A young man walks into a physician’s office. While detailing his history, he describes his Paleo nutrition plan, supplementation regimen and functional style fitness routine. He explains to the physician that he is one of the new breed of individuals called biohackers and would like the physician to partner with him on his quest for optimal health. He discusses his personal research on health and wellness and would like specific blood work to be monitored. He understands that much of what he does and some of the testing he requests may not be consistent with what may be perceived as the “norm,” but would like patience and understanding while still getting advice.
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Physician informs this individual that he cannot in good conscious support this endeavor. He explains that he has years of medical training and is concerned that Internet advice is dangerous and goes against conventional wisdom of current medical therapies. He’s concerned with the high fat consumption of the Paleo diet and mentions that dietitians say Paleo is one of the worst options for good health. He explains how the Internet and alternative care gurus promote risky and unproven interventions. He does not feel comfortable ordering testing that he does not feel to be justified.
Physician is open to the ideas of biohacking and believes n=1 study of individual trials is a legitimate undertaking. He says that even though he has extensive medical training, he understands he may not have all the available current medical knowledge. In fact, he expresses that he often learns from his patients. He compares his role to more of a guide than a strict authority. He tells the patient he would like him to sign an agreement of mutual understanding. If the individual goes against recommended medical advice, it would be documented. However, the physician would still provide oversight as long as the physician did not feel morally compromised.
Which physician would you choose?
Would you choose the physician who honored your desire to take responsibility for and actively participate in your own health optimization? Or would you choose the physician who believes he knows more about your health than you do? The focus of the majority of health care providers today is on sick care or prevention. They have little training in well care and even less in human potential optimization.
Let’s face it. Most people seeking optimal health are biohackers. A biohacker is anyone who has taken a supplement, drunk protein drinks, used a heart rate monitor, or tried neuro-feedback to hack brainwaves. Peak performance and optimal health: this is the realm of the biohacker.
What is a biohacker?
Biohacking is tapping into your own biology, psychology, or physiology in order to enhance or gain control over these systems through practices, technology, and/or exogenous elements. This hacking is for the express purpose of unlocking our human potential. It is the process of trial and assessment— try something, see if it gives the desired outcome and reassess.
Many people first become biohackers when they have a health condition that their cannot solve. Their personal quest begins as they surf the Internet for their symptoms, visit message boards and forums, visit alternative care providers, etc. Others become biohackers to optimize cognition, physiology, and spirituality.
Examples of biohacking include:
- Manipulation of macronutrients – Paleo, ketogenic, vegetarian
- Meal timing – intermittent fasting, carbohydrate backloading
- Type of training – endurance, HIT, Crossfit, resistance
- Manipulations – time-under-tension, hi-rep, body weight, 2-a-day, 5×5, etc.
- Peak performance & Stress
- Biofeedback / neurofeedback training
- Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)
- Sleep hacks
- CVAC™ (Cyclic Variations in Adaptive Conditioning™)
- Cognitive & consciousness
Biohacking may be the future of modern healthcare, but it’s risky. When someone enters the biohacking realm, it’s important to work with a healthcare professional who provides guidance on objective assessment and has oversight for medical safety.
How do you choose a health professional, coach or advisor?
Should you look for a physician, a naturopath, or other alternative provider? As with all professions, there are providers up and down the spectrum. Just as you would interview an attorney, realtor or banker, you should interview your health care provider. The most beneficial partnership is one based on mutual belief systems and respect. Here are some guidelines:
- Make sure they possess similar beliefs in the various modalities you choose. The provider doesn’t have to be an expert in all the modalities, but being open-minded is important.
- Beware if they are critical of a particular modality. When someone is critical of another type of practitioner, they may not have your best interest in mind.
- Is the provider’s goal focused on you as an individual? Do they truly believe you are the captain of the ship when it comes to your health choices? They don’t have to fully support your choices, but they should honor your choices and provide you with guidance. In the same line of thinking, you must also support the practitioner’s choice not to be an active facilitator in a process that they do not believe to be safe.
Biohacking is the new realm of wellness and health optimization and is resulting in amazing outcomes for many, but it should not be undertaken without guidance. Find a health professional who can provide support, guidance, and objective assessment.
You can find Dr. Daniel Stickler on Voice America radio every Thursday at 9am Pacific Time hosting Biohacking for Optimal Health. Past shows available on iTunes and Stitcher.