Proponents of the Silicon Valley–based health trend say you can biohack any part of your lifestyle, including your sex drive. Here’s what that entails.
Biohacking, for the unfamiliar, is a controversial health trend that’s popularized thinking about wellness like you’d think about a computer system—and finding backdoor ways to “hack” that system, so to speak. According to its proponents, the applications of biohacking are essentially limitless, offering practitioners the ability to optimize anything from their sleep schedule to their sex life. Biohacking’s patron saint, Dave Asprey, the 45-year-old multimillionaire founder of Bulletproof Coffee, described how he goes about the latter by injecting stem cells into his dick. This, according to him—there’s not many other people out there shooting up their dicks, so hard to say for sure—is a cure for erectile dysfunction. He also makes a point to specify that he doesn’t have ED but that he still, for some reason, wants stem cells injected into his penis. An extreme approach, to say the least.
The good news here is that you, a normal person, don’t have to go that far to biohack your way to better sexual health, at least according to Jeff Egler, M.D., at Parsley Health. What does that mean, exactly? Well, according to Dr. Egler, biohacking is “getting away from traditional medicine and into more natural, healthy ways of doing things.” If that sounds about as specific as a newspaper horoscope, that’s by design: The doctors at Parsley Health claim to be able to do just about anything through natural lifestyle changes via diet, exercise, sleep, hormones, and stress reduction. So, basically, anything you’re already doing that’s healthy? Yep, “it’s all biohacking,” says Dr. Egler.
When it comes to getting your freak on (and keeping your dick hard), what would a biohacking appointment look like? I asked Dr. Egler what he would do if someone came in complaining of low libido, and he stopped me. “Men coming in complaining of a low sex drive is actually very rare.” Color me surprised. “They will come in for erectile dysfunction,” he added. But typically his male patients are “in the office for something else, and the talk of not having a sex drive comes up.” Come on, guys! If you’re not having good sex with your partner, please for the love of God, talk to your doctor. Low sex drive is not uncommon, especially in people who are taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds. (One 2010 study estimated between 25 and 73 percent of patients taking SSRIs experience some kind of sexual dysfunction.) It’s incredibly normal, and the very least you can do is get a professional to try to help you with it. If that’s you, here’s a few places to start.
Find the real problem, don’t just treat the symptoms.
A major tenet of biohacking is using traditional medicine as a last resort, so don’t expect to go in and get a prescription for Cialis or Viagra. The focus of the doctors at Parsley Health is diagnosing the root cause of the issue, rather than just treating the symptoms themselves. “We just want to make sure that we’re not bypassing the actual problem. If you go more upstream, where the problem is, by changing their diet, for example, you’ll not only relieve their symptoms but you’ll cure them. Those problems will go away.” Okay, so eat differently and perhaps your erectile dysfunction will go away, according to biohackers? Well, maybe.
Incorporate more strength training in your workouts.
It might not be your diet. It could also be that HIIT workout you’ve been doing for the past five years, according to Dr. Egler. The way he breaks it down, high-intensity workouts cause a release of the stress hormone cortisol, which ends up competing with testosterone in your body. So now you have stellar abs, but your dick doesn’t get as hard. Apparently, it can be something that simple. A 2017 study actually found a similar connection: High-intensity workouts were correlative (but not necessarily causal) with low sex drive. As with most things in life, the key to balanced exercise is moderation; just pepper in some low-intensity and strength-building workouts among your regular cardio routine.
Take it to the lab.
Here’s where biohacking gets “sexy,” according to Dr. Egler. “We look for points of leverage. They might be eating perfectly and exercising in a really balanced fashion, they might be meditating, but they’re only sleeping six hours a night, so we try to see where the weak spots are. And then you test your hypothesis. That’s where we bring in lab testing.” The major emphasis in all of biohacking is monitoring, testing, tracking, and then using that feedback to get healthier. (Dave Asprey famously has a blood-glucose monitor implanted into his arm, and no, he’s not diabetic).
Increase your testosterone levels.
From these blood tests, depending on what your hormone levels suggest, they might “prescribe” biohacks like dietary fiber, lignans from flax seeds, or even simply green tea, all of which are aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase is what converts the testosterone in your body into estrogen, which then gets broken down. So theoretically, if you have an issue with low testosterone, one thing that you can do is inhibit that enzyme, leaving you with more of the hormone.
Another possible treatment involves inhibiting 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that turns testosterone into DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) and also often causes male hair loss. Natural 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (don’t worry, you’ll never need to remember the name) include omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, quercetin (an anti-inflammatory supplement), and once again green tea or flax seeds. According to Dr. Egler, all these things can help raise your testosterone levels, which are a key component to sexual health.
The last thing he recommends? Reducing stress. “A simple biohack to increase testosterone is anything that reduces stress.” So make time for meditating, exercising, or any other hobby that helps you clear your head. And if you aren’t sure what’s causing you to be so stressed out, it might be time to consult a therapist. As Dr. Egler says, “CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a biohack.”
At the end of the day, this approach to biohacking your sex life essentially encourages people to cultivate healthy habits in order to improve their overall health. So if you’re the kind of person who wants more from your Fitbit (and your coffee and green tea) and loves the word “metrics,” maybe re-labeling the advice your GP doc has been giving you for years as “biohacking” will help you get it done.
* This article is a repost which originally appeared on GQ.