Dave Asprey, the man known as the original biohacker once said, “Women make the best biohackers because they are typically more in tune with their bodies. Women go through changes every month and naturally find ways to deal with things like cravings, low energy and pain.” It might seem a bit ironic to open an article about biohacking for women with a quote from a man, but this couldn’t be truer. Biohacking is the practice of optimizing one’s physiology and mind with lifestyle changes, diets, supplements etc. This is something women have unknowingly been doing for centuries. This movement is fast picking up steam, but so far the majority of people talking about biohacking are men, based on studies in which the subjects were men too. But biohacking for women deserves its fair share of attention.
Biohacking for Women: Why it's Important
In certain aspects such as general nutrition, the same rules could apply to women and men. However, things need a little more customization when you delve deeper into biohacking. Hormones, for instance, are one area where biohacking for women and men may differ. Very often, men and women produce hormones in vastly different quantities. Further, our monthly periods (and when they start to wane off during menopause), pregnancy, and breastfeeding are all things that can really effect a woman's overall wellness. Hence, biohacking for menopause or menstruation are both becoming quite popular - because they can change a woman's life. Social and cultural factors also play a role. Women are at higher risk of developing specific mood or personality disorders than men. Some of these can be made easier to deal with by biohacking for mental health. Here are the best tips, apps, and research on female-centered biohacking for you to put into practice!
Ways Women Biohack
Track your menstrual cycle
One of the biohacking for women basics is with the menstrual cycle. A woman’s menstrual cycle is one of the major contenders when it comes to factors that influence her general health and wellness. Several female biohackers have taken it upon themselves to educate women about the different phases of a menstrual cycle and more importantly, what each one means. A whopping majority of women in their late twenties have no idea what the words menstrual, follicular, ovulatory and luteal mean – so don’t worry if they’re new to you too!
The Cycle Syncing Method
Alissa Vitta, creator of the MyFlo app, started off simply by creating what she called ‘The Cycle Syncing Method’ that tells women how to take advantage of fluctuations in hormones and brain chemistry during their cycles. Women all over the world suffer from issues that could benefit from the biohack of Cycle Syncing such as:
- Low libido
It’s no wonder this system filled a huge gap in the biohacking space. Vitta suggests that by eating different foods, choosing different exercises and using different supplements at different stages in one’s cycle, they can effectively provide symptomatic relief for common ailments. Certain phases in a cycle can also trigger otherwise dormant migraines, allergies and asthmatic symptoms. Some of which can be managed with enough knowledge about the bodily processes that cause them.
If this all seems like too much to manage, even just a simple period tracking app like this could tell you what phase of your cycle you’re in. Here are some general tips you could keep in mind for different phases of your cycle:
Menstrual Phase (1-7)
This is the easiest to identify – the menstrual phase refers to the days when you bleed. Iron-rich foods are key due to blood loss. Vitamin B complex can provide a little extra energy too. Exercise can be kept to things that aren’t too stressful – walking or light yoga if at all – since your pain threshold is at its lowest at this phase. High-intensity workouts can stress out uterine muscles.
Follicular Phase (8-13)
This begins the day after your period ends and typically goes on for 6 days. During this time, the body is preparing to ovulate. Energy levels will increase, so challenging workouts are welcome! Protein and veggies are a must have to regulate estrogen production.
Ovulatory Phase (14-21)
For the next 7 days, the body releases its egg in preparation for fertilization. This could cause increased libido due to higher testosterone. Dietary or supplementary antioxidants could help flush out excess estrogen. Magnesium also supports a healthy hormonal balance at this time. For those looking to get pregnant, foods rich in Vitamin B help. High-intensity workouts may seem like a breeze because of energy hitting an all-time high.
Luteal Phase (22-28)
Unless one gets pregnant, this is the phase in which they might experience PMS or pre-menstrual syndrome. Hormones that had the body and mind feeling great during the ovulatory phase plummet. This could leave one feeling depressed, tired, anxious and could cause bloating, acne and soreness. Exercise, while difficult, could help with some of these symptoms by providing a mood boost. Biohacking supplements like CBD oil could help with anxiety and inflammation. Getting enough sleep is important for mood management. Calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B can help with some symptoms too. Loading up on omega-3 fatty acids can reduce bloating, ease some PMS related mood swings, and soothe tender breasts. Consider stocking up on some salmon, or take a supplement.
Biohack Your Skincare
Has the traditional approach to skincare focused too much on just the skin? A few biohackers in the cosmetics space believe so. Andrea Dinnick, founder of Desavery practices biohacking techniques like cold water swimming and meditation in her daily life and wanted to bring the same innovation to skincare. Their products not only impact the skin but also work on one’s biochemistry to provide mood-boosting benefits. Moreover, the company works on cleansers that are designed to leave the skin’s microbiome intact. Another brand working on the same principle is Mother Dirt, with a line of products that hacks the biome with healthy bacteria – essentially creating probiotics for the skin. If you’re looking to make smaller changes in your regimen, there are a few minor tweaks you can make:
- Taking Vitamin D supplements can minimize sun damage. (You still need to use that sunscreen, though!)
- Vitamin A reduces signs of aging by increasing cell turnover. You can also apply this topically.
- Zinc improves wound healing and alleviates some forms of acne.
- Avoid using antibacterial products on your face and body – the chemicals in these can’t differentiate between healthy and harmful bacteria, and they disrupt your skin’s natural flora.
- Adding a massage to your daily moisturization routine can reduce puffiness and increase circulation for more radiant skin.
Skincare proves to be another big space when it comes to biohacking for women.
Nootropics for Women
Studies show that women are disproportionately affected by mood disorders, and tend to internalize stress. Menarche (the first time a girl gets her period) and menopause also both cause a plethora of mood disturbances due to fluctuating hormones. Brain fog is a common complaint among menopausal women. They may find it harder to stay motivated and concentrate on a task at hand. Fortunately, there seems to be interest in this sphere from nootropics manufacturers. Nootropics are drugs or supplements that may improve cognitive function, mood, creativity or motivation, amongst other things. Companies are now starting to cater to women’s needs because they argue that women may need it more. The advent of more working mothers has led to more women multitasking, and therefore more stress. Although most companies will provide pre-packaged ‘stacks’ (combinations) of nootropics, here are some names to look out for:
- Cannabidiol or CBD: This compound found in the hemp plant works on the body’s endocannabinoid system to alleviate symptoms of stress, reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and overall wellness. CBD can be taken as capsule, tincture, edible or vaped. Also notable: it's very unlikely you will develop a CBD tolerance.
- Alpha GPC and citicholine: These create choline in the brain, improving memory, cognition and focus. Since there are differences between the two chemicals, experts recommend taking them both together for maximum benefit.
- L-Theanine: This herbal nootropic is found in green tea and can moderate alpha wave activity, reducing anxiety and possibly increasing focus.
- Bacopa Monnieri: This herb can provide benefits for the aforementioned ‘brain fog’ by increasing sharpness of thought and memory.
- L-Tyrosine: There is an added pressure on women to be multitaskers today, and supplements like L-Tyrosine can help by reducing the cognitive impact of physical stress. This can help women who do a lot of physical labor. N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine is the most bioavailable form.
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom: This has been suggested to reduce the effects of anxiety and mood disturbances. It can also slow down age-related cognitive decline.
Fitness for your DNA
Dr. Rhonda Patrick, founder of FoundMyFitness, is dedicated to using her knowledge of micronutrients and science to increase longevity and optimal health. Her research led her to the ways in which different gene variants can affect the way one absorbs nutrients. FoundMyFitness analyses one’s genetic profile to produce a completely customized, tailored guide on how to attain optimal health. You could also use this to lower your risk of disease based on their genes.
Hack your Workout
Here’s one method of biohacking for women that will probably make everyone happy. Fitness experts suggest that sporadic exercising may be better for weight loss than frequent routines. By sporadic, they mean twice a week or so – this has been shown to produce better results specifically in women. Combining HIIT with lifting moderate to heavy weights could be more effective than slogging away in the cardio zone every day. According to Dr. Emily Splichal DPM, drinking watermelon juice before a workout could increase nitric oxide in the blood, leading to greater blood circulation. Additionally, drinking tart cherry juice post-workout can lower inflammation for faster recovery. CBD is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and could provide some relief for sore muscles when applied topically or taken after a workout. Anti-inflammatory agents are of particular benefit to women since they can endure longer workouts and therefore have greater muscle fatigue.
Cortisol is perhaps the most commonly known stress hormone that spikes in times of anxiety. Research has found that oxytocin, another hormone, can help counteract it. Luckily, the key to more oxytocin is something everyone loves – making time for friends! Women with a stronger support system of friends tend to have higher rates of oxytocin than those who don’t. Due to societal and cultural influences, women tend to find it easier than men to rely on their networks for emotional support when times get hard. This provides verifiable benefits in terms of longevity, mood, and health.
Women Biohackers are the Future!
As the biohacking space grows to not only include women but also to specifically cater to them, one can expect more innovations to address even greater numbers of female-specific concerns. The future of biohacking is female – and the world can’t wait to see what’s in store!