Personal Sleuthing for Better Health
Despite its edgy name, Biohacking can be performed by anyone. It is not a specialized task for genetic scientists, tech wizards or professional athletic trainers. Biohacking is simply getting to know yourself really well. And then applying what you've learned to change your behaviors, optimize your body and feel your best.
"Hacking" in contemporary lingo is figuring out shortcuts to make your life more efficient. If you know where you want to be- healthy, balanced and energetic- you must first know where you are. Then you can chart a course to your goal.
What can you biohack? Any aspect of your health that is problematic: weight, sleep, stress, energy, joints, mobility, skin, cravings, you name it.
While anyone can biohack, you will have to do your best Sherlock Holmes hat, grab a figurative magnifying glass and do some investigating.
Like arriving at the scene of the crime, you must first assess the situation. Make a list of things not in their proper place. What doesn't feel right?
Let's say, Dr. Watson, even after a long day of helping solve crimes, always gets a second wind at 9 pm and has trouble falling asleep. Poor Watson!
After initially identifying your issues, it is time to decode the root causes. You will have to work backward (what's going wrong) to eventually move forward (feeling great!)
So, what has happened, and is still happening? Your body is providing clear clues. Symptoms are like fingerprints. You can detect them, but from where did they come?
Why does Watson get all restless at night, when he should winding down by the fireplace in his cozy cottage?
You, like our dear Watson, will need to do some testing. Luckily these days there are many ways to self-test.
From the popular Fitbit to the sleek Oura Ring, new technological devices give you detailed information about your body's daily functions: heart rate, performance level, and even brainwave activity. While admittedly being a bit sci-fi, these tools are helpful in pointing to less than optimal biological functioning. Might as well take advantage of modern technology! Sherlock Holmes sure would if he could.
Do you have a genetic predisposition to developing certain ailments? Genetic health testing can give a heads up so you can work to mitigate or even cut an issue off at the pass before it is triggered. There are several DNA testing options currently on the market, such as the popular 23andMe, that can point to your likelihood of getting diseases including breast cancer, macular degeneration, celiac disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and more.
If you do take one of these tests, be sure to consult with a health professional before drawing your own conclusions and doing anything about it. Also, research the privacy policies of any company to which you submit your DNA. Life insurance companies and real-life detectives may be able to access and use this information in rare scenarios.
AT-HOME HEALTH TESTS
Of course, we here at Canary Club strongly suggest (and provide!) affordable, easy-to-use health tests. You can check (and re-check) your levels of hormones, neurotransmitters, heavy metals and essential nutrients, cardiometabolic factors, and more. Your confidential results are provided securely online and show you what is excessive or deficient.
As an esteemed physician himself, Dr. Watson somehow concocted a way to measure his cortisol levels at four times within a 24 hour period. Kind of like Canary Club's popular Diurnal Cortisol Test. Pretty fancy for the Victorian Era! Lo and behold, he found out this critical adrenal hormone was not falling into the normal daily pattern. Instead of peaking in the morning and steadily declining for the rest of the day until sleep, his cortisol rebounded in the evening.
Now that you've found the suspects, it's time to pare it down to the actual culprits. This is where biohacking takes action.
How to biohack, naturally? It's all about basic lifestyle choices and habits: food, exercise, activities. This will involve some informed trial and error.
Feel bad after eating pizza? Well, more than expected for a grown-up? Maybe it's the cheese. Maybe it's the gluten. Maybe it's the sugary sauce. Maybe it's a combination, like the "combo" slice itself. As in solving a mystery, you can use the process of elimination.
Elimination diets are great in zeroing in on the problem. Keep in mind it can take a while for you to process substances completely out of the body. For example, it is recommended to give a gluten-free diet at least a month before all traces of gluten are gone. Then you can tell if you feel a consistent, substantial change, or not so much.
Other dietary restrictions have been proven to help a whole host of health issues. There's removing allergens, adding nutritional supplements, limiting eating to certain times of the day (eg nothing after 7 pm), the Ketogenic diet (high on healthy fats and protein and low on carbs), there's substituting your daily espresso with green tea... well there's so much you can do.
Even though you'll want to feel better asap, you will have to try one approach at a time in order to solve the riddle. Or if urgent, you can change several things at once; if it works, then start reintroducing things one at a time.
Dr. Watson was advised to quit his after-dinner black tea, replacing it with chamomile. Albeit bucking English tradition, it was a necessary sacrifice he was willing to make.
Well, this we already know. We should all get, at the very least, 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 days a week. But knowing is not even half the battle. No shortcuts here - you will have to actually put in the time and do it! Schedule it in your calendar and treat it like a job. A job with a forgiving boss who says "Come on in anytime, even if you haven't shown up for a few months." Hey, where else can you find an employer like that?
However... it may be that exercising at a certain time of day is better for you personally.
Dr. Watson, a physically fit chap, was getting all pumped up energetically after his evening weight lifting routine. So he moved that session to a mid-morning break, and just did simple stretching in the evening instead- gentle enough to leave his trademark moustache sweat-free.
This also takes commitment and self-discipline. Having trouble sleeping yourself? If your own cortisol and melatonin levels are balanced, look for other guilty parties such as glowing screens after 8 pm. If you are reading this online and it's after your bedtime... guilty! Artificial light, especially that of digital devices, can interfere with your natural circadian rhythm and throw off your sleep cycle. Turn this off right away (and continue reading in the morning). Grab a book instead. Yes, one made from good old paper. Sleep tight!
Other activities that help with overall health include meditation, tai chi, and even singing and dancing. These are all good fun while being healthy at the same time. Such activities calm the mind, relieve stress, and in turn balance hormones and help all your body systems function more efficiently. A healthy body nurtures a healthy mind, and vice versa.
Dr. Watson had to halt his habit of poring over Holmes' investigative findings after dinner (which he minimized to a light serving of bangers and mash). He let himself relax with a nice warm toweling off and light Elizabethan poetry. While he had no iPad to power down, he still blew out his candle promptly at 9 pm.
TO SUM UP THE CASE
Biohacking is compiling personal biological information and then fine-tuning your choices to achieve and maintain optimal health. Recognize your issues, gather clues from various angles, test, experiment, and find the culprits. Then change your daily habits and flourish with the positive results!
As for our Watson, after one month of his improved behaviors, he measured his cortisol levels again. And behold! His daily hormone curve returned to normal. His energy levels were slowly and steadily declining all day long and well into the cool misty night.
See? Biohacking sounds high tech, but it can be quite "elementary." While not necessarily as straight-forward as our droll story of Dr. Watson, Biohacking can consist of simple lifestyle adjustments based on cause and effect, trial and error, living and learning.