>> This is the first part (1/2) of our interview with Teemu Arina <<<
‘I believe in these times no one is more interested in your health than yourself.’
We made a very fruitful interview with Biohacker Teemu Arina at DIGIT.EMEA.
You became interested in this topic because you had also health issues. Please tell us about your process of becoming a biohacker.
I always worked a lot and never felt stressed about it. I started my first company when I was sixteen. Then I worked as a teacher in a high school, when I was eighteen. I was preparing students for university courses at my nineteen.
ulcer, which broke down my energy levels. I went to a doctor and the diagnosis was an ulcer and as all doctors do he gave me medication. The idea was to lower the stomach acid level. It immediately took the symptoms away but my energy was low. After six weeks I stopped taking medicine but the symptoms came back. I went to the doctor’s office and he prescribed me three months more and said some people need to do it till the rest of their lives. I said to myself that I’m not going to do this. I did what many people did I went online and I did research on my condition.
I’m a system tinker. I am looking serious that complex systems. I looked what are the inputs, what is the process and the output. I wanted to quantify.
I give nearly hundred presentations a year. I went directly to the scientific research PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed). It is the largest database for this kind of contents. I studied my condition and figured out that the medication that I was taking is not good long term. There was a reason to stop using it and of course why you have a stomach acid. The infection risk changes the gut bacteria etc. I started researching ulcer but I went very deep into low-level inflammation and anti-inflammatory diseases. People get ill because of the inflammation. I ended up loaded Excel sheets.
I got into ‘Quantified Self’. I was interested how the system works and I discovered a lot of new wearable and mobile technologies that enable you to track different things. Some of them are doing it automatically.
Now, I have a biometric t-shirt for example. That’s measuring my vital signals, my heart rate. I get the picture of the day. So I started measuring my heart. I wanted to bring this black box into light. I made an executive summary and a plan to my doctor.
I had the hypotheses; due to long term stress, there was an imbalance in my body, which was basically causing this inflammatory disease. It was not healing. The body is normally very good healing itself. The idea was to restore the balance. I decided to go on a diet. I went through different food and I looked into the studies how they are related. I also looked at in meditation, stress management something called cardiac coherence, which is a breathing technique to control your stress reaction. I looked into supplements, exercises. Too much exercise is inflammatory; too little exercise is not good. I check the exercises the short terms I discovered that right hormonal response and trigger biomedical reactions you look for which is a keen to with the benefit of not going into inflammatory state.
For ex. I decided that seven minutes exercise a day is the best for my body. I made this summary to my doctors. People come to my office and they cannot even quit smoking and you want to change everything. My doctor said ‘You have to sleep more you have to take care of your diet you have to make sport. Are you going to do this?’
With the quantified self tools, I sort of turned it into a game. I have the numbers. So it’s great to the feedback loop. Here I have a sensor that controls my posture. It vibrated when I lean on. So it shortens the feedback loop.
Did it increase your awareness?
I began to realize things. Repetition leads to learning. You basically are programming new things into your nervous system. Any kinds of behavior change the most important is feedback. Also repetition as well as a positive transmitter. It is rewarding, telling you that the stuff is what you are doing is good. When I correct myself, in this case, it gives me the sense of relief.
Any kind of behavior change gives a positive feeling. After a few weeks or months, you don’t feel like going back to the old.
That also applies to the diet. A lot of people want to go on a diet when they want to lose weight. It’s a horrible experience. They feel the lack of energy. They don’t feel very healthy but they might lose weight. That rebounds and they just want to go back to your old habits. If you do it longer, it gives you the feeling of satisfaction. After six to eight weeks, you do not feel like going back to old you.
This is the part of the idea; getting feedback and changing my behavior with the feedback loops.
Eventually after implementing this protocol, my symptoms went away after two months. A month later I had more energy than ever. Even I got the disease I didn’t feel like going back to the old me.
I just want to share my experience on using those technologies.
So, I set up the first meeting in 2013 and invited people who are interested in this, transhumanism, technology and health. Back in those days, those technologies were not available in Finland but now they are getting there. It grew up very quickly. In the community, we have 3.000 interested people in biohacking and quantified self in Finland. It is one of the largest organizations in Europe.
We started organizing the Biohacker Summit gathered five hundred thought leaders and experts on this field from over twenty countries. Next year it will be one thousand people. We team up with my medical doctor Olli Sovijärvi and nutritional expert Jaakko Halmetoja. We give a hundred presentations a year.
First I visited Olli, he had training in the USA in integrated medicine to treat a human being with the approach based on a lot of testing. He does a lot of lab tests much more extensive than the regular doctors do. He tries to find a root cause. It’s a combination of dietary intervention that helps a person to change their lifestyle.
I showed him the protocols that I implemented. He was very excited. We became friends and after a few weeks, we decided to write a book about this because we could not find a manual for treating a human being of modern time. Then we invited another very well know nutrition friend, who has already written a book.
So you are at the technological side.
Yes, I am at the technical side of the team and I’m responsible for writing the book. I’m also making a lot of medical research, going through the studies. We have in our book one thousand books as reference. Book is a best-seller in Finland. We have only ‘Sleep’ available in English but the rest is available in Finnish for now.
You have 5 chapters in your book; nutrition, sleep, mind, work, exercise. Why do you have those chapters and what do they include briefly?
We look at the systems first that are important to understanding.
For ex. Sleep, we look at what happens when a person sleeps. We look at the systems there. You may sleep seven to nine hours a night but the type of sleep is important REM sleep, deep sleep, are you waking up during your sleep or do you have a sleep apnea.
Then we go into the method. There are lots of researches about that, and then we go into the quantified self. If you have sleeping problems or you want to recharge yourself, we recommend some techniques.
So we have some recipes also in the book. For ex. If you are going to have a flight tonight, there are some techniques that make you sleep comfortable without having any concern. There are many things opening when you understand the system. In the exercise for ex. People exercise too much or too little. Generally a certain amount of exercise, which is short, gives you the maximum benefit. The point here is what is to find the optimal minimum. That is efficiency thinking. In our nutrition chapter, there are two major approaches where people are national guidelines, and then you have diets. All of these are ‘one size fits all’ approach. We gather the average studies and apply to every individual. Bu this is not correct because we all have genetic differences, environmental factors, and different lifestyles.
Every individual is unique. The lifestyle affects genes that will be activated. It’s called epigenetics.
You have to factor in your current situation. What works for one person doesn’t fit the other. That’s why we take this quantified self-approach.
Biohacking is about system thinking not trusting your intuition or experts but testing it. Even scientific research and the expert opinion is actually a third party opinion until you test it on yourself like Einstein said ‘True knowledge is direct experience.’
The question is how we do it. You can also placebo control yourself. This differs from the traditional resource. Here you are the subject and doing that experiment on yourself.
This actually boils down to behavior change because you begin to pay attention. Suddenly you start to think about sleep, how much you sleep and what things affect your sleep etc. Then you begin to aware of some activities that enable you to change.
So that’s why we use those technologies. They are sort of like mirrors. So you get an activity tracker. Even the activity data recorded is not completely accurate; it is already changing their behavior. You began to think about taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
How about the mind?
People agree on exercise, nutrition and sleep. If you do not on a good diet, if you do not exercise, your mind is not going to perform well. There’s a saying ‘Some people get wet, some people feel the rain on their skin’. So it’s a matter of perspective.
On mind chapter, we look at those things. In the society people, lots of people have mental problems. They take serotonin, inhibitors and people are in the depression. Somehow you can treat them with the medication. If you do not have the raw materials to produce neurotransmitters and if your gut bacteria are misbalanced, it is bad because ninety percent serotonin is produced in the gut. Brain neurotransmitters that are the related feeling of enjoyment are produced in the gut. If your gut is not working, your brain is not going to be happy. Then you take some kind of direct medication that are bypassing those steps and begin to treat at the symptoms level. So it does not treat the original. So there are lots of new studies coming out of brain and gut link. Those are the things we are going through.
How about work?
Work is here for the productivity reason. The work you are doing doesn’t depend on the time you spend on the work now or efficiency on the routine tasks you are doing. The question is more about whether you are productive and producing the result that is expected from you. If you think on eight-hour workday, it is mostly one hour you are doing your efficient work. The question is when do you use this one efficient hour and what would you do with it?
We could also have chapters how you upgrade your home like from living conditions. Another topic might be hacking your children.
>> This is the end of first part (1/2) of our interview with Teemu Arina <<<