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Biohacking–What Is It, and How Can It Benefit Your Business?

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I’ve always been a huge science nerd. While my girlfriends were gaga over Gone with the Wind, I was mesmerized with 2001: A Space Odyssey and dreamed of living in a space lab rather than a fancy mansion. This is why the idea of biohacking is so fascinating to me. But, as I learned back in the days when I taught middle-school science, not everyone finds it so interesting or approachable. And, if you’re someone who finds science a big yawn or the word biohacking makes you want to run in the other direction, you may be missing a huge opportunity to profit from some amazing opportunities for you and your business.

Biohacking Defined

Understanding the basics of biohacking is simpler than you may think. In essence, biohackers are trying to fool mother nature—but in a good way. The idea comes from the concept of IT hacking, whereby a programmer breaks through firewalls to take charge of a computer system. In the same way, biohackers attempt to gain control over biological systems. For instance, if you drink a large cup of coffee to wake yourself up in the morning, you could call yourself a biohacker, because you’ve used chemistry to rev up your internal biological systems. In fact, one of the largest proponents of biohacking is Dave Asprey, the founder of Bulletproof Coffee, although he is taking it way beyond your morning cuppa’ Joe into areas that many health experts question.

Taking it to the next level, we use current research findings from molecular biology and focus on how chemicals, movement, light, electricity, magnetism, sound, aromas, and more impact the internal operating systems of the body to promote peak performance and/or impact the processes of disease formation and typical aging.

One cornerstone of advanced biohacking relates to the interplay of genetics and epigenetics. Think of genetics like a recipe for your body and epigenetic processes as the cooking process. No matter how hard I try, my pie crust never tastes as good as my sister’s, even though we use the same recipe. It may be the fat I use, it may be the temperature of the fat or water, it may be my oven, but the way I’ve interpreted the recipe gives me a soggier crust. In the same way, our genes give basic instructions for development, but how those directions are interpreted depends upon a wide range of environmental factors. In fact, according to a large analysis of data by scientists at the University of Alberta, “your genes have less than five percent to do with your risk of developing a particular disease.” In other words, your genes set up the potential for you to develop many forms of chronic diseases, or, if you are lucky enough, to live a long life. But your lifestyle behaviors and environment, aka epigenetic factors, will cause you to live up, or down, to that potential. Biohackers use these factors to push the body into an optimal state, so you can have the best shot at an improved state of wellbeing. 

Biohacking and the Wellness Industry

Those of us in the wellness industry have an opportunity to be at the leading edge of wellbeing promotion through biohacking. However, with this opportunity comes great responsibility to help, not harm. Back in my days as health and healing director at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, our program planning team set up a review system before we adopted any new tools or techniques. We explored scientific backing for the claims. We determined if there was potential harm in using the technique. We set up protocols to ensure that we were using the tools or concepts according to best practices. We never took a product promoter’s presentation at face value, because it is critical to ensure that as healers, we’re not offering snake oil or false promises. Folks like Asprey are playing an important role in pushing the edge for themselves and accept the risks, but those of us who are giving advice or recommendations need to be a little more cautious.

In my current consulting practice where I’m working with functional medical practices, senior living communities, retreats, resorts, and spas across the country, I’ve been wading through the review process with my clients and developing programming options that will be safe, effective, and on-target for their market. In an upcoming series of articles, I’ll share background information that can help you decide if a product or technique should be:

  • Green Lighted, for those that have research backing the claims and are safe when approved protocols are used.
  • Yellow Lighted, for those that may have very little proof for their claims but are still safe when approved protocols are used.
  • Red Lighted, for those that may be harmful or aren’t yet ready for the marketplace.

Biohacking Targets

There are different ways to organize our thinking about biohacks, but for the purposes of this series, I’m going to focus on biohacking targets that wellness practitioners address in their practices. Each week, we’ll look at specific topics such as light therapy, biofeedback, vibrational therapies, hydrotherapies, the microbiome, and more to discover how they can help you improve your clients’ outcomes. (Note that functional medicine or integrative physicians may employ even more advanced methods, but that goes beyond the scope of these articles. If you’re interested in learning more about serious biohacking, I’d recommend visiting the Precision Lifestyle Medicine website, where you can find the latest information and resources.)

Among the biohacking targets that have the most potential impact on the wellness industry:

  • Musculoskeletal structure, exercise, and movement
  • Sleep, recovery, and relaxation
  • Mental health, stress management, and cognitive enhancement
  • Nutrition, supplements, and biochemistry
  • Identity, social support, purpose, and relationships

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, which will explore a range of tools and techniques that you can add to your existing menu of services or retail product offerings.

About The Author
kristine-huffman

Kristine is a partner at Hutchinson Consulting. She brings more than 30 years of experience in hospitality and human services, including providing leadership, staff training, program development, and brand direction for the award-winning Canyon Ranch, Miraval, and Travaasa Resorts. As a member of the International Spa Association (ISPA) Board, she acts as a strategic thought leader and mentor for individuals seeking to expand programming into the wellness arena. For 16 years, Huffman worked at the exclusive Canyon Ranch Resort in Lenox, MA, in several management capacities. As the health and healing director, she brought together and worked with the finest multidisciplinary health and healing team in the world. Contact her at kristine@hutchinsonconsulting.com.