On Biohacking

TLDR; Biohacking is using data to empower people to take control of their own wellness.

Context

I recently joined Upgrade Labs as CTO. Upgrade Labs is the world’s first “Biohacking” facility. Hacking has traditionally among the public had a very negative connotation. People imagine someone sitting in a dark room surrounded by computers breaking into their government servers, or potentially their bank account. Even Google has a dubious opinion of what we do.

Biohacking

What is biohacking

If what we’re doing isn’t what google claims, what is it?

Definition: Biohacking

(noun) Using self experimentation and measurable feedback to create improved wellness outcomes.

What do I mean? Biohacking is a practice whereby we set a wellness intention, measure biomarkers related to our intention, create a plan to change those biomarkers follow it and measure again.

For Example

My Blood Pressure

I have problems with blood pressure. If I’m not careful it’s not uncommon for me to have a blood pressure of as high as 165/100. What does that mean? Well for reference every 10 points of diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) over 75 you more than double your risk of mortality by cardiac event. That means without fixing that I’d be 6 times more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke. Not good.

What I did

My intention in this case is to lower my blood pressure. I can measure my blood pressure using any of a million monitors for sale on the internet. And there are lots of suggestions on the internet for what to do to help lower blood pressure I can incorporate in a plan and see if they work.

So, I started by buying a blood pressure monitor. Here’s one on Amazon for 24 dollars. There’s also a million suggestions online for things you can do to lower your blood pressure and I started incorporating some of them into my life. Here are a few examples.

  • High Intensity Interval Training
  • Eat Less Sodium
  • Take CoEnzyme Q10
  • Eat More Potassium
  • Manage Stress
  • Have less sugar
  • Eat magnesium rich foods
  • Drink small amounts of red wine

I tried a variety of these things measuring my blood pressure as I went. What did I come up with? I have a CoQ10 pill every morning and every evening. I like a drink with dinner, but most night I opt for a glass of red wine over beer, and always reseal the wine after pouring to not tempt myself with a second glass. Twice a week I do bike tabatas or sprints to Glycogen deplete my muscles. Lastly I wear a device to continuously monitor my HRV (measure of stress) and help coach me through breathing to reduce stress.

The outcome

My blood pressure on average sits around 120/75 in the morning (As long as I follow my protocol). Which is great.

So… Naturopathic medicine

No! If at some point these things stop working to keep my blood pressure low, and there aren’t obvious things that work I’ll take a diuretic or a beta blocker. That’s just a different protocol.

So what’s biohacking again

It’s the process of using measurement, plan creation and re-measurement to achieve our physical, mental or wellness goals. You’ve probably done something similar with weight loss at some point where you.

  1. Picked a metric to measure and measured it (Your weight)
  2. Set up a plan (Picked a diet)
  3. Followed the plan and re-measured

What is Biohacking?

What if you continuously applied this process across all of your health, not just your weight? Kept tabs all the time, not just for the 4-5 weeks you’re on your weight loss plan? That’s biohacking.

A disclaimer on fringe elements

If you dig into the biohacking community you’ll find a lot of things that are pretty fringe. An example of this is the “Carnivore Diet”, a diet where you eat nothing but meat. I’m not saying this won’t work for you. People follow these things and keep close tabs on things like LDL, HDL etc and seem to be healthy. I would encourage everyone to do your research before launching into something like that. The long term health outcomes are totally unknown, you’re doing an experiment on your own body that might end up in dying early.

Best of luck, and happy hacking!

Published 27 Feb 2019

On building software, living a healthy life and the world around us.
Joel Jackson on Twitter