Biohacking 101: Dasha Maximov’s Cheatsheet to Optimized Health

 

We had the opportunity to present some questions to an expert in the field of biohacking. If you ever wondered why you’re seeing so many more people intentionally submerging their unclothed bodies into ice-cold water or taking naps in hyperbaric oxygen chambers… wonder no more. We ask Dasha all of these questions and more. Let’s get to the root of what are the best practices to optimize our bodies to function at our absolute best.

Please introduce yourself and give us a little background into how you discovered biohacking.

I worked as a management consultant for 8 years and then had a debilitating traumatic brain injury while studying for my masters in neuroscience (ironic). This led me to look into numerous alternative health offerings (> 20 doctors in 5 countries) to heal my brain injury. After 14 months of chronic pain, I started seeing relief due to simple electrical, physical, and nutrition changes that I made in my life. I was co-founder of the Health Optimisation Summit, the largest alternative health summit in London, and now run a company and podcast, WhealthCo, dedicated to teaching women about their health. In 2022, we’re also starting a 12-month only women’s program, Powher Program, where myself, a doctor, and a Ph.D. researcher are providing support for 30 women in transforming their health journeys; applications are now open. Feel free to DM me on Instagram or email me at [email protected] 

1. There is a lot of confusion around the term: biohacking. Can you please define that and elaborate on what you consider biohacking to be?

Biohacking is the act of changing the environment around you or in you in order to feel your best. This can be modifying the foods you eat, changing the light in your house to allow you to sleep better, to a specific movement that allows you to balance your body from the ways that you (ab)use it every day with a sedentary lifestyle.

Right now biohacking is taking an approach of trial and error for yourself rather than accepting the law of averages and saying “if it works for 10000 people, it will work for me too”. 

2. Can you give us a top 10 biohacking methods/ procedures/devices that are most popular today? And give us a little insight into what the benefits are of each?

1. Circadian Biology. Mimicking your life to be more in tune with the circadian (sun/moon) rhythms. That means waking up with the sun, changing your lights in the house, wearing blue-blocking glasses, and changing your lifestyle such that you are in bed closer to sunset. 
2. Cryotherapy / Cold Thermogenesis. Using the cold stimulates a bit of a hormetic (good) stress to the body, which ends up helping to turn white adipose tissue (white fat) into brown fat (fat which is more densely populated with mitochondria). 
3. Intermittent Fasting / OMAD. Not eating for 12-24 hours, or eating just one meal a day (OMAD). This practice has been seen to help with autophagy (self-cleansing / killing mechanisms of bad cells). 
4. Grounding / Limiting Electromagnetic Fields (EMF). Grounding (walking barefoot to get the electrons from the earth) or using devices/products to mimic grounding in nature. 
5. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). Entering a chamber that has higher pressure and more oxygen to help saturate the blood with more oxygen. 
6. Cycle Mapping & Seed Cycling. This is for women, understanding and charting your menstrual cycle to understand the four phases of your cycle when you ovulate, and starting to read the signs of the body (cervical mucus, how different foods impact cycle, etc.). Seed cycling is eating specific types of seeds in the month to help the balance of progesterone and estrogen. 
7. HRV Tracking and Training. Tracking of the heart rate variability (HRV) which the measurement of how resilient your body is to stress. 
8. Sleep Tracking. Sleep tracking throughout the night to measure things like how fast you fall asleep, your night HRV, your body temperature, and the stages of sleep. 
9. Psychedelic Microdosing. Microdosing of things like psilocybin or LSD to stimulate creativity; the dosage is sub-perceptual so you aren’t having any visual distortions as you would with a “regular” dose trip. 
10. Breathwork: Breathwork is getting more into the mainstream. If before, breathwork used to be seen as part of the yoga world with pranayama breathing; now it is more about Buteyko, holotropic, or stress reduction breathwork as discussed by Dr. Andrew Hubermann. 
Brain Mapping, Biohacking.
Brain mapping – we focus on the body and often forget about our brains. After suffering brain injuries, Dasha went ahead and had quantitative eeg (qEEG) scans done to see the speed of her brain to see how to optimize it.

3. For you personally, if you had to only choose one form and method of biohacking for the most benefits. What would it be and why?

Sleep. Sleep is the absolute most critical thing and one that I hack with my clients. If you are not sleeping well, and consistently getting enough energy and rest, then all the other hacks are moot. If you aren’t sleeping well, it’s like putting premium oil and gas into a car with a broken engine. 

4. In an unregulated industry, you must see a lot of crazy stuff out there. Some with merit and some without. What is the craziest thing you’ve seen so far and what claims do they make?

Many of these brain-training devices (neurofeedback) require much more regulation and review before we use them. There is some GREAT science out there, but it must be done in a proper clinical setting and many of these products don’t have enough power to do the things they promise. 

5. As a woman, do you see certain approaches being more effective based on gender? If yes, what is the biggest factor that determines the differences: hormones?

EVERYTHING is different between the genders. Women metabolize supplements and drugs differently. We also have a 28-day-ish cycle that impacts our hormones, that impact our hunger, our emotions, our breathing patterns, and our mindset. A woman changes throughout the course of a month as well as if she is pregnant, if she has been pregnant, or if is later in her life. Whereas a man is able to do things consistently throughout the month and not have to think about these changes. 

6. At what point does biohacking become accepted by the scientific and medical community? What hurdles have you personally encountered?

Biohacking follows a bit of a different mindset than “regular science”. Regular science is reductionist and based on a multitude of people trying the same thing to see if the experiment is repeatable and then applicable to the masses based on a normal bell curve. Biohacking is not about a sample set of 10,000, but rather a sample set of 1, you.  Therefore, biohacking follows a different rhythm of research because it’s about many people having their own n=1 experience; and then comparing these experiences to see if there are similarities. 

People in the biohacking space are often thought of as “fringe” and seen as individuals without medical knowledge or training. That is sometimes difficult for people to accept because we have become ingrained in the idea that doctors always have the answers. I find that the beauty of biohacking is that we are each our own experimenters and health explorers. Biohacking allows us to do our own research on ourselves and see correlations for our own bodies in a holistic, rather than reductionist way. 

Biohacking can become part of the scientific discussion when enough people have had good experiences and then talk about it. One example of this is with cold thermogenesis (e.g., ice baths, cold showers). So many people have started to experiment with this; including people like Wim Hof, that now this is being studied in clinical settings.

Biohacking is a form of citizen science that allows people to see patterns and correlations and then makes for the scientific process to be even faster since we already have hypotheses and data from wearables to back it up. 

7. Which country is leading the charge in innovation and accepting these biohacking practices and incorporating them to mainstream deployment into their healthcare systems?

Finland, Russia, Israel, and Germany are doing great things with biohacking and deploying these things more mainstream. They have cultures that are data-oriented and technologies that have been around for a long time. The US and the UK lead the charge in marketing these products and technologies as they understand how to make these things more consumer-friendly. 

Dasha Maximov's biohacking
Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) are becoming the latest wearables in the biohacking space and can show the glucose levels in your blood real time. To learn more, read Dasha’s article here.

Below are some pics of Dasha and the crazy biohacks she has tried over the years.