We know the main point of this chapter is hormesis but can we also biohack it? Will that work? Of course, it can. By learning and adjusting our body and how it responds and boosts its performance through some measures. The best thing about biohacking your body at home means not needing to take extreme measures, which can simply include getting proper sleep or meditation. These activities might already be done by you, through the enhancement of these activities, you can also enhance the chances of your longevity and vitality.
Biohacking, as also explained in previous chapters, means changing your biology through your own efforts, which can include as trivial as drinking the required amount of water in a day. These lifestyle changes can increase the quality of life and improve your health. You will not only feel more energy but also enhanced brain functioning, making your life easier than before. As we know biohacking can be taken as a broader term, and we would like to associate it with hormesis in this chapter.
What is Hormesis? In simpler words when you put a good type of pressure on your body, that is called hormesis. The best example of hormesis is exercising, when you damage your muscle fibers and through exercise, they repair themselves with more resilience and stronger fibers. As we already talked about biohacking your body will help you achieve amazing results, but taking extreme measures can become a risky business, therefore always look for guidance from a professional when you are trying to do it at home.
There are many ways through which your body can go into hormesis to reap all its benefits, a few of them include Dry and Infrared Saunas, cold therapy, blood donation, and some blood sugar biohacks. As stress is one of the sources that take away your energy and make you feel weak, therefore putting up resilience against such kryptonite would be through biohacking. It will not also make your body stress-resilient but also help in tolerating it. Being stress-resilient will help you recover from your trauma quicker than before and that is the best hack towards a long and healthy life.
Let’s get to the point and talk about how hormesis actually works and what kind of hormesis we can do easily at home too.
How does Hormesis work?
When you experience stress, your body gives out a reaction by disrupting your body’s homeostasis, which is called the body’s balance. Now, note that your body needs to get exposed to some sort of minor stress or toxin, so it can help you grow and repair and keep the body in homeostasis. When your body starts to patch itself up to achieve body’s equilibrium, it means there is a positive response from the body to this stress. This positive response it called hormesis. Once your hormesis becomes adaptive to stress, you can benefit through it in form of stress tolerance and resilience.
Dry and Infrared Sauna
First of all, you should know what dry and infrared saunas are. Dry Saunas use rocks to create heat by warming up the air and then your body while infrared saunas are basically heat generated from light. Infrared saunas are also called far-infrared as the heat comes from a far light.
Infrared saunas are created in a way so they do not heat up the air but only your body. When the heat penetrates your body, your body activates the sweat glands. Sweating is a way to stimulate the release of toxins from the body. It literally pulls out the environmental pollutants and toxins deep within your fat cells through sweating.
It is super effective when you are trying to reset your body. Infrared waves are something like what the sun gives off and so when you get into the infrared sauna, especially on a dreary day, it really does help get your serotonin levels up and your happiness in general. So basically, an infrared sauna is your own little sunshine to make you feel happy. Other than detoxication, there are other benefits of infrared saunas.
Another major benefit of using infrared saunas is that it increases lymphatic drainage, which is a system that helps to clean up tissues and move that toxin load out of the body. Therefore, infrared saunas are the best way to activate and stimulate the lymphatic system. It also helps to increase the core temperature of the body. Some chronic patients face lower body temperature and this can be the best way to treat it. It also induces relaxation. Once your body is put under heat and causes stress in the body, the slowly repairs itself and relaxes. Now, the body is adapting the heat and stress, making your body more resilient and tolerant. This helps in sustaining and maintaining the body system and helps you feel more energized than before.
A dry sauna also works similarly for hormesis. Hormesis can be achieved through saunas, also known as heat shock therapy. Hormetic heat stress and heat shock factor one may induce a tougher G and improve the survival chances for the human body. That will lead it to its long and healthy living. Other benefits that involve the saunas are the treatment of chronic diseases, such as hypertension, heart failure, cancer, and other diseases.
Cryotherapy, also known as cold therapy, is a treatment that is been used since the 1700s and is used for many health and beauty benefits. Cryotherapy makes your body surface temperature so low that your body actually thinks it’s under stress. In extreme cold, your body draws blood to the core where it’s able to re-up on oxygen and nutrient. Once you warm up, your brain sends oxygen to the fatigued and injured areas first. The enzymes, the proteins in your blood will flow back out and will heal whatever that you have such as joint pain, muscle pain, etc It helps in relieving the pain and muscle spasms, and also reduces anxiety and depression.
If we were to talk about the benefits of cryotherapy through biohacking our body, it will be as follows:
- Brown Adipose Tissue: This is the fat inside our body that is responsible to warm up your body or generate heat. The heat in return burns out the calories. The health fat inside our bodies has high mitochondrial content and cryotherapy makes the body convert this fat into brown adipose tissue, which provides an incremental mitochondrial content. This fat can provide an increase in our metabolism and also generate heat.
- Norepinephrine: This chemical is released by our body into the bloodstream to activate the “Fight or Flight” mode, survival mode in other words. The body puts itself into a cold shock for a small amount of time and once the body warms up, it enhances mood, focus and relieves muscle or joint pain.
- Anti-inflammatory: Cold therapy is known for its anti-inflammatory effects on the body. It erases the cause of cell injury and cleans out the dead cells within the body. The initial damage to the cell is tracked down and repaired. Cryotherapy prevents cells to get damaged and also decreases inflammatory chemicals in the body.
- Improved Immune System: Just like infrared Suana cold therapy also provides a type of shock to the body, cold stress, which increases lymphatic drainage, which is a system that helps to clean up tissues and move that toxin load out of the body. This will make the body stronger and improve its fighting functionality against infections and viruses.
- Antioxidant: Cold therapy can repair the damaged cells and also makes the body get rid of extra dead cells. In short, it activates the antioxidant system within the body which can help in the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Biohacking Blood Sugar
Most humans lead busy lives, strict schedules to push through and tons of deadlines to meet. In this hustle, we tend to forget our own primal needs such as an optimal sleep pattern and a balanced diet. After all, when prioritizing tasks, these needs are usually decaying at the bottom. When someone gets diagnosed with a chronic condition such as hypertension or metabolic syndrome, lifestyle change suddenly becomes a concern. At once, various self-monitoring devices are bought and exacting diet plans are followed. The fact that more than one billion people suffer from hypertension worldwide and 541 million adults are at high risk for type 2 diabetes, looms over our heads like a ticking clock.
So now the question arises, how can we prevent chronic conditions and optimize our overall health? That’s where biohacking comes in. You can boost your biological system to enhance performance and discover untapped potential by monitoring and controlling your vital signs, which brings us to biohacking the blood sugar levels.
- Continuous blood glucose monitoring (CGM)
Our bodies produce insulin in response to carb-rich foods so that the sugar received in the blood can be used by cells in the form of energy. Now, this basic process can easily backfire in the case of insulin resistance where your cells cannot actively uptake the available glucose resulting in high blood sugar and insulin levels. These abnormal and recurrent spikes in blood glucose and insulin can negatively affect your body with a pronounced hit to the metabolism.
Now, the first step in regulating blood sugar levels is to start monitoring them. In the same way, a simple fitness device such as Fitbit keeps you aware of your activity levels and helps achieve daily targets, a continuous glucose monitoring device can prove to be an effective accessory for biohackers, in developing good eating habits and managing blood glucose. Once you have a monitoring device, you can track and log your fasting and post-prandial blood sugar to make sure they are in a standard range. Consistently controlled glucose levels indicate normal insulin sensitivity while a more aberrant pattern can translate into insulin resistance or even diabetes. However, it is important to remember that certain triggers such as stress, exercise, and short-term pain can also give a high blood glucose reading. This usually subsides upon the termination of the stimulus.
- Dietary guidelines for optimizing blood sugar – 300
A typical western diet is loaded with sugars, saturated fats, and animal proteins. A quick meal of sugary cereals with coffee, and off we go to sit on a chair for the rest of our day. This can be detrimental to one’s glucose tolerance in the long term. Mindless snacking on highly processed foods further aggravates our insulin levels.
- Caloric management – Obesity, in particular abdominal fat, is the leading cause of metabolic syndrome which entails insulin resistance, poor vascular health and an abnormal lipid profile. Achieving optimal body weight and losing abdominal fat has been proven effective in reversing insulin resistance. A study, comprising 219 individuals, investigated the role of diet and exercise intervention in insulin resistance. A connection was found between high BMI and an increased risk of developing insulin resistance syndrome.
- Include more fiber – Simple carbohydrates such as those present in sugary drinks, sweets and food commodities made from refined grains are deficient in fiber and cause blood glucose spikes. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, such as whole grains and non-starchy vegetables, are a great source of soluble fiber that improves blood glucose attenuation and insulin sensitivity.
- Choosing healthy fats – Fats get a bad reputation in most cases with some people completely abandoning them from their diets. However, fats are essential to various metabolic processes and it all comes down to the type of fat we choose. Saturated and trans fats, such as butter, lard, cheese, and bakery items should be avoided and sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil should be included to enhance insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
- Order of consumption – The carbohydrate last meal pattern involves eating a protein source first and consuming carbohydrates later in the meal. It was found to be an efficient strategy in controlling postprandial glycemia in a study consisting of 16 people with type 2 diabetes. So instead of breadsticks as starters, prioritize the intake of protein and vegetables followed by the carb-rich portion of your meal to keep the blood glucose and insulin levels in a normal range.
A lifestyle change is not just limited to dietary interventions. It encompasses sufficient physical activity, regular sleep patterns, and stress management to improve the general well-being of an individual.
Thermal therapy – Role in Insulin Resistance
The core practice in biohacking is to advance your vitality through self-regulation and even inflicting acute stress to supplement bodily functions. Thermal therapy, including saunas and hot baths, is an effective and well-researched method to boost your health. Its various benefits for improving glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and overall health are detailed as follows;
- Sauna bathing instigates a plethora of beneficial changes at a cellular level that can translate into boosted vitality. In the presence of adequate heating, blood flow and the uptake of glucose by the muscles temporarily rises. Research targeted towards the effects of steam bathing/saunas showed that hyperthermia can influence carbohydrate metabolism. It can prove to be of great significance in biological regeneration due to which people who are unable to exercise and athletes gravitate towards sauna bathing. Regular thermal therapy is also comparable to aerobic activity especially in individuals with physical impairments.
- The surge of heat shock proteins in response to high temperatures is a basic survival defense of the body from which we can benefit greatly by regular thermal therapy. Heat shock proteins or HSP’s can be triggered through saunas, these molecules have the ability to reduce cell damage while restoring and salvaging the old cells. Diabetic models usually display a low intracellular and high extracellular heat shock protein concentration which can induce a pro-inflammatory condition. This state is directly related to low insulin sensitivity as increased levels of HSP’s are linked to insulin resistance. Research attributes frequent passive heating to an increase in intracellular heat shock proteins in obese and diabetic models.
- Acute heat stress prompted by the steam sauna is also responsible for the activation of FOX (forkhead box) proteins. They are transcription factors with a key role in the management of genes that are in charge of longevity and cell cycle regulation. Mammalian cell-based studies indicate that foxO proteins have a crucial part in the resistance against oxidative stress and mediation of insulin action on metabolism along with hepatic gluconeogenesis. Additionally, warm temperatures are also known to activate the endocrine system and induce glycaemic control. A study involving 80 volunteers revealed a substantial decrease in fasting blood glucose after seven steam saunas. Another study examined diabetic mice that underwent hyperthermia thrice a week for three months, a 31 percent reduction in insulin levels was observed during this period.
Blood Donation and Hormesis
As previously discussed, self-imposed challenges have the ability to elevate the functionality of our bodies. Blood donation is another procedure that entails various benefits for the donor in addition to it being helpful for the recipient. Some of these advantages are listed below;
- Management of hemochromatosis – An abundance of iron can be found in people who absorb it excessively from food such as in hemochromatosis. This extra iron ends up getting stored in the organs where it builds up and causes diabetes, obesity, and liver disease. Blood donation is a safe and effective way to deplete these iron stores from the body.
- Improves cardiovascular health – Some of the most prominent benefits of regular blood donations are that they can lower triglyceride levels, blood viscosity, and oxidative stress which positively impacts the vascular health markers. This in turn leads to a low risk of developing cardiovascular conditions.
- Lowers the rate of mortality – Research links high frequency of blood donation with enhanced health markers and a reduction in the rate of mortality. Furthermore, the risk of cancer was also found to be lowered in people who regularly donate blood.
- Controls blood pressure – Frequent apheresis displays a protective effect against hypertension. It decreases the blood volume and viscosity which along with a temporary lowering of blood pressure, is also related to improved readings in the long term.
- Enhances glucose tolerance – A study investigating the effect of whole blood donation on diabetes-related biomarkers revealed improvement in glucose tolerance and production of insulin in 42 healthy males. This could be attributed to the fact that low iron stores are associated with enhanced insulin sensitivity.
To conclude this chapter, hormesis can bring a positive change to your body’s system and make you live longer than you intended to. With the positive stress, you will make your body adaptive to stressful factors and can clean up your body by pulling out the toxins from within your body. In order to achieve longevity and quality of life, biohacking your body to make its immunity stronger and enhance its healing abilities, one must add hormesis biohacking methods to their routines. Being healthy, happy, and healed is the best combination to keeping yourself alive for the longest period of time.
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