Buzzwords in the the wellness world are about as common — and frequently introduced — as green juice varieties. But lately you've probably noticed one that sounds especially enigmatic: biohacking. Many professionals in the health community — including certified medical — are noticing the benefit of certain natural biohacks, otherwise known as do-it-yourself biology.
Still confused about what exactly it is? "Biohacking is measuring, instituting changes, retesting biological functions like sleep quality, fitness parameters, disease risk factors, and general vitality using tools outside of the traditional medical system," explains Dr. Joel Kahn, top cardiologist, author multiple best-sellers, and plant-based nutrition enthusiast. Essentially, the belief is that you can take some control of certain elements of your health by making changes to your diet and exercise routines, taking certain supplements, and even learning to better manage your mood.
It might sounds too good to be true, but many experts have cosigned on the value of biohacking, whether it be ways to maximize your sleep or how to balance your hormones. Anxious to get started reaping the potential benefits? Read ahead for a handful of ways to try it in your own lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting (or IF) is not only one of the most popular dietary trends, it also happens to be a great biohack, according to Dr. Anna Cabeca, OB GYN and author of best-selling book The Hormone Fix. "Some of my favorite biohacks begin with using our bodies’ intelligent design to heal itself, and that starts with intermittent fasting," she says. "Giving yourself between 13 to 16 hours between dinner and breakfast is a first class biohack. Simple IF can improve our bodies’ function very, very well, plus we’re not eating very late at night, so our stomach isn’t trying to digest food and work on that when it should be restoring and repairing other parts." That said, proper IF requires maintaining a healthy caloric intake and a diet that consists of nutritious, whole foods.
While bioidentical hormones aren't always plant-based per se, they are considered to be "natural" in that the body responds to them as its own. And as Dr. Cabeca points out, they are especially relevant for women dealing with perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause as a way of re-balancing hormone levels. Bioidentical progesterone and DHEA are among those which she often uses with patients with great success. The OB GYN even has created her own products that utilize these ingredients, including a topical cream that could help with vaginal anti-aging (relief from bladder leakage, improved sexual function).
Red Light Therapy
According to its proponents, red light therapy can be used for anti-aging and improved wound healing, among other benefits. And unlike a few years ago, it's become relatively more accessible to try yourself at home. "Over 2,000 research studies document the health benefits of red and near infrared light therapy but the price was prohibitive until this year," says Dr. Kahn. "Now for under a grand you can get a state of the art large red light panel at home for anti-aging, fitness, fat loss, autoimmune syndrome, and brain enhancement goals."
Dr Kahn also notes the improvements seen from infrared saunas, which heat the body internally using infrared lights. Some of the potential benefits include immune system support, increased metabolism, and heart health. "The health benefits of sauna including infrared and steam sauna are documented in many medical research articles," he says. "The science now extends to prolongation of life."
Clean (Green) Eating
While Dr. Cabeca personally endorses a few supplements, including maca powder, she also notes the value of filling your diet with lots of leafy greens as a means of detoxifying and alkalinizing the body — and she recommends a specific keto approach to eating as a favorite biohack. "I say not keto-dirty, but keto-clean, which is keto green," she explains. "In my book, The Hormone Fix, I talk about the keto green way of doing this, diet and lifestyle and one step again is intermittent fasting. The second is adding in lots of green alkalinizers. And the third, incorporating healthy fats, healthy high-quality fats like olives, olive oil, nuts, salmon, avocado into our diet."
"Oxytocin is the hormone of love, bonding, and connection," explains Dr. Cabeca. "It is released during childbirth, it is released during intimacy in sex, also with laughter, play, and pleasurable activity — and we know oxytocin is an anti-aging hormone. So incorporating activities you love into your life on a daily basis and keeping a positive attitude. is an important way to do this.” One of her go-to tips? Think of something that makes you smile, and try to connect to that idea throughout your day.
It continues to be confirmed that lack of sleep — or getting poor quality sleep — can cost you your health. Thankfully, there are a few ways to biohack your bedtime routine according to Dr. Cabeca. "Supplementing for sleep includes magnesium and sometimes melatonin, as well as creating a nighttime ritual — like catching the sunset," she explains. "Getting the sunset’s rays into your eyes. Those red hues encourage our bodies to create more melatonin. Also eliminating blue lights and electronics in the evening as well as using blue light blocking glasses [will get you] a deeper, more solid night’s sleep as well."