The Healthy Optimist

Our food system is toxic, people are unhealthy and it seems health outcomes are getting worse and worse. Yet, I am optimistic that in the near future things will be better. A lot better. The positive changes I’m envisioning won’t come from better education or a cleaner food supply. They will come from scientists and engineers that will empower individuals to greatly improve their health without the need for doctors or other health care practitioners at an affordable cost.

It all comes down to data. Soon we will live in a world where that data is far more extensive, up-to-date, and dirt cheap to access and act upon.

Real-Time (or Near Real-Time) Health Monitoring

Imagine a future where every person could download an application to their smartphone or similar device that collected extensive health data quickly. Today we can work with labs, get blood work, send payment, and then wait for the results. Once we get those results, we work with health practitioners to make adjustments and then we retest. The feedback loop today is too slow and too expensive. And because so few data snapshots are collected, the data might not be an accurate reflection of an individual’s day-to-day state of health.

In the future, we will be able to do these tests at home as many times as we like. These gadgets will be as common as the bathroom scale. Instead of going months or years with a nutrient deficiency, we will be correcting them in days or hours. These gadgets could detect rising inflammation or stress levels. I could see them connecting to a cloud server that tracks infectious diseases and aggregates that data to health and safety personnel. In addition to tracking data, these gadgets will offer health recommendations based on risk level. Everything from “eat a carrot” to “call 911″. These recommendations and outcomes could be fed back to the cloud. That data would be analyzed and then updated recommendations could be constructed in real time. In other words, a system that learns.

Every time there is a shooting incident in the news, the gun debate starts again. I’m actually more curious about the brain chemistry of the individual committing violent acts. What are their serotonin, dopamine, and Vitamin D levels? Is there a pattern? By collecting more data more frequently and sharing that data, I think we will find these answers and more.

The Human Microbiome Project

There are 100 trillion bacteria in your body. What it is made up of is still a mystery, but not for long. The Human Microbiome Project is a 5-year project where the goal is to sequence all that data. Having healthy gut flora is essential for good health. Today we destroy our gut flora with antibiotics. Some buy supplemental strains of healthy probiotics to fix that damage. Others like me make and consume fermented foods. But I have no way of knowing the state of my gut flora and if I have an overabundance or deficiency in certain bacteria. Right now it is still all guesswork.

The NT Times article In Good health? Thank Your 100 Trillion Bacteria (JAN 2022: behind a paywall now) covers the project and some of the implications. Combined with the testing gadget I covered above, this will mean personalized strains of healthy bacteria will be created and consumed as a primary healing strategy. This will result in far less sickness and extremely fast recovery times. And as someone who believes nutrient absorption plays a role in obesity, we could see populations downregulating appetite as their gut heals.

I know that when I stopped taking antibiotics and made fermented foods part of my diet, my hunger levels dropped and so did 3 inches off my waist. My skin quality also improved. I was fortunate to stumble on what worked for me. I believe The Human Microbiome Project will result in highly personalized healing strategies. It won’t take months or years either. I envision recovery times happening in weeks or even days.

Battle of the gut bugs! by UMHealthSystems

The Age of Super Fitness

The fitness industry has been ruled by meathead jocks and cardio junkies for too long. That won’t remain the case. Not only is the message that quality of exercise is more important than quantity becoming mainstream, but engineers are figuring out safer and faster ways to trigger the body to make positive adaptations. The Bulletproof Exec blog is watching and participating closely with some cutting-edge fitness equipment. Here are two interesting machines mentioned in the post Step 4: Learn To Use Your Body.

The Electrical Current Biohacking Machine – From the post:

It takes about 10,000 repetitions of a movement for the brain to re-pattern itself. You can use electrical currents to stimulate the muscles and brain 500 times a second, letting you re-pattern a movement pattern in a few minutes. Years of progress are possible in 1-2 days. Many of the top-performing pro athletes use these secret techniques and spend upwards of $50,000 to get trained with specialized high current equipment.

Besides creating super athletes, I could see this having a huge impact on physical therapy. Instead of months or years of retraining your brain to engage in proper movement, you could fix yourself in a weekend. Once or twice a year we all take our cars to a mechanic to get an oil change or tune-up. In the future, I can see heading to a health center that uses electrical muscle stimulation to accomplish a similar task. MAS, I can see your left calf is 4% weaker than your right calf and your mid-back rotation could be improved a few degrees. We can have that fixed for you before lunch. 

The other tool mentioned in the article is a Whole Body Vibration machine. From the post:

Standing on a vibrating plate can do amazing things for chronic pain because it causes muscles through your skeletal system to fire and it causes lymph (fluid between tissues) to circulate.

A key to the Age of Super Fitness will be dealing with chronic pain. Once the costs come down on this, it could have huge health benefits to the greater population. Fewer painkillers, fewer side effects, increased productivity, and greater well-being.

Health Utopia

To me this is not a question of if these ideas will happen, but when will they be available at an affordable cost to the general population. They are coming. Will it be 5 years or 25 years? Can you wait? I’m highly optimistic about the future of health, but until that future health utopia arrives, I’ll continue to eat a healthy clean diet and exercise in a safe productive way.


Add yours

  1. Killer post, Michael! I share your enthusiasm for both the Quantified Self universe (are you coming to September’s Bay Area QS Conference? I’m speaking there…) and for the gut biome. I’ve spent a lot of money over the years looking at species in my gut with crazy tests that are not very accurate, and I never got any valuable info from the results. I can’t wait to do a genetic analysis of my biome too!

  2. Interesting thoughts, my friend. Thank you also for the links.

  3. MAS,
    Great that you were able to show Dave a little love after that whole coffee/butter take down. 🙂

  4. @Dave – Glad you liked the post. I consider the QS movement the Marines, whereas I am more Army. Go ahead and take that beach, I’ll be back here watching.

    @Jim – “Take down” is a bit strong. I like what the drink accomplishes, I just prefer to consume the components separately. 🙂

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