How to “Bulletproof” the Body, According to Fitness Experts – InsideHook

Health & Fitness | June 9, 2022 6:35 am

Why Fitness Experts Are Obsessed With “Bulletproofing” the Body

Bulletproofers will do anything to avoid injury. Here’s where to start.

By Tanner Garrity @tannergarrity

This article is a repost which originally appeared on InsideHook

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 is a mostly DIY endeavor.

· Bulletproofing is a preventative form of biohacking.

· Focusing on full body, joint friendly movements is a great way to maintain strength and flexibility as you age.

In the mid-2010s, when gonzo biohacking was first picking up steam, a team of California scientists put a form of chlorophyll into a man’s eyes. The idea was to give him “night vision,” and their experiment sort of worked. For a brief period of time, the man could reportedly see people moving 160 feet away in a pitch-black wood.

In recent years, there has been a steady stream of biohacking tests and tips, some of them somehow even crazier than applying eyedrops of a photosensitivity solution (like implanting radio transponders in necks), but most of it is mainstream and buzzy — the sort of “hacks” often touted on podcasts and featured in Instagram ads. You know the classics: nootropics, elimination diets, infrared therapy, intermittent fasting and thermoregulation.

A lot of that stuff works, in moderation, but biohackers — as is too often the case in the fitness world — have a soft spot for pseudoscience and absolutism. The DIY nature of a process intended to “[change] our chemistry and our physiology through science and self-experimentation” (a Tony Robbins quote, not mine) is fertile ground for credulous experimenters to agonize over every perceived disadvantage in the body.

One of the most famous biohackers out there, Ben Greenfield, employs over 30 different habits in his daily quest to take over his body. (That’s according to Biohack Stack, a site dedicated to tracking the proclivities of biohackers.) On top of the usual (fish oil supplements) and the unique (a system that filters air as if you’re walking outside), Greenfield also apparently injects stem cells from his own fat throughout his whole body, and regularly uses something called a penis pump.

It’s sensible to harbor a healthy skepticism for trends like biohacking, and any other wellness venture that comes along and sounds like it. But a recent movement that definitely fits that criteria, under the name “bulletproofing,” is actually worthy of your attention. While offbeat, the practice isn’t all that sexy. It advocates for slow-cooked, foundational fitness, of the sort that’s obsessed with preventing injuries.

Preemptive training might be a tough sell for Americans who can hardly be convinced to go outside for a run, let alone stretch before that run. But the regimen is far more dynamic than it sounds; while its premise (keep everything intact) sounds boring, bulletproofing is about challenging the body to do things it rarely does anymore, through movement progressions that most of us have never heard of or committed ourselves to.

In essence, the goal of bulletproofing is to gain the joint stability and mobility necessary to feel and perform explosively again. Most men past the age of 40 can’t run a 40-yard dash without fear of tearing a hamstring. They wouldn’t dream of trying to dunk a basketball or take on a high-speed batting cage again, either. But in training yourself not to get injured while attempting those feats, it’s possible to find yourself as adept as you were at them decades before. Think of it as getting fit “by accident.” A little humility shown towards Father Time could end up zipping you back to the glory days. It’s not a bad deal.

Bulletproofing is not mutually exclusive from biohacking. There are many, many fitness influencers who practice and pedal elements of both. This can make filtering through YouTube videos confusing. But the key is in identifying (and implementing in your own life, if you’re so inclined) a few choice commandments from the practice. Start slow and build up. The endgame isn’t to take control over your body, but to take control back from it, and give yourself the opportunity, as some bulletproofers like to say, “to lift forever.”

Be willing to rethink the process

Most strength or cardio regimens are preoccupied with immediate concerns: getting fit for summer, getting in shape for the upcoming season, or getting ready for a race (even marathon training, which can last months, has a hard cut once the 26.2 is finished). These patterns generally recruit a form of progressive training where the body beats itself up more and more until it attains a short-term goal. It can be an enormously gratifying process, but is a little less than ideal from a longevity perspective.

There’s a reason so many aging trainees suffer from repetitive use injuries, low back pain and seemingly inexplicable plateaus. They’re relying too heavily on the same moves and workouts they picked up years ago, when they should be prioritizing full-body, joint-friendly drills. A crucial rule of thumb? Respect the muscles you can’t see. (And the ligaments and the tendons, too.) This often means subbing traditional exercises for targeted mobility work. Think: reverse grip bench press, towel push-ups, overhead kettlebell presses. The key is to avoid the “locked in” grip that fixed plane movements so often engender — which put your joints at risk — and instead train the wrists, elbows and shoulders back to full rotational mobility.

Use resistance bands and bodyweight

Despite the hard-nosed moniker, bulletproofing doesn’t necessarily involve throwing heavy weights around. In fact, it can thrive on you using minimal weight (at first, anyway) and learning to make use of resistance bands and bodyweight. Some of us entertained a crash course in both during the pandemic, once gyms shuttered, but it’s likely that you stuck to endless repetitions of the usual suspects (bicep curls, push-ups, air squats), while neglecting some of the most unconventional and effective movements preferred by bulletproofing experts.

There are a ton of options out there on the resistance bands front, and a number of them are explicitly designed to fortify your core, which is at the nexus of any bulletproofing routine. A strong, stabilized core prevents improper swaying of hips while running — which puts undue pressure on cartilage in the kneecaps — and also makes sure you won’t feel a strain in the back every time you bend down to pick up a kettlebell…or a pile of snow while shoveling. Tie a resistance band to the wall, a door or a bar at your gym, and practice Russian twists, the Pallof press and wood chops. Reverse crunches are also fantastic.

Meanwhile, for a comprehensive look at how just a few bodyweight movements can eliminate pain and build strength, check out this clip from Graham Tuttle (commonly known as @thebarefootsprinter), a renowned bulletproofer who dislocated his shoulder nine years ago, tried to continue playing sports and exercising, but proceeded to see it pop out another 10 times in four years. He credits his bodyweight routine (snow angels, arm swings, thoracic extensions, etc.) with restoring his mobility, and getting him back to “cartwheels and jiujitsu.” Unlike conventional physical therapy, Tuttle’s M.O. relies on engaging fascia and connective tissue.

Learn to “run” backwards

Another favorite of bulletproofers — alongside farmer’s carries, plank variations, single-leg anything — is retro movement, a practice that looks and feels goofy, but is actually a dynamite workout for your lower half and core. Backwards running doesn’t compound pain from patellofemoral joint compression forces (a relationship between ground force and the vector of the knee) in the same way that forward running does. And instead of causing the area duress — a pretty common side-effect of constant running — backwards running actually strengthens the area. It does so by engaging little-known muscles and tendons such as the tibialis anterior (located along the shins) and the vastus medialis muscles (just inside of each knee).

The key appears to be mixing backwards running into your forward running regimen. Obviously, you shouldn’t give up forward running forever. Not only is that wildly impractical, but you also wouldn’t get to see all the positives that retro running can bring to your conventional routine. How do you start? Find a treadmill and try “deadmills,” a concept popularized by Ben Patrick (more commonly known as @kneesovertoesguy on Instagram) and Derek Williams (more commonly known as @mr1nf1n1ty). The duo are pioneers in the “resisted backward training” space. Both have a history of torn ligaments. Both are currently able to dunk.

Before graduating to their sleds, slant boards and straps (all used to increase range of motion at their knee joints and create more “bounce” in their legs), situate yourself atop a treadmill and hold the bars on each side. Do not turn it on (hence the deadmill nickname). Then just walk backwards, using your power and momentum to move the belt. You can hang out there as long as you like (go for three minutes if you can), or turn around, now facing the screen, and push back against it. This will feel extremely difficult and unnatural, but it’s the godsend your legs never knew they needed. See a demo here.

Stretch religiously

There’s a reason so few of us want to stretch — we’re never in stretching shape. If you’re accustomed to spending the day A) crammed into a tiny workspace, then B) going 0 to 60 in a workout class or on a Peloton, your body is just cycling through endless variations of tightness. It’s little wonder that once-in-a-while stretching feels somewhere between tedious and hopeless. A pleasant side effect of joint-friendly bulletproofing, though, is that you’re constantly performing exercises that catalyze range of motion and open up the body, which turns stretching into a more turn-key operation.

An added bonus: While bulletproofing workouts involve more dynamic and unfamiliar progressions, feel free to largely stick to the stretches you know well here (the hard part, of course, is actually sticking to them). To open up the back, perform trunk rotations, cat-camel stretches, hamstring stretches, hip flexor stretches and child’s poses. If you’re looking for a newer, bulletproof-approved stretch to play with, try out the 90-90. It’s on the more aggressive side of the stretching spectrum, but it’s very much worth shooting for. The endgame is to get your front leg at 90 degrees, relative to the knee and the hip, and the same with the rear leg, all while keeping an upright trunk position. It’s not as mind-blowing as night-vision, perhaps, but who needs that anyway?

Hoax or Helping Hand — What Does Science Say About Biohacking?

Zia Sherrell   13 June 2022

This article is a repost which originally appeared on healthnews

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 has been around in some form or another for centuries.

· Research is recommended before getting into any type of biohacking.

· Meditation is one of the simplest and most effective forms of biohacking.

Biohacking is the process of manipulating your environment and biology to improve health, optimize physical performance, or boost productivity and creativity. It can include anything from experimenting with different diets and supplements to using technology to track your health data. There are even more advanced methods like implantable devices.

While biohacking may seem like a new trend, it’s been around for centuries in one form or another. People have used biohacking methods like fasting, meditation, and exposure to cold temperatures to boost energy, lose weight, and help with chronic diseases for generations. Essentially, biohacking is trying out new techniques to see what benefits you and your health.

Biohacking is a great way to take control of your well-being. That said, it’s important to research before starting any new regimen to be well-informed about what may work for your body.

Continue reading as we explore the biohacking phenomenon to see if it could amplify your health.

What are some biohacking practices, and do they work?

There are numerous biohacking practices, from simple meditation techniques to electronic implants. Here are some of the most popular types of biohacks:

Nutrigenomics

This controversial form of biohacking involves using DNA tests to tailor your diet and supplement regimen. The idea is that by knowing which genes you have, you can better understand how your body responds to certain foods and nutrients.

For example, if you have a gene that makes you more likely to absorb fat, you might want to follow a low-fat diet. Or, if you have a gene that makes you more likely to crave sweet foods and candy, you might want to limit your sugar intake.

There is some scientific evidence to support the idea that nutrigenomics can be helpful for weight loss and chronic disease prevention. It could decrease the risk of developing diseases with a genetic predisposition and may help you make physical changes like losing weight or reducing certain mental health symptoms.

However, it’s difficult to draw accurate conclusions from research as everyone is unique, and your body may respond differently to dietary changes or habits.

A 2015 review of nutrigenomics research noted that a person’s genetics are only one contributing factor to their weight or health. Additionally, exercise, hormones, stress, and weight affect how the body processes food.

DIY biology

Also called DIY bio, this is a form of biohacking that allows people to conduct their own scientific experiments outside of a traditional laboratory or medical setting. Instead, it’s often done with the help of online resources and community support.

People practicing DIY biology often use genetic engineering and synthetic biology techniques to modify organisms. This could involve creating new strains of bacteria or growing tissue in a laboratory.

Some people practice DIY bio hoping to find new treatments for diseases, while others do it for fun. DIY biologists often have a shared goal of making science more accessible and demystifying complex concepts. They also hope to empower people to take control of their own health and well-being.

However, it’s important to note that DIY bio experiments can be dangerous or even fatal without proper safety precautions. Additionally, according to a 2017 article utilizing harmful biological agents could break international bioterrorism laws.

Grinder

A grinder is someone who has implantable devices, such as magnets or tracking chips inserted into their body. The implants are typically placed under the skin and can be used for various purposes, including unlocking doors or starting a car.

Some people also have implants that track their health data or help them to monitor their environment. Chips can monitor body temperature, oxygen saturation, blood sugar levels, and more. As such, they have potential to help people with diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart problems better manage their condition. They could also help people monitor their environment for toxins, pollution, or other hazards, which has implications for those with asthma and respiratory conditions.

Much research is still needed to understand the long-term effects of implants, but many people believe they have an exciting future within the healthcare landscape.

However, implanting devices without qualified medical supervision carries the risk of serious infection and other harmful effects, so people should exercise caution.

Simple ways to biohack at home

Not all biohacks are high-tech or require expensive equipment. In fact, some of the simplest can be done at home with no specific materials. Here are some easy ways to start biohacking.

Consume caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, and dark chocolate. Many people use it to improve their focus and energy levels. To biohack caffeine, record your intake and track how it affects your productivity. Then adjust your consumption accordingly. You can also try bulletproof coffee, which is coffee with a biohacker edge. It contains medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which may boost energy levels and assist in weight loss.
Follow an elimination diet. Elimination diets remove certain food groups or nutrients and then gradually reintroduce them to see the effects. People with allergies or other health concerns surrounding foods use these diets to find out which foods are causing problems. It’s easy to follow an elimination diet by completely avoiding food for around 2 weeks to 1 month before gradually reintroducing it. As you begin to eat the eliminated food, take note of any symptoms that appear, such as rashes, stomach pain, fatigue, or digestive symptoms, which could indicate that you’re allergic or intolerant.
Increase your blue light exposure. If you can, try to increase your sun exposure as the blue light it emits can help improve mood and cognitive performance. Try different amounts of sun exposure and see if you notice any benefits. However, remember to use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and wear sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from sun damage

The benefits of biohacking

Biohacking could have some health perks, and there are many techniques such as dietary manipulations that you can easily do at home with few risks. However, it’s best to avoid practices that involve inserting devices into your body or using chemicals or other substances.

If you’re interested in trying biohacking, talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or medications.

 

A Renowned Doc Reveals The Simple Secrets To Being A Healthy Man

Dr. Frank Lipman talks about “the male way of seeing” health and how it got us to this men’s health crisis point.

by Fatherly

6.23.2022

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Fatherly

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

Our Takeaways:

· It’s thought men’s health is threatened by their not being preventative enough.

· Technology and a more holistic approach to this challenge appears to be helpful.

· Mental and physical wellness should be seen as a singular thing.

One of the biggest threats to men’s health has always been the challenge of getting them to care about it. “It’s hard to say the exact reason, but men don’t really do anything preventatively,” explains physician Frank Lipman, M.D. Through nearly 40 years of experience practicing functional medicine, he has found that men generally “are not interested in subtle changes in their body, and they traditionally wait until they have a heart attack or something serious,” Lipman says. And although he can’t point to a single catchall reason for why this is, it’s always been the case. “That’s the male way of seeing things: It’s not a problem until it’s a big problem.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been attempts to engage men to take a more proactive approach to their health and wellness. But much of this has been geared toward optimizing their performance. That’s why erectile dysfunction and low testosterone have been a major part of these efforts, because they affect men’s ability to perform in bed, at work, and on the field. As a result, these are the concerns that might get men in to see their doctors and screened for more serious risks such as heart disease and diabetes.

But now, thanks to a combination of telemedicine, wearable tech, and the mainstreaming of biohacking, doctors like Lipman have been able to spin this competitive edge into a more holistic approach to healthcare. “A lot of guys are learning that they can do a lot of health testing at home, use wearables, and do things in order to perform better,” Lipman says. Being able to track things like their sleep, exercise, and how much alcohol they’ve cut back on, and bond with other guys while competing over these progress, might be what gets them paying more attention to their minds and bodies.

“Men generally are more competitive, so if that can be spun in a positive way, then they will take more notice,” Lipman says. “Being able to measure these things at home and compare it to their friends is a positive.”

Although the overall outcome remains to be seen, Lipman sat down with Fatherly to discuss his optimism about the future of men’s health, and how we can gamify it for the better.

Over the course of your career, how have you seen men’s interest in their health change? What’s different now, and what is still the same?

Traditionally it’s been the spouse or significant other bringing men into the doctor. But there’s been a shift, and now men seem to be paying more attention to athletes and other role models for men, on Twitter and social media, talking about how when they started doing ice plunges, they started performing better. A lot of them are athletes because there’s a lot more awareness about health for them. All of that has made men more aware. Instead of their spouses getting them to care about their health, there are successful role models.

With so many men getting this information from social media, are there concerns about misinformation?

There’s always going to be some misinformation, but overall I think it’s much more positive. There’s much more good coming from it. And if it brings them into the doctor, they can do more testing, and their health can be a little bit more controlled.

What conditions are guys coming into your office worried about?

They’ve become more aware of heart disease, which usually is a disease that’s easily picked up from biomarkers. I think men are usually more concerned about performance and issues related to that, like Alzheimer’s and other cognitive issues. They’re worried about not having the energy to play basketball with their friends. They’re worried about not being able to perform as well as the younger people at work.

It seems like men aren’t that interested in worrying about diseases like cancer that could develop. Is it fair to say, when you try to get men to worry about preventative healthcare so far in the future, it may not work?

Yes, you’ve got to present it in a way that’s going to make them make changes. You can’t say, “If you don’t do this, you’re going to get heart disease.” Or, “If you don’t do this, you’re going to put on weight.” It’s more about, “If you don’t do this, you’re not going to have the energy to do the thing you want to do.

Having heart disease or a problem with your health is going to affect your penis as well, because ED is not isolated to that particular organ. Usually when someone has ED, it’s a systemic thing — it’s vascular disease all over the body. That’s a generalization, but you’ve got to scare men in a way that’s going to change the way they’re going to see things.

You mentioned biomarkers. For someone who’s new to telemedicine, wearable tech, and biohacking, what are some biomarkers they should pay attention to? Or what sort of things should they have tested?

A lot of the blood work done by doctors is not particularly helpful. Guys should be asking for an advanced lipid panel that looks at the particle size of the cholesterol molecules — that measures inflammatory markers. It’s a much more extensive test that gives us much more information about heart disease and inflammation than regular tests.

They should have their uric acid checked. They should have nutrient levels checked, which are not usually checked. For instance, they should have their Omega-3 levels checked. They should have their red blood cell magnesium checked. They should have their B-12 checked.

And then hormones; men should not only have their testosterone and free testosterone checked, they should check for estrogens as well. Too much estrogen can be a problem for men as well as women.

What are the limits to biohacking?

The biggest things that get ignored are moving your body, how you sleep, meditation or stress reduction, spending time in nature, having some purpose in life, having some connection, or being connected to family or a community. Those to me are the primary biohacks of the body.

The secondary hacks are when you want to take it to the next level. So guys who are biohacking by measuring their blood glucose and their sleep and taking all these crazy supplements, it’s all fine, and I don’t think they’re dangerous. But to me, those are secondary hacks. If you’re thinking of biohacking, you can’t ignore the primary biohacks.

Sleeping seems to be a big thing that men can track for the sake of their mental and physical health.

Poor sleep puts you at risk for almost every chronic disease from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to diabetes to obesity. So poor sleep is the first place you need to do some work, because men don’t take sleep seriously enough. Sleep is when your body is recovering and repairing. It’s when your brain cleans all the toxins out. Sleep is crucial to one’s health.

Alcohol seems similar, in that it puts men at risk for a lot of problems, but it also can be managed and tracked easily with apps. Does it work the same way?

Yes, too many people drink too much alcohol, which not only affects sleep, but it can affect so many other parts of the body and predispose you to so many problems. Three to four drinks a week isn’t a problem, but most men are drinking three to four drinks a night for three or four nights a week, and that becomes a problem. It puts a load on most organ systems, and is probably one of the primary risk factors for many of the diseases men are presenting with.

Sleep and alcohol also seem to have a large effect on men’s mental health, which has been said to be in a state of crisis. Do you believe men are facing a mental health crisis, and has it always been this way?

I’m not sure the problems with men’s mental health are a new thing. I think it’s probably more of an issue now because there’s more stress in people’s lives, whether it’s financial or otherwise. And men are starting to deal with it instead of suppressing it. Younger men are much more aware of their mental health and are in therapy, again because there have been more role models. People like Michael Phelps make a difference and help things.

I think younger men are more aware of their mental and emotional health, and it’s great that that’s shifted. But also, there is more pressure on everyone, including men, than there was 20 years ago.

And how can paying attention to physical health in the ways we’ve discussed help with mental health?

To me, mental and physical health are all one thing. Men paying more attention to their physical health will absolutely help with their mental health. I think teletherapy has made men more comfortable going to therapy from their home and that’s also helped a lot with that.

If you were to take into account all the avoidance and mental and physical health risks we’ve discussed, do you think that being a man should be considered a pre-existing condition, or a medical diagnosis in itself?

I don’t see it that way. We all have different pre-dispositions. Especially with genetic testing now, we can tell who’s more genetically predisposed to heart disease or diabetes or whatever. Certain diseases might happen more for men, but I don’t see being a man as a health risk, to be quite honest. I think it comes down to how health information is presented, and I think now it is being presented to men in a more accessible way.

Biohacking: Does it really slow ageing process and enhance human performance? Experts explain

Ishaan Arora 13 June 2022 11:50 AM

This article is a repost which originally appeared on News9

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

Biohacking aids in the alleviation or reduction of symptoms associated with mental health such as depression and anxiety.

Highlights

‧ The term biohacking gained a lot of popularity after former Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey told his followers that he benefitted both mentally and physically from biohacking.

‧ Biohacking is typically safe as long as you don’t go too far and follow your doctor or specialist’s guidelines.

‧ Experts advocate that individuals who don’t understand, health, nutrition, neuroscience, and brain function should not try biohacking.

So you’re sick of being average? You desire more from your life and job. Netflix, wine, margaritas, reels, and nachos have all made you want to stay in bed. Sure, you’ve heard of productivity hacks, but what if one told you that the solution to your problem is ‘biohacking’, also known as ‘do-it-yourself’ biology.

The term biohacking gained a lot of popularity after former Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey told his followers that he benefitted both mentally and physically from biohacking. Jack stated that biohacking enhanced his productivity, pointing out that he only eats one meal per day during the week and doesn’t eat at all on weekends. Some even claim that biohacking can help with almost anything – right from weight loss to cognitive function. However, the best biohacking results come from recognising what works for your body and avoiding what doesn’t. So to understand the real science behind biohacking, News9 spoke with some of the best experts in the world and here`s everything you need to know about it.

What is Biohacking?

Kolkata-based psychiatrist Dr Era Dutta explains, “Biohacking is the attempt at augmenting your performance, health and wellbeing through specific interventions. The term is meant to create the association of hacking – meaning creating a shortcut way through for your biology.”

“You can ‘biohack’ your mind, your body, your nutrition, exercise, sleep and more,” she continues. The beauty of biohacking is that it is DIY – do it yourself (with or without guidance). The process involves testing, monitoring and trying various combinations.

“Biohacking means different things to different people and is truly a very broad concept,” explains Vijeta Goyal, a Bangalore-based wellness consultant. “The notion is as follows: manipulating the biochemical processes in your body to bring about the best healthy version of yourself. The primary goal is self-improvement,” Vijeta adds.

Biohacking, according to Mumbai-based neurologist Dr Parthvi Ravat, is a technology-assisted strategy for modifying “homeostasis,” which refers to the body’s internal environment. “Simply put,” she says, “it is the use of science to support our bodies in boosting physical and mental performance, as well as battling various disorders.”

According to Shreya Gupta, a Chennai-based life coach, biohacking is something you instruct yourself to do. “It’s as if you tell yourself to exercise, so you get yourself a Fitbit or an Apple Watch to motivate yourself,” Shreya adds.

Biohacking is a science-based method of assisting our bodies in improving physical and mental performance as well as combating various ailments.

What are the most widely used bio-hacking tools?

In today’s world, we have access to commercially available tools and devices which are far more powerful than what even the most advanced clinics and researchers had only a few decades ago, remarks Supriya, a Delhi-based holistic health coach. Blood tests and health monitors give an extra edge in determining whether or not something is wrong with our bodies, Supriya explains.

“These days, I’m experimenting with taking ice-cold showers with water that’s 10 degrees celsius, and I’ve noticed a significant improvement in the condition of my skin and hair, and I’m tracking how it affects my natural hormone levels,” she further adds.

According to Dr Era Dutta, the most prevalent tools are:

Nutrition

Eliminating foods like gluten, and dairy; intermittent fasting.

Mental health

Cold baths, Wimhoff method, breathing pattern work, cryo chambers and meditation

Sleep

Melatonin supplements, white noise apps, weighted blankets, light therapy

Nootropics

A nootropic is claimed to be a class of substances that can boost brain performance. They can range from the more globally tried and accepted omega 3 fatty acids to Ginkgo Biloba to the more controversial use of ADHD stimulants, and micro-dosing of psychotropics.

Vitamins

Supplements of vitamins, infusions for better overall health. For example Vitamin B complex, micronutrients etc.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are plants and mushrooms that help your body respond to stress, anxiety, fatigue, and overall well-being like Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha

Apps and technology

Wearable rings that monitor your body stats, EEG headsets that measure waves during meditation, sleep, mood changes etc.

More extreme

Nutrigenomics focuses on how the food you eat interacts with your genes and manipulates them.

According to Vijeta Goyal, biohacking comes in many forms. Some of them are as listed below:

Changes in lifestyle and diet

These include more conventional behaviours like yoga and meditation, eating consciously and healthily, spending time in nature, engaging in enjoyable exercise, and sleeping well, which you may not even realise are part of biohacking.

Technology

Don’t we appreciate our smartwatches, fitness trackers, and smart clothing? Have you ever considered your fitness tracker or weight-loss app to be biohacking? Biohacking is defined as the use of wearable technology to track your steps, remind you to drink water, or stand up and stretch – and it may be highly beneficial.

Grinders

Many people believe implanted technology to be the next step, although it has yet to become ubiquitous. Grinders, in general, aid in the optimisation of bodies by chemical injections, implants, and anything else that can be injected into the body to help humans grow smarter, quicker, and better.

Nutrigenomics

Nutrigenomics is the study of how food interacts with and influences your genes.

How safe are these tools?

Everything is safe when done in moderation and with care, as Dr Era Dutta demonstrated. “Isn’t it true that even in computer hacking, radical shortcuts don’t work? Similarly, staying away from extreme fads, conducting thorough research, knowing your own body and mind, and, most importantly, enlisting the assistance of a field expert when necessary are all essential components of biohacking properly.”

“Some kind of biohacking can be harmless,” Vijeta argues. “Sporting wearables, for example, or adopting lifestyle changes may be safe if done under the supervision of a scientific professional. Some biohacking techniques, such as grinder, are potentially harmful or illegal,” she adds.

What role does biohacking play in Human Performance Enhancement?

Biohacking, according to Vijeta, is supposed to assist you to achieve permanent, good change if utilised carefully and under professional guidance. “Physical, behavioural, or emotional improvements, such as lowering weight or reducing depressive symptoms, may reduce your chance of acquiring an illness to which you are genetically predisposed. Blood pressure and gut microbes are two examples of improved biological processes,” she explains.

“The whole idea of the human race is to be better, live longer, healthier and happier,” explains Dr Era adding that although biohacking hasn’t undergone concrete trials, it is meant to be the path.

However, according to statements made by its most trusted user, Jack Dorsey it can help with:

1 Alleviating or reducing symptoms of mental health issues like depressive symptoms, and anxiety features (this can be in conjunction with treatment)

2 Alleviating or reducing chronic health issues like diabetes, arthritis, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, blood pressure, migraine etc.

3 Obesity and weight loss

4 Helping in ace concentration, creativity and peak productivity

5 Reducing gut-related issues

Are biohacking promises such as longevity and slow ageing true or simply a fad?

Shreya says that the human brain is so powerful. “So, if you keep pushing yourself, you can accomplish your goals. I told myself in 2014 that I would establish a morning routine that included getting up, getting ready, and then just leaving my room. Since then, I haven’t missed it “she explains. “It all relies on your mindset and beliefs. So all you have to do now is educate your mind and force yourself to do it.”

How can biohacking be incorporated into daily life, and who should abstain from it?

With technologies like smartwatches, continuous glucose monitoring, health tracking devices, easy access to sophisticated testing, and so on, biohacking is simple for anyone to get into, remarks Supriya. She further continues: “Someone working, for example, may utilise biohacking to figure out when they have the greatest energy and when they have the least energy during the day. We can determine how much sleep we require to be the most creative and productive.”

Supriya further advocates that people who have high anxiety should not get into biohacking. “This is because if you’re tracking a biomarker and it’s out of range, you’ll look up the reasons online and find that there’s a potential you’re suffering from a deadly condition. This can frighten a lot of people, leading to them deteriorating their health as a result of their concern.”

Can biohacking be dangerous if you lack scientific training?

Supriya further points out that individuals who don’t understand, health, nutrition, neuroscience, and brain function should not try biohacking. “We are experimenting with our bodies and without the correct supervision or understanding, it may be harmful.”

Dr Parthvi believes that even silicon valley scientists and common biohackers are ignorant of the advantages and disadvantages. “It would be prudent to wait and see where this goes before attempting various biohacking tactics,” she advises.

Takeaway

Biohacking is typically safe as long as you don’t go too far and follow your doctor’s or specialist’s guidelines. However, be cautious in general. Experimenting on oneself without taking all of the necessary safeguards might lead to undesirable consequences.

Best tips for biohacking your skin this winter

How to biohack your skin for winter

Fend off the dreaded seasonal flakiness!

Cassandra Green

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Body+Soul

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

Our Takeaways:

· What happens on the inside of your body can express itself via your skin.

· Vitamin D is necessary for good skin health. Controlled sun exposure and dietary Vitamin D can help to develop and maintain good skin health.

· If you suffer from regular itching or rashes, medical advice may be needed.

Get the jump on dryness this winter with a few simple routine changes that will replenish your body, inside and out.

Biohacking is a do-it-yourself approach to biology that’s designed to optimise your body for better health and wellbeing outcomes. While it might sound a little intense, biohacking often begins with a simple blood test to ascertain if, and in what ways, the body may be deficient.

From there, a health professional can recommend a course of action – via supplementation or complementary therapies – to bring the body back into balance.

The high-tech technique relates to our internal health – gut, liver, kidneys – but can also apply to the body’s largest organ: the skin. Adjustments may need to change seasonally as our bodies live in a state of flux based on our environment, and given how harsh winter can be, now is a good time to make some well-informed tweaks.

In fact, recent research commissioned by skincare brand Cetaphil found that eight million Australians feel they look older simply because winter has rolled around. The main complaints were dullness, dehydration, dry flaky skin, cracking skin and looking paler. Dr Yalda Jamali, a specialist in facial aesthetics and cosmetic dermatology, says taking stock of your skincare routine and wellbeing as the mercury plummets can help to see you through the season.

Hack it from the inside

Top up your vitamin D

“I always advise getting regular blood tests at your GP to check for deficiencies,” Jamali tells Body+Soul, adding that she doesn’t like to prescribe supplements unless there’s a deficiency. “However, the one supplement that I do recommend is vitamin D. Our bodies produce vitamin D when sunlight (specifically UVB rays) hits our skin, and in winter, we usually get less sun exposure.” She says this essential nutrient can also be sourced naturally through the winter sun (being sun safe, of course), and from your diet (through eggs, liver, fatty fish and beef).

Overhaul your sleep routine

“Studies have shown that chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of intrinsic ageing and poor skin barrier function,” says Jamali. “Good- quality sleep will allow your skin to recover more efficiently from UV-induced damage. I also recommend using a silk pillow, which helps to prevent sleep lines forming, and also keeps your skin better hydrated as they don’t absorb as much moisture as cotton pillow cases.”

Don’t skimp on self-care

“If you’re feeling run-down or struggling with your [overall sense of] wellbeing, this can have a knock-on effect on your sleep, diet, exercise, relationships and all of your activities of daily living,” explains Dr Deshan Sebaratnam, a dermatologist and senior lecturer at the University of Sydney. “All of these things can contribute to skin disease,” he tells Body+Soul.

“Sometimes, when other facets of your life become difficult, you might not have the bandwidth for self-care activities [such as] taking your medications or attending medical appointments.” So don’t skimp on your self-care this winter, and be sure to speak to someone if you’re struggling. Tech can also assist with the winter blues, including sun lamps, which are designed to mimic the rhythm of the summer sun, to regulate melatonin and release serotonin.

Hack it from the outside

Boost your barrier

Dermatologist Dr Leona Yip says barrier and protective products are essential in winter to trap and lock in moisture.

In the shower

Winter is a good time to re-think your showering habits. Jamali suggests a few simple changes, such as not showering in extremely hot water, and not excessively drying your skin afterwards but instead aiming for gentle taps with your towel.

She suggests opting for calming and pH-balanced cleansers and avoiding overuse of products with acids such as AHAs or BHAs. If you suffer from dry skin already, use emollient substitutes for your shower wash.

On the hair

Sydney hairstylist Anthony Nader, owner of online retailer SSS Hair, says adding a mask onto dry hair before you shampoo will mean it “can absorb 100 per cent into your hair scales”. This method will fill up the porous scales with the goodness of your pre-wash mask, rather than plain water from the shower.

“Oil is a beautiful treatment for those of you with highly thirsty hair that needs loving to go from complete dullness to high-voltage, megawatt shine,” he tells Body+Soul. “The cooler months are the time to take more care of your hair as it needs that extra volume and shine to protect against the elements.”

In the clinic

Winter, Jamali says, can also be the perfect time for salon procedures such as microneedling, chemical peels, laser treatments and radiofrequency as UV radiation needs to be kept to a minimum following treatment. The same goes for retinols.

“Topical retinoids can make you photosensitive, so I always advise starting them in the winter when we’re less exposed to UV radiation,” she adds.

When it’s more than just dry skin

Dr Yalda Jamali, an expert in facial aesthetics and cosmetic dermatology, explains what to look for and when to seek medical advice for skin issues

It’s common to suffer from dry skin during winter. However, if you feel that your skin is developing rashes, is bumpy and rough in texture, or is excessively itchy or red, seek medical advice. Even if you have dry skin but it’s not settling with increased emollient use, seek advice. Using the wrong products on your skin or excessive itching can lead to long-term implications such as scarring.

Dermatitis is a broad term used to describe a group of itchy inflammatory conditions. It can be pretty confusing as many conditions fall under this term. For example, eczema is a type of dermatitis (atopic dermatitis); however, not all dermatitis cases are eczema. It’s difficult to give broad advice on how to manage different kinds of dermatitis during winter, but if you’re suffering from flare-ups, the simple rule is to avoid triggers, keep the skin well moisturised and seek medical advice.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterised by very well-defined red and scaly plaques. Winter can flare up psoriasis, and my advice is to keep skin well moisturised; this will help the redness and itching. You can’t overdo emollients and ointments. The more you apply, the more hydration is locked into the skin to ease the symptoms.

 

 

 

 

Biohacking for beginners: The 4 basic things a doctor wants you to know before thinking about biohacking

Posted by Chloe Gray for Wellbeing

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Stylist

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

Our Takeaways:

· Research and a medical check up should be performed before engaging in biohacking

· There’s been a greater than 8-fold increase in Google searches for biohacking information

· Focusing on strengthening the foundation should be a priority over niche treatments

If you’re curious about biohacking, here’s what a doctor wants you to know beforehand.

The term “biohacking” came into the public consciousness a few years ago via Silicone Valley execs who sought to improve their efficiency by attempting to hack their biology. Their habits ranged from taking slightly obscure supplements to adding microchips into their body to “improve their magnetic field” and life span (yes, really).

Now these habits have gone mainstream (OK, maybe not the microchip one) and it’s easy enough to land on the term with a two-minute scroll on social media. Google searches of “biohacking for beginners” have increased 850% over the past 12 months, and many of us have tried something a little obscure that’s promised to improve how our body functions, whether that’s fasted exercise or SAD lamps.

But things have gone too far. At least, that’s according to Dr Adrian Chavez, who is fiercely anti-biohacking. His concern? “It’s marketing. People end up spending time doing these things that are half-truths when they could have spent that time actually doing the things that people need to do to improve their health,” he tells Stylist.
Why anti-biohacking?

Dr Chavaz’s anti-biohacking journey began after he fell for the trend himself. “I started being interested in nutrition because of a health issue that I had. I went to a doctor and they didn’t really help me out very much, so I changed my diet and I was able to improve my digestive health.

“At that point, I started googling information and I landed on a lot of fringe sites. I was in my early 20s, getting a master’s degree in exercise science and I believed a lot of the obscure ‘biohacking’ stuff I was finding, so I completely shifted my degree to nutrition. But as you do a PhD programme, you learn science. And I learned that a lot of the stuff that I believed before is pretty ridiculous in some cases, but oftentimes dangerous.”

The real frustration for him is that we want to (or believe we should) start with the niche treatments before we’ve even nailed the basics. And when things like greens powders or cryotherapy don’t work, people give up at improving their health.

“The evidence for cold water exposure, for example, is a few poor papers. But we know that and have the evidence for 30 minutes of exercise every day reducing your risk of almost every chronic disease known to man. We need to be doing more of that than we do getting into a cold pool and seeing how that might hack our biology,” he says.

So why don’t we? Why do some people feel that “nutrigenomics” (eating in line with your genes) is more important than just eating their five a day? “The basics are boring,” he says. Meanwhile, bio-hacking ‘experts’ have sussed out the Instagram algorithm to excite us with new buzzwords that mean we forget about broccoli and bedtime in favour of expensive solutions.

In fact, that’s why Dr Chavez focuses his content on the concept of anti-biohacking. “​​I realised a long time ago that if I said, ‘Hey guys, eat fruits and vegetables,’ there’s no way people would respond. So I try to frame my content in a way that will take off, but all I’m saying is focus on the basic stuff before spending money and time worrying about the extremes,” he said.

What exactly is that basic stuff then? What should we be doing, if not taking IV vitamin drips?

The four basic elements of health

Sleeping

“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that claim they are lacking energy and are trying to find the solution when they just need to sleep more,” says Dr Chavez.

Around three-quarters of people in Britain get less than eight hours of sleep a night, according to YouGov, and a recent study from Southampton University found that one in four also suffer sleep problems (mainly impacting women and people from marginalised backgrounds).

The scenario is similar in America, where 35% of people report less than seven hours of sleep. Yet 40% of people in the US have tried CBD. But the toughest pill to swallow is that the sleep crisis is real, and we can’t hack our way out of our biological need to sleep.

Hydrating

Dr Chavez jokes: “I think you guys in the UK get more hydration because you drink tea.” But in any case, he recommends drinking half your body weight in pounds in ounces of water (this is an American customary calculation, but you can work it out with a digital converter or stick with the average recommendation of two litres of water a day).

“A lot of people complain about constipation or headaches who just don’t drink water. Not always, but often some of that stuff will go away when you just drink more – ideally non-caffeinated – water,” he says.

Eating well

71% of UK adults take food supplements, according to the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially as we need to top up on essential minerals like vitamin D. The problem is when we compare that to the stats showing only 27% of us eat our five a day.

“Nutrition is the most complicated area of all,” Dr Chavez says. “But my general recommendation is to focus on having balanced meals throughout the day – it doesn’t matter if it’s two, three or four,” he says. “Just make sure that you have a decent amount of protein, some vegetables, some carbohydrates that are high in fibre (or not, depending on how many vegetables you have) and that all of your meals are set up to meet your energy needs,” he says.

That sounds simple enough, but in a world that recommends excluding a lot of main food groups or adding in obscure ingredients, it’s actually pretty hard to ignore the noise and eat the basics. “Less processed food, more fruits and vegetables, not too many fatty meats,” Dr Chavez summarises. You can walk away from the £50 greens powder for now.

Exercising

“I always recommend this is the one everyone starts with because it’s the easiest and has the biggest knock-on effect on all of the other elements,” he says. “Simply move every day. It doesn’t have to be a crazy workout routine – the bare minimum should be a 30-minute walk around the block. But make it any type of movement you enjoy – running, chasing around your kids, anything!”

Around 39% of people in the UK don’t hit their recommended 150 minutes of activity a week, and a lot of the people who are missing out are from poor or minority backgrounds. But one huge issue is that our lives are designed for inactivity, Dr Chavez says.

“Many of us are sitting for work and then we sit in a car and then sit at home to watch television and then go to sleep and we’re just getting no movement whatsoever. Going from that to 30 minutes is a massive benefit for most people,” he says.

Personalised additions

I ask Dr Chavez if, when those four basics are nailed, there’s anywhere else to go. Are these basics the upper threshold of health-promoting habits and everything else a biohacking lie, or can we still implement additional behaviours?

“One million percent there is more you can do,” he says. “I can get into all of the nuances of nutrition that someone might try for various reasons, but that’s specific advice that doesn’t suit the whole population. The problem is people get too lost in the details and on tailoring their habits before focusing on sleeping, exercising, etc and it’s just a waste of time. There’s a time for the extras, but you have to start with the basics.”

It’s important to emphasise the “personalised” aspect of any extra habits, he says. They need to be figured out based on your health or illness and ideally with an expert or at least an inquisitive eye so you can monitor what is working and what isn’t. “But there are 175 other things I’d recommend before cold exposure,” Dr Chavez concludes.

Changing Your Diet Can Add 10 Years to Your Life

Everyone wants to live longer. And we’re often told that the key to doing this is making healthier lifestyle choices, such as exercising, avoiding smoking and not drinking too much alcohol. Studies have also shown that diet can increase lifespan.

This article is a repost which originally appeared on ThePrint
Laura Brown - February 20, 2022
Edited for content and readability - Images sourced from Pexels 
Study Source: https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003889

Our Takeaways:

  • An optimal diet includes more legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole grains (oats, barley and brown rice) and nuts, and less red and processed meat.
  • Gains from changing from a western diet to the optimal diet are largest if the diet changes start early in life.
  • Eating the optimal diet from age 20 would increase life expectancy by more than a decade for women and men from the US, China and Europe.
  • At age 60, life expectancy is increased by eight years. At age 80, life expectancy is increased by almost three and a half years.

new study has found that eating healthier could extend lifespan by six to seven years in middle-aged age adults, and in young adults, could increase lifespan by about ten years.

The researchers brought together data from many studies that looked at diet and longevity, alongside data from the Global Burden of Disease study, which provides a summary of population health from many countries. Combining this data, the authors were then able to estimate how life expectancy varied with continuous changes in intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, refined grains, nuts, legumes, fish, eggs, dairy, red meat, processed meat and sugary drinks.

The authors were then able to produce an optimal diet for longevity, which they then compared with the typical western diet – which mostly contains high amounts of processed foods, red meat, high-fat dairy products, high-sugar foods, pre-packed foods and low fruit and vegetable intake. According to their research, an optimal diet included more legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole grains (oats, barley and brown rice) and nuts, and less red and processed meat.

The researchers found that eating an optimal diet from age 20 would increase life expectancy by more than a decade for women and men from the US, China and Europe. They also found that changing from a western diet to the optimal diet at age 60 would increase life expectancy by eight years. For 80-year-olds, life expectancy could increase by almost three and a half years.

But given it isn’t always possible for people to completely change their diet, the researchers also calculated what would happen if people changed from a western diet to a diet that was halfway between the optimal diet and the typical western diet. They found that even this kind of diet – which they called a “feasibility approach diet” – could still increase life expectancy for 20-year-olds by just over six years for women and just over seven years for men.

These results show us that making long-term diet changes at any age may have substantial benefits to life expectancy. But the gains are largest if these changes start early in life.

Full picture?

The life expectancy estimates this study makes come from the most thorough and recent meta-analyses (a study that combines the results of multiple scientific studies) on diet and mortality.

While meta-analyses are, in many cases, the best evidence because of the amount of data analysed, they still produce assumptions with the data, which may cause important differences between studies to be ignored. It’s also worth noting that the evidence for reducing consumption of eggs and white meat was of a lower quality than the evidence they had for whole grains, fish, processed meats and nuts.

There are also a few things the study didn’t take into account. First, to see these benefits, people needed to make changes to their diet within a ten-year period. This means it’s uncertain if people may still see benefits to their lifespan if they make changes to their diet over a longer period of time. The study also didn’t take past ill-health into account, which can affect life expectancy. This means that the benefits of diet on life expectancy only reflect an average and may be different for each person depending on a variety of other factors, such as ongoing health issues, genetics and lifestyle, such as smoking, drinking alcohol and exercise.

But the evidence the researchers looked at was still robust and drawn from many studies on this subject. These findings also align with previous research which has shown that modest but long-term improvements to diet and lifestyle can have significant health benefits – including longevity.

It’s not yet entirely clear all the mechanisms that explain why diet can improve lifespan. But the optimal diet that the researchers uncovered in this study includes many foods that are high in antioxidants. Some research in human cells suggests that these substances may slow or prevent damage to cells, which is one cause of ageing. However, research in this area is still ongoing, so it’s uncertain whether antioxidants that we consume as part of our diet will have the same effect. Many of the foods included within this study also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may also delay the onset of various diseases – and the ageing process.

Of course, changing your diet completely can be difficult. But even introducing some of the foods shown to increase longevity may still have some benefit.

Researchers discover a wound-healing repair in gut diseases

An international team led by the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has discovered novel properties of the protein Gasdermin B that promotes repair of cells lining the gastrointestinal tract in people with chronic inflammatory disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

This article is a repost which originally appeared on ScienceDaily

Case Western Reserve University - February 7, 2022
Edited for content and readability - Images sourced from Pexels 
Source: DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.12.024

Our Takeaways:

  • Gasdermins are a type of proteins that cause cell death
  • Gasdermin B is an exception – instead it keeps the gastrointestinal tract healthy
  • Future therapies investigating Gasdermin B could produce effective wound-healing of the lungs, skin and other organs

The new findings, recently published in the journal, Cell, are significant because the impact of Gasdermin B (GSDMB) on healing epithelium — a type of body tissue that lines the organs that have direct contact with the external environment — will play a key role in research on wound formation and designing novel therapeutics to enhance wound repair, said Theresa Pizarro, lead study author and the Louis Pillemer Professor of Experimental Pathology at the School of Medicine. In addition to medical school colleagues on campus, researchers included scientists from Cleveland Clinic, Texas, England and Greece.

Gasdermin B

Gasdermins are a family of proteins known to cause pyroptosis — a type of cell death usually triggered by infections and inflammation that contributes to conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Within that protein family, Gasdermin B (GSDMB), unlike other gasdermin proteins, doesn’t cause pyroptosis, especially in epithelial cells, but instead contributes to keeping the gastrointestinal tract healthy — a significant discovery for the development of future therapeutic treatments.

Previous research has shown that individuals carrying genetic variations of Gasdermin B have an increased risk of developing inflammatory disorders like asthma or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“Little was known regarding the mechanisms of how this occurred,” Pizarro said. “In our studies, we uncovered the functional consequences of these GSDMB genetic variants.”

“So, although IBD patients may produce higher levels of GSDMB when they have disease flares,” she said, “the GSDMB protein produced by the genetic variants interferes with the ability of epithelial cells to regenerate and form a healthy barrier critical to healing, for example, in ulcers of patients with ulcerative colitis.”

The study

The scientists analyzed samples from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients using state-of-the-art techniques, such as single-cell RNA sequencing, CRISPR/Cas9 and epithelial organoid cultures. Results confirmed substantial increases of GSDMB in biopsies of those with IBD, particularly ulcerative colitis, when compared to levels of GSDMB found in healthy individuals.

The findings unexpectedly showed the lack of epithelial cell death due to GSDMB; instead, this increased level led to:

  • Proliferation, or the growth of new cells;
  • Migration, or the movement of cells;
  • And decreased adhesion dynamics — the attractive forces between cells and other surfaces that affect motility.

Together, these processes promote restoration of the epithelial layer and effective wound-healing, Pizarro said.

“Future therapies targeting gasdermin B are not necessarily restricted to IBD or other chronic inflammatory states of the gastrointestinal tract,” Pizarro said, “but also have far-reaching implications for effective wound-healing of the lungs, skin and other organs interfacing with the external environment that require maintenance of an efficient epithelial barrier.”

Pizarro credited “this groundbreaking discovery on the collaborative and concerted efforts from immunologists, gastroenterologists, cell biologists and bioinformaticians from around the world,” including from Oxford University, University of Athens, Baylor College of Medicine, UT Southwestern and her colleagues at Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute and Case Western Reserve.

How mRNA and DNA vaccines could soon treat cancers, HIV, autoimmune disorders and genetic diseases

The idea of using genetic material to produce an immune response has opened up a world of research and potential medical uses far out of reach of traditional vaccines. Deborah Fuller is a microbiologist at the University of Washington who has been studying genetic vaccines for more than 20 years. We spoke to her about the future of mRNA vaccines.

Below are excerpts from that conversation which have been edited for length and clarity.

This article is a repost which originally appeared on The Conversation
Deborah Fuller - January 6, 2022
Edited for content and readability - Images sourced from Pexels 

Our Takeaways:

  • Nucleic acid vaccines are based on the idea that DNA makes RNA and then RNA makes proteins.
  • These vaccines are effective at inducing a T cell response.
  • For cancer, the goal is to make your body better able to recognize the very specific neoantigens the cancer cell has produced and destroy it.
  • For autoimmune disorders, the vaccine would suppress the T Cells to keep the immune system from attacking myelin

How long have gene-based vaccines been in development?

This type of vaccine has been in the works for about 30 years. Nucleic acid vaccines are based on the idea that DNA makes RNA and then RNA makes proteins. For any given protein, once we know the genetic sequence or code, we can design an mRNA or DNA molecule that prompts a person’s cells to start making it.

When we first thought about this idea of putting a genetic code into somebody’s cells, we were studying both DNA and RNA. The mRNA vaccines did not work very well at first. They were unstable and they caused pretty strong immune responses that were not necessarily desirable. For a very long time DNA vaccines took the front seat, and the very first clinical trials were with a DNA vaccine.

But about seven or eight years ago, mRNA vaccines started to take the lead. Researchers solved a lot of the problems – notably the instability – and discovered new technologies to deliver mRNA into cells and ways of modifying the coding sequence to make the vaccines a lot more safe to use in humans.

Once those problems were solved, the technology was really poised to become a revolutionary tool for medicine.

What makes nucleic acid vaccines different from traditional vaccines?

Most vaccines induce antibody responses. Antibodies are the primary immune mechanism that blocks infections. As we began to study nucleic acid vaccines, we discovered that because these vaccines are expressed within our cells, they were also very effective at inducing a T cell response. This discovery really prompted additional thinking about how researchers could use nucleic acid vaccines not just for infectious diseases, but also for immunotherapy to treat cancers and chronic infectious diseases – like HIV, hepatitis B and herpes – as well as autoimmune disorders and even for gene therapy.

How can a vaccine treat cancers or chronic infectious diseases?

T cell responses are very important for identifying cells infected with chronic diseases and aberrant cancer cells. They also play a big role in eliminating these cells from the body.

When a cell becomes cancerous, it starts producing neoantigens. In normal cases, the immune system detects these neoantigens, recognizes that something’s wrong with the cell and eliminates it. The reason some people get tumors is that their immune system isn’t quite capable of eliminating the tumor cells, so the cells propagate.

With an mRNA or DNA vaccine, the goal is to make your body better able to recognize the very specific neoantigens the cancer cell has produced. If your immune system can recognize and see those better, it will attack the cancer cells and eliminate them from the body.

This same strategy can be applied to the elimination of chronic infections like HIV, hepatitis B and herpes. These viruses infect the human body and stay in the body forever unless the immune system eliminates them. Similar to the way nucleic acid vaccines can train the immune system to eliminate cancer cells, they can be used to train our immune cells to recognize and eliminate chronically infected cells.

What is the status of these vaccines?

Some of the very first clinical trials of nucleic acid vaccines happened in the 1990s and were for cancer, particularly for melanoma.

Today, there are a number of ongoing mRNA clinical trials for the treatment of melanoma, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, glioblastoma and others, and there have been some promising outcomes. Moderna recently announced promising results with its phase 1 trial using mRNA to treat solid tumors and lymphoma

There are also a lot of ongoing trials looking at cancer DNA vaccines, because DNA vaccines are particularly effective in inducing T cell responses. A company called Inovio recently demonstrated a significant impact on cervical cancer caused by human papilloma virus in women using a DNA vaccine.

Can nucleic acid vaccines treat autoimmune disorders?

Autoimmune disorders occur when a person’s immune cells are actually attacking a part of the person’s own body. An example of this is multiple sclerosis. If you have multiple sclerosis, your own immune cells are attacking myelin, a protein that coats the nerve cells in your muscles.

The way to eliminate an autoimmune disorder is to modulate your immune cells to prevent them from attacking your own proteins. In contrast to vaccines, whose goal is to stimulate the immune system to better recognize something, treatment for autoimmune diseases seeks to dampen the immune system so that it stops attacking something it shouldn’t. Recently, researchers created an mRNA vaccine encoding a myelin protein with slightly tweaked genetic instructions to prevent it from stimulating immune responses. Instead of activating normal T cells that increase immune responses, the vaccine caused the body to produce T regulatory cells that specifically suppressed only the T cells that were attacking myelin.

Any other applications of the new vaccine technology?

The last application is actually one of the very first things that researchers thought about using DNA and mRNA vaccines for: gene therapy. Some people are born missing certain genes. The goal with gene therapy is to supply cells with the missing instructions they need to produce an important protein.

A great example of this is cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease caused by mutations in a single gene. Using DNA or an mRNA vaccine, researchers are investigating the feasibility of essentially replacing the missing gene and allowing someone’s body to transiently produce the missing protein. Once the protein is present, the symptoms could disappear, at least temporarily. The mRNA would not persist very long in the human body, nor would it integrate into people’s genomes or change the genome in any way. So additional doses would be needed as the effect wore off.

Research has shown that this concept is feasible, but it still needs some work.

Study suggests Vitamin D and fish oil supplements may help prevent autoimmune disease

Taking daily vitamin D and fish oil supplements may help protect older adults from developing autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, thyroid diseases and polymyalgia rheumatica, an inflammatory disease that causes muscle pain and stiffness in the shoulders and hips, a new study found.

This article is a repost which originally appeared on CNN
Sandee LaMotte - January 27, 2022
Edited for content and readability - Images sourced from Pexels 
Source: doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj-2021-066452

Our Takeaways:

  • The body makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunshine, and consuming fortified food and beverages.
  • People (aged 50+) taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 for over five years had a 22% lower rate of confirmed autoimmune diagnoses.
  • Taking both vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplements, versus the placebo, decreased autoimmune disease by about 30%.
  • You should always talk to your doctor first before starting a new regimen.

People age 50 and older taking 2,000 IU (International Units) of vitamin D3 for over five years had a 22% lower relative rate of confirmed autoimmune diagnoses, said study author Dr. Karen Costenbader, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in the division of Rheumatology, Inflammation and Immunity and the director of the lupus program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

That dosage is two to three times the recommended daily dose of vitamin D for adults, which is 600 IU for people up to 69 years old and 800 IU for those age 70 and up, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Once people had been taking vitamin D for at least two years, the prevention rate from autoimmune disorders rose to 39%, according to the study, published Wednesday in the journal BMJ.

The study also found a possible link between taking 1,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) and a reduction in autoimmune disorders, but the association was not statistically significant until possible cases of autoimmune disease — not just confirmed cases — were factored into the analysis.However, the study did find that taking both vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplementsversus the placebo alone, decreased autoimmune disease by about 30%.

Vitamin D toxicity

People should not just run out and start popping vitamin D pills to boost their chances of avoiding autoimmune disease, Costenbader warned, as there are significant consequences to taking too much of the supplement.

Unlike water-soluble vitamins, which the body can easily eliminate, vitamin D is stored in the fat cells of the body and can build up to toxic levels, leading to bone pain and kidney damage.Because the body makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunshine, and milk and other foods like cereals are often fortified with vitamin D, many experts say healthy, younger people are not likely to require vitamin D supplements, especially in amounts over the recommended level of 600 IU/day.

Levels do drop in older age, but “I would say everybody should talk to their doctor first before taking 2000 international units of vitamin D on top of whatever else you’re taking,” Costenbader said. “And there are certain health problems such as kidney stones and hyperparathyroidism (a rise in calcium levels), where you really shouldn’t be taking extra vitamin D.”

The body attacks itself

Costenbader’s study analyzed 25,871 men and women age 50 and older who were participating in VITAL, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled research study designed to see whether taking daily dietary supplements of vitamin D3 (2000 IU) or omega-3 fatty acids (1,000 mg of Omacor fish oil) would reduce the risk for developing cancer, heart disease and stroke in people with no prior history of these illnesses.That trial showed no benefits from the extra supplementation in preventing either cardiovascular disease or cancer. Because prior research has shown both vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids derived from seafood can have a positive effect on inflammation and immunity in autoimmune disorders, Costenbader decided to use the same trial to investigate whether the supplements might prevent such diseases.

Autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s natural defense system suddenly sees normal cells as invaders and begins destroying those cells by mistake. In rheumatoid arthritis, for example, the immune system attacks the lining of joints, creating inflammation, swelling and pain. With psoriasis, overactive T-cells — which are among the body’s best defenders — cause inflammation that creates raised, scaly patches on the skin.In Type 1 diabetes, the body’s defenders destroy the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. There’s even some evidence to show that inflammation throughout the body might be part of the progression of Type 2 diabetes. Autoimmune disorders can develop at any stage of life but do appear more among older adults, particularly women, Costenbader said.

More research needed

To date, no large randomized clinical trials (considered the gold standard of research) had investigated whether fish oil and vitamin D could actually prevent the development of autoimmune diseases.

“This is the first direct evidence in older adults that taking vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids — or a combination — for five years reduces autoimmune disease incidence, with more pronounced effect after two years of supplementation,” Costenbader said.At five years into the research, the study could not tease apart which of the 80 or more autoimmune diseases might benefit most from vitamin D and fish oil supplements, Costenbader said, but research is continuing. The study is now in its seventh year, she said. and more data should be released in the future.