The Care and Feeding of a Biohacker: Part I
A biohacker is one who uses any number of a broad range of techniques and technologies to maximize, enhance, and modify their own wellness and physiology - often through self-experimentation. Brain hacking is a subcategory of biohacking, but of course, hacking a good mind comes with the mindful care and feeding of a healthy body.
So, what does a biohacker do to maintain high physical and mental functioning? There are many ways to hack the mind and body. One aspect many hackers and non-hackers alike focus on is the diet. I don't mean diet, as in a temporary form of calorie restriction or short-term change to achieve a short-term goal, I'm talking about a lifestyle. Many popular diets that are used as lifestyle eating practices are the Paleo Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, Eat Right for your Type, and the BulletProof Diet. I have been hacking my diet and health for a long time by reading and learning from many experts, but my personal approach has been a give and take of different philosophies combined with finally learning to just listen to my body. If you listen mindfully, your body and mind will let you know what works and what doesn’t work for you much of the time. Of course, many undesirable dietary behaviors don’t reveal the extent of their negative side-effects for many years, but for daily wellness, clarity, energy, and performance, we can observe what our food and supplements are doing for or against us.
Since childhood, I have been plagued by migraines, and with migraines being cyclical, I’ve had good days, bad days, good months, and bad months. Because I had them at such an early age, I just accepted them as a fact of life, and was even astonished (and kind of annoyed) to discover that everyone didn’t have headaches, and if they did, they usually had no concept of what it was like to live with intense migraines.
But, my breakthrough came at a time when all else in my life was pretty fantastic with the exception of a very long, bad run of migraines. I had to beat them, and I was sick of taking medication for them. I read an article about migraines and food allergies, and starting to look for a possible culprit. Then, remembering that I felt exceptionally excellent when on the Atkins Diet many years ago (yes, I used to be a serial dieter), I started to suspect wheat - which was the hardest part of doing Atkins – giving up my breads and cereals (this was long before gluten-free went mainstream). Further reading lead me to discover the negative effects of wheat and gluten, so I put myself on an elimination diet by taking wheat out of my diet completely. It was tough, but I was determined to hack this problem. The migraines almost completely resolved with the only exception being a mild migraine with a glass of red wine. I felt extremely lucky to have found the culprit so quickly, but I presume my subconscious mind probably figured out a long time ago that wheat was a bad habit of mine. As for most of us, my conscious mind wasn’t listening to my subconscious mind.
For approximately12 years, I have been gluten-free. A gluten-free diet is far from being just for those suffering from Celiac disease. There are a whole range of maladies from Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) that can be quite debilitating, and there are a host of long-term effects from the consistent intake of gluten containing foods. When I discovered my gluten sensitivity, it was not very well known at all, and even my general practitioner physician seemed to almost laugh out loud when I told him I stopped eating wheat, and why. This was long before Dr. Perlmutter published his work in the book Grain Brain, I have been enjoying the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle. I do recommend this book for starters for anyone interested in learning about having a better brain and better health.
Sure, I do get the occasional migraine these days, but much less severe, and when I do get them, they brought on by other factors such as stress, dehydration, lack of sleep, or having a glass of wine without sufficient hydration (I usually avoid reds also). Because gluten-free has been a lifestyle for so long, I don’t feel that I’m really missing anything. What I am. missing is, the migraines and fatigue. Wheat today is significantly different that the grains of our ancestors - it's a highly inflammatory food, addictive, and creates huge spikes in blood glucose levels. This is not for a select few - wheat, including whole wheat is brutal for the brain and the body.
In addition, I gave up dairy shortly after going gluten-free for sinus issues, and that doesn’t bother me much either except when there are no non-dairy options available. It probably bothers my dinner partners much more than it bothers me sometimes.
Stay tuned for the next installment, and I’ll go more into my dietary behaviors and the benefits I have enjoyed from these changes. I’ll also discuss more on the other benefits I have enjoyed from going gluten- and dairy-free.