More than human: What is biohacking?

FROM OUR ARCHIVES: More Than Human?

By Emma Dollery 06 May 2022

From age-old practices like meditating and fasting, to cutting-edge genetic engineering software like CRISPR, and Elon Musk’s brain-machine interfaces, Neuralink. What is biohacking?

This article is a repost which originally appeared on DAILY MAVERICK

Edited for content. The opinions expressed in this article may not reflect the opinions of this site’s editors, staff or members.

Our Takeaways:

· Biohacking can best be described as optimizing physical and mental function

· “Biohacking celebrities” are known for taking the concept to extremes

· Actions as simple as controlled breathing can have profound effects on the body and mind

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey does it (he only eats once a day and never on a weekend); so does Elon Musk (he’s developing a microchip that can be inserted straight into the brain); and even the half-naked guy shivering in the frigid tide-pool at 7am – biohacking.

In its most rudimentary form, the practice of biohacking can be described as doing things that optimise your body and mind’s function. Essentially, having a regular sleeping schedule or cutting out sugar could be considered a biohack (though most of us would just call that healthy living). American entrepreneur and founder of Bulletproof nootropics Dave Asprey who has been boisterously claiming that he is the “father of biohacking”, provides a second definition: biohacking is “the art and science of becoming superhuman”.

In fact, “biohacking” personalities like Asprey, Josiah Zayner, Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey are doing all that they can to transcend what we have come to think of as “regular” humanness. Often claiming to be at the forefront of life-hacking technology and theory, they are constantly experimenting with the human body in attempts to make it stronger, faster, smarter, younger, more efficient. Some of their fellow biohackers around the world – painstakingly track every bodily consumption and function in order to reach optimum performance, or implant chips into their hands for maximum technological efficiency, or engage in the vampire-like practice of replacing one’s blood with that of young donors in an attempt to find the fountain of youth.

There is a reason these biohacking celebs have become people of intrigue: they often take things to the extreme, further than most of us would be comfortable. And indeed, using science and technology as a sort of shortcut to enhancing your body and mind, as well as potentially increasing your lifespan, is arguably appealing to most people.

But luckily there are also ways to biohack that don’t involve endless hours of tracking, calculating and inserting foreign objects into your body, methods much closer to the realm of comfortable that are purported to actually help with things like boosting the metabolism, the immune system and concentration without going all the way cyborg.

All the way to extreme wellness

Remember the guy, semi-naked, frigid in the tidepool at 7am? This practice, a combination of cold therapy (diving into very cold water), dynamic stretching and breathing techniques is part of the Wim Hof method, which is said to help you “realise your full potential”.

As per the many deep breathing, scantily clad bodies on the beaches and in the tide pools early in the morning, the method is seemingly popular in Cape Town (perhaps because of the accessible ice water that is the ocean) and is thought to do a wealth of awesome things, including burn fat, reduce stress and boost the immune system.

The Wim Hof method is named after its founder, a self-proclaimed “crazy Dutchman” from the Netherlands. Also known as the “ice-man” for the varied but equally death-defying feats he has accomplished in exceedingly cold climates, including (but not limited to) climbing Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a half-marathon above the arctic circle barefoot, and finishing a full marathon in the Namib desert without drinking a single drop of water, Hof has made it his mission to spread his superhuman, cold-enduring abilities to those of us lesser beings who struggle to get our noodle arms out of bed in the winter.

According to Hof, all noodle arms can get out of bed and “tap into happiness, strength and health” by following his simple three-tier method. The tiers –breathing exercises, gradual exposure to cold and training of concentration and commitment – must be done in parallel with one another to feel the full effects.

The practice, usually done in the morning before breakfast, should look like some iteration of this: The first step, the breathing exercises, are surprisingly simple. They include breathing in and out purposefully (but without forcing anything) for a couple of minutes. The idea is that there is no pause between the inhale and exhale, “like a cycle” Hof explains in a tutorial video, “like a wave.” At the end of this short but intense breathing period, Hof asks you to exhale and hold your breath – the tutorial starts with holding for one minute, but the idea is to hold for as long as you feel comfortable (which will get longer and longer with practice), after which you release and start all over again.

In simplified terms, the breathing technique has been developed over time by Hof to expand the diffusion surface of your lungs, thereby increasing oxygen and decreasing carbon dioxide levels in your blood. The altered ratio of oxygen/carbon dioxide allegedly raises the PH of your blood, alkalising your body and lowering the number of acids (like lactic acids) produced by your cells that are often responsible for feelings of pain. Oxygen, while not always essential, is a pretty central aspect of energy production on a cellular level, so the heightened levels of it in your blood should – said Hof – energise your entire body.

Next, Hof recommends push-ups and yoga-based stretching. To get your body warmed up, of course, but also to flex just how much energy the breathing exercises give you.

The last physical step of the process is the cold exposure. This can take the form of an ice bath, a very cold shower, or floating around in a freezing tide pool for a significant amount of time. “Significant” here, means at least one minute when you are starting out with the method, but for as long as you can once you have been practising for a while.

It is believed that the shock that your body experiences when suddenly exposed to the cold water triggers a release of norepinephrine, which, similar to adrenaline, mobilises the brain and body into action. This represses the immune system, which decreases the number of inflammatory proteins (which cause swelling and aches and pains of all sorts) produced and catalyses the cardiovascular system to redirect blood around the body in order to warm itself up. It also supposedly causes the body to burn “browned fats” which are energy-rich fats that burn immediately for the sake of providing the body with heat and energy. If practised regularly, the physiological systems learn and become more efficient (your veins are strengthened and white blood cell count increased) and you may even become (somewhat) cold resistant. A more in-depth explanation of the biological details (how exactly the mitochondria break down the fats into energy) can be found here.

The third tier, the training of concentration and commitment, is a little less concrete. The idea is that you have to commit and concentrate while going through the steps of the Wim Hof method, but also that, through the practice of doing the method, you will strengthen your powers of concentration and commitment. A winning cycle.

Some studies, like the one published in 2018 and dubbed “‘Brain over body’ – A study on the wilful regulation of autonomic function during cold exposure”, raves about the positive effects of the Wim Hof method, especially those pertaining to a decrease in inflammation, an increase in metabolism and a strengthened immune system.

In fact an experiment was done on Hof himself in 2010 by scientists from UMC St Radboud, in which he was injected with components of E.coli that, while harmless, would make a normal person pretty sick with flu-like symptoms. Hof believed that through his method he could regulate the autonomic nervous system (the system that regulates breathing, internal organs, digestion, heartbeat and all the other things we do subconsciously) and thereby directly influence his immune system. Hof not only did not feel any symptoms from the E.coli, but also produced fewer than half of the inflammatory proteins that usual test subjects produce.

In 2014 a follow-up study titled “Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans”, was done to determine whether Hof was an innately superior human being who could control his own immune system, or whether other people could learn how to do it, too.

Twenty-four volunteers were involved – half of them trained with Hof beforehand and half were controls. Incredibly, the 12 that were trained in the Wim Hof method showed significantly fewer flu-like symptoms, lower body temperatures and fewer inflammatory proteins in the blood. They too had benefited from Hof’s teachings.

What would it mean to be able to control our immune systems? Imagine being capable of out-concentrating a disease! In the context of today’s Covid-riddled world, it sounds like an incredible promise.

However, the studies only proved that Hof and his trainees were able to suppress the immune system by stimulating cortisol, a stress hormone. A suppressed immune system means fewer inflammatory proteins in the blood, which means fewer symptoms. But the E.coli components injected into Hof and co were dead, they were harmless; the symptoms they should have felt because of the injection would have been the body’s reaction to a trick, a reflex. When it comes to active and harmful diseases, there is a reason our immune system flares up. These studies did not prove that Hof could by any means avoid a real illness at all.

On that note, it’s important to point out that some of the more complex alleged benefits, like fibromyalgia relief, autoimmune disease relief, COPD management, and the ever-expansive and ambiguous umbrella of “health improvements” are not well researched enough to be considered as conclusive.

In addition, as with any method or experiment on one’s body, one should be cautious about practising the method without the supervision of a medical expert or advice. In 2017, it was reported that two people had died while trying a breathing technique called “controlled hyperventilation”; they allegedly “drowned from doing these yoga relaxation exercises in the water”; the method is one promoted by Hof, although his website warns not to “practise it before or during diving, driving, swimming, taking a bath or any other environment/place where it might be dangerous to faint”.

Yet, Hof, having once been thought of as a fringe character – a freak of nature if you will, capable of unbelievable and inhuman accomplishments – is beginning to make waves in more mainstream science: from appearing in 2008, on EenVandaag, a Dutch television programme, saying, “I want to take it from circus act to scientist, my body is my laboratory”, to being part of a 2020 episode of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab series.

The episode in question features the Goop ladies on a trip to Lake Tahoe, California, to do a workshop with Hof himself. After jumping into a dangerously cold body of water, Goop executive editor Kate Wolfson, twitching in her chunky knit sweater with tears in her eyes, tells Hof: “Like… I don’t mean to sound cheesy. But that was like a turning point in my life.” Her vocal fry touches Hof in a way that the ice never could.

To do the Wim Hof method safely and effectively one needs an instructor, or to buy a subscription to Hof’s video series, starting at $300 (about R4,280), for the fundamentals course.

In the realm of biohacking products, and for something a little less extreme, there are Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof products, called nootropics and known to some as “smart drugs”.

Avowing cognitive enhancement, these little nuggets of (alleged) genius come in the form of prescription drugs, like Adderall and Ritalin, as well as less-regulated alternatives. Asprey’s brand Bulletproof falls into the latter category. The brand is most famous for its coffee, a mixture of coffee beans, MCT oil and butter which the website maintains helps you feel full while increasing your focus and metabolism. Other nootropics that the site offers include supplements that aid your mood, memory, gut health, performance, immunity and sleep. With Bulletproof, the idea, as mentioned by Jenna Wortham in a New York Times article from 2015, is “that you can outsource that work. ‘That fundamental laziness, where I want everything to be easier, is part of what drives me,’ he (Asprey) told me that first day. ‘I don’t want to do more work than is necessary to do great things. I don’t see why anyone should do more work than is necessary to do great things.’”

But, as Wortham also pointed out in this article, “there are more than a few nutritionists who are dubious about Asprey’s bold claims. It’s hard not to be – there’s little research outside his own that backs them up […] We all want to live forever, and if changing one thing in our diets can do that, we can all hope. The success of the dietary-supplement industry is best explained by wish-fulfilment fantasies.” That’s not to say that other nootropics do not work, just make sure to do your due diligence before spending any significant amount of money on them.

Apart from his own products, Asprey is also an advocate for intermittent fasting, an increasingly popular diet that calls for extended periods of not eating. There are a few different ways to do it, the most popular being the 16/8 method, in which one fasts for 16 hours and has an eight-hour feeding window. Within the feeding window (usually falling between 12pm and 8pm), an intermittent faster may eat what they want. Other approaches include the Eat-Stop-Eat (a 24-hour fast two times a week), and alternate-day fasting (fast for a day, eat normally for the next, and so on.)

Intermittent fasting is reportedly highly effective in weight-loss endeavours, though it’s up for debate as to whether it is superior or similar to other calorie-restrictive diets. The reason for its alleged effectiveness has to do with metabolic switching – the idea is that after 10 to 12 hours the body depletes its glycogen (stored glucose) and starts burning ketones (energy made in the liver by breaking down fat.) Ostensibly, the presence of ketone bodies also has some influence over glucose regulation, blood pressure, heart rate and abdominal fat loss.

In 1988, a study called “Retardation of ageing and disease by dietary restriction” showed that intermittent fasting has a direct correlation to extended life span in rodents, although it is still highly debated as to whether this translates to humans. It has become clear that a number of variables, like sex, genetic composition and age, also determine whether or not intermittent fasting works for you.

Still, as mentioned before, Dorsey eats one simple meal (usually salmon or chicken) on weekdays, and on the weekend he fasts from Friday to Sunday. The man is, one could say, robotic in his discipline, but his method also raised concerns, drawing parallels with diets that can sometimes trigger more obsessive behaviours around food, such as eating disorders.

The Wim Hof method, nootropics and intermittent fasting are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hacking life. Some biohackers, like Asprey, believe that the first person who will live to be 1,000 years old is already alive today. The question becomes, if you lived to 1,000 years old, what would you look like?

As Mark Grief, co-founder of literary magazine N+1, aptly puts it in his book Against Everything, “the haste to live mortal life diminishes. The temptation towards perpetual preservation grows. We preserve the living corpse in an optimal state, not so we may do something with it, but for its own good feelings of eternal fitness, confidence and safety. We hoard our capital to earn interest and subsist each day on crusts of bread. But no one will inherit our good health after we’ve gone.” DM/ML

 

 

10 Free and Natural Bio-hacks

10 Free Natural Bio-hacks

The best hacks in life are free. Here Andreas Breitfeld presents the ten greatest gifts Mother Nature has given us, why they’re good for us, how to make the most of them and who knows more about them

Written by Andreas Breitfeld

Published on 04.12.2021 · 6:00 EST

This article is a repost which originally appeared on RedBull

Edited for content. The opinions expressed in this article may not reflect the opinions of this site’s editors, staff or members.

Our Takeaways:

· Exposure to sunlight for 10-15 minutes straight is useful for the body’s production of Vitamin D.

· Sleep is not only important for recovery but also for development and improvement

· “Earthing” can be used to positively charge the body

LIGHT: The conductor for our cells

What’s in it for me?

Our cells, our organs and our whole body can only work in harmony; the liver, lungs, kidneys, heart, brain, skin and muscles do have to know what each other are to make the whole system work. It all needs to be finely tuned, and the body uses hormones and messenger substances for that purpose. But the most important thing is light, which we absorb via the eyes and skin. Light is the most important conductor in our lives; the right light at the right time transforms this chaotic mass of 100 trillion cells within our body into a perfectly tuned orchestra. UV-B light is also the ingredient that our body turns into the vital vitamin D.

What should i do?

Go outside. Absorb natural light morning, noon and night, and do so with as much exposed skin as possible for 10 to 15 minutes in the afternoon. (Tip: your skin forms vitamin D when the sun is higher in the sky than 42°, so if the shadow you cast is shorter than you, all is good for vitamin D formation.) Avoid the blue light of your computer screens and/or use blue-light-blocking glasses. And while we’re on cell interplay, I’ve stopped wearing sunglasses for one reason: wearing them increases the risk of sunburn. The body is receiving two contradictory signals—shade on the eyes yet light on the skin – and just cannot deal with them properly.

Who knows more?

Dr Alexander Wunsch does. He’s the world’s most important photobiologist and there are multiple fascinating podcast episodes about him. Also, be sure to look up his channel on Vimeo. He’s also written a book about photobiology in his native German language: Die Kraft des Lichts [The Power of Light].

SLEEP: The number 1 Biohack

What’s in it for me?

It couldn’t be simpler and we can’t say it often enough: sleep better and you’ll live better. Sleep is the best, most important and most effective agent for relaxation, rest, regeneration and recovery there is. It’s the foundation upon which our performance, health and longevity are built. Sleep makes us wiser because it’s when we sort out the stuff we’ve learned that day. We get stronger and more resilient because we don’t just repair the damage that training has done but we also improve our starting condition; this is what we call the training effect. We get healthier because the lymphatic system cleanses our brain of all the waste products. Cell damage anywhere in the body is repaired, too.

The oft-used comparison of sleep to recharging your mobile battery is incorrect because we humans recharge our own battery, and more than that, we even improve our batteries’ charging capacity. And all we have to do is make sleep our top priority.

“In sleep we get smarter, we get stronger and more persistent, we get healthier. Let us make sleep the number one priority in our lives.”

Andreas Breitfeld pays attention to many small factors to maximize on sleep.

What should i do?

You can actively improve your sleep by not eating anything for the last three hours before you go to bed, switching off stimulating light impulses for the last two hours (as little screen light as possible and wear blue-light-blocking glasses) and avoiding stress in the evenings wherever possible. Your bedroom should be very dark and cool, preferably between 16°C and 20°C. Magnesium works for many people, though not all, as does ashwagandha, but give both a try. Two to three hours before going to bed, I take melatonin, the so-called sleep hormone, which can do so much more than just make us tired. Some doctors advise against it, but current studies claim that your body’s own production of it isn’t affected by you taking it. Melatonin really is worth a try.

Who knows more?

Austria’s Professor Günther Amann-Jennson has devised the Samina sleep system; it’s expensive but probably the best thing currently on the market. Amann-Jennson, a doctor and psychologist, makes lots of excellent content [in his native German] available for free on his website at einfach-gesund-schlafen.com.

EARTHING: The positive in the negative

What’s in it for me?

This may all sound like esoteric magic, but it is crystal-clear physics. Ion exchange with the negatively charged Earth reduces oxidative stress and the horribly dangerous chronic inflammation processes that come with it because it positively charges our body. (Oxidative stress is, incidentally, a turbo boost for the ageing process.) All we have to do is come into direct contact with the planet and let the electrons flow by walking barefoot in a meadow or going swimming in a natural body of water, for example. Another benefit of coming into direct contact with the Earth: the 7.83 Hertz at which the Earth vibrates is what we call the Schumann resonance and it might even reduce electromagnetic stress.

What should I do?

Take your shoes off and walk barefoot in a garden, in the woods or through a meadow. Leap into a natural body of water every now and again instead of just splashing around in the ice-bath. You can also earth when you sleep, but that’s another topic because it only makes sense to use earthing sheets or other similar items when there’s no electric smog caused by Wi-Fi and the like. Otherwise earthing will turn you into a human antenna – pretty much the exact opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.

Who knows more?

Austria’s Marco Grosch, the self-titled minimalist bio¬hacker, has excellent knowledge of a broad range of topics in this field. One of those topics is earthing, to which he devotes his German-language website (minimalist-biohacker.com) and his Instagram feed.

BREATHING: Our brain’s remote control

What’s in it for me?

Breathing is an incredibly powerful tool; I can breathe myself into a calm state or breathe myself into a rage and frenzy. No other action has such direct access to my brain and autonomic nervous system. Try box breathing, for example – breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for another four, breathe out for four, hold your breath for four seconds again. It helps calm the nerves. Wim Hof’s method of breathing can strengthen the immune system and, when combined with the cold, it can even relieve depression. But just by consistently breathing through your nose, not your mouth, every day, you’ve already taken a big step towards improved health.

“The mouth is there for eating, for kissing and—I know that particularly well—for talking. But not for breathing. Especially not to breathe in!”

Breitfeld says to breathe through your nose in everyday life should be the goal

What should i do?

Breath through your nose. I’ve focused a lot on this subject recently, including mouth-taping: by taping my mouth up when I go to bed, I force myself to breathe through my nose, which takes a lot of getting used to but improves my sleep. The mouth is for eating, kissing and – I know this very well – talking, but not for breathing and definitely not for breathing in. The advantages of breathing through the nose are huge. It removes particles from the air we breathe, it moistens and warms or cools it and it means the body gets more nitric oxide, which broadens the blood vessels. Nitric oxide also decreases blood pressure, and some will know that it even helps medication like Viagra achieve success. I recommend that everyone experiments with their breathing. There’s so much to discover, so familiarise yourselves with the ideas of Wim Hof and the still relatively unknown Konstantin Buteyko. It’s really fun and can change your life.

Who knows more?

Kasper van der Meulen is my breathing guru. He offers really amazing breathing training in the Netherlands. He’s an extremely nice guy who is good at what he does. Find out more at kaspersfocus.com or find him at @kaspersfocus on Instagram.

FASTING: Cleanse, don’t eat

What’s in it for me?

Fasting is when the body gets no source of energy from solids or liquids. (Light is also really a form of energy but doesn’t count here.) After a while, the body begins to take the energy it needs from its reserves – and it has plenty of them. Glycogen in the muscles and liver gets depleted first and then, of course, there’s all that body fat, which even thin people have. But it’s all much smarter than the body just using up stored energy. While fasting, the body begins to break down its own cells and uses them to produce energy. The fascinating part is it burns only damaged cells – not fully operational ones. This process, known as autophagy, turns out to be the most efficient form of inner cleansing.

What should i do?

I eat O.M.A.D.—one meal a day—usually a very early dinner. Strictly speaking, I’m not fasting at all because I have coffee with butter and MCT [medium-chain triglyceride] oil in the morning and before noon. Fasting covers a fairly broad spectrum. For some it’s enough to avoid carbohydrates and protein, while others are more radical and think that even drinking tea or coffee or taking vitamins or magnesium would break the fast. But however you define it, start by skipping breakfast a couple of days a week (water, black coffee and unsweetened tea are fine). In step two, don’t eat the first meal of the day until at least 16 hours have passed since the last meal the day before.

Who knows more?

Julia Tulipan, of Vienna, Austria, is one of the top experts in ketogenic nutrition. The keto diet is sort of preliminary fasting, and Julia and her husband have brought their own Tulipans range of keto convenience foods to some supermarket shelves. Her website, juliatulipan.com, and Instagram feed, @paleolc, provide a lot of free German-language content and her Evolution Radio Show podcast [also in German] is fascinating listen.

FOREST: Green bathing

What’s in it for me?

The term ‘forest bathing’ has really taken off of late. It sounds spectacular, perhaps, but all it means in reality is going into the woods on a regular basis for a very slow and deliberate walk. What can that give a biohacker? Much more than you might think. The forest air contains thousands of terpenes, aromatic plant-based substances that fire our immune system and could even lower the risk of some cancers. The green of the forest and the natural calm reduce stress hormones—and not just during your forest bath because the reduction is still detectable for several days afterwards. Thorough research into forest bathing has been carried out in Japan and South Korea, where it’s applied as a recognised form of medicine. So in future, perhaps GPs will be telling their patients to take a hike, and I think that’s wonderful.

“In Japan and South Korea, doctors send their patients out for walks in the forest. ‘Shinrin-Yoku’, forest bathing, is a highly effective therapy.”

Aromas in the forest are even said to reduce the risk of cancer.

What should i do?

Walk through the forest for an hour or two a week, preferably alone and, importantly, without your mobile or any other electronic devices. It does everyone good. Ideally take a few steps barefoot or, if nobody is looking, hug a tree every now and again for the earthing and ion exchange, as mentioned above. But if you want to make your trip to the forest even better, the greatest concentration of terpenes occurs during misty or rainy weather. We humans have a need for nature. And once you learn—or relearn—to tune into it, you understand that your body has a sort of level indicator to show whether we have absorbed enough nature or not.

Who knows more?

Rolf Duda, aka Peakwolf, from Switzerland, is a former management consultant and a hero among biohackers. He has a soft spot for nature and the forest, but whatever he talks about, it’s always well-founded, intelligent and entertaining. I’m a true fan. His German-language website (peakwolf.ch) is a good introduction to Rolf’s world—from there you can go to his blog, podcast and Instagram feed.

WATER: 99/100

What’s in it for me?

Only every 100th molecule in our body isn’t a water molecule. Yes, you read that right. 99 out of 100 molecules in our body consist of two hydrogen and one oxygen atom. We humans are a (cleverly structured, admittedly) watery solution. So water is a prerequisite for everything working —every metabolic process, every detox, every nerve impulse, every thought, every emotion. Just a couple percent too little water in the body—I’m speaking one or two litres here—and our capacities are radically decreased.

What should i do?

Drink water. Personally, I drink filtered and revitalised water but in most countries you can mostly drink the tap water without a second thought. How much should you drink? Anything under 0.3 of a litre per 10 kilos of bodyweight is actively harmful to your performance and health. If you weigh 70 kilos, 2.1 litres a day is enough if you don’t work out, have almost no stress and don’t go to the sauna. But 0.3 litres per 10 kilos of bodyweight is the minimum. Make sure that you really drink enough for a full week. (Mostly in the morning so that your urine is very clear by noon.)

Who knows more?

Thomas Hartwig. His Berlin start-up Leogant creates perfect water filtration and treatment systems. Thomas is a water philosopher. The best sources of knowledge are the podcasts he has appeared on, such as the Flowgrade Show, with my friend Max Gotzler.

MEDITATION : The brain improver

What’s in it for me?

There’s not much more to add to what thousands upon thousands of studies confirm; meditation makes us smarter, happier and more creative. It’s probably the best and simplest thing we can do for our brain health. Meditation is something like the continuation of breathing and sleep’s little brother. There’s no right or wrong in meditating, and the only mistake you can make is not meditating regularly.

What should i do?

During my summer holiday last year, I did a sort of huge mindset reset where for two weeks solid I meditated my back side off for literally four, five, six hours a day. In my daily life, I now very consciously take a couple of minutes out, where I close my eyes, breathe in calmly and breathe out more calmly still, focusing solely on my breath. I really like playing around with the Muse headband that supervises how deep my meditation goes. There are some incredible meditations apps out there – and the best one that’s free of charge is Oak.

“If you want to take advantage of digital support: The best free meditation app is ‘Oak’, the best German-speaking one is ‘7Mind’.”

Apps and gadgets can be helpful meditation tools, according to Breitfeld.

Who knows more?

Germany’s Manuel Ronnefeldt, who founded the 7Mind meditation app – take a look at 7mind.de/en, where you’ll find a lot of free and detailed information.

HEAT: The life-lengthener

What’s in it for me?

Heat for free? Yes, by sitting in a thermal spring or going out in the blazing sun in the summer. Where I really like to go is the sauna. All types of sauna work, even though the effects differ depending on whether you’re using infrared or heated rocks – but the principle is the same. The main benefit is that sweating cleanses our bodies via its largest detoxifying organ, the skin. The second and third most important benefits (and there are a whole lot more besides) are an improved cardiovascular system and the so-called heat shock proteins the body forms. The sauna is, to put it simply, a boot camp workout for our cells. There are mind-blowing studies from Finland about how effective regular sauna visits are. The result is up to 40% lower mortality rates. In other words, during the reference period – the study ran for more than 20 years – regular sauna-¬goers reduced their risk of death by almost half.

What should i do?

My lab has an infrared sauna that I use several times a week. Sometimes I treat myself to a hot bath one to two hours before going to bed as perfect preparation for a good sleep. But, beware, heat and digestion do not make good bedfellows. Don’t go to the sauna for two, or even three, hours after eating. Heat means stress for the body, and you don’t digest well when stressed.

Who knows more?

Johannes Kettelhodt, the mastermind behind the Clearlight infrared cabin. He and his team have achieved something special. They make their saunas without creating any electric smog. That is a significant help as the body detoxes.

COLD: Inflammation’s natural enemy

What’s in it for me?

Inflammation can be a good thing because it triggers an alarm signal in the body at the start of a healing process. An injury doesn’t heal despite the inflammation; it heals because of the inflammation that forms around it. But inflammation can do serious long-term damage if it goes on too long. Low-threshold inflammation is definitely not something you want to have in your body, and the cold helps reduce it, while accelerating regeneration after sport and injury and improving the immune system. it stimulates the vagus nerve and with it our heart rate variability and ability to relax.

What should i do?

I take a five-minute ice-bath where the water is about 3°C almost every day in a repurposed deep-freeze in my lab. But how to get started? The easiest tip for beginners is to alternate your showers. At the end of your morning shower, just let the water run cold for 30 seconds and then do another 30 seconds in warm water. The hot-cold alternation is also very effective for recovery after sport. A little tip for amateur bodybuilders: taking a cold shower for longer than ten minutes (in 10°C water) or an ice-bath for longer than three minutes (in 3°C water) after training will make you recover more quickly, but it will also slow down muscle growth quite a lot, so take a shorter cold shower or only do the next cold therapy the following morning.

Who knows more?

Josephine Worseck, a doctor of molecular biology from Berlin, Germany, who specialises in the Wim Hof method. She’s also the author of a groundbreaking German-language book—Die Heilkraft der Kälte [The Healing Power of Cold]—which I thoroughly recommend, along with her workshops. There’s also a lot of content on Josephine’s website at: josephineworseck.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How it works: The protein that stimulates muscle growth

Research findings may help identify drug targets for neuromuscular disorders

Date:  April 27, 2022
Source:  University of Houston
Summary:  Using genetic approaches, researchers have demonstrated how a certain protein is involved in skeletal muscle growth. The findings open new avenues to develop drug targets for neuromuscular diseases and other pathological conditions.

This article is a repost which originally appeared on ScienceDaily

Edited for content.

Our Takeaways:

· Consuming specific proteins can accelerate muscle growth

· Protein TAK1 (Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-activated kinase 1) helps with immunity and recovery

· Current research in TAK1 focuses on preventing muscle wasting from disease or sarcopenia

In the gym, you are not just pumping iron, you are oxygenating muscle cells which keeps those muscles healthy, strong and growing — a process called hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle mass due to an increase in muscle cell size. Conversely, under the covers, lounging, your muscles may begin to atrophy, or shrink.

Scientists understand that a few signaling proteins are activated in various conditions of muscle atrophy and hypertrophy, but they have been stumped about the role and mechanisms by which TAK1, a protein that regulates innate immunity and the proinflammatory signaling pathways, regulates skeletal muscle mass, until University of Houston researchers began exploring.

“We demonstrate that supraphysiological activation of TAK1 in skeletal muscle stimulates translational machinery, protein synthesis and myofiber growth,” reports Ashok Kumar, UH College of Pharmacy Else and Philip Hargrove Endowed Professor and chair, Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, in Nature Communications.

Using genetic approaches, Kumar and research assistant professor Anirban Roy demonstrated that TAK1 is indispensable for maintaining healthy neuromuscular junctions, which are involved in transmitting nerve impulses to skeletal muscle and allow muscle contractions.

“Our findings demonstrate that targeted inactivation of TAK1 causes derangement of neuromuscular junctions and severe muscle wasting, very similar to muscle wasting observed during nerve damage, aging and cancer cachexia. We have also identified a novel interplay between TAK1 and BMP (Bone Morphogenetic Protein) signaling pathway that promotes muscle growth,” said Roy.

Nutrients, growth hormones and weight training all result in an increase in skeletal muscle mass in healthy individuals. Conversely, many disease conditions often lead to a loss in lean muscle mass. Understanding the mechanisms regulating protein and organelle content is highly important to identify drug targets for various muscle wasting conditions and neuromuscular disorders.

The team also reports that activation of TAK1 in skeletal muscle beyond normal levels can prevent excessive muscle loss due to nerve damage. Loss of muscle mass has a devastating impact on standard-of-care treatment during aging and terminal illnesses, such as cancer, COPD, kidney failure and in many genetic neuromuscular diseases.

“Recognizing the impact of TAK1 signaling in supporting muscle growth, our research opens up new avenues to develop therapies for these and many other pathological conditions and improve quality of life,” said Roy.

Future studies will investigate whether the activation of TAK1 using small molecules is sufficient to promote muscle growth and prevent atrophy in the elderly and various disease states.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Houston. Original written by Laurie Fickman. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Anirban Roy, Ashok Kumar. Supraphysiological activation of TAK1 promotes skeletal muscle growth and mitigates neurogenic atrophy. Nature Communications, 2022; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29752-0

Biohacking of diets and how does it help?

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Times Of India

Edited for content.

Our Takeaways:

· Dieting is one of the most fundamental ways to transform the body

· Experimenting with eliminating certain foods from the diet can be helpful

· Fasting is an ancient and proven method towards preserving health and mental function

What Is Biohacking? If we bring down that term by hacking, we see that the bio has to do with our biology to do with our body? The way our body functions are natural processes in the body from eating to performance and so on and hacking is, of course, trying to decode something. Biohacking of diet is trying to use science or technology to improve our body’s functioning by way of eating. “I think our bodies are incredibly intelligent and given the right diet in the right lifestyle, we can elevate ourselves and feel amazing. Everyone has a scope of self-improvement and living their best life and biohacking of diets can make that possible without spending all money on fancy foods and a million different tools, gadgets and medicines to feel good. It’s a natural way to optimise the body’s performance,” says Nutritionist Ritu Khaneja

Diet Hack #1
Elimination Diet

An elimination diet is one where you can eliminate certain foods based on medical research to see if you react to them. You can generally start by eliminating the most common food allergens for a few weeks then you slowly add them back one at a time and note any symptoms better or worse. The main benefit is that by turning into a body’s reactions to certain foods you can’t pinpoint sensitivities and intolerances that you may not otherwise know of experiencing results.
It is less expensive and, in some cases, more reliable than standard allergy testing. It can also be very empowering to be in control of what you eat learn about food and the compounds they contain and try new recipes that exclude eliminated foods. Having a good diet plan makes things much easier and beneficial.

Diet Hack #2
Intermittent Fasting

There are several approaches to intermittent fasting but the easiest to achieve is the one that simply extends the usual timing of the night fast. A daily cycle of a 1 6 hour fast followed by an 8-hour eating window is usually sustainable for intermittent fasting. It must be combined with balanced meals that provide good nutrition. The goal of IF is to systematically starve the body long enough to trigger fat burning but the method may not be suitable for everyone. When done correctly intermission fasting can help lose weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent or control diabetes and improve the brain’s health.

Diet Biohack#3
Adding More Fibre To The Diet

The normal fibre in our body has been eliminated just with the processing of food. One of the best way to eat fibre is by adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet. The benefits of fibre are weight control and maintaining bowel movements.lt also helps in lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Diet Hack #4
Adding Superfoods

The first step that I take to treat my clients through diet is adding superfoods. There is a whole list of superfoods with numerous benefits. 1 st category of superfoods is seeds not just any seeds but 2 seeds which one should hack into the diet are chia and flax. Chia seeds are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, They have more calcium than milk and there are great sources of anti-inflammatory compounds. They’re great for growing skin and mental health and clarity and much much more. Flaxseeds are another great source for omega 3 fats and dietary fibre as well as essential vitamins minerals name powerful anti-cancer hormone-balancing compounds called lignans. It’s a great way of curing constipation as well.

Diet Biohack #5
Protein-Rich Diet

Eating plenty of high protein foods include a generous portion of at least 1 protein rich food at every meal will help you lose body fat or improve your body composition. Eating protein-rich meals can help you feel full and satisfied so you will eat less and lose weight. A high protein diet can help reduce insulin resistance so if you have diabetes or prediabetes, a high protein diet could be a good strategy for improving your blood sugar control.

To conclude, I think Biohacking of diet should be done mindfully as if something can be very beneficial for one body, It doesn’t mean it will suit everyone.

Inner Demons: When it’s All in Your Head (from The Ultimate Guide To Male Enhancement)

The following is a chapter taken from the book: The Ultimate Guide To Male Enhancement.

The top cause of impotence today is due to performance anxiety or fear. There are many ways in which fears can originate. These include: inexperience, self-loathing, pressure from a partner, or even a partial physical cause which contributes to the equation.

Why does this seem to be such a growing epidemic- especially among younger men?

According to self-reports, most men have experienced some form of performance anxiety in their lives. How you handle incidents of erectile dysfunction can have a very huge impact on whether or not it sticks around.

One huge contributor of ED among younger men comes from unrealistic expectations obtained by watching porn.  Not only will most men be intimidated by the fantastic dimensions observed in many porn films, but the orchestrated reactions that become expected from these films also interferes with normal expectations.

Another aspect of ED caused by porn use involves detraining. This is discussed in much greater details further in this publication under the section titled “The Detraining Effect – Understanding and Reversing Negative Habits To Improve Erection Quality and Sexual Confidence,” but to summarize here, it’s when you become so accustomed to being an inactive participant in masturbating to porn, such that when real emotions and expectations are encountered (as in a real live sexual scenario), anxiety sets in.

The simplest answer to this is, when the sexual response is replaced by anxiety (or something intensely distracting to arousal), the penis isn’t allowed to function in an unencumbered fashion. The use of direct will in attempting to force an erection often has the opposite results. What becomes necessary in scenarios like this is getting to the root cause of the issue. Anxiety itself is merely a symptom of this.

In most cases, psychological ED is very temporary and has an ephemeral quality. In most cases, a man will shake this off- or if he’s generally very secure with himself, he may learn to laugh it off.

It’s usually when one strings together several worsening episodes does the situation become chronic and in need of professional treatment.

The Ultimate Guide to Male Enhancement

The secret to making your brain work better

Want to improve your cognitive function? Then you’ll need to get a handle on your supplements ‘stack’

Tiffanie Darke March 29 2022

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Financial Times Magazine

Edited for content.

Our Takeaways:

· Supplements can be used to enhance brain function

· Nootropics can yield benefits without the side effects of more commonly used substances, like caffeine

· Foods like eggs which are high in Choline and phospholipids are good for brain health and function

“I take lion’s mane with a daily microdose of psychedelic, and B6 to switch on the brain and get more ideas,” says writer Catherine Frenette, of the effects of her supplements regime. “I did it all through writing my latest book: I had a short deadline and needed to stay at my desk. It absolutely worked. Without doubt, I’m working better.”

Tired, unfocused brain in need of a boost? The traditional recourse – coffee – is, it turns out, very pre-pandemic. A stimulant made for 2019’s office-worker world, when we were all just striving to “keep up”, it’s a short-term fix that burns through your adrenal reserves and leaves you, ultimately, depleted. Nowadays, that’s not good enough. Enter the latest nootropics – cognitive enhancers that will take users up and up, and could support brain function and health in the long term.

Unlike coffee, these new nootropics, or smart drugs, nourish the brain without cashing in on its energy reserves. The brain is the body’s most hungry organ, consuming 20 per cent of our energy, so it is vital that it is well fed. Stimulants such as coffee, Adderall or “study drug” Modafinil operate by robbing Peter to pay Paul: increasing dopamine while simultaneously depleting reserves.

“We think it’s normal to be tired and forget things. That’s not normal. We should be feeling better”
Michelle Gundry, clinician nurse

There is much debate about which nootropics to take, how to take them – and how much to take. In online forums, the nootropic hive mind bandies about options that include amino acids like L-theanine and glutamine, the salt magnesium threonate, nutrients citicoline and phosphatidylserine, adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola and Bacopa, or the ubiquitously trending cordyceps.

“Everybody wants to know about brain biohacking right now,” reports Dr Tamsin Lewis, founder of Wellgevity, a personalised preventative healthcare service. “Everything starts with the brain. If you can change your neurochemistry you move differently, you interact differently, the whole filter to your day changes.” Lewis, who began trying nootropics following a head injury, believes plenty of improvement can be gained, but counsels: “There’s no one-size-fits-all – everyone’s baseline function is different.” She also cautions that some supplements are not dosed correctly or do not include their ingredients in a bioavailable form – it’s important to look for clarity when it comes to dosages.

Lewis recommends to her patients personalised blends of intravenous ingredients, including B vitamin complex and alpha lipoic acid. She says the latter is “a great enhancer of mitochondrial function, naturally increasing levels of glutathione [an amino acid involved in cell repair]. It can make your brain feel very clear for a good few weeks.”

Another compelling ingredient is Cognizin, a version of choline, which is a compound derived from food, particularly eggs. It promotes the production of phospholipids, which make up the membranes of our neural cells. Studies of Cognizin demonstrate up to a 25 per cent increase in attention, memory and focus in patients versus a placebo. It is an ingredient available in brain-boosting supplements from Qualia to Mind Lab Pro. Julian Lee, CEO of green tech business Binding Solutions, began taking Cognizin as one of the ingredients in the super-supplement Lyma. “I have remarkably better energy and focus during the day,” he reports. “Things have really shifted. I’m 50 and in very good health and spirits – I feel much younger than my age. Mentally, clear as a whistle.”

“If you can change your neurochemistry you move differently, you interact differently, the whole filter to your day changes”
Dr Tamsin Lewis, founder of Wellgevity

Over at Matt Roberts Evolution in Mayfair, where longevity doctors, physiotherapists and microdosing and psychedelic experts operate in tandem, a 60-something client is emerging from an intravenous glutathione infusion to treat her “brain fog”. “Glutathione cleans out her cells,” explains clinician nurse Michelle Gundry. “We think it’s normal to be tired and forget things. That’s not normal. We should be feeling better.” Matt Roberts Evolution also has coffee on the menu, but with a difference: “Mushroom coffee,” confirms Roberts, “made with cordyceps to give you the kick you need without the comedown.”

Medicinal mushrooms such as lion’s mane show some evidence of supporting neural health and cognition. Roberts recommends magnesium threonate for sleep (good sleep is essential for brain recovery and memory) and the supplement NAD, which is essentially niacin (a vitamin B3 extract), or its more hardcore sister, NMN. NAD may increase human-growth hormone response and therefore the ability of the body’s cells to regenerate. “Watch how you take NMN, though,” he says, “as it needs to be attached to a fat molecule to be absorbable.” Like almost everyone else I spoke to, Roberts cites gut health – in the form of a diet rich in plants and fermented foods – as a key element in the quest to improve brain function and adaptability.

Neuroplasticity is also on the mind of Clinique La Prairie, the Swiss health and beauty brand, which declares it a fundamental aspect of healthy ageing. Cognition, says Professor Bogdan Draganski, a neuroscientist at the University Hospital of Lausanne and a member of CLP’s scientific committee, is a key target for biohackers – or “neurohackers”, as he calls them. Last year, Clinique La Prairie came out with its own health supplement range, Holistic Health. It has been formulated with the patented nootropic Cognivia, which showed a nine per cent increase in numeric working memory.

Much of the interest in neurohacking is fuelled by the work of key professors at Stanford, Harvard and Yale. Neuroscience professor Andrew Huberman at Stanford School of Medicine is one such guru, as is Harvard professor of genetics David Sinclair. Both publish their work daily on social media and have amassed huge followings. Sinclair believes it’s possible not only for us to halt cellular decline but to reverse it. Huberman recommends easy hacks such as 30 minutes of sunlight every morning to set the circadian rhythm and “put you in control of your nervous system”.

Huberman also likes to publish his “stack”, which is how wellness nerds refer to their supplement regime. On a recent podcast he listed his latest, which included eating foods that are rich in omega-3s and/or supplementing with omega-3s to get 2-3g of the fatty acid EPA per day; phosphatidylserine, a lipid-like compound abundant in meat and fish; choline, which helps in modulating brain circuits; and creatine – a supplement the fitness-obsessed use to bulk up, “but which is good fuel for the brain – at least 5g a day”, he said.

“The science is changing all the time,” says James Heagney, gym director of KX health club in South Kensington, where Chelsea’s most ambitious wellness disciples go for workouts. “We follow the research to choose not just the nutrients gaining in popularity but those that have scientific backing.”

Heagney is currently looking at “dopaminergic supplements for focus and concentration, the amino acid tyrosine to improve alertness, and adaptogens like gingko and holy basil”. As a 4am riser, and with two young children to wrangle, Heagney is laser-focused on his own “stack”. “Increased performance and cognition is where it’s at,” he says. “Brain function is everything in the body.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cryotherapy 101: Explore This Innovative Body Treatment

Cryotherapy doesn’t just lower your body temp, it decreases inflammation, recovery time and so much more. Here’s everything you need to know about this innovative body treatment.

April 4, 2022 by Maddy Zollo Rusbosin

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Orlando Magazine

Edited for content.

Our Takeaways:

· Cryotherapy can reduce inflammation and improve recovery after training

· Extreme cold can act as a natural pain reliever

· Dry cryotherapy options exist as an alternative to ice baths

There are a lot of reasons to try cryotherapy: Maybe you’re looking to enhance your athletic performance. Maybe you’re constantly icing sore body parts. Maybe you’re desperately in need of more restorative sleep. Or maybe you’re just curious.

I, for one, fell in the latter category. I’ve always been willing to try the latest spa treatments, so when I heard about Orlando’s Athlete Recovery Room, I couldn’t wait to see what cryo was all about. Although, the only thing I knew was that it’s cold therapy — and as a native Floridian, being chilly isn’t necessarily something I enjoy.

“Luckily, it’s a dry cold. It’s like going into a walk-in freezer but one that’s even colder,” explains owner Althea Stearns. Stearns, an avid runner who’s completed 50 marathons across the world in ten years, began experimenting with cryotherapy to relieve her tired muscles. “I’d go to big cities and see recovery places, and I was like why don’t we have something like this in Orlando? I initially started doing it as a mobile thing and it happened into this,” she says.

In February 2020, she officially opened her studio’s doors on Corrine Drive. While there’s a range of available services like massage, infrared sauna sessions, compression therapy, and facials, cryotherapy is one of Athlete Recovery Room’s biggest draws. They use a MECOTEC CRYO:ONE tank which fully immerses the body and head with cold air and oxygen.

So, what exactly does a treatment do? As your body is exposed to the cold, it triggers a fight or flight response, causing the nervous system to have a parasympathetic reaction. “The extreme cold aids the body in producing norepinephrine (released predominantly from sympathetic nerve fibers), which acts like a natural pain reliever,” says Stearns. Additionally, the cold cues your body to release beta-endorphins, which are proteins primarily synthesized by the pituitary gland. “These endorphins play a significant role in the sleep cycle and pain management. Because endorphins act as sedatives, which helps aid in sleep,” she furthers. “The number one thing athletes need is sleep, because it’s when the human growth hormone is produced (which helps the body heal and recover from exercise). If you sleep better, then you can perform better.”

That’s why local athletes like baseball players, MMA fighters, and even student athletes (the studio offers special memberships for them) are constantly coming through the doors. “I felt sore a lot, so my dad brought me in to try it out,” says Camilia Jones, a local tenth grade volleyball player who visits the Athlete Recovery Room almost daily. “It’s made me feel a lot better — more relaxed, I notice a difference in soreness, and endurance-wise, I can go on a lot more.”

However, don’t feel like you need to be an athlete to reap the rewards. “The cold makes your blood vessels constrict which helps with inflammation itself,” says Stearns, which is why it’s an ideal treatment for sprains, chronic back pain, herniated discs, muscle soreness, and more. If you’re really looking to address certain areas, they have a targeted nozzle to direct the cold air to the desired spot. You can even do cryo facials to tighten pores and achieve a lit-from-within glow.

Before a cryotherapy session it’s imperative to properly prepare. For the best results, wear underwear inside the chamber along with the provided gloves, socks, and an ear-shielding headband (mine even had built in music speakers). Beforehand, someone takes your skin’s surface temperature twice, once on the back of your shoulder and once on the back of your calf. According to Stearns, you ideally want those numbers to drop twenty-five to thirty degrees for the best results.

The cryotherapy tank was -124 degrees when I entered a.k.a. it was chilly. Thankfully, it wasn’t a shocking cold like jumping into an ice bath. By the time the three minutes were up, my temperature dropped 25 degrees. Right on target. As I left, I experienced the post-cryo adrenaline rush I was told about (a much-needed boost of energy for someone with a toddler at home), but physically, I didn’t feel much different until the next morning. That’s when I woke up infinitely more rested, and I noticed that my aching back pain had subsided.

“One or two sessions are good for temporary relief of soreness, but multiple sessions help the body become a hormone, endorphin, enzyme and antioxidant making machine,” explains Stearns. “And studies have shown repeated Cryotherapy treatments of 10 or more sessions, will increase white blood cells and glutathione (antioxidant) and enzymes that prevent tissue damage.” With results like that, a few minutes of shivering is well worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Lighting Hacks for a Good Night’s Sleep (And an Easier Morning)

Set the mood for settling into bed

By Michelle Tchea

Illustration by Soleil Summer
March 15, 2022

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Architectural Digest/Clever
Edited for content.

Our Takeaways:

· Many people do not get enough quality sleep to maintain optimal health

· Certain types of light received daily can have a profound effect on sleep

· Being exposed to blue light before sleep may cause difficulties

March celebrates the under appreciated art of a good night’s sleep—something many of us probably don’t get enough of. Statistics show that more than 25% of Americans have a sleep disorder, and that more than 70 million Americans have a form of insomnia—that’s a lot of sheep unaccounted for. In 1998 the National Sleep Foundation started a campaign to help get Americans thinking about the health benefits of sleep, and this is what we now know as Sleep Awareness Week.

Some may argue that the pandemic has strengthened this campaign with hotels offering sleep programs providing anything from better mattresses to medical consultations, a new trend in the wellness space. But if you think traveling to a tropical destination to sleep sounds a little ridiculous, there are ways to improve your sleeping habits in the comfort of your own home.

Although there are many factors that contribute to a good night’s sleep, one of the greatest problems (and easiest solutions) comes down to one word: Lighting. Specifically, how much you get during the day and also what you are exposed to before you crawl into bed.

According to Dr. Guénolé Addor, the medical director of the wellness and sleep program at Clinique Nescens in Switzerland, your body’s ability to sleep is controlled by your internal clock, which controls your feelings of hunger, thirst, fatigue, and ultimately sleep cycles. As he further explains, “Human beings have developed a natural cycle between daylight and nighttime. This cycle is called the circadian rhythm, and with increased exposure to sunlight during the day, it actually helps us sleep better at night.”

Even though Dr. Addor recommends sleeping seven to nine hours a day and mimicking the planet’s circadian rhythm (sleeping after the sun sets and waking up when it rises), he admits that, in the modern world, this is “rarely possible.” Although some habits are hard to break, like not drinking coffee after 2 p.m. and avoiding sleep-reducing blue light from devices before you jump into bed, Dr. Addor suggests simple tricks he refers to as “biohacks” to help you make the most of your time in bed. One of those hacks is as simple as changing the lighting in your bedroom.

A good amount of light in the form of sunlight is important for healthy sleeping patterns which programs your body’s internal clock to wake up and sleep at the right times in a 24-hour cycle. Conversely, light exposure at night can impact your ability to switch from being awake to sleep and reduce the quality of sleep, as found by Harvard Medical School. Dr. Addor confirms that too much light can cause repeat awakenings and stop you from having the appropriate restorative sleep recommended by the Sleep Foundation. “The ambient and subdued light in the evening (rich in red light) is particularly conducive to letting the brain know that it is time to relax and prepare for sleep,” he says.

Below are some mood-inducing lighting fixtures to swap into your bedroom to help you sleep–and wake–better and avoid becoming another statistic.

Night lights

All types of light impact the quality of your sleep and according to researchers from King’s College in London, the worst one is blue light (but only during the night), which is emitted by LEDs, tablets, and cell phones. “Light is arousing, it stimulates the brain and that’s the opposite of what we want when going to bed, so choose a warm light and definitely not anything that emits blue light,” says Michael Breus, the Sleep Doctor. The Casper Light, a favorite of Architectural Digest writer Zoë Sessums, produces a soft hue with LED white light to help you drift off to sleep.

Sufficient sunlight is important in harnessing a natural sleep-wake cycle, but if you live in an area where you can not get enough sun during the day, artificial lighting at home also works. The Verilux Happy Light mimics the sun’s natural light to help you fall asleep much easier at night. As Dr. Addor says, “If you live in a place without much sunlight, artificial light in the day and red light later in the day is recommended.”

Scientists have shown that the use of timed light like those from a sunrise alarm clock can be helpful in improving your sleep pattern. With the sunset-stimulated Philips Smart Sleep light, you can wake up with ease rather than to a squeaking beeping noise found in a regular alarm clock. “The ideal bedroom should be a temple of sleep,” Dr. Addor says. “Use a dawn simulator alarm clock to avoid the very harmful stress of a shrieking alarm going off in the morning, but don’t forget, the best way to wake up is a spontaneous and natural wake up.”

What we love about these little LED lights is that they have a very low light setting that won’t interfere with your sleep, but they also allow a steady nighttime pathway to your bathroom if you happen to wake up needing to go to the toilet. “If you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, it is better to do so in the dark or with a red light because a bright light may prevent you from falling back to sleep,” Dr. Addor points out. “Turning the light on may trick the brain into thinking that it is already morning.”

According to Vibray Chandran Weisbecker, holistic wellness and mindfulness expert at Mindbody, freeing yourself of external disturbances and finding a peaceful location for sleep is essential to better sleeping patterns. “Most people don’t prefer sounds while sleeping. However, those that have difficulty falling asleep can use natural sounds such as soundtracks of crickets or ocean waves,” he says. “A guided sleep meditation before bed is also another excellent way to prepare for sleep.” This travel-friendly night light has both a soft glow and a variety of sounds to choose from including ocean, rain, and waves.

A self-professed insomniac, Alexandre Dujoncquoy designed this drug-free device to help you fall asleep more easily. A simple touch projects light onto the ceiling and helps you wind down. For those who want a bit of meditation to help you sleep, the gentle light works almost like counting sheep but with light pulses, producing an almost hypnotic effect to induce sleep.

“Avoid blue light at least one hour before going to bed like the light emitted by television screens, computers, and smartphones, even LED light bulbs,” Dr. Addor says. “Try reading a book by candlelight or incandescent bulb. A clever biohack is to use essential oils for sleep, like lavender, vanilla or ylang-ylang to promote sleep.” The HappyHaves Original Moon is both a lamp and essential oil diffuser, just like the doctor ordered.

Wake up lights

According to doctors waking up to both a soft-sounding alarm and soft light is important for a healthy sleep cycle. The Sunrise Alarm Clock not only has a sunrise simulation that emits soft light in the morning, but it also has a sunset mode to dim the light down as you get ready for bed.

If waking up to the sounds of chirping birds sounds good to all you city-dwellers out there, the MoMA Chirp Alarm Clock and Lamp is perfect for you. The intensity of the alarm gradually rises, giving you an opportunity to wake up naturally, rather than forcefully. “A great biohack is to never use the snooze button on your alarm clock. Instead, put the alarm clock away from your bed, this will make you get up to turn it off,” Dr. Addor adds.

The Lumie Body Clock Rise Lamps not only wake you up gradually in the morning by emitting natural sunlight but at night, but they also project an ambient light in your bedroom that mimics a fading sunset to help you fall asleep. Proven to help treat the winter blues, the lamp is a great addition to your bedroom according to wellness experts. “Mood lighting, such as salt lamps or nightlights, are a great solution for those that tend to wake up often from their sleep, as the muted warm light can be comforting,” Vibray explains. “The key is to use lighting that still keeps the room dark but lets in enough light to be able to get around if necessary.”

Should you be exercising your penis?

Rumours relating to hacking your sex life with the likes of ‘penis gyms’ and ‘penis training programs’ have been doing the rounds in recent weeks. So far so curious. But are these practices *really* a thing and if so, who is doing them and do they *actually* work?

This article is a repost which originally appeared on ES Magazine

Edited for content.

Our Takeaways:

· There are exercises which you can perform to improve penile/sexual function

· Certain devices can be used to aid the process of developing sexual and penile fitness

· Research and care should be taken when you first undertake a penis training routine

You are by now probably familiar with the concept of biohacking, namely the self-improvement trend started by a handful of individuals who, venturing into the unknown, made it their mission to find whatever means, from microdosing to eccentric exercise trends and extraordinary diets to enhance their physical, cerebral and even spiritual function.

Five or so years later Silicon Valley caught on with the likes of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and former Facebook president Sean Parker joining the brigade and forking out tens of thousands of dollars to improve everything from their productivity to muscle condition. Often they turned to the world’s biohacking ‘gurus’, self-experimenting guinea pigs and lifestyle enhancers such as Ben Greenfield, Tim Ferriss and Gwern, as their guides, eschewing traditional medical professionals, presumably preferring the more macho and unconventional approach. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that approximately 90% of biohackers are men…

Washington State based Greenfield is an elite biohacker who says he has a biological age of nine and makes a successful living documenting his quest for the world’s most effective means of physical and cerebral enhancement. While his practice is vast and varied, covering everything from microdosing LSD to supplementation and a process described as a ‘full-body stem-cell local’ whereby every joint in the body is injected with stem cells, it is arguably his reporting on sexual performance technologies and comments on penis gyms (he wrote a blog post entitled ‘how to make your penis stronger with a Private Gym’), which have garnered most attention. On day one of the 30-day Private Gym program Greenfield wrote, ‘I start round one of my training: contract, relax, contract, relax, five rounds done. 20 rapid flexes, done. 20 second hold, done. My penis quivers (oh geez, did I just write that?) under the weight towards the end.’ It’s undeniably attention-grabbing stuff.

And before those of you with a better-than-average anatomical knowledge flag – correctly – that contrary to popular belief the so-called love muscle contains no muscle and therefore can’t be trained, we know. And so does Greenfield. What he colloquially refers to in this way is in fact – less thrillingly – known as pelvic floor training.

Editor’s Note: The penis does contain smooth muscle tissue, which is different from skeletal muscle tissue. It should also be noted the Bulbocavernosus muscle which supports the base of the penis and extends to part of the shaft is indeed composed of skeletal muscle tissue.

Long considered a woman’s work, pelvic floor exercises tone the muscles that support the uterus. Done daily they can ease childbirth, prevent incontinence and even improve your sex life. Now however, experts are keen to flag that men have the same network of muscles as women. Extending like a hammock from the tailbone to the pubic bone they support the back, abdomen, bladder and bowel helping to maintain faecal and urinary continence. In male bodies these muscles also surround the base of the penis and are activated during erection, orgasm and ejaculation, as well as being responsible for the surge of blood flow to the penis.

Medical evidence suggests that done correctly male pelvic floor exercises taught by the likes of Professor Grace Dorey a professor emeritus of physiotherapy and urology at The University of West England can improve pelvic floor control, urinary function (particularly after radical prostatectomy surgery to treat prostate cancer) and sometimes even sexual function. Doctors explain that like all muscles, pelvic ones weaken with age, but can be strengthened by tightening the muscles used to cut off a flow of urine midstream. Held for a few seconds this contraction is then released and the motion repeated 10 to 15 times.

There is unsurprisingly, a budding market of systems to aid men with such ‘exercises’. Greenfield’s preferred Private Gym for example, includes an instructional DVD and small, ultralight weights on a silicone band that fits around the penis and is intended for men who want to add a little resistance training to their routines. The KegelPad meanwhile is another tool designed to aid good practice. Of the former Professor Dorey, has gone as far as to say ‘ It’s as good as Viagra, without the costs and the side effects…the pelvic floor muscles provide the base for the erection — for the penis to sit on, if you will.”

That said Karl Monahan of London’s The Pelvic Pain Clinic recommends that patients practice due diligence when purchasing such items, taking the time to identify companies that are legitimate and well intentioned. ‘Choose those which offer sound, medically supported programs and clinical trials,’ he says. Moreover, many of the symptoms associated with poor pelvic health actually have separate root causes that should be professionally diagnosed and treated. ‘Working with an experienced specialist is the best way for men suffering with pelvic floor related symptoms,’ he explains. ‘Unguided programs can also lead to patients overdoing their pelvic floor exercises, which can in turn, have dramatic effects on their pelvic health.’

Greenfield too warns against seeing biohacking and hacking technologies as quick fix. ‘A negative implication of the proliferation of these self-improvement methods is that people are inherently lazy and so in many cases [think] these biohacks can be used as a shortcut,’ he tells us. ‘But biohacking is not a shortcut. It’s the use of science or technology to enhance human biology, but always needs to be paired with actual hard work and dedication.’