Joseph Cohen (Joe), Chief Biohacker
At the age of 25, Joe was sick, broke, and unemployable.
He decided to go on a journey to ‘biohack’ himself and has done thousands of experiments – on himself.
Since biohacking himself from sickness in mid 2013, Joe has become a writer/author, investor and entrepreneur, founding SelfHacked and SelfDecode. He has written the SelfHacked Secrets book and the Biohacking Insomnia book.
SelfDecode is your personal digital health coach that combines data from genetics, blood tests and symptoms to render personalized health recommendations.
Joe is a significant contributor of the content at SelfHacked and SelfDecode and has diverse roles in the company.
Roles: Joe is the CEO and Chief Biohacker at SelfHacked and SelfDecode, and also edits/writes content.
Nattha Wannissorn, PhD in Molecular Genetics
Nattha received her PhD from University of Toronto in 2016. She is now the Chief Editor at SelfHacked.
Aside from having spent 12 years in biomedical research, Nattha is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer, Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification, and Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. As a holistic practitioner with a strong science background, Nattha is an advocate of science literacy in health topics and self-experimentation.
Roles: Chief Editor…Nattha helps write, edit and manage content for SelfHacked and consults for SelfDecode.
Brendan Swan, PhD in Neurogenetics
Brendan has had a fascination with human genetics from an early age. His PhD was undertaken at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. It involved developing a method for identifying mutations that cause neuro-developmental disorders, with emphasis placed on autism. He then investigated the causative mechanism of the mutations to gain insight to how these disorders arise.
To Brendan, SelfDecode represents the future of health and wellbeing. A tool that provides personalized information about an individual’s genetic variations. A place for people to learn about how they can align their lifestyles with their genetic makeup in order to have longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Roles: Brendan is a project manager and Chief Scientist at SelfDecode and contributes to SelfHacked/SelfDecode content.
Bilyana Novkovic, PhD in Evolutionary Biology, Research Scientist
Bilyana received her PhD in Evolutionary Biology. She has experience researching and writing about genetics.
Before joining SelfHacked, she was a research scientist with extensive field and laboratory experience. She is well versed in molecular and statistical data analyses, and biological, biochemical and molecular data curation.
Roles: Bilyana is a writer for SelfHacked and SelfDecode.
Evguenia Alechine, PhD in Biochemistry
Evguenia received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry in the area of Human Genetics and has a masters in Biomedical Sciences. She was an academic scientist for eight years.
She is particularly passionate about communicating scientific advances both to the scientific community and to the public.
She likes living a healthy lifestyle and her mission is to make the world a healthier place by delivering scientific research to a broad audience.
Roles: She is a writer & editor for SelfHacked.
Maya Stanojevic, MD
Maya received training as a student in molecular biology at Missouri State University and then went on to obtain an MD Degree.
Roles: Maya creates content for SelfHacked and SelfDecode.
Alan Warsoff, Biohacker
Alan is a long time biohacker and has experimented with hundreds of interventions. He came to biohacking for the purpose of improving his cognitive performance in dealing with the demands of attending college, working full time and self learning programming.
After completing his degree in law, he joined Joe in California to code and launch the MVP of SelfDecode.
Alan implemented a regimen of working memory training, yoga, meditation and nootropics which allowed him to accrue a varied and valuable skill set at a young age.
Roles: Alan is involved in prototyping, management, marketing, software development, hiring and reviewing content.
Josh Finlay, Biohacker
Josh has been involved in the biohacking community for over a decade, in which time he has experimented with hundreds of strategies to enhance his mental and physical performance.
Roles: Josh is a writer for SelfHacked
Randa is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado with a dual bachelor’s degree in Physiology and Biochemistry and will be pursuing a M.S. degree in Biotechnology in the near future.
After observing second hand how debilitating chronic diseases can be, she became interested in researching simple and practical diet/lifestyle changes that one can incorporate daily to prevent and reduce disease risk factors. Knowing how difficult and overwhelming it can be to navigate the vast network of scientific information on the internet, she strongly believes in the importance of providing comprehensible and accurate information to the general public for self-knowledge and empowerment.
Roles: Randa is a writer forSelfHacked and SelfDecode
Helen has a BS in Biological Sciences from UC Davis. She enjoys reading about current scientific studies. Selfhacked gives her the opportunity to learn more about scientific research.
Favorite Biohacks: Sleep and meditation
Roles: Helen is a writer for SelfHacked and SelfDecode
Since March 2016, Selfhacked posts have been written by team efforts, so I don’t put any specific writers down. I (Joe) am still the head writer, however, and look over everything that is published. Before that date, all of the posts were written solely by me.
Comment Policy For Selfhacked (May 2016)
There has been an update to the commenting policy for Selfhacked. Comments that add value will be approved. If it doesn’t add value, I won’t approve it. This is because people sign up for email updates to comments and if I approve irrelevant comments or long rants that don’t add value, it spams people’s emails and it discourages people from reading comments.
Comments that are linking to products will be removed if there is a suspicion that there is self-promotion.
If you make a statement that’s not common knowledge, you should try to back it up with studies.
Try to keep your comments concise.
About Self-Hacked: A First Principles Approach to Health
First and foremost, Selfhacked is a tool for people to understand their individual biology and upgrade themselves with this knowledge.
Selfhacked does not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach because everyone is different. This is a drastically different outlook than other blogs. Most sites have themes that they believe everyone should adhere to because it’s the healthiest way.
Selfhacked is about giving people the information and tools they need to upgrade/heal themselves.
The internet itself needs to be upgraded in terms of the science content that is user-friendly and pertains to health. It needs to be combined with potential remedies that are relatively low risk.
At Selfhacked, we plan on dissecting every facet of human biology and looking at potential remedies or ways to reverse our biological weaknesses – a first principle’s approach to health and medicine. This will all be in a format that will be accessible to everyone.
People need to take control of their own health and not rely on anyone. And the best weapon for that is solid information, combined with a spirit of self-experimentation.
Why Did I Start Selfhacked?
I started Selfhacked.com because I didn’t like the dogma that other blogs had. People are often narrow-mindedly fixated on certain ideas and approaches. I found bloggers who identified in a certain way (either paleo, vegan or any other group) were closed minded to ideas outside of their ideology.
If you notice, the only ideology of selfhacked is to see what works for you.
I also didn’t like how most blogs are filled with marketing, hype and false hope. Even well meaning people often lack critical thinking.
I try to be extremely open-minded and willing to try anything, but I’m also highly skeptical and take a critical look upon everything.
Accordingly, I don’t fit into any category: I’m not “paleo”, low carb, low fat or anything else for that matter. I do what works for me and I encourage people to do what works for them, but try out many approaches. By identifying with a group, I find it introduces group think and mental blockages. It feels good, but it shuts the mind down.
What irked me the most was when people were convinced that what worked for them must work for everyone else. I think everyone is different and it’s important to isolate these differences and understand why people react differently.
Hence, my role is to supply information so that you can then conduct your own experiments and see what works for you.
You can connect by liking the Selfhacked facebook page.
Goal of Selfhacked
My purpose here at Selfhacked is to introduce cutting-edge ideas to upgrade the human condition. I think people have a right to feel great in mind, body and ‘spirit’.
Current technology has made this more possible than ever before. Whether you have a chronic issue, disease or just feel you want to improve some aspect about yourself, you’re in the right place.
I combine attitudes, principles, and knowledge from Science, Quantified-self and Buddhism.
My overarching philosophy is to simplify and achieve more with less.
In forming ideas, I look to traditional and cultural knowledge, mechanistic studies, animal studies, human studies, expert opinions, anecdotes and my own experimental results. I prefer large, double-blind placebo-controlled trials.
I don’t recycle the same old garbage as other blogs do. I offer unique, creative and effective solutions.
I’m not committed to using only “natural” solutions, but for various reasons, natural is often better (but not always).
I favor a self-hacking approach where I provide the information and you experiment with various changes to see if they work for you. Personal experience trumps any science with regard to your health. Science can only say what works for a given set of people.
Selfhacking is the process by which I healed and upgraded myself. This approach, combined with good information, can be used by everyone to feel optimal.
Individual Approach is Key
A common theme on this blog is my attempt to not portray things as good or bad.
Biology is complex and a balance is always in play. Different people are physiologically imbalanced in different ways. Everyone has a different set of issues that needs to be dealt with in different ways. Hence, one man’s poison is another man’s medicine and vice versa.
There’s still no scientific consensus if saturated fat is bad or not. There’s obviously complexities here. Whether it’s bad would likely depend on the dosage, your genetic makeup, what you replace it with, how many calories you’re consuming, the other contents of your diet (doesn’t go well with fructose), if you’re getting into ketosis, your microbiota, etc…
At Selfhacked, I just present information to guide you on your own experiments and give you the tools to understand how things might affect YOUR body. But you’ve got to do the testing and listen to your own body.
Selfhacked and Low-Quality Studies
I consider Selfhacked science-based. All of my knowledge about the body and how it works is science-based. I don’t use traditional ideas from Ayurveda or Chinese medicine when I want to know how a supplement works. I solely use scientific studies. When it comes to treatments or how supplements interact with the body, I also use science.
I often get attacked for including low-quality studies, animal studies, mechanistic studies and sometimes test tube studies.
The reason I include these is because I use studies as clues, not definitives. Sometimes a clue is a weak one, but I don’t think we should be ignoring any clues. Of course, I will put more weight on the clues with stronger evidence. If a test tube study says one thing and a clinical trial says something else, I will go with the stronger clue (clinical trial). I will weight clues (studies) that are replicated, conducted better or that are published in higher impact journals. So I fully appreciate that clues have different levels of evidence behind them, but I think we should bring down any clue that has relevance.
I use the best information in a complex world, realizing that a lot of it will be wrong.
The clues are then a template for self-experimentation, which is the end goal.
Anecdotes and traditional/evolutionary ideas can also offer clues that are worth self-experimentation, but they can also be wrong often.
If you want to improve, you start experimenting with the ideas with the best evidence and you keep experimenting with ideas that have less evidence behind them.
Why This Blog Is Important
A comprehensive study done in 2013 looked at 702 occupations and found that 47% are at risk of being computerized (R). These are the jobs with less cognitive demand.
Even if your job doesn’t disappear, cognitive performance will dictate how successful you are. Intelligence has always been important for the modern economy, but as technology advances and takes away repetitive jobs, we have to up our skills.
As technology develops, economies become more competitive and more reliant on higher intellectual ability. Simultaneously, we have many technologies to improve performance that we never had before.
Every year, we have greater access to new technologies that is allowing people to heal themselves better than ever before. Access to information is also unprecedented.
Think about how much the internet has developed in the past 15 years. Scientific studies are increasing at an incredible rate. Devices like LLLT, for example, are ubiquitous and cheap. The number of dietary supplements hitting the market is also astounding. There’s perhaps dozens of different types of bioavailable curcumin, whereas 15 years ago the supplement didn’t exist in the marketplace. The supplements that were available were much more expensive as well. Quality control in the industry has also gotten better, especially after the passing of cGMP laws.
Drug developments have also been promising. Blood, genetic and other kinds of tests have been developed and have become significantly cheaper.
These breakthroughs will only increase in time and maybe even accelerate. We are at an exciting time period and you don’t have to be rich to take advantage of the technology we have in the 21st century to upgrade yourself.
The Problem with Doctors
I must say it’s unfortunate that today’s medical doctors don’t begin to understand the full range of options because it simply wasn’t taught to them and they usually aren’t enterprising enough to read the literature directly.
The medical system selects for a specific type of person. This person will be good at memorizing lots of information and diligent in studying it, without selecting for people who actually know how to apply it properly and think outside the box. And if these doctors did think out of the box, this litigious society would sue the sh*t out of them.
Most doctors go to school for a long time and then just see patients afterward without being proactive in constantly learning new information. If a doctor went to med school 10 years ago, they are clueless about all of the studies that came out in the past 10-15 years.
The few doctors who do read the literature directly are stifled by an ultra-conservative philosophy that if something isn’t studied and replicated by massive double blind, placebo controlled trials (which only the drug companies can afford) and published in prestigious journals then it has absolutely no value.
Instead of looking at problems with a risk/benefit analyses they are stifled by their parochial view. On the other hand, there’s way too much dogma and quackery in the alternative health sphere.
Don’t get me wrong – the doctors aren’t the problem. Most of them are normal well-meaning people. I just think the system is broken. The medical system is dominated by bureaucracy. Instead of going to school for 10 years and completely stopping like it’s done now, it would make more sense to go to school for a few years and thereafter go to school for 3 months out of the year for the rest of their lives.
There’s obviously a lot more problems, but it’s out of the scope of this post.
The Multi-Factorial Nature of Disease
I think the nature of disease is woefully misunderstood.
The usage of drugs by conventional medicine indicates an approach to disease that is highly targeted. For some diseases that happen because of a very specific cause, this is a good approach, but for chronic disease, it’s usually not optimal or effective.
This is simply because chronic disease – whether it be depression, anxiety, cancer, obesity, schizophrenia or heart disease- has multiple causes that contribute to the disease.
Multiple things need to go wrong in the body by the time we realize something is seriously wrong. The body is good at adapting when one or two things go awry.
These multifactorial diseases can’t successfully be treated with a drug that only addresses one of the issues.
In practice, this is what’s called treatment resistance – a continuation of disease despite one or more treatments.
You see, when one factor in the body goes awry, the body adjusts through homeostasis and tries to work around the imbalance to function normally. When multiple things go bad, a new homeostasis is created and at that stage even if someone tries to fix one of the underlying issues, the body will get back to its new diseased homeostatic state.
We see this with every chronic disease. This is why it’s so hard to treat any chronic disease and most of our attempts are futile. We can give drugs for depression but it barely makes a dent. There might be a small decrease in depression for a few weeks, but after a few months depression takes hold again.
Cancer chemotherapy drugs are often clinically insignificant because cancer comes about as result of multiple dysfunctions. Once it takes root, it’s the new homeostasis. I don’t think herbs or alternative medicine is the cure, either. A combination of drugs, herbs, diet, lifestyle and various new technologies to kill the tumor more specifically is the best bet.
If one is in a diseased state, they must attack it from multiple angles that address all of the underlying causes of the disease. Some of these causes we aren’t aware of yet, but our knowledge is progressing quickly and we learn more daily.
Finesse and balance are required for attacking the disease in multiple ways. If one treatment is targeted too much, as is the case of many drugs, an imbalance will occur and the person may have side effects that are worse than the disease itself. So the treatment must target every cause significantly but not so much that it causes tremendous harm to the body.
One must always remember , though, that any treatment – diet, exercise, supplements or anything else – always comes with a trade-off.
The older someone is the less wiggle-room they have and their condition becomes significantly harder to treat. I view chronic disease mostly as just a manifestation of aging, where we eventually succumb to one diseased state or another if we live to be old enough.
In this paradigm, there is no “cure” for a disease, only a slowing of its progression. So if you see me use the word “cure”, realize that what I really am saying is a temporary reversal, which can last a long time if the person is young enough.