What the Hack?

By Radhika Sud – December 1, 2016
Photography by Camille J Wheeler

In a time where the world seems to move a mile a minute, happy hour is constantly calling your name and the box of donuts lurking in the office won’t stop taunting you, it’s easy to feel stressed and like you have little control over your own body. Biohacking, the process of “hacking” your body to achieve goals, could be just the answer you’re looking for. 

Biohacking uses technology and science to help regain control over your body and upgrade your mental and physical health. It can promote sleep, healing, performance, enhance cognition and reduce inflammation, among other things. 

We often train our bodies for optimal performance, but forget it is equally as important to train our minds. Ailments can arise from stress and negative thinking; biohacking can help break those negative thought cycles and improve mindset and cognition. 

But fear not,  you don’t need a background in computer science to do this kind of hacking. Chances are you’ve probably already done some in your lifetime. Meditation, ice baths and saunas are all biohacking methods, and they are by no means novel. Humans have been been using these tactics for hundreds of years and reaping the health benefits. Yet with new technologies and scientific advancements, biohacking has been elevated to a new level. 

With science-based practices, biohacking trains our mental and physiological reactions to optimize functionality. Using this technology, we can biohack our lives to sleep, think and live better.

Keep reading to learn the best biohacking methods!

 

Hacking Your Heart and Mind: Heart Rate Variability 

Heart rates can speak numbers about health. However, heart rates vary with every beat, so it’s often hard for an average person to understand the importance of their everyday rhythms. Heart rate variability (HRV) is the variation of beat to beat intervals, and a highly coherent HRV is indicative of an impressively efficient mind-body system. Meditation has been linked to achieving highly coherent HRV, as dropping into a state of meditation can help regulate your heart rate pattern.

To facilitate this state, one needs  access to scientific tools that provide real -time feedback as to what is occurring in the brain. This is where HRV tools come into play.

One such recommended tool is the Inner Balance Application by HeartMath. Once clipped onto your ears, the sensors send a tiny amount of infrared light that measures the speed of blood flow within your ear. The signal is then sent to the phone app where HRV is mapped, and in return provides the user with their heart rhythm pattern and a breathing pacer. The app aims to train users to alter their heart rhythm patterns in order to achieve a more coherent state. This can be a helpful tool to use as a morning ritual, before an important meeting or exam, or even at work. Health and performance coaches often recommend this tool to their clients who have goals of managing stress and achieving a flow state. Consistent use can lead to a calmer mindset and improvements in anxiety and depression, in addition to a strengthened heart-brain-mind connection. 

Semi-extreme temperatures, found in saunas and cold water, have been used for centuries as components of a healthy lifestyle. Scientific evidence supports the idea that using extreme temperatures can improve health.



Hack Detoxification with Near Infrared Sauna

Near Infrared saunas are similar to standard saunas, but operate from temperatures of 100–120 degrees Fahrenheit and have specific wavelengths that penetrate skin and improve function of mitochondria. According to Harvard University, all saunas improve circulation; additional benefits include anti-aging, increased detoxification, injury healing and energy. All of this is a result of optimum mitochondrial function. Since mitochondrial health is key to longevity, optimizing their health is central to biohacking.

For everyday, more personal access to these near infrared rays, purchase a safe pocket sauna made of bamboo at saunaspace.com.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is a process that cools the body to reduce inflammation and improve function. The most ancient form of cryotherapy is the traditional ice bath. Today, however, cryotherapy has advanced, and can include one to three minute sessions in specialized liquid nitrogen tanks that can reach -250 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooling the body, especially injured areas, can reduce inflammation and stimulate cellular level healing. Cryotherapy has also been known to increase energy and provide temporary pain relief. 

Try a cryotherapy session locally at EvolVe Cryo + Wellness, where your first full body session costs only $35. Find them at 3411 S. Lamar in Austin. evolveatx.com

Hack Your Skin with Red Light Therapy

Although similar to infrared light therapy, red light therapy does not penetrate the skin quite as deeply, and is used mainly as a spot treatment to support energy. Red light improves the structure of cellular cytoplasm, which provides notable functional benefits to all cellular processes, directly impacting our bodies. It also increases mitochondrial health, helps with inflammation, boosts energy, and stimulates collagen. Studies on athletes have also shown links to stimulation for muscle regeneration.

Commonly, this therapy is found at spas or wellness centers. Local Austin spa, Milk + Honey, offers red light LED therapy as an add-on to their facials. Visit them on their website at milkandhoneyspa.com, or at one of their four convenient locations. 

Keep reading for more biohacking methods!

 

Eliminating Blue Light at Night

Blue light exposure found in sunlight is necessary during daytime for increasing the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. However, when it’s time for bed, blue light actually reduces melatonin and impacts metabolism, making it harder to fall asleep and setting you up for a night of tossing and turning. For better sleep, it’s recommended that at night you use specialized glasses that block the blue light radiated from fluorescent lights, TVs and phones. 

Swanwick’s Swannie glasses help you sleep better, burn fat, get focused, and feel energized. Purchase them online at swanwicksleep.com/products/swannies-blue-light-blocking-glasses. For the best results, wear these glasses one to four hours before bedtime, especially when looking at screens. Alternatively, switch the light bulbs in your house to amber or red colors. 

Whole-body Vibration (WBV) 

Picture this: you have 15 minutes to work out, stretch, recover, increase and maintain strength, or even balance your hormones. Hack this effectively with a whole body vibration machine.

Originally created to test bone densities on astronauts, this machine uses a constant speed motor ~30 Hz. This vibrational energy is transferred to the user, causing muscle contraction in the user. Stand on the vibrational plate while you stretch, squat, plank or even practice yoga. The vibrations cause lymphatic circulation, which is beneficial, as the lymphatic system doesn’t circulate as well without being stimulated by muscle movement. This whole body vibration helps increase that circulation, which sends muscles firing in the whole body—helping to improve strength, flexibility, and encouraging weight loss.

Many weight loss centers offer these machines, but buy your own personal WBV at www.bulletproof.com/whole-body-vibration-plate.


The options for biohacking are endless and you don’t need to buy fancy equipment to take advantage of the benefits. Try employing simpler methods such as spending time in the sun, practicing deep breathing, meditating, taking cold showers, or even just getting your body moving.  Regardless of the hacks you try, it’s undeniable that the future of biohacking is bright—and, as technology advances, we can only expect to see more and more new ways to take control of the body and optimize its physical and mental health

 
 

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