If you love to nerd out on the latest in nutrition science and evidence-based health therapies like I do, then you're probably excited about the latest wellness trend called biohacking. Well + Good named it as one of the top trends to look out for in 2018, for women in particular, and we are 100% on board.
While the term “hacking” might have you concerned when it comes to internet security, there are all sorts of positive hacks you can do when it comes to your health. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs coined the term “biohacking” when they started taking the best of technology, modern science, and lifestyle habits to enhance health and achieve maximum productivity. You’re probably familiar with fitness trackers, and maybe you’ve heard of ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting - all hallmarks of recent biohacking. But did you know you can also biohack your microbiome, mood, skin, and sleep?
Even though the scientific proof that biohacking your body is beneficial over the long term is still not 100%, there are many innovative services out there that will help you learn more about your individual biological makeup and provides you with the tools to upgrade your health and create new habits.
Over the last couple months I've had a lot of fun trying out a few of these new services, tracking some of the metrics around my health, and overall learning more about my biology. Here’s a brief intro.
Biohack your microbiome.
At Provenance, we talk a lot about the gut microbiome (check out our interview with Dr. Frank Lipman and the "4R" program of cleansing in our Provenance Detox). Your gut microbiome is the community of trillions of bacteria that live in your gut and are shown to affect not only your digestion but also your mood, physical performance, and weight, among other things. Thryve Inside is a company that sends you a kit to sample your stool and send it into their lab for analysis. (Don’t worry, it’s not gross or complicated.) After a few weeks you'll receive your results, telling you what type of bacteria live in your gut, what functions they relate to in your body, how diverse your bacteria types are, as well as an overall Wellness score. I was happy to see that my Wellness score was higher than the average American, but I also learned that my diversity of bacteria was not as rich as it could be. Thryve Inside makes dietary recommendations based on your microbiome health and promotes their line of probiotics designed to increase diversity and overall wellness in your gut. (Use code provenancemeals15 to get 15% off the testing kit and 20% off the gut health program.) They also encourage you to send in another sample kit after you’ve made those positive changes so that you can compare against your initial results. While we personally love the probiotics from Be Well we’re open to trying other brands and love the idea of tracking the development of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Biohack your DNA.
Have you ever done any genetic testing? I was excited to ever since both my husband and my sister tried 23andme.com a few years ago to delve deeper into their ancestry. Recently a new company called Orig3n hit the market that also does genetic testing but is focused more on your health instead of your family tree. A simple swab of your cheek provides the DNA required to discover information about your genetic predispositions and help you make decisions about what may or may not be best for your body. I tried their Nutrition kit to see if this genetic knowledge could help me biohack food sensitivities, hunger, weight and vitamin deficiencies.
It's important to keep in mind that Orig3n is testing your genes, not your current state of health. So having a genetic predisposition towards something does not mean that it is your destiny. It simply means you may have biological-based tendencies that may influence your overall health. For example my test results showed that I am a “gifted”, or fast, metabolizer of caffeine and that unlike about 60% of the population my body can handle up to 24 oz per day without unhealthy consequences. However, I find that I am quite sensitive to caffeine and am more productive and sleep much better when it's not in my regular diet. It did tell me to watch out for higher cholesterol because I could have a problem metabolizing certain fats, and my doctor did confirm for me that my cholesterol numbers verge on the edge of high despite my well-balanced diet. So while I take these results with a grain of salt, knowing that my daily wellness routines and diet may have more influence on my current state of health than my DNA, I did find the results fascinating.
Biohack your daily diet.
Food sensitivity testing, on the other hand, is a great way to get a picture of where you’re at right now. Food sensitivities are different than true allergies, as an allergy can cause an extreme immune system response that may be life-threatening. But a food sensitivity test can help you figure out what foods you don’t tolerate well, and by eliminating those for a period of time you can heal your gut and improve your digestive strength and overall wellbeing.
According to nutrition expert and Provenance wellness partner Nikki Ostrower, “With evidence repeatedly linking inflammation and chronic activation of the immune system—both caused by food sensitivities—to some of our most dangerous and debilitating diseases, it's more important than ever to know which foods work with your body and which ones work against it.” Nikki recently opened a new wellness center in NYC called NAO Wellness, where she offers comprehensive food intolerance testing.
Biohack your nutrients.
Parsley Health is a functional medicine office with doctors and health coaches that give you a comprehensive view of your health and provide you with a suite of personalized tools to improve it. I signed up for a new membership program they offer called the Parsley Health Assessment. Before I went in to see my doctor, I had blood work done and filled out several questionnaires about any symptoms regarding digestion, physical issues, sleep, mood, and general health history. When I met with my doctor (for a whopping 90 minutes), we went over the results of my blood work, discussed recommendations around sleep and supplementation, and I walked away with a 7-step action plan to reach my wellness goals. A 1-hour in-person follow up with one of their health coaches helped me tweak my plan to improve my odds for success. The amount of time spent with their health care practitioners, their core dietary recommendations to avoid gluten, dairy, and refined sugar and eat more plants (which matches perfectly with our philosophy at Provenance Meals), and proper supplementation already has me feeling amazing about 6 weeks after my first appointment. I’m most excited by the fact that my hair is darker, thicker and shinier after I started supplementing with their Vitamin D3/K2 formula when I learned how low my D3 number was (as is the case for most people in the Northeast this time of year).
These services and others like them are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to biohacking. As you can see, whether you’re a health nerd or not, you can gain a lot from taking stock of your current health, working with various tests and tracking tools to determine what your body needs, and starting a program to measure those results. The possibilities to boost health, beauty, energy, mood, fitness, and sleep are only limited by your own desire to commit to a clean and healthy lifestyle. At Provenance, we’re looking forward to continuing the conversation around biohacking with innovative health and wellness pros and exciting new tools to turn that commitment into actual results. Stay tuned for updates!
Caroll Lee - Founder of Provenance Meals
Caroll is an avid cook, mother of two, Board Certified Health Counselor and the founder of Provenance Meals. Her passion in life is to feed people real food -- food that is raised, grown and prepared in traditional ways that are good for your health and good for the planet. Caroll practices holistic nutrition, understanding that a healthy diet must be combined with other sources of nourishment—loving relationships, enjoyable physical activity, meaningful work and spiritual connectedness—to reach true health and happiness.