Guess what? I just traveled to Helsinki under a week ago to cover the Biohacker Summit 2020 taking place there.
The Biohacker Summit is a yearly event in which biohackers from all over the world come together to share ideas and products and connect.
Getting to Helsinki from where I live - the Netherlands - was a little crazy due to the virus currently circulating. But after proper preparation of documents, and multiple negative virus tests before flying and at the airport, I was finally allowed to enter the beautiful country of Finland!
Thus the journey began.
Here's me during the first day of the Biohacker Summit:
Me, at the Biohacker Summit 2020 in Helsinki
In this blog post, I'll tell you about the most important concepts I've learned during the 2020 Helsinki Biohacker Summit. These concepts include new products, gadget, strategies to improve your health and well-being, and more!
Let's get started and find out what I learned:
Mushrooms are getting hot!
Many products nowadays contain mushrooms, such as Mind:Restore (Lion's Mane), Qualia Immune (which we will review soon), and many others. Mushrooms such as Reishi, Shiitake, Lion's Mane, are also frequently used as a standalone.
If you're taking a mushroom for cognitive performance or reducing your risk for disease, you better consume high-quality ones.
A company called "Chaga Health" currently produces very high-quality chaga because they own the entire supply chain. This company buys up forest areas in the Nordic countries and then allow the chaga there to grow.
You may ask: "why chaga specifically?" Well, chaga is traditionally called "the king of mushrooms".
The potential effects of chaga on health are highly complex and not studied in great detail yet. Preliminary research, however, shows very promising results.
Chaga may reduce your risk of several types of cancers, lowers risk of other common diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, aid your overall immune system, and improves exercise performance (1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9).
Most of these studies are not high-quality tests on human subjects though - studies either have too few participants, aren't confirmed by other studies, or are animal studies.
And yet, anecdotally, many people report great results from consuming chaga.
It's really a shame research into the most important mushrooms such as chaga and reishi is not more widespread. Of course, that deficiency in research on chaga is poised to change in the coming decades.
Enter Chaga Health EU. What does Chaga Health EU specifically do? The company bottles extreme high-quality chaga extract in an olive-oil types of glass containers:
Picture sourced from Chaga Health EU website
These liquids actually contain different ingredients. If you only consider the organic offerings of Chaga Health EU, they offer:
Interested in learning more? Sign up to the Alexfergus newsletter - most of the products in this blog post will be reviewed in the coming months:
I've frequently written about the problem of indoor air pollution in the past.
For instance, indoor levels of air pollutants are frequently 2-10 times higher than outdoor levels. So if you're living in the city and you're worried about the air quality when you go outside, it's time to start worrying about indoor levels of pollutants as well!
Additionally, many humans are completely disconnected from nature indoors. I confess that I've got that problem as well, and hence, why I visit places such as the forest frequently to calm down.
Fortunately, there is another solution - Naava:
Naava basically offers green walls that you can set up in your home or your office. The maintenance of the walls and health of the plants is then assured by the company as well.
My hypothesis is that in many studies, not enough plant material simply isn't used. Having one plant in a big room is very different in its effect than having a wall of plants in that same area.
In fact, one big Naava wall can contain 30+ plants. Naavva should therefore be unhindered by the problems of these studies.
Moreover, most people using Naava do experience significant benefits from having a wall like the above in their offices, such as increased energy, no more afternoon dips, improved cognitive performance, and more.
Some of the science carried out on the Naava product confirms that view - although I would like third-party confirmations (15).
Additionally, the product should work as a humidifier as well. Also, adding some green to your home or working place or home is usually very visually appealing.
But let's turn back to Naava...
The product has a modular design, so you can choose to add more or remove modules over time as well. There's no soil used in the Naava, but the wall contains an internal irrigation system ensuring the plants stay alive.
And the best thing?
Naava didn't focus on the consumer market up until now. That's changing though, and as a consumer, you can now order a pre-order HERE. The product is pricey though, starting at around $2,000, but almost certainly worth it if you spend 40+ hours a week in a (home) office...
Moving on to the next gadget:
I understand if you're not familiar with "PEMF". Our writer Aedon has written two extensive reviews of PEMF therapy this year:
"PEMF" stands for "Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Frequency" therapy. PEMF uses EMF in the very-low-frequency range to affect the body's physiology.
It's good to see the technology assume more widespread use.
Bemer therapy - which is a market leader in the PEMF space - was present at the Biohacker Summit as well:
The Bemer stand at the Biohacking Summit 2020 Helsinki
Everyone could try PEMF therapy at the Bemer stand at the Biohacker Summit. I tried as well, for a 10-minute session, but wasn't quite sure whether I felt anything.
Of course, it's probable that you'd need to test the therapy over a longer period, such as days and weeks, to notice a difference. However, I also know that some people notice immediate effects with PEMF therapy - not me, unfortunately.
I must say that I'm skeptical of Bemer's approach of using high-powered PEMF. Other alternatives that don't use much power, such as the ICES device for localized treatment or the iMRS for full-body treatments show great results as well.
Should you try PEMF though?
Absolutely. Again, read Aedhán's amazing review on this topic to learn why. I'm also very glad to see that PEMF therapy is going more mainstream.
Next up, a non-gadget biohack:
Breathing practices are as old as humanity. Several cultures already used breathing "biohacks" thousands of years back.
Today, several talks at the summit focused on breathing - and that's a good thing!
During the summit, there were interesting talks all day long. Leigh Ewin took people from the audience through some alternate nostril breathing, for instance:
Leigh has developed a belt that helps you train the muscles around your midsection that are involved with proper breathing:
Check out Leigh's website and breath belt if you're interested.
The belt wasn't featured at the summit but it's nevertheless very interesting as a principle. Many people are unaware that they're primarily breathing through their chest/ribcage 24/7, even though nasal/diaphragm breathing should predominate.
My recommendation? Check out some breathing practices online if you've never looked into the topic.
Moving on to the next subject - my favorite new gadget during the entire summit:
The indoor lighting displaced the colors at the venue a bit...
My favorite gadget of this summit?
By far the Sensate, even though I've just used the product for 10 minutes. I'll definitely review this product myself soon.
What does the "Sensate" actually do? The sensate stimulates your "vagus nerve". The vagus nerve is the only brain nerve that actually moves to the lower part of your body, the abdomen area to be precise.
How does the Sensate wor?
TheSensate vibrates at a specific frequency, thereby stimulating your vagus nerve. Relaxation is the goal of that process. At the same time, you're listening to binaural beats through your headphones which further increase relaxation.
Let's take a step back to the "vagus nerve" concept.
Everyone might not be familiar with that term...
The vagus nerve plays a major role in the interaction between your body, specifically the gut, and your brain. Laying on your side, fasting, exercising, cold exposure, are examples of activities that affect your vagus nerve.
Even "neurotransmitters", a.k.a. "brain signaling compounds", like "dopamine" or "serotonin" or "adrenaline" are affected by that vagus nerve (20; 21; 22; 23; 24). In fact, your heart rate, digestive capacity, mood, overall inflammation levels, and many other things are affected by the nerve.
Through vibration, the Sensate thus modulates vagus nerve tone.
My results with Sensate were extremely good. Do keep in mind that my experience is only a first impression.
For me, the product works exactly as intended, producing a very strong "parasympathetic response" - the part of the nervous system that's involved in relaxation. Personally, the experience felt similar to being engulfed in a deeply relaxing mantra meditation.
(I've practiced several styles of meditation for more than 5 years now, consistently, on an almost day-to-day basis.)
If you've never experienced such a thing before, then it's very hard to described and imagine. Suffice it to say that your breathing and heart slow down dramatically, and you get these temporary sighs or relief that signify stress release.
A small downside?
The Sensate sells for about $300 right now...
And yet, I'm very much convinced that the Sensate offers much more value to many people's lives than $300. Think about it: what if you had a device that could give you a deeply relaxing experience on command?
One caveat is that people who are highly stressed will not experience that sensation at the beginning. Using the product for longer periods of time should take care of that problem, however.
The basics of the Sensate. Moving on to the next exciting gadget:
Sitting for long periods of time is horrible for your overall health - at least, if you're sitting the traditional way.
Sitting increases premature mortality risk, for instance, puts you at higher risk for joint pain, lowers fat burning capacity, makes you more prone to get diseases such as diabetes and heart problems, and much more (25; 26; 27; 28; 29).
Movement, of course, is a solution. Improving your posture, while seated, is another huge one.
Let me therefore introduce Salli. Salli has developed a specific chair that optimizes your body's posture when you're seated:
When you use these chairs, your spine can be 100% upright, the same way as if you're standing. Also, your hips are in a very different position because your legs are pointing to your sides and your knees are almost fully extended.
The end result is much better blood flow around your pelvis, spine, and legs.
The problem with the traditional seated posture is that your hips are very heavily flexed and a lot of pressure is put on your buttocks. Gravity doesn't spread the pressure evenly across the lower body. Also, there's no way to engage the legs in traditional sitting.
With Salli's chairs, you're sitting 100% upright, so that your middle (thoracic) and upper (cervical) spine can retain neutral posture. One problem Salli attempts to solve is that many people develop very poor posture in their upper body after sitting for long periods of time.
I've tried these chairs and sitting in them is really nice, but for proper testing, we'd have to review them for longer periods of time though.
These chairs are somewhat costly, starting around $500 for previous models and costing upward of $1,000 for the newer models. There is, however, a 10-year warranty on the products and the value these products bring to your life if you're working at a desk is almost limitless.
Next up, a product that's (mostly) interesting to women:
Prebiotics and probiotics for your gut?
Sure, that's all fine, but it's only the first step! Luonkos, a Finnish company, has just introduced probiotics for your skin.
Many people don't know that your skin contains a microbiome as well (30; 31; 32; 33). Those probiotics do affect your overall health and also the presence or absence of skin conditions or inflammation, for instance.
Topical probiotics are currently unexplored territory but that doesn't stop Luonkos from trying to offer great products!
The English website of Luonkos is not fully finished yet, but suffice it to say that the brand incorporates live forest extracts into their mix. The goal of the earthy materials from the forest is to supply your skin with probiotics from nature.
Of course, as beauty products, the formulas contain many other supporting ingredients as well. All ingredients of these extracts are carefully sourced from clean environments and are organic and natural whenever possible.
Some of the women of our Alexfergus team are definitely going to test these products in good detail for you! Within the Luonkos range, there's also one product for men - the rest are aimed at women...
The presentation of the brand looks way better than my pictures do justice for. Stay tuned for a review!
Next up, a very different topic, artificial intelligence and functional medicine:
AI, or "Artificial Intelligence", is poised to change the world.
The benefit of AI is that it can sift through tons of data in a very short period of time and supply us, humans, with results from that data that we couldn't see ourselves.
AI will revolutionize many diagnosis processes in hospitals, for instance, or teach us how to make health care technology more effective.
A Spanish company called "Omnos" has now developed a lab test system where the interpretation of the data is aided by artificial intelligence.
I still have to personally review this product, but suffice it to say, that the results are really promising. The reason I say that is because in time, the AI will see connections in the data, such as lab tests, that we humans haven't found yet. Hence, any lab results you turn in will thus give rise to additional actionable recommendations that you wouldn't otherwise get.
You'll consequently find all kinds of new connections in health data, improving your ability to predict your health over time or to give targeted interventions for your unique biology, etc.
Here's an example of the outcome of the AI reasoning process is that you'll get specific lifestyle recommendations for your unique background:
Is the idea smart? No! In fact, it's ingenious, as long as we can adequately test how the whole spectrum of recommendations lead to overall health improvements.
I'm really excited to go test Omnos' approach in the very near future.
Moving on to the next option:
Multiple talks and exhibitors within the Summit revolved around the topic of organ meats. Of course, organ meats have been part of the natural health community for a long time - institutions like the Weston A. Price Foundation have been talking about them for a long time.
So what's different?
Some new companies, like Nordic Kings, now offer 100% organic organ meat supplements:
The company sources these organ meats from specific farms in Scandinavia and thereby assure complete quality control. The animals are 100% grass-fed as well, which is great.
You'll be assured of the very best organ meats on this planet, in part, because Scandinavia is also very clean from an environmental perspective. The meats are also freeze-dried quickly to preserve vitamins and minerals optimally.
Our writer David is soon going to review these organ meat supplements so stay tuned!
Next up, the last exciting concept of this conference - and perhaps the craziest one:
Dr. José Cordeiro gave a great talk about the future of aging during the coming decades.
Dr. Cordeiro believes that in a few decades, anti-aging technology allows humans to gain one additional year of life for every year that they're living, thereby making us "immortal" or at least allowing increases in human lifespan to keep up with aging.
The next step, achieved around 30 years in the future, would be to reverse aging, allowing you never to die anymore.
Not dying entails that you're living as long as you'd like, except for accidents such as car crashes.
Should you and I take such talk at least seriously?
Even in mice and other creatures, extreme lifespan increases have recently been achieved (cites).
I've also personally looked at the ethical and societal implications of this scientific trend during one of my Master thesis projects. I do believe that many transhumanists underestimate how easily these developments for humans can be achieved.
However, I also think that the average person should take these developments very seriously.
If you're completely unaware that there's a possibility that some humans might live a 700 years life in the very near future, you're simply noncognizant of the game-changing ethical and societal implications such technological developments will have.
Just like the discovery (or invention) of nuclear technology, or birth control, or the internet, the world will never be the same again with these scientific and technological breakthroughs. So read up a bit and be ahead of the curve to maximally benefit from these technologies, as well as influence their trajectory of technological development.
If you're interested in this topic, I highly recommend watching the "Death of Death" talk Dr. Cordeiro also gave at the Biohacking Summit in Helsinki 2020 - the talks are 95% similar:
Also, let me know what you think about the idea of living forever in the comments below!
And that's it, the most important ideas from the 2020 Biohacker Summit. Want more stimulating concepts? Consider this bonus:
The best way to end a 2-day summit?
An indoor beach party in a location where there's tons of sand and good music with 25 degrees Celsius (77F) temperatures.
During that time great music was played and much of the audience danced without inhibition. There were also moments of "sound therapy" such as these:
I really think that dance and music are highly underrated as a "biohack" - simply because they're so primordial to the human condition. Afterparties like these are great not just because of the music and setting and dance but also the human connection.
And with that thought of the human connection, let's finish up and conclude:
My overall assessment of the Helsinki Biohacker Summit?
I really love seeing companies developing their products and getting instant feedback through a highly-educated audience. I mean, if people are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to be present at a conference, they're generally invested heavily into their identity as a "biohacker".
Interacting with fellow-minded people is always heavenly.
The only downside of this year's Biohacking Summit is that it wasn't as big as it could be. The virus is preventing many people from coming to Finland and quite a big population wasn't comfortable traveling either.
Next May 2021, already, there will be another attempt at a Biohacking Summit in Amsterdam - my home country! I really hope to see you all there...
Oh yeah, if you're interested in learning more about upcoming reviews of many of these products, sign up for our e-mail list:
This is a post by Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MS - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MS), and is currently a health consultant at Alexfergus.com.
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