Biohacking your health has become popular due to people such as Tim Ferris and websites such as www.optimoz.com.au and www.bulletproofexec.com; it is when you use tips and tricks to get the most out of your health, and track your progress using fitness tracking tools such as Fitbit, monitor your sleep quality, diet and other health biomarkers. Taking responsibility for your own health is getting a lot easier with technology, and both Apple and Google are releasing software to make this a lot easier, tracking your health in this way can help you prevent illness and disease rather than waiting to get sick and then expecting the doctor to “fix” you.
If you have been biohacking your health with diet, exercise and lifestyle changes it is also important to track the results of your changes so that you know what is working and what can be improved. While a good way to track your progress might be just going on how you “feel”, or on exercise performance, doing regular testing for nutrition, hormonal, inflammatory and digestive health can identify problems before they become major issues.
Sometimes it can be frustrating putting in the effort to make changes to your health, and despite your perfect diet you still get digestion problems, or you are getting 8 hours sleep and meditating every day but still tired and highly stressed, or you have a coach to help you gain strength but not getting the results …. the cause of these issues can be diagnosed by specific blood, saliva, urine or stool testing that goes beyond the basic tests that doctors use.
With regular testing you can help work out your optimal levels of biomarkers and not rely on the reference ranges from labs which are based on the general population, and the general population is not something you want to aspire to. This helps you make changes based on your results and can be very motivating!
If you have been biohacking your diet by cutting out processed and refined foods, eliminating known digestive irritants like gluten and casein, cut out the industrial processed vegetable oils like soy bean oil, canola oil and rice bran oil but still getting digestion issues then some specific pathology testing can help to identify your issues.
While a strict 30-60 day paleo diet can be a good place to start when you are making diet changes, this type of diet is not necessary the best approach for everybody, some people might need more carbs or less protein or more calories in general. There may still be foods in your diet that are causing problems and one way to identify these is through an elimination diet or FODMAP’s diet; another way is to do is through an IgG allergy test or by doing the Metametrix G.I effects stool test.
The Metametrix test can help to identify parasites or bacteria in your digestion that are having a negative impact on your health, show the levels of good bacteria and whether you are experiencing dysbiosis, have low levels of digestive enzymes and short chain fatty acids or high levels of inflammatory markers. It is the most accurate and comprehensive stool test available.
The IgG allergy test can help to identify food intolerances that are affecting not only digestive health but also energy levels, brain fog and concentration, and even pain and inflammation.
Other digestive tests that are available are Intestinal Permeability, Functional Liver detoxification profile, candida antibodies and coeliac antibodies.
The results from these tests can help you to focus on eating the right foods for you, and to make sure that you are taking the right supplements for you to bring about health and healing, and not to be wasting money taking the wrong supplements.
If you have been making biohacks or improvements to your diet and health, then you understand the importance of sleep and relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga, or using technical help like a sleep mat or blue light blocking glasses. But what happens if despite your best efforts with getting 8 hours sleep every night you are still waking up tired, or having trouble falling asleep despite being exhausted all day, or getting to sleep and waking up 3-4 hours later and not able to get to sleep again …. if this sounds like you then you may have issues with adrenal fatigue, which can affect many aspects of your health from immune function to thyroid function.
Adrenal fatigue can be caused by high levels of stress or low grade stress which is continuous. Stress is not just having a lot of pressure at work or having emotional stress but it can be physical stress due to over-training, injury or chronic health issues.
The best way to identify this is through a saliva cortisol test which is done 4 times during the day (6-8am, noon, 4-6pm and 8-10pm). The cortisol needs to be tracked 4 times during the day as your cortisol levels are different throughout the day, and a skilled practitioner will be able to identify from your test results, and your signs and symptoms what stage of adrenal fatigue that you are in. This test also includes DHEA which is another important marker of adrenal stress.
The results from the adrenal saliva test will help to determine the best treatment protocol so that you can improve your sleep, energy and really start to improve your performance.
Hormones like testosterone and estrogen obviously are at very different levels for men and women, but we all have them, and in the right balance can make a massive difference to our health and performance. Many things can affect our hormone levels like exercise, diet, stress, sleep and illness, this can lead to poor health in so many seemingly unrelated ways as hormones control how our body’s function.
Many people get their cholesterol tested each year at the doctor’s office as part of their annual “check up”, but if you have researched this topic at all, you will realize that this cholesterol reading is a very poor predictor of your cardiovascular risk. The only thing the doctor tests is total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides which do not tell the full story.
If you want to get a comprehensive cholesterol test then you also need to test Apolipoprotein A and B, VLDL levels and LDL Subfractions. LDL levels are often called the atherogenic part of the cholesterol test but your body needs LDL to deliver the cholesterol around the body to help with vital functions like brain function, hormones and the cell membranes …. it is the Apolipoprotein B and VLDL levels that you want to see low.
While there is a lot of focus on cholesterol the evidence suggests that it is inflammation that is the driving force behind heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions like Alzheimer’s. Tests that are helpful in identifying underlying inflammation, even before an illness is showing are High Sensitive C Reactive Protein (HsCRP), Homocysteine and Fibrinogen.
Despite a good diet you may still have nutritional deficiencies if you have poor digestion, have a lot of stress or inflammation or do a lot of high intensity training or excess cardio like endurance sports. While there is a recommended range for most nutrients like Vitamin D, iron, Folate, B12 and RBC Magnesium, calcium, chromium, pottasium, sodium, selenium and Zinc if you are striving for optimal health you don’t necessary just want to fall into the “average” range. Also nutrients need to be in the right balance, you don’t want to be too high in one or two nutrients while ok in the rest.
Besides vitamins and minerals another thing that can be tested is your amino acid levels, once again you need to be in the right balance and not too high in some or too low in others. Being too high in Histamine can indicate issues with your methylation pathways, being too high in ammonia or Taurine can indicate issues with your transsulfuration pathways which can lead to issues with glutathione production, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and other immune issues.
While minerals and nutrients are essential for your body to operate optimally, there are also heavy metals that can have a negative impact on your health. These include aluminium, mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium and they can have a negative impact on all major systems of the body like the nervous system, cardiovascular, digestive system and immune system, these heavy metals and a lot more can be tested with either a urine test or hair test.
Omega‐3 fatty acids are essential to the human body and have benefits for our heart, brain, eyes and joints. By reducing inflammation, blood clots and improving membrane function, omega‐3 fats are associated with a lower risk of heart complications – including heart disease, plaque build‐up and heart attacks – both in people with a history of heart disease and in healthy individuals. Omega‐3 fats are important for optimal brain development in babies and mental function, particularly later in life.
Red cell and whole blood analyses can provide the best reflection of tissue omega‐3 fatty acid status, this test also includes a full fatty acid profile including omega 3,6 and 9, monounsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans fats.
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen