What risks can emerge in biohacking? Expert opinion of the psychiatrist Evgeniy Kovalev
Biohacking is an efficient tool intended to improve health and life quality. Used reasonably, it can help to cure illnesses, become more productive, and reduce biological age. However, with a wrong approach to body enhancement, you may not only fail to achieve desired results but also do harm to your body.
What threats may biohacking pose to human health and how can one avoid the main risks? Psychiatrist and author of psychophysiological support techniques for sportsmen Evgeniy Kovalev helped us to get insight into the issue.
Biohacking: main ideas and goals
Biohacking is a modern movement, whose supporters upgrade their body in order to improve parameters of physical and psychological health, increase productivity, and prolong lifetime. To achieve these goals, biohackers adhere to strict diets, take various medicine and vitamins, regularly undergo diagnostics checkups, and do medical tests. They control dozens of vital signs, stimulate brain regions with current, and even implant different chips or sensors into their body.
“For a start, you need to run a kind of body audit – to study individual features that can influence the result in various ways,” Evgeniy Kovalev believes. “The simplest methods are the safest ones – everyone usually starts with changes in sleep patterns and hygiene, diet optimization, purchase of gadgets for monitoring certain body functions. Later people proceed with more difficult methods such as food supplements, memory training, etc.”
Why biohacking may be dangerous?
In the pursuit of body improvement, biohackers do not always take a reasonable approach. Without preliminary recommendations of a doctor or nutritionist, they start taking different drugs and modernize their diets. As a result, the lack of a systematic approach to health improvement brings no desired results and on the contrary, leads to a poorer health state. Not to make such mistakes, let’s review what actions of biohackers can negatively impact their physical and mental health.
Intake of medicine without recommendations of doctors
Biohackers take many food supplements, vitamins, and medicine willing to get rid of current and to prevent possible diseases.
For example, a well-known entrepreneur and biohacker Serge Faguet takes metformin to prevent cancer and heart diseases, lithium and modafinil to improve cognitive capability, antidepressants, hormonal drugs, and food supplements to improve different health indicators.
Dangers. Every medicine has side effects and simultaneous intake of some drugs may be life-threatening. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor before you take any vitamins, medicine, or food supplements.
“Any self-medication is dangerous. Pay attention how often mass media highlight occurrences of heavy consequences of food supplements administration,” comments the situation of self-treatment Evgeniy Kovalev. “For example, a recently notorious story about the development of hepatism in the man that took seemingly safe green tea extract”.
The specialist stresses that before you take any drugs, you should consult a doctor.
“Only a doctor can decide whether there are indications for the intake of a certain medicine. Many states come before the development of pathology. The professional medical community agrees that in a number of clinical situations, preventive administration of medicines is possible (for example, metformin),” he comments. “Overall, for such an approach to treatment, it is important to find a physician with a cooperative position, who is ready to listen to your arguments and give explanations about pros and risks of preventive treatment.”
Diets and fasting
To improve health and well-being, biohackers adhere to different diets. They can refuse from the intake of carbs, industrially processed foods, alcohol, sugar, and salt. Besides, they add different products developed for biohackers and supporters of a healthy lifestyle to their ration, for example, bulletproof coffee that contains butter and middle chain triglycerides. Biohackers also practice fasting.
Dangers. By refusing from some products, a person can rob the body of vitally important substances and microelements. For example, a complete refusal to take carbs leads to the loss of strength. The lack of sodium found in salt may provoke the development of hyponatremia, lead to problems with the digestive system, cardiovascular diseases, performance degradation, and bad mood.
“Fasting is an extreme experiment with the body, not a part of healthy lifestyle, as it mainly bears risks. Usually they are related to irreversible changes in organs and tissues against the background of refusal to eat. Meanwhile, a calorie-restricted diet helps to prolong life, according to the opinion of some foreign experts,” Evgeniy Kovalev states.
Experiments with the body
Biohackers often turn to experimental ways of body improvement. They make injections to correct genes, implant devices and sensors under the skin to monitor different health indicators, use uncertified devices to improve health, take clinically untested medicines.
Dangers. Experiments on your body may lead to unexpected consequences. For example, you can infect yourself during the injection or surgery.
Evgeniy Kovalev believes that any experiments require a conscious approach, “Of course, being a pioneer is interesting, but you have to be prepared to achieve success. You definitely should not try out techniques tested on laboratory rats rather than humans and not used in clinical practice. It is the spirit of violation of bans that attracts many people to biohacking, but one should assess the risks of experiments on yourself.”
Change in lifestyle and emotional overload
Biohacking is not entertainment and not a one-time procedure but a lifestyle. Therefore, by becoming its supporter, a person changes habits and views. In the opinion of Evgeniy Kovalev, biohacking gives a feeling of super control over the body and consequently, any failure or unexpected deterioration in health may negatively affect the emotional state.
To optimize the body without any harm, the expert recommends that biohackers adhere to several simple rules:
- Use trusted methods, practiced in medicine.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions and communicate: the more opinions you collect, the more information you have.
- Understand: if someone has managed to do a thing, you may fail to do it.
- You can risk only when you are sure in safety for your health and life.
On September 19, Evgeniy Kovalev will speak at Biohacking Conference Moscow. His report is titled “Mental health and risks of biohacking”. At the event, you will have an opportunity to ask Evgeniy questions in person regarding how to make health improvement safe.