“Bio-hacking” is a relatively new term with a variety of meanings. In the agricultural industry, it could be applied to the genetic manipulation of crops to increase yield, enhance drought resistance, and boost nutritional value. In medicine, bio-hacking can be applied to the genetic manipulation of certain bacteria to produce insulin. Bioluminescence can also be produced in certain animals by combining their DNA with that of naturally luminescent creatures, such as jellyfish.
But bio-hacking as it applies to our own bodies is generally thought of as a sort of “do-it-yourself biology.” This is usually done in small groups, or individuals, working at home or in small labs, rarely associated with a business or university. It really just amounts to tinkering with your own biology, experimenting with techniques and substances in order to achieve your optimal physical condition.
One common motivation to self bio-hack is to reduce stress, and so we are led to hack our nervous system. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, the most common is probably meditation. When we meditate, we practice mindfulness, that is the practice of choosing what exactly to focus on. We may decide to use counting to reach a relaxed state, or simply repeat a mantra over and over. We can give ourselves a little pep talk, emphasizing all that is positive in our lives, or we can simply concentrate on our breathing.
But, by breathing, I mean a specialized, controlled type of breathing, First, draw in air through the nose to the diaphragm, in a long, even breath. Feel the air in your stomach, not your chest, Pause for a brief second, then exhale from your stomach in an equally slow discharge of air. Pause once again before taking your next breath. This type of slow, steady, and deep breathing can help to control your heart rate and ease tension. With the aid of a monitor such as the EmWave2, or any such device, you can monitor your heart rate and read the signs of incipient stress before you become consciously aware of it. Deep breathing techniques and meditation can avert the symptoms of stress before they become serious,
Following a specialized diet can also be a form of personal bio-hacking. Try to remove toxins from your diet contained in many grains and vegetables. Reduce your intake of sugar and carbohydrates. This will allow your body to enter ketosis, a state where your liver will produce ketones, which the body will then use as an energy source. The brain actually prefers ketones to sugars and starches as a more efficient energy source, and will, in fact, produce some of these on its own. And if your brain is functioning more efficiently, so is everything else. Avoid gluten, which can cause learning problems, memory malfunction, and focus issues as well as inflammation.
You can also hack your body by changing your sleeping habits. Your brain needs sufficient sleep to troubleshoot and repair neurons. If this isn’t accomplished, you may actually lose neurons, which will affect the way you receive, process, retrieve, and utilize information.
But, while you can effectively bio-hack all on your own, there are some supplements which can be used to even further achieve results. One group of these supplements, known as Nootropics, are designed to improve your cognitive abilities, This includes enhancing your mental clarity, improving focus, and fighting fatigue – supposed like coffee on steroids. Some of the most popular of these products are Brainol, NeuroFuse, and BriteFocus. It must be noted that these substances are marketed as nutritional supplements, and, as such, are not regulated by the FDA. While there have been certain clinical trials indicating their effectiveness, it must be noted that these trials may be decades old and not regulated to an extreme degree.
Nootropics are not the only type of supplement which can be used to hack your own biology. Synephrine can be used to promote a healthy metabolism. Phenylethylamine is useful to boost energy levels, and Icariin can be useful in increasing your libido and maintaining healthy levels of male hormones. But it doesn’t end there. 5-HTP can elevate your mode, suppress your appetite, and improve your sleep habits. And Myo Inositol can be used to maintain a healthy hormone balance and regulate insulin sensitivity if used with a healthy diet. There is a supplement out there for virtually everything you want to boost, enhance, decrease, maintain, or improve. The supplement counter at your local health food store is a cornucopia of provisions, and everything can be bought online, as well. So, it’s up to you what you’re satisfied with, or what part of your biology you feel could use a little hacking. The tools are out there!
But not all biohacking need be done internally. There are quite a few devices out there doing the same thing. Most of these devices involve some sort of brain manipulation, but that is nowhere near as dangerous as it sounds. They simply provide information about what is going on in our head, and we give feedback to improve our condition. The HeartMath EmWave2 reads your biological data. You can then connect the device to your PC to discover just where help is needed and how to provide it. You can learn to improve your heart rhythm and establish both physiological as well as psychological harmony.
Another device is the Muse, a brain sensing headband useful to maintain the proper concentration when meditating, keeping you on track by providing soothing sound effects. The Spire device measures and tracks your breathing patterns, enabling you to keep in the proper mindset to increase endorphins. For those of us who find our work mentally exhausting if not physically so, a device called the Mind Place Proteus will help to alleviate that mental fatigue with a system of lights and sounds, as well as biofeedback to keep us informed of our stress levels.
Maybe the most simple to use is the Luminette 2, probably the most effective pair of glasses you will ever own, providing light therapy through the use of blue enhanced white light. This type of light increases the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter relating to the brain’s pleasure and reward centers, rather than sleep hormones, which will allow you to remain more alert and active throughout the day.
So, as they say, choose your poison. Try it on your own, with the help of supplements, or with a helpful little device. Or a combination of all of the above. It’s your health and your body. If you’re not happy, try a little hacking.
I’m Nick Wilkinson. I writer and radio personality who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
With over 14 years of experience in the Behavioral Health Field, I’ve been working in close contact with kids from all walks of life.
Specializing in teenagers and young adults, I’ve been a career long supporter of “verbal de-escalation” and non-violent crisis intervention. I believe that what you say, and how you say it, are the keys to successful communication. I currently write about men’s health topics, parenting and child abuse topics, and other social issues. You can visit my blog at www.ActingNotReacting.com