Biohacking

Biohacking: Saving My Own Life

I’ve been biohacking for over 14 years, and it’s saved my life several times.

The year was 2010, and a past colleague had found me on a dating app. We were both trying to find our optimal fitness at the time and that was one of the ways we hit it off. We didn’t even use the term biohacking because with a few exceptions among athletes, no one even used the term, and we weren’t athletes whatsoever.

We also didn’t have all the fancy apps and wearables I have now–though my wish back around 2017 for some kind of AI that would analyze my health data and help me make decisions about where to tweak has certainly come to pass. Nope, back then, when I first called myself a biohacker, we made elaborate Excel spreadsheets with weight, measurements, exercises, calories, macros, etc. After a year, my spreadsheet columns went to Q or R. But I lost 30 pounds during that year, and it was probably the easiest I’d ever managed to lose weight because I was relying on the data rather than just “calories in, calories out.” I was also accounting for hormones and the types of food.

It would be a while before I added blood sugar.

I eventually did buy a finger punch and started testing 6 times a day. The test strips, without insurance because I wasn’t a diagnosed diabetic, were expensive. I had very high quality insurance through my employer, but none of it covered the cost of prevention or getting healthy.

My doctor at the time literally told me not to test so often. He said instead to test just once a day, different times of day, and that would give me a good understanding. Eh, not even close. I was testing early in the morning one day, late in the evening another day, right before dinner another day, after I came home from the gym on another. I wasn’t seeing any patterns or understanding how food, types of food, hydration, exercise, sleep, etc changed my blood sugar. I wouldn’t see that under my first Continuous Glucose Monitor around 2019. THAT was a game-changer, and I really think it’s a first step for anyone who wants to understand how to improve their health. All my attempts to lose weight over the years were misguided because I didn’t understand what affected blood sugar and it was blood sugar that changed my weight, not the gym or “eating healthy.”

In 2018, I was in the process of moving and temporarily put all my biohacking gear in a storage unit, primarily my glucose monitor, test strips, finger punch, and blood pressure monitor. Instead of the biohacking box being near the door and easy to access, it was accidentally packed behind everything else in the unit–around the time I got very sick. I didn’t have any idea of how sick I was, either. I still kept up with my spreadsheets every day, but minus anything blood sugar-related. I could always drop by the grocery store’s blood pressure machine once a week.

My move fell through and got redirected, so my glucose gear stayed in the storage for longer than the expected few weeks…or even months…. Meanwhile, I had a series of symptoms that didn’t mean much on their own. I saw a total of 9 doctors for almost as many symptoms over 6 months or so, and not a one every tested my blood sugar. NONE. And all of my symptoms were signs of Type 2 diabetes. All those expensive tests that came back negative for other things. All that time and worry and being too sick to have any energy. Menopause hit that year, so it was easy for doctors to suggest that all my symptoms were related to hormones changing.

Right before my house finally sold, I knew I had to do something. I wasn’t feeling “right,” and one day, at the end of a quick sandwich at my kitchen table before a prospective buyer showed up, I had a feeling that I’d die if I took another bite. It was like my spirit guides and angels were screaming at me.

My gear was still stuck in my storage unit, awaiting my decision on where to move next, when I got up from the table, threw out the rest of my lunch, and ran to the store to buy all-new gear and test strips.

Time out for a funny moment: When I tested using a brand new reader, the number was so abnormal that I checked to see if I had it on “metric” rather than “standard” because the number was over 3 times what I expected it to be. Spoiler: there was no “metric” version. Something had changed, and not in a good way.

I still don’t know how I managed to get through the months that led up to that day without going into a diabetic coma or having a stroke because my blood pressure went insanely high during some of the non-diabetic-related, invasive testing. I found in a single finger prick what not a single doctor out of 9 had checked in the last 6 months. Only 6 months before, I had not been diabetic and my blood sugar had been normal.

It was another 2 months before I found a new doctor, even temporarily, to treat me, but at least I got started on it that day. But first, I had to beg.

I went immediately to the nearest urgent care, right down the street, and they blew me off when I tried to check in. It wasn’t normal for anyone without a prior diagnosis as a diabetic to know their blood sugar so they gave me the idiot treatment. I kept telling them I’d tested and what my blood sugar level was and they basically told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and asking if a doctor had said I was diabetic. I was so scared of my numbers that I was shaking and refused to leave. They relented–with great huffing and puffing–and had an unpracticed newbie stab (and I do mean stab) my finger for a quick test and an A1c to know my current score and the score for the last 3 months. I bled for the next hour and a half, but 10 minutes later, the doctor-on-call was like, “Holy crap! You should be in the ER right now!”

Then they believed me, but it took biohacking and knowing my numbers even to get anyone’s attention and start my journey to getting my transition into Type 2 diabetes under control. Yes, I’m pretty sure biohacking saved my life that day because without it, I would’ve kept on taking different doctors at their word, and their word was always based on a very brief snapshot in time and a 2 to 10-minute conversation.

I will always believe that we are our own best health advocate, but we have to be armed with information to share with members of our health team. Biohacking does that.