And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. – Nietzsche
- 1 Why I Started Selfhacked
- 2 About Me
- 3 My Story in How I Markedly Improved My Intelligence
- 4 Physical Improvement
- 5 Goal of Selfhacked
- 6 Why This Blog Is Important
- 7 Going Against the Herd
- 8 Individual Approach is Key
- 9 The Problem with Doctors
- 10 The Multi-Factorial Nature of Disease
- 11 Philosophy
- 12 Diets I’ve Tried
- 13 Lifestyle Experiments
- 14 Equipment
- 15 Substances I’ve Tried
- 16 Notable Blends
- 17 Drugs
- 18 Essential Oils
- 19 Previous Health Problems That I Have Had At Some Time In The Past
- 20 Cognitive:
- 21 GI Related
- 22 Other
- 23 Foods Caused My Inflammation
- 24 What Don’t I React to?
- 25 Why Didn’t I Go to Doctors?
- 26 So What is Life Like Now?
- 27 Disclosure
- 28 Citation Policy
- 29 Comments Policy
- 30 Connect
Why I Started Selfhacked
I started selfhacked.com because I realized that the more I read from the health blogosphere the sicker I got and the more I read directly from the scientific sources the healthier I got.
At a certain point, after trying everything out under the sun, I realized it wasn’t beneficial to read health blogs because of the mostly terrible advice that’s given.
Most of the material published by these blogs is filled with marketing and hype – and the currency is false hope. Critical thinking is woefully missing.
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 those differences and understand why people react differently.
You may also notice that within the blogosphere there are a few originators and thought leaders and a multitude of copycats, who are just marketing and repackaging the same ideas, but essentially have no real, novel insights.
My name is Joe and I’m a self-learner, human guinea pig, “biohacker” and extreme novelty seeker and am willing to go to any length to feel and think better.
I spend the vast majority of my time reading medical journals, performing experiments on myself and thinking up creative solutions to solving various diseases and improving performance (especially cognitive performance).
I’m not committed to using only “natural” solutions, but for various reasons, the vast majority of people do best with these solutions.
My life can be categorized as one big experiment and I’ve experimented heavily with supplements, diets, lifestyle factors, devices and philosophies.
I have two degrees – one in finance and the other in psychology. I’ve also taken the pre-medical coursework for possible entrance to graduate programs in the science. I also have lots of independent study in the biological sciences-particularly pathology (the study of disease).
To some extent, I have an “advantage” in figuring different causes and solutions to health issues because I’ve had to deal with so many of my own. I’ve had health issues as a young kid and had to figure out the solutions myself, since no one could help. These issues weren’t serious enough that I needed drugs or to cause clear aberrations in my blood tests, but I had a broad range of issues and I knew something just wasn’t quite right.
My Story in How I Markedly Improved My Intelligence
My story is unique when it comes to improving my own cognitive function. I grew up in unusual circumstances and was never really educated to a minimum standard. In addition, I had all sorts of physiological cognitive problems like brain fog, neuroinflammation and cognitive dysfunction.
I grew up in a quasi ultra-Orthodox Jewish family of 7 and was relatively poor. My mother was a single mom who wasn’t very proactive as to which school I went to and so I ended up in a religious school that was meant for kids with behavioral issues or delinquents, even though I didn’t have these issues. I remember being bright growing up, picking up reading, multiplication and division at a very early age (I think I was 6), which I picked up myself from some educational game. However, the education at school was horrible to non-existent, since it was geared for kids who had problems. I remember being bored to death by learning the same thing a million times. I decided to mentally check out. By 8th grade, my reading and mathematical ability barely improved. In all of elementary school, I had never studied for a test, read a book, did a piece of homework or wrote an essay. Not once.
Come high school, the situation was better but still not good. My mom’s financial situation improved thanks to benevolent relatives who made lots of money. Orthodox high schools cost a lot of money (usually about 15,000 dollars a year), so I chose one with the best education that we could afford (6000$ a year, with lots of breaks). Not going to a Jewish school was out of the question for my family. At least this school was geared for normal kids, but it still didn’t provide a decent education. To give you an idea of what this school was about, they told us not to study for the SATs because they didn’t want us to go to college. I had 6 hours of religious education that I cared little about and didn’t pay attention to and 3 hours of secular education, most of which didn’t actually take place as the class was filled with boisterous students. For high school, I never did homework and rarely ever studied for a test. On the rare occasion that I did study for a test I would do it the day of. I still never read a book in my life and maybe wrote two essays in all of high school. It was a joke.
By the age of 18, I had a fourth grade ability to read and write and the focusing capacity of a 6 year old. I could barely understand half of what newspapers would write. I didn’t have a clue about what any SAT passage was talking about. I was what’s called functionally illiterate (half of the US is).
This was partly because I grew up without ever having read a book or writing a paper and had overall little mental stimulation. The other part was as a result of physiological issues such as brain fog and inflammation.
The situation now is entirely different. I either score perfectly or in the 99th percentile in writing and verbal on a variety of standardized tests and score highly in math and a variety of other intelligence tests. I do best on tests of reasoning (out of the reasoning tests I did best on double trouble - got a 75 the last time I took it – on a laptop).
I have probably gained around 40 IQ points. Sounds surreal, I know, but I’m not making it up.
At 15, I took a PSAT and scored an equivalent of a 400 on the verbal section (less than the 50th percentile for my age group).
At 23, I took the SAT twice and both times scored a perfect 800 on the verbal. Both scores weren’t a result of practice effects, since I didn’t study for it at 15 or 23.
At 27, my reading (and writing) ability is significantly better now than it ever was. I was still having a lot of cognitive problems at the age of 23.
Although it’s a fair point that verbal ability isn’t completely indicative of IQ, I subjectively feel as though my general cognition improved in lockstep with my verbal abilities.
So while I can’t know exactly how many IQ points I have gained, 40 points seems to be a reasonable and even conservative guess.
I think a large part of intelligence is genetic and my improvements wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for a genetic predisposition. I’ve always had certain traits that never depended on schooling or anything else for that matter, IMO. These traits were creativity, logical/analyitcal reasoning, abstract thinking and an extreme openness to new experience. Growing up in the modern era presents an outlet for anyone to develop these traits, IMO. The fact that I was able to improve my reading and writing so drastically suggests that I also have a predisposition for these, though I just wasn’t given the tools. Also, math always just “clicked,” indicating a genetic predisposition for it as well.
Also, the large improvement was only possible because I had a lot to gain since I had sub-optimal health. and an educationally impoverished upbringing.
Still, I think intelligence can be improved to a significant degree and figuring out how to overcome these barriers presented huge challenges and required creative solutions.
I don’t think I’m brilliant or exceptionally smart. I’m just a regular, moderately intelligent guy that went through an unusual transformation.
I never was fat, but I have gotten more fit by following my diet, with very little exercise.
I exercise for about 2 hours a month, excluding walking. No sit-ups.
Goal of Selfhacked
My purpose here at Selfhacked is to introduce cutting edge and novel insights and not just recycle the same old garbage. I offer unique, creative and effective solutions, instead of using marketing, hype and selling false hope.
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 also feel that the process by which I healed and upgraded myself can be broadly used by others.
It’s my goal to use my knowledge and experience and help other upgrade themselves, the way I did to myself. To do this effectively, it’s critical to have an understanding in the mechanism’s by which foods, lifestyle factors and supplements interact with the body. This is why the blog is relatively technical.
A more recent goal of mine is to inspire a passion for science among readers. I feel that knowledge of science has practical applications for everyone. Hopefully, if I can convey this knowledge in a clear and simple way, people will start to get passionate about science. I feel that the more I gain an understanding of biology, the more power I have to control my health (and the health of others). Being able to understand the original studies rather than relying on someone else to read it for you is a skill that I feel everyone should have to some degree or another.
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 time goes on it becomes ever more important.
As time goes on and technology develops, economies become more competitive and more reliant on higher intellectual ability. Simultaneously, we have so many technologies to improve performance that we never had before. I can say that even just 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to heal myself nearly as much as I am able to now. Access to information is 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. For example, 5 years ago it was impossible to get C60 and now multiple vendors sell it. There are so many supplements that have been improved such as longvida curcumin. There’s perhaps 10 different types of bioavailable curcumin, whereas 15 years ago the supplement probably didn’t exist in the marketplace. The supplements that were available were much more expensive as well. Drug developments have also been promising. Blood, genetic and other kinds of tests have been developed and become significantly cheaper. Quality control in the industry has also gotten better, especially after the passing of GMP laws.
These breakthroughs will only increase in time and maybe even accelerate (as long the government doesn’t over-regulate like they did with 23andme). 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.
I feel it’s my duty to analyze every technology we have out there and present them on this blog.
Going Against the Herd
Another issue that I’d faced in the health blogosphere was herd mentality. 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.
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.
My brain is programmed to figure out practical solutions, instead of trying to fit in and curry favor with some group or another.
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 and what’s most supported, without labels or trying to fit into any group.
I’m well aware that this will cost me in readership because few people want to reference a guy that is willing to disagree or criticize everyone and anyone.
The benefit to my approach is that I’m free to have any opinions that I want, without fear of backlash from the group. People interview and reference others who accord with their own ideas. I believe no one and independently try to come to my own conclusions.
Individual Approach is Key
A common theme on this blog is my attempt (key word – attempt) to not portray things as good or bad. This kind dualistic thinking is my central gripe with the blogosphere.
Biology is complex and a balance is always in play and different people are physiologically imbalanced in different ways. Hence, one woman’s poison is another woman’s medicine and vice versa
“Self-hacking” is the approach I advocate, which involves filtering the noise, whether it’s your own preconceived notions, “science based medicine” or random people’s bull shit and to just listen to your body. What is it telling you? Is what is working for someone else working for YOU? This approach is a combination of quantified-self and bhuddist ideas.
The posts on this blog are generalizations and geared for helping the majority of people. It’s my sincere belief, however, that no one size fits all. Everyone has a different set of issues that needs to be dealt with in different ways. For this reason, if I talk positively or negatively about something it doesn’t mean it’s categorically good or bad.
I think this is why people are so confused when it comes to health information. Health writers talk about what worked for them for a specific set of health issues and all of a sudden what worked for them is a panacea for all. And to a degree I’ve been guilty of this as well. But I try….
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.
The doctors I’ve spoken with know less biology than me because after they learn it, most of them forget it. When you don’t learn information out of passion, you end up easily forgetting. This is certainly the case with me. So 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 drugs are mostly clinically insignificant because when it comes to chronic diseases there’s no silver bullet.
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 by 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 disease 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 a temporary reversal which can last a long time if the person is young enough or a halting/slowing of its progression if a person is very old.
My overarching philosophy is to simplify and achieve more with less.
Diets I’ve Tried
- Raw Vegan,
- Whole food diet,
- Whole food plant based diet,
- Dairy free,
- Gluten free,
- Grain free,
- Low carb,
- Low fat,
- High Saturated fat,
- Mediterranean diet,
- High protein,
- Low glycemic index diet,
- Bulletproof diet,
- Atkins diet,
- Harvard school of public health recommendations,
- Intermittent fasting
- Caloric restriction.
Substances I’ve Tried
I experiment with substances different than most people do. I first take the suggested dose.
If I don’t feel anything or I’m not sure, I double the dosage. I keep doing this until I notice effect to the point that it’s uncomfortable and too strong.
Like this I am relatively certain if/how things are working in my body.
Needless to say, many experiments haven’t gone well and damage has occurred, but I think there’s been long term dividends with this approach.
Most of these have been experimented with multiple forms, brands, and methods of preparation.
Also, this is only a partial list and doesn’t include other substances as part of formulas. I’ve experimented with these individually and in high dosages.
|Deer Antler Velvet|
|Tea (white peony silver needle Jasmine Napalese black Houjicha|
|Olive leaf extract|
|Apple cider vinegar|
|Curcumin – Bio-curcumin|
|Panax/red Ginseng (multiple kinds)|
|Calcium Magnesium Citramate|
|Whey Concentrate and isolate – Goat and Cows|
|Rice protein and Bran|
|Chlorella –Pyrendosa and yaema|
|Uridine – TAU|
|Green Coffee Extract|
|St John’s Wort|
|Cod Liver Oil|
|Purified Fish Oil|
|Long Jack – LJ100|
|Cinnamon – Cassia|
|R- Lipoic Acid|
|Soy and Sunflower Lecithin|
|Various raw honeys|
|Aloe Vera juice|
|Aloe Vera gel|
|Angelica Root Extract|
|Suntheanine L theanine|
|Peppermint tea and oil|
|Probiotics – many different strains|
|Chayawanprash -5 brands|
|Desalted sea minerals|
|Modified Citrus Pectin|
|Collagen type 1,2,3|
|Tart cherry extract|
|Salicin(white willow bark ext)|
|Aquamin sea minerals|
|aged garlic ext|
|Proteases and a bunch of mixed enzymes|
|White Kidney Bean ext|
- Hyperimmune egg
- Eggshell membrane
- Hyaluronic acid
- Sialic acid
- Collagen UC-II
- Rosmarinic acid
- Red yeast rice
- Chinese skullcap
- White willow bark/salicin
- MCT oil
- Corosolic acid
- Octanoic acid
- Golden berries
|Khan Jang plus|
Previous Health Problems That I Have Had At Some Time In The Past
Keep in mind that these are downstream events caused by more fundamental issues.
For example, all of the issues below stems from a disregulated hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid and adrenal axis.
Specifically, I had a precursor to some autoimmune disease that targets my hypothalamus and disregulated my neuroendocrine system every time I got inflammation.
Some of these are closely related. For example, generalized anxiety will be correlated with test anxiety, performance anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, nail biting, insomnia, etc…
I don’t have these issues anymore to any degree (as long as I keep to a strict diet)..
|OCD- Cognitve…Nail biting, Lip biting|
|GAD- Generalized Anxiety Disorder|
|Chronic Stress – even if I wasn’t busy|
|Nervous tension and energy|
|Chronic fatigue – physical and mental|
|Bouts of Low motivation|
|Gastric Ulcers/ Gastritis|
|Insulin resistance/metabolic issues|
|High liver enzymes|
|Higher end of blood sugar range|
|Continual loss of vision even after 21|
|Bad circulation in hands feet and in general (cold extremities)|
|Phlegm and Mucous|
|Getting exhausted and nauseous quickly from exercising|
|Migraines – exercise induced|
|Slowed wound healing|
|Lowered immunity – got sick after lifting weights and frequent sickness – colds, flu, strep, bells palsy.|
|Needing more than 8 hrs of sleep|
|Needing to drink a lot – like a gallon a day|
|Dry lips, hands|
Again, all of the issues listed have been fixed. I can’t say that issues won’t resurface and tweaking will need to be done here and there, but I have built many firewalls for this purpose.
If one firewall fails, I have the necessary back-up systems to stem the bleeding.
Foods Caused My Inflammation
In my case, these issues come from inflammation induced by food. It took me up until the age of 26 (I’m 27) to figure out all of the foods that were causing me inflammation.
It turns out that I’m sensitive to almost everything that people eat. This includes:
- All grains
- All potatoes
- All nuts
- All dairy
- All legumes (except tempeh)
- Yeast (in all breads)
- Some fish
- Some fruits
- Various food additives
- Mildly sensitive to seeds
It turns out, that I’m extremely sensitive to lectins, which also causes other food sensitivities.
When my health problems were at their peak, I lived on gluten, dairy, yeast, whole grains/plant based foods, eggs, fish, in addition to alcohol, caffeine and food additives. It’s no wonder why I had all of those problems.
The level of inflammation I get from each of these is on very different levels. For example, I get 10X more inflammation from dairy than squash, but I still feel a bit tired from squash unless I take supplements to combat inflammation.
Some of these foods I recommend in my diet because I feel they are less inflammatory than other foods, even though I myself don’t eat them or do but in limited quantities.
A decade of chronic inflammation by all kinds of foods messed up my hypothalamus and led me to react negatively to high glycemic index foods, even if I wasn’t sensitive to it.
On the other hand, I didn’t react well to high fat diets or products like coconut oil, leaving me with few options.
From this inflammatory issue, all the of events below occurred. That’s really all it was.
What Don’t I React to?
I can eat the foods on the lectin avoidance diet.
Why Didn’t I Go to Doctors?
I did. They were useless. Also, nothing was markedly wrong with my blood tests, so they just thought I was making everything up. Even if they did believe me, there was nothing they could do.
The only person that enlightened me a bit was a psychiatrist I saw for attention problems at the age of 23. He diagnosed me with disthymia (a low grade, long term depression) and generalized anxiety disorder, in addition to “probably having OCD” and “possibly having ADHD.”
At the time I agreed with his anxiety diagnosis – after all I had panic attacks, but I thought he was wrong about the OCD and low-grade, chronic depression. Looking back, I think he was right on both accounts. If anything I had a SEVERE case of OCD.
Popular culture makes you believe that OCD is a disorder that manifests itself by chronic handwashing, etc… In reality, OCD is simply an inability to let go of thoughts or possessions. I couldn’t let go of either. Accordingly, hoarding, perfectionism, nail biting, various minor obsessions and elevated anxiety are most characteristic of OCD.
So What is Life Like Now?
I forgot what it feels like to be anxious, for one. I’m never stressed (even under pressure or deadlines) and I don’t ever get in bad/dreary moods.
My OCD has vanished. Brain fog and fatigue are a thing of the past. I function fine on 6 hours these days, though I get more sleep for health reasons.
I’m also pretty focused all day and my brain is working twice as good as ever. I’m barely ever thirsty, my circulation is great and I don’t have any aches or pains.
I have lots of endurance and I feel great after intense bouts of exercise instead of feeling nauseous. I don’t get sick and I have no phlegm or mucous. All of my GI problems are gone. My vision has also improved.
All of my blood results are pretty good in terms of anti-aging and peak health. For example my fasting blood sugar is 80 without supplements or exercise (I experimented without taking supplements for a few weeks), whereas it used to be 94, and that was with lots of supplements and exercise to bring it down.
I earn a small commission on items purchased from AMAZON. This helps support the blog, my research and experiments. I only recommend items that I myself use, unless otherwise noted in the description. I also try to link to the cheapest item possible (combined with shipping costs), when there’s no or a negligible difference between cheaper and more expensive items. Sometimes, though, quality is extremely important and price reflects this- longvida curcumin is a good example. Sometimes I post links to products without affiliate commission such as C60.
I usually only cite references when I feel a piece of information isn’t widely known. If something isn’t cited and I don’t specify that it’s my opinion call me out on it in the comments section and ask for a reference. If I can’t find the source, I’ll erase it the sentence.
I am very lenient about approving comments and almost never censor comments. In the history of this blog (as of writing this) I maybe censored 3 comments. The only time I will censor a comment is if someone just hurls insults without making any point. I don’t mind approving insulting comments that also add some actual commentary.
I try to answer everyone, but sometimes I don’t. If the question requires a one or two word answer I am much more likely to answer it. If it requires a long explanation I usually don’t answer the question.
I appreciate it when people like my facebook page.
I’ve noticed this blog attracts like-minded individuals, so readers are welcome to befriend me on facebook if you want to “connect.” Unfortunately, I don’t answer questions via facebook messaging.