He has spent $15,000 having stem cells injected into his body and considers weekly coffee enemas the norm.
Sensory deprivation tanks, constant testing, and clothing designed to block electromagnetic fields are also routine for Welshman Kris Gethin – a man who says he has a ‘biological age’ of 25 despite being 46 years old.
While it might not be common practice for many for the world-famous fitness guru these are just some of the many elements biohackers like him have to consider to understand and optimiae the body in a way that has never been done before.
Once considered a practice exclusively for the multimillionaires and big-thinkers of Silicon Valley, biohacking has made the headlines in recent years by individuals taking it to the extreme. Alongside talk of gene editing, terms such as transhumanists – those who put implants such as chips into their body – are banded about, including one man who now has a built-in compass in his chest which will vibrate every time he faces north.
But although it may sound like stuff of the future it’s a way of life that is gaining increasing momentum during a time where our health is more precious than ever before.
Put simply biohacking, otherwise known as health optimisation, can be described as those who use technology, drugs, and other substances to improve the quality of our body and mind. Also known as ‘do it yourself biology’, it’s a practice which is not limited to those working within the scientific field.
Every year a Health Optimisation Summit is held with last year’s attracting 1,100 people from around the world eager to share their experiences and knowledge.
Kris’ own journey into the industry, however, came from just wanting to understand why he was feeling so under the weather and why there were no answers for it.
As personal trainer to the rich and famous, as well as a natural bodybuilder and someone with their own health club franchise and health nutrition supplement company, being unwell was simply not part of the plan.
Kris, who now lives in Oregon in the United States, said: “I was living in India for a little while – I was training Bollywood actors and I’ve got a gym franchise over there. And in the place that I stayed in there was obviously mould that you can’t see and I got mould toxicity. I couldn’t sleep – I’d sleep on average about three hours a night and you can imagine what that does to you.
“I wasn’t the best person to be around and I expended all possibilities of what it could be. I tried all types of supplements and medication and everything and nothing helped until I was pointed in a direction of this doctor in Florida at his clinic.
“Once I went there I had like 62 blood tests and brain scans. Every type of sample my body could produce was sampled and it was they who diagnosed me with mould toxicity.
“That’s when I realised, okay, I thought I was healthy but I was in fact not. I started quantifying everything like my blood sugar levels, my heart rate variability, my sleep, absolutely everything, and that’s when I kind of started going down the rabbit hole of biohacking my health because nobody else could.”
As someone who has grown up in a family of farmers, food in particular is a part of biohacking that Kris knows volumes about. On the subject of mould toxicity he explains mould levels are particularly high in coffee – and that the US will tolerate levels of mould found in grains that the UK will not, all down to the vats in which they are stored.
More widely the nutrients we get from food are ever-changing, all down to the over-harvesting of our soil.
Kris said: “With the vast majority of my clients even though they eat healthy, they will have a deficiency because the soil is very different to what it was 30 years ago with GMO, with glyphastate [herbicide], and Roundup. Then there’s over-harvestation because of population increase – we don’t have the nutrients that we once did.
“Our grandparents would eat an orange and they’d have six to seven times the amount of vitamin C than what we actually get from an orange from Aldi or something.”
As well as help from supplements, tackling such deficiencies are exactly where biohacking really comes into play.
On top of the foundations of being hydrated and having the right levels of sunlight, nutrition, and movement, Kris describes it as the icing on the cake – or the “shiny bits” – that only make a difference if you have the basic principles right.
Even a quick conversation with Kris shows the seemingly endless list of ‘hacks’ that can be adopted on a day-to-day scale.
First, for example, there are the infrared panels in Kris’ house to provide him with “restorative” red light. While the bulbs upstairs may make his house look like a “brothel”, he admits, red light therapy is known to repair tissue and wounds as well as give the cells energy.
Downstairs, however, it’s all about incandescent yellow bulbs able to block harmful blue light – something Kris says can spike our cortisol hormone better known for creating our “fight or flight” reaction.
Next up are the measures taken to reduce the EMFs, or electromagnetic fields, caused by everything from satellites to wifi routers. Their presence around us in the world is something the World Health Organisation continues to explore after launching the The International EMF Project in 1996.
While the WHO has concluded that evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields it acknowledges that some individuals may be more sensitive to it than others – causing headaches, nausea, anxiety, and depression.
To eliminate any potential risk Kris has everything from EMF-blocking clothing and underwear to a blanket designed for when he is flying as well as special metal stickers that will earth his shoes to the ground as soon as he lands if standing barefoot somewhere isn’t an option. Being barefoot and the principle of grounding – connecting with the electric connection and negatively-charged electrons in the earth – is also a key principle of biohacking and credited by those who do it to reduce the level of our induced voltage.
For Kris such measures are particularly important given the effects he believes he experiences as a result of EMF.
He said: “I went to a music festival [in Las Vegas] a couple of years ago and I felt terrible for days after. And this was in Vegas in a Speedway and nobody’s phones would work there because there was so many people in the tight space.
“And then when you finish up the festival you go to Vegas where there’s a lot more EMF, lights, and electricity. And I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs or anything like that, but I felt terrible. And I thought, well, maybe it’s something to do with that (the EMF). And I noticed when I’d stay in hotels I wouldn’t sleep well, especially cities.
“I had Brian Hoyer in my house probably about four months ago and he’s one of the world’s leading building biologists. So he has thousands of dollars’ worth of metres to tell you how high your EMF readings are in your house. He measured and our bedroom of all places had the highest level.
“He put me in what’s called a Faraday cage – it was like a little tent on the mattress which blocked all the EMF. I slept in there and I wear an oura ring which tracks my REM, my deep sleep, and I had the best night’s sleep ever.”
If Faraday cages may sound extreme it’s nothing compared to the lengths that Kris has gone to in the past to repair his body from the wear and tear of being an athlete.
There is the sensory deprivation tank he uses regularly – a facility where you float on 1200lb of magnesium salt in complete darkness and silence to reconnect – and then there’s no forgetting the coffee enema that happens every Monday morning.
Depending on your point of view, however, it’s the stem cell treatment Kris received in Colombia that probably raises the most eyebrows.
“I’m 46 years old and, even though I have great internal age, I train hard. I train like a bodybuilder. I also do kettlebell work and I also do a lot of running.
“I know that my body goes to wear and tear because of it and I don’t want to be 80, 90, 100 years old and in a wheelchair or having to deal with hip replacements or anything like that. So I studied a lot on stem cells.
“I’ve broken a lot of bones from motocross, from surfing, from snowboarding and I want to make sure that I’m able to still feel good as I get older. So I went and had stem cells – basically the stem cells from an umbilical cord from a baby.
“I had them injected into my elbows, into my knees, into my shoulders. I’ve had shoulder surgery, I’ve had a lot of injuries. I also had IV stem cells as well and it was the best money I ever invested.
“It takes about six months for it to fully kick in for its efficacy. But after that six months any inflammation that you had, any kind of sore joints that you don’t really realise because you get used to it… I feel like a teenager again, I’m alleviated of these issues.”
Kris’ story of biohacking himself healthy isn’t as unique as it may sound. Tim Gray is the founder of the Health Optimisation Summit and one of the UK’s leading biohackers.
Describing his experience he said: “I ran digital marketing agencies beforehand and was always at 200 miles an hour running companies, and whatnot, and I got ill.
“The first thing was meditation. My mind was so busy, crazy busy, all the time and I think that in hindsight looking back it’s because my body wasn’t being used very much except to walk to the office but my brain was being used pretty much around the clock.
“My body became chronically ill because I didn’t exercise it enough, that I didn’t give it the right building blocks or have the right nutrition. And I was just too busy-minded so calming the mind was step one.”
According to Tim shows like Netflix’s Biohackers series are more likely to be picked up in the media due to their focus on extremes like gene editing and futurism.
For him, though, it’s a combination of whatever works for his health and things that can be quantified and explained.
He said: “When I re-labelled biohacking to health optimisation about 18 months ago in the UK we tripled in size pretty much within 16 weeks.
“It makes it much more accessible to people like my mom or, you know, family members that want to optimise their health whereas no one really wants to get into biohacking except for people that are into future advancements and at the forefront of testing things on themselves.”
As well as the equipment at hand there is also the host of biohacking assessments that are constantly at play. Every six months Kris will have blood tests taken as well as heavy metal tests, the results of which will improve once he is able to fly to Germany to have his metal fillings removed.
Of all his test results he is proudest of his GlycanAge test putting his biological age at 25.
He said: “There are testing parameters you can utilise to see what your biological age is. I have just had my most recent GycanAge test, which shows that I’m at 25 even though my age is 46.
“With GlycanAge they’ve tested thousands of people but they’ve never had somebody come back with such a young age from an athletic background.”
Away from the high-end technology and endless measuring, Kris is quick to acknowledge the scepticism surrounding the still relatively new and unknown world of health optimisation. While it undoubtedly has improved his health in some ways – he says he has biohacked his way “out of asthma” since moving to the States – the bodybuilder also understands it is not something for everyone.
There are also the more accessible principles of biohacking which go back to simpler times such as meditation, cold showers, exercising in a group, and enjoying meals without the distraction of a smartphone – things Kris believes can improve anyone’s life regardless of their means and what they believe.
“Everybody’s different and we have to treat people as such. Everybody has a different counter, a different personality. We talk to people differently.
“Some people respond to yelling in a team environment, other people you’re going to have to be a little bit more sympathetic with, and I think it’s very similar. When it comes to biohacking as well there are going to be a lot of people that are suspicious of it, they’re going to be critical of it. But you have to appreciate what we’re all different. We can’t be so bold and brash to say it does or doesn’t work.”
Just like his bodybuilding career from his life back in Wales Kris admits biohacking is also an obsession of his. But for those who might consider his constant measurements and assessments a step in the wrong direction when it comes to avoiding stress Kris also has an answer to that.
He said: “This is an obsession for me as well. I absolutely love it.
“People say you should live a little. But those are the people that just see me online. I go camping all the time, I go snowboarding, I go wakeboarding, I go on holiday. I get away on the weekends.
“I don’t check my phone for an hour when I wake up and I don’t have it on for an hour before bed and I enjoy my life so everybody is going to have to take it as a pinch of salt.
“And, look, if it becomes controlling where you’re going ‘Oh my God, I’m stressing I can’t get to sleep because I’m trying to quantify it’ then yeah, back off, maybe put your tracking device away for a couple of weeks and get back to what’s important. Like I said that’s being present and enjoying life exactly as we have it right now because who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow?”
You can find out more about Kris, and his books and podcasts, here.