Biohacking is emerging as a new frontier in the pursuit of better health and longevity. It combines innovative approaches to biology and self-improvement with hacker culture and DIY to optimize our health, bodies, and minds.
But what is biohacking, exactly? Biohacking is not a singular thing, yet it isn't a nebulous concept either. It encompasses a range of practices, from simple lifestyle and dietary changes to advanced technological interventions, all with the same goal: to fine-tune our biological processes for improved well-being.
Here, we’ll provide a high-level overview of different types of biohacking and look at various facets with a critical eye, exploring proven methods and exposing potentially dangerous trends. Central to our discussion is the role of technologies that merge biohacking principles with evidence-based, proactive healthcare measures.
Biohacking is not new; it has evolved over decades, drawing from ancient wellness practices and modern scientific discoveries. Today, it represents a diverse and rapidly growing movement driven by the desire to achieve optimum health, prevent aging, and even reverse the effects of time on our bodies (sometimes called “aging backwards”).
But there’s also a riskier aspect to biohacking, which includes a level of self-experimentation that can often blur the lines between cutting-edge medical practices with ethical boundaries and activities like DIY biology and gene editing.
Ethical biohacking has evolved into a data-informed approach to preventive healthcare, allowing people to gain deeper insights into their own body's functioning and make proactive decisions about their health.
By leveraging technology, biohackers can monitor various aspects of their health in real-time — from blood sugar levels to genetic predispositions — and optimize their lifestyle accordingly. This approach represents a shift towards more personalized healthcare where data and technology play key roles.
As humans, our DNA is almost identical. What makes us unique are the alterations in our genetic code, such as whether certain genes are switched on or off and how our genes are expressed. (This “gene expression” refers to the specific instructions our genes carry about how to make a protein or molecules.)
We know that internal and external factors affect gene expression, including diet, temperature, oxygen levels, humidity, light cycles, and mutagens (chemical or physical agents that cause changes to DNA).
One of the most fascinating areas of biohacking is nutrigenomics, a field that studies how our diet influences our genetic expression. This approach is grounded in the knowledge that what we eat can directly impact our metabolism, inflammation levels, and even our risk for certain diseases.
However, nutrigenomics is not a cookie-cutter approach or fad diet. It’s highly personalized and may include genetic and metabolic testing to better understand how someone reacts to certain foods. Nutrigenomics can improve motivation and long-term adherence to healthy eating, particularly in weight management and diabetes prevention.
Personalized nutrition planning uses genetic testing, an essential tool in biohacking, as it provides insights into predispositions to specific health conditions, dietary sensitivities, and even responses to different types of exercises. This information can be used to personalize diet, fitness, and lifestyle choices for optimal health outcomes.
Autophagy is a fundamental biological process essential for maintaining cellular health. It has become a focal point in longevity and disease research (and biohacking). The term, derived from the Greek words for "self" (auto) and "eating" (phage), refers to the process by which cells break down and recycle their parts — think of it as cellular housekeeping or a cellular waste disposal mechanism.
Studies have shown that autophagy may offer a defense against diseases like cancer, heart disease, infections, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. It's also implicated in aging — as autophagy declines with age, the accumulation of dead cells contributes to the aging process and age-related diseases.
Lifestyle factors such as exercise and dietary choices, caloric restriction, intermittent fasting, and fasting-mimicking diets have been found to stimulate autophagy, suggesting potential pathways for enhancing this cellular process to promote brain health, cognitive function, and longevity. There’s also research on other biohacking techniques like ice baths, cold water therapy, and saunas affecting autophagy.
Mobile fasting apps can help you stay on track with this popular biohacking practice. Consistency is key to improving metabolism, weight loss, and blood sugar control. It's essential to tailor fasting schedules to individual health needs and lifestyles, and people with chronic health conditions should always consult with their doctor before starting.
It’s common knowledge that regular physical activity boosts heart health, enhances mood, improves energy levels, and helps maintain a healthy weight. With biohacking, people can tailor exercise routines to their specific fitness levels and preferences to ensure they stick with it and reduce the risk of injury.
Exercise can also help protect against chronic diseases associated with systemic inflammation. In fact, some research shows that daily aerobic activity and muscle resistance training can help build metabolic resilience.
Smartwatches and fitness bands are widely used in biohacking for tracking physical activity, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more. These devices provide valuable data to help people set fitness goals, monitor progress, and understand their body's responses to different physical activities.
Tools like Lumen, which analyzes breath to provide metabolic insights, and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are valuable in monitoring and optimizing metabolic health. These devices can help people tailor their diet and exercise plans for enhanced energy levels and athletic performance.
Quality sleep is essential for overall health and disease prevention. It contributes to the healing and repair of the body, supports growth and stress management, and improves productivity and cognition.
While there are techniques to enhance sleep quality — for example, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a restful environment, and avoiding stimulants like caffeine before bedtime — biohacking can take these practices to the next level.
Wearable devices like the Whoop, Oura Ring, and Fitbit can track sleep data, providing insights into sleep duration and quality. This information can then be used to adjust daily routines to improve sleep quality and enhance overall well-being.
Early detection in healthcare is a cornerstone of proactive medicine, aiming to catch diseases or conditions before they develop into more severe health problems. When a tumor is small and localized, treating it may be more straightforward than when the disease has spread.
A full-body MRI scan represents a leap in medical imaging technology. Unlike diagnostic imaging methods focusing on specific areas, full-body MRI scanning provides a broader screening overview of your body's internal organs.
Scanners use powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of organs and tissues. The real strength of MRI lies in its ability to detect anomalies that might not be causing symptoms yet but could develop into serious health issues if left untreated.
For instance, in less than an hour, the Ezra Full Body scan can spot early signs of tumors, tissue abnormalities, or vascular abnormalities. This technology is crucial in preventive health because it allows for the early identification of conditions that could become problematic if not addressed promptly.
Many biohackers use a variety of supplements and research chemicals, some of which are not yet approved for medical use. These supplements can alter body chemistry, enhance cognitive function, or improve physical performance. However, the use of unregulated substances can be risky since their safety profile is only sometimes well-established. So what is biohacking when it comes to these substances? Here’s a closer look.
Referred to as “smart drugs,” nootropics are sold over the counter and online as dietary supplements for cognitive enhancement. People take them to improve alertness, mood, memory, creativity, and motivation. Research in this area is ongoing, with some studies suggesting potential benefits, especially in improving executive function.
Nootropics can be synthetic or natural and have many functions. Some increase oxygen and acetylcholine levels in the brain, others regulate hormones, and some function as neurotransmitters. Synthetic nootropics include racetam drugs like modafinil and piracetam while natural nootropics include substances like caffeine and taurine.
While it's undeniable that nootropics have gained popularity for their reported benefits, it's equally important to consider any potential downsides of these substances. It’s possible that the regular consumption of nootropics might lead to negative effects such as insomnia, anxiety, and even addiction, particularly when taken in high doses or for prolonged periods. Since they’re relatively new, the long-term health impacts of many nootropics remain largely unexplored due to the scarcity of comprehensive studies and clinical trials.
The lack of standardization and regulation in the nootropic industry may also pose risks, with product quality and ingredient purity varying significantly across different brands. Always discuss the supplements you take with your doctor. Stay aware, stay informed, and always prioritize your safety when considering the use of nootropics.
Adaptogens are herbal medicines that may help enhance the body's resistance to stress, fatigue, and various mental and physical strains by controlling hormones and stress mediators. There’s no oversight or quality control in manufacturing many of these nutritional supplements, so it’s possible to find unhealthy substances in the bottles.
Examples of dietary supplements classified as adaptogens include
Keep in mind that more testing is needed to verify claims and these compounds may have side effects.
Peptides are fragments or small chains of amino acids that our bodies produce to help repair cells, destroy microbes, and activate hormones that promote longevity, muscle gain, and metabolism.
Unlike therapeutic peptides — which are compounded in pharmaceutical laboratories and include GLP1 weight loss drugs like Ozempic — research peptides are substances often sold online but labeled "not for human consumption." Some originate from dubious sources and may include impurities and compounds derived from animal cells. There are many reports of side effects and injuries from taking research chemicals purchased online.
The grinder movement is an offshoot of biohacking that involves implanting devices, electronics, microchips, and magnets into the body to enhance human capabilities or senses.
Technologies like CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a genetic engineering tool that helps edit proteins and genes, allow for unregulated self-experimentation. The grinder movement's use of CRISPR poses ethical questions, especially regarding the potential for creating genetic changes that could be passed down to future generations.
However, while such technologies hold immense potential for treating genetic disorders and diseases, they also raise significant ethical concerns, mainly when used without proper oversight or for non-therapeutic purposes.
What is biohacking? While the answer to that question is complex and nuanced, the bottom line is that using technology to enhance biology requires careful consideration and evidence-based methodologies. More than just wearing a fitness device or following a fasting diet, biohacking is a new (and growing) wave of health optimization across all aspects of our lives.
The key to successful, ethical, and safe biohacking lies in choosing trusted interventions. For instance, Ezra's Full Body MRI scans use tried-and-tested, science-based technology to identify various abnormalities in up to 13 organs or body parts. MRIs are particularly effective in helping radiologists spot early-stage tumors and may even help assess for some types of vascular abnormalities. As the American Cancer Society has stated, early detection saves lives.
If you want to engage in more proactive screening for your health, book your scan online today.