Biohacking basics for beginners

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Much has been written about biohacking in recent years with lots of misinterpretation – it’s not about embedded chips and self-injections: like many things, you just need to get back to basics.

You’ve heard about people trying to hack computers. Well, some people have decided to take the same term and use it on themselves. Biohacking is one of the ‘ buzzwords of the digital age. It refers to people, who are often healthy and wealthy, coming up with all sorts of approaches to hack their health and live longer.

The problem is, like many buzzwords, it’s open to much misunderstanding and abuse. The biohacking market is full of untested products that actually offer little in terms of real-world benefits. However, many others can be a real benefit. The trick is to sort the good from the bad and the ugly.

Embracing technology

Key to the biohacking movement is the belief that technology can help us live longer, healthier lives. For example, the inner age app helps you track your internal age. This is the age which signified how well your body is actually coping with the world, rather than just how long you’ve been on the face of the Earth.

For example, you may be a relatively young (chronological) 40-year-old. However, if you’ve not been leading a healthy lifestyle, the inside of your body could be (biologically) much older. Understanding this internal biological age can give you more insights into your true health and may give you the trigger you need to take control of your health.

Other innovations include the use of gene editing technology such as CRISPR which allows scientists to identify, target and resolve genes which lead to health problems. Since its introduction in 2012 it has generated a mountain of research and claims.

Back to basics

However, the sector has attracted its fair share of new market entrants; with many of the technologies and supplements on offer lacking the evidence of their efficacy. Indeed, some of the best results can be found with more back to basic approaches such as:

  • Sleep: A lack of sleep is one of our most common problems. This is the body’s chance to cleanse the brain and is crucial in maintaining a good immune system. In our hectic culture it’s easy to let sleep slide but doing so can leave you more vulnerable to infection;
  • Play brain games: Just as exercise keeps your body fit, so brain exercise can improve your cognitive abilities. During lockdown, many people have turned to jigsaws. The good news is that they not only pass the time, but they keep your brain healthy and active. Not a jigsaw fan? There are multiple apps to support cognitive development;
  • Fasting: A lot of people suggest intermittent fasting to keep your body in good condition. LDL cholesterol can be extremely bad for you; to get these down you might choose intermittent fasting. One approach is to have all your meals within an eight hour window and fasting for the rest of the 16 hours in the day, i.e. have lunch and dinner but skip breakfast;
  • Getting close to nature: We all know how a walk in the woods can make us feel better, and there are some studies which prove it. Many doctors are using ecotherapy to reduce stress, improve wellbeing and improve health span;
  • Keep moving: One reason why nature might work is that it encourages you to move more. Good old fashioned exercise is crucial to health. We are not by nature sedentary creatures but our busy lifestyles make it almost inevitable. Try to dedicate some time in your day to keeping yourself moving.

Biohacking, then, is a term which is often associated with technology. However, when you get down to it, all this really means is interventions which can improve your health. The reality is, if you keep an eye on your health and do good basic things, your mind and body will be in a better and more healthy place.

When you’re ready to scale things-up there are multiple apps, books and techniques you can absorb – we’ll be covering these over coming weeks.

Image credit: blackzheep / Shutterstock and By Ray Morgan / Shutterstock

 


 

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

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