Intermittent fasting. Wearable devices. Optimizing sleep for longevity. What do these buzzwords have in common? They all fall under the umbrella of another buzzword you may not yet have heard: biohacks.
Biohacking is a term that refers to incremental changes you can make to your body and your lifestyle. This approach has the potential to improve your overall health, one tiny hack at a time.
‘Biohacking seems to be a new word for lifestyle modification, which is something primary care physicians always talk to our patients about — changing their lifestyle to improve their health,” says Lorien Ahn, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo.
Biohacking involves making small, strategic changes to habits and behaviors to improve things like cognitive function and weight management. The term may seem new but there are many tried-and-true biohacks, such as consuming less refined carbs and moderating caffeine.
“I tell my patients not to use coffee to wake them up,” Dr. Ahn says. “You need to allow your body to wake up naturally. Your first cup of coffee shouldn’t be until at least a few hours after you wake up.”
You can easily add mild forms biohacks or lifestyle modifications to your daily routine that lead to eating healthy, exercising more and managing stress and lowering your risk of heart disease if that is your focus.
There are various forms of biohacking that focus on diet and nutrition.
One popular one is the intermittent diet (also known as intermittent fasting), which involves alternating between eating and fasting periods. Research has shown that it helps with weight management and blood sugar control.
It’s important to point out that biohacking is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Intermittent fasting, while generally safe, may not be suitable for everyone. Certain groups of people, including the elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding women and immunocompromised people, should use caution and talk to their doctor before trying such diets.
Technology in biohacking is popular. Wearable devices make it possible to monitor important health factors, such as heart rate, sleep quality and physical activity.
These devices can also serve as motivational tools, offering features like goal setting, reminders and progress tracking.
Dr. Ahn supports biohacks like intermittent fasting to regulate blood sugar as well as “removing all sugar from water” or not getting empty carbs from sugary drinks. But she cautions patients not to rely too much on wearable technology as it can expose them to unnecessary radiofrequency. Wearable devices also can take away your focus on how your body is feeling. she adds.
Dr. Ahn’s favorite biohack is to be mindful.
“When you focus on your body and how you feel, you know when you’re feeling good and when something is wrong,” Dr. Ahn says. “Then you can make small changes that can make a big difference.”
As with any journey of self-improvement, safety is a top priority when it comes to biohacking.
Some biohacks may seem simple but can pose risks if not approached with care.
Ice baths may not be safe for some people, even though they are meant to help with recovery after a workout and well-being.
Some biohacks are more complex and even controversial. The FDA, for example, advises against “young blood” transfusions where older people are transfused with blood plasma from young people. The FDA warns that claims that this treatment can reverse aging and memory loss are unproven and could potentially cause harm.
So, approach biohacking carefully, consult with your doctor when needed and prioritize safety for a healthier life.
This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.