Welcome to the latest in our ‘New You’ series where we plan to make 2021 our and your best year ever!
Come with us as we journey into the bold, unknown, intriguing, daunting or challenging. We go out on a limb to explore ideas and experiences that you just might have considered, but never dared undertake. From starting a new business to investing in cryptocurrency, we’re covering a breadth of possibilities that might spark something within you, and fire up desire or courage to try something new in life, that just might lead to a New You’.
Today, we delve into the world of biohacking...
What is biohacking?
It sounds like some form of modern-day warfare. In fairness, it possibly is in a round-about way. Definitions vary depending on who’s doing the explaining. Here we consider biohacking as a blending of ancient wisdom with new-world technology to deliver highly individualised well-being outcomes. In other words, how to hack your health destiny to stay one or several steps ahead. It’s a truly thrilling idea; to play an active role in carving your own clear way towards wellness, rather than reacting to the speedbumps and detours that might have otherwise been placed on your path.
Read on to learn about founder, functional medicine advocate, and biohacker Matt Dippl who will tell us all about it.
Matt biohacked himself and recovered from an auto-immune disease
Before you start conjuring visions of some George Orwell character conducting all kinds of experiments, meet Matt. An early adopter of biohacking, Matt first became aware of the concept in 2007 when he became quite ill. Qualified in Chinese medicine and working as an acupuncturist in Australia, Matt (originally from Germany) was suffering from anxiety and depression.
Initially, he attributed this to a complex relationship with his father and so he turned to talking therapy. It was an intense experience, yet it failed to really remedy the problem. If anything, it amplified what he was feeling. Some years later, and still experiencing these waves of depression and anxiety, Matt was building his acupuncture clinic when a friend in the US made a suggestion. Why not offer his clients blood chemistry analysis? It would be a very objective means of complimenting the subjective work of Chinese medicine.
Using biomarkers to discover his own auto-immune disease
Matt was intrigued, but if he was going to introduce such an offering, then he wanted to test-drive it first. He wanted to be the patient. The friend in the US sent him a test of 80 biomarkers - pathological or physiological means of objectively identifying disease. Matt took the biomarkers to a local doctor and a preventative blood panel was recommended. The results? Matt had hyperthyroidism due to Hashimoto's, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid and is classically associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Matt didn’t have a psychological problem, he had a biochemical one based on a hormone imbalance.
Functional medicine - getting to the root of the health problem
So began Matt’s interest in and passion for functional medicine. By this, we mean a fairly modern-day concept that commits to discovering how or why an illness occurs, and then sets about tackling the root of that cause. It’s somewhat contradictory to the classic western medicine approach, which is to suppress or minimise the symptoms. Moreover, the traditional western approach to date has been about reacting to illness, rather than proactively building wellness, which is a key pillar of functional medicine.
Gut health - the well-being gatekeeper
The more Matt researched, the more he realised that so many auto-immune issues begin in the gut.
Another test later, and Matt discovered he had the auto-immune disease Heliobacter pylori, bacteria that can adversely impact the lining and microbiome of the stomach, leading to leaky gut, gastritis, and even stomach cancer. Delving deeper, Matt learnt from his mother that he was not breastfed as a baby, and instead received formula. He strongly suspects this has resulted in a lifelong struggle with stomach related issues such as inflammation, upsets and intolerances.
How your genomic profile and systems biology can heal you
Matt took medication for the thyroid imbalance, but it was the attention given to his gut that resulted in the real epiphany. He took several steps:
- A fasting routine
- A removal/clean out programme involving high doses of emulsified oregano extract to cleanse the gut
- Adding digestive enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, zinc and collagen powder into his daily diet to help restore the gut lining
A big part of biohacking is to understand that the path to good health and well-being lies in systems biology. It begins with the food you do - and don’t - eat. That is based on an understanding of what foods trigger which responses in you - what your gut can digest, absorb and process (as opposed to the general population’s response). These are the foods your genetics specifically either do or do not need, and we are all individual.
Next up is hormones, and understanding your own cycle. Matt has learnt that his optimal time of day in terms of efficiency and clarity is in the morning. He also knows that given his gut condition, every meal or snack is going to have an effect on his energy levels. Knowing this empowers Matt to manipulate his day by fasting in the morning and working between 8am and 2pm, when his cognitive function is at its peak. He will also normally make a coffee with MCT oil, butter and olive oil, which helps give him clarity.
This individual hormone cycle is in turn influenced by much bigger powers at play - solar and lunar energy as well as the ever-changing seasonal energy. For example, yang (solar energy) is at its most potent at midday, when the sun is at its highest. This tends to be the optimal time for activity. Inversely, yin, or lunar energy, is at its fullest expression at midnight and as such, this is when we should be deep in restorative sleep.
This logic extends to the seasons, with summer being a time for extroversion, outdoor activity and high energy. No surprises that winter is the opposite - a time for introversion, contemplation, quietening down and restoring energy. Aligning our own personal systems with these natural cycles gives our bodies the best chance to work with and be with nature, which is where good health lies.
Biophilia - the answer to ultimate well-being
An increasing body of evidence supports Matt’s premise that the closer we are to nature, the healthier we are. You may have heard the term biophilia, or the practice of incorporating nature and natural elements into the built environment.
Every step we take away from nature is a step closer to ill health.
It’s partly why so much of the world is so sick - we live in bustling, busy cities that don’t have space or time for the natural world. We spend too much time inside, under the glare of artificial light, breathing in conditioned air, having our body temperatures regulated by artificial systems a lot of the time. Returning to the natural alternative is a step in the right direction, even if you’re living in the very epicentre of a world city.
Indoor living plants, log fires, natural lighting, calming sounds - these all play a role in delivering messages to our body that we are close to nature, where we are supposed to be. Exposing yourself to the natural red light of sunrises and sunsets and reducing exposure to artificial blue light all helps to restore our natural yin and yang.
How to begin biohacking & pitfalls to avoid
If this is all completely new, Matt recommends beginning your journey by following Dr Mark Hyman or Dr Rangan Chatterjee, each of whom is sharing exciting developments in the world of biohacking and quality, sustainable health and longevity. He offers a word of warning - be careful not to buy into the hype. As with all emerging trends, there are opportunists.
Don’t regard health status as a status symbol. There is a real risk as we shift towards a new way of perceiving health maintenance and well-being, that we misappropriate value. Learning to optimise our own health outcomes should not be an opportunity to then judge others. Biohacking might make us faster, smarter, stronger, more efficient, but that should not become an invitation to be faster, smarter, stronger or more efficient than others.
Remember, this is a highly individualised and bespoke journey, so what works for others might not necessarily work for you, and vice-versa. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and what your positive and negative triggers are.
So, is biohacking the path to a ‘New You’? We’d love to hear if this inspires you to dig deeper into your own genetic predispositions, or if you’ve already tried this. Let us know!
The information we have provided herewith, and all linked materials, are not intended nor should they be construed as medical advice. Moreover, the information herewith should not be used as a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions and consult your General Practitioner for advice specific for you.