If you read popular magazines or blogs, particularly those in and around the health, nutrition and fitness spheres, you’ve likely run across the term “bio-hacking” recently. Like most jargon, the term tends to get thrown around without much in the way of explanation, making it hard to tell from one source to the next if all the fuss is a temporary trend or if we’re witnessing an actual societal shift in mainstream medicine. So today, we’re going to take a look at what bio-hacking is, where it comes from, and how it works, and why it is (or isn’t) important.
What is biohacking?
At base, biohacking is the process and practice of:
- Researching and experimenting with your body, habits, and environment.
- Determining, through testing of all kinds, what makes your unique body and mind thrive.
- Continuously and intentionally adjusting your life, habits, and environment to improve your personal happiness, health, and performance.
What sets biohacking apart from other self-improvement or health and fitness approaches?
Biohacking is unique in its emphasis on “N of 1” testing and functional results.
An “N of 1” trial is research conducted on only a single patient. Such trials produce incredibly detailed and powerful information for the person in question, but their results cannot necessarily be extrapolated to anyone else.
Biohacking embodies the “N of 1” philosophy in that:
- Biohackers seek to understand, map, and improve their specific bodies. If what they learn informs larger health trends and research, that is just a bonus.
- Biohackers set their own personal, professional and health targets independently of what mainstream medicine or other purported “professionals” recommend. For some biohackers, this means seeking peak performance from themselves across the board. For others, it simply means achieving holistic goals that may include religious, social, and other targets not usually addressed or acknowledged by mainstream medicine.
In keeping with its highly independent and individualized focus, biohacking also emphasizes functional results over theory. While most biohackers have at least some degree of interest in the science behind their results, achieving results is paramount.
For instance, if a biohacker discovers through experimentation that (s)he thrives on a gluten-free diet, then (s)he will adopt that diet because it leads to improved performance and quality of life. (S)he will make that change even if the “why” behind the finding is unclear because the truly important part of the equation for a biohacker is the results.
What does biohacking involve?
Biohacking is a comprehensive term. In theory, it can cover anything from changing your diet and lifestyle to getting cognitive behavioral therapy to genetic engineering. In practice, most people start small and work their way up. Dietary changes, kicking or starting habits one at a time, and improving sleeping habits or relationships are popular places to start.
Who becomes a biohacker and why?
Anyone can become a biohacker! All one needs to get started is:
- An interest in improving one’s life or health.
- Willingness to do a little reading and research.
- A notebook, spreadsheet, or another simple system for tracking self-experiments and their results.
Most biohackers are drawn to the process by:
- Dissatisfaction with their lives or health.
- Unhappiness with the care, resources, and answers available to them from standard health providers, fitness programs, or fitness routines.
- Natural curiosity.
- The desire to reach one or more goals and the understanding that one’s body, environment, and/or habits much change in order for achieving those goals to become possible.
What are the benefits of being a biohacker?
The primary benefits of biohacking include:
- Increased energy.
- Reduced pain/discomfort.
- Better health.
- More satisfaction with one’s life.
Biohacking gives people a feeling of control over their lives, which is sometimes referred to as having an internal locus of control. Having an internal locus of control is strongly correlated with better outcomes in almost all areas of life.
Is biohacking dangerous?
Biohacking can potentially be dangerous when approached recklessly or if biohackers purposefully ignore the signals their bodies are giving them. For example, biohackers could put themselves at risk of serious consequences if they were to stop taking certain prescription medications “cold turkey” without first consulting their doctors.
However, common sense biohacking and self-experiments undertaken with care and intention are almost always not only safe but highly beneficial!
This is because the entire point of biohacking is to improve one’s health and performance. Experiments that don’t lead to improved health, happiness, energy, or the achievement of biohackers’ goals are abandoned and replaced with new habits and choices that do. This inherently serves as a safety mechanism for biohackers.
How does someone get started biohacking?
The same way you start anything else new!
- Stop by Amazon or your local library and pick up a book on the subject.
- Check out leading-edge biohacker Dave Asprey’s blog post on Biohacking 101 or his youtube video sharing his five favorite hacks.
- Use MeetUp or a similar site to find a biohacking group near you and attend an event.
- Just jump in! Pick an experiment you’ve been considering for your life – doing a Whole 30, going to bed an hour earlier, trying meditation – grab a notebook to record your feelings and observations, and give it a go!
Is biohacking a fad or the future of medicine?
There’s no denying that biohacking is trendy right now. But from subscription medicine to the latest research trends in big businesses like breast cancer, medicine is unmistakably leaning strongly toward more individualized treatment and more patient ownership of personal health. So whether biohacking continues as it is or morphs into something else, it’s definitely the wave of the future rather than a fad.