Biohacking is one of the newest and trendiest buzzwords. You might have seen this word in articles floating around the internet or from a fitness or lifestyle influencer while you’re scrolling through social media. It’s an intriguing word and an even more intriguing practice, so let’s get into it.
What is Biohacking?
Biohacking basically refers to any process that involves making small, incremental changes to your diet and/or lifestyle to improve your health and general well-being.
The goal with biohacking is anything from weight loss to better brain function. It can be done by adding or taking away things from your lifestyle, using technology, or just eating certain foods. Some of the best-known examples are intermittent fasting and meditation.
There are generally three sub-categories of biohacking, which are:
- Nutrigenomics: believing that the food you eat interacts with your genes. This type of biohacking is as popular as it is controversial, but at its core looks at how different nutrients impact how you function.
- DIY biology: tips and techniques that those with scientific education and experience give to lay-people. It’s basically so that the average person can try out things on themselves outside of a lab or medical office (with some guidance and education).
- Grinder: believing that every part of the human body can be enhanced somehow, either with gadgets, chemicals, or whatever can be put in the body to make it work how the owner wishes.
Does biohacking really work?
The short answer is yes and no.
For example, changing your diet can accomplish a lot of things, like:
- Decreasing your risk of developing a certain disease that you might be genetically predisposed to, or be at risk of because of your existing diet
- Reducing symptoms of a pre-existing disease or condition, like PCOS or depression
- Reducing or increasing your weight
- Improving your gut health or blood pressure
However, as with everything, there are some risks associated with biohacking. This is because the pathways that you try to use to achieve your goals are not being performed, chosen, or even screened by a professional. Even if they were, there is no way to ensure that whatever you choose to try will work on you the same way that it worked on someone else, work the way you intended, or even work at all.
And the risks don’t stop there.
The dangers of biohacking
1. It’s an experimental practice
Oftentimes biohacking involves trying out supplements, tools, or other paraphernalia that you’ve seen someone else use and have work for them. It may have actually worked for them, or they might have just been saying that it did because they have a financial stake in the matter; perhaps an affiliate code or even just by putting out a good old advertisement for whatever it is they’re trying to sell you.
Whatever the case, trying out random things you see on the internet isn’t safe because many times they haven’t been approved by the relevant authorities, haven’t been made in safe conditions, or are outright dangerous for human consumption.
2. There is the risk of malnutrition and eating disorders from changing your diet
Rapid and extreme changes in your diet can mean that you don’t take in the right amounts of macronutrients (different food groups like fiber, carbohydrates, proteins, etc.) and micronutrients (your vitamins and minerals). This can lead to too much or too little of certain nutrients and give you more problems than you started out with or even worsen preexisting conditions.
If you’re not careful, you can also even develop eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia because of restrictive and/or binge-eating styles.
3. Implanting foreign objects or substances into your body is almost never a good idea
In the grinder ethic, people do things like insert sound-enhancing magnets in their ears to have headphones “built-in” to them. Even with an expert doing it, there is no way to guarantee putting something in your body in the hopes of improving some aspect of yourself will go 100% smoothly. Doing so can give you inflammatory reactions, chronic infections, and even increase your risk of developing cancer.
Biohacking can be extremely effective when done right!
It isn’t all bad news – in fact, the very opposite. Some forms of biohacking aren’t just safe, they’re tried and true. Biohacking is a wonderful practice when you do it safely.
1. Don’t believe everything you read online.
Try and do as much research as you can; medical journals, published research, consulting your healthcare providers, and even asking friends. Your doctor can even perform certain tests on you (like bloodwork or allergy tests) to help you to decide what’s right or wrong for you so that you can make an informed decision.
2. Practice caution
As a rule of thumb, make changes to your life in small increments so that you don’t shock your body and so that you can wean yourself off of your old lifestyle or diet without crashing two weeks later.
Only try things if they come from a certified source, use quality ingredients, are approved by the relevant authorities, you understand how to safely use them, and are aware of the dangers they may pose.
As long as you’re careful and smart about biohacking, it can actually be a really fun and interesting thin to try. There are tons of ways that you can change your diet and lifestyle, so finding something that you think will work for you and your goals will be more of an adventure than a straightforward quest.
What would you try if you were to give biohacking a shot? Meditation? A keto diet? Or maybe you’re in the mood to try a neural implant so that you can phone your friend just by thinking about it!