Is biohacking legal?

You are free to take up things like intermittent fasting and sleeping as much as you like, given you aren’t compromising someone’s well-being.

There are some concerns less with the legality, but more with the mental health component of more extreme biohacking. Legal concerns do arise with things like young blood transfusions and stem cell transfusions, which the FDA concluded have no proven clinical benefits.

What is a young blood transfusion?

A more extreme method of biohacking, young blood transfusion is taking blood from a healthy younger person and injecting it into an older person to combat aging and the diseases which can come with it.

It is of dubious efficacy, with the FDA warning it had no benefit to reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or aging. Blood transfusions can be life-saving procedures, but they cannot prolong life if there is no need for them in the first place.

Are there any dangers to biohacking?

You can take biohacking too far, especially if you’re trying to transcend human limits. Like it or not, there is no way of eliminating basic biological functions. You will need to eat, drink, and eliminate waste like any other person on the planet.

This had its tragic extremes with Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos.com. Hsieh practiced extreme biohacking and attempted to eliminate the need for sleep, urination, and experimenting with illicit substances and nitrous due to worsening mental health.

This didn’t directly contribute to Hsieh’s passing, but its effects on his mental and physical well-being were pronounced and noticed by those close to him.

How can I get started biohacking?

Intermittent fasting and regular sleep would be ideal starts. Intermittent fasting has benefits for the body and mind, and sleep is always something humans need.

Biohacking isn’t going to turn you into a superhuman, but it can enhance your day-to-day life.

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