tDCS headset from focus
Currently, there are a lot of startups focused on hacking your body or your brain for optimal performance. Companies that focus on tech wearables such as Halo Neuroscience, yBrain, Focus and Thync have all designed wearable transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) headsets that have generated a lot of hype, but not yet delivered on their promises of brain wellness and enhanced performance or memory. Despite ybrain receiving $3.5 million funding to utilise their tDCS headsets for Alzheimer's research in 2014, and Halo Neuroscience receiving $9 million in funding, and also utilising their headsets for dementia and Parkinson's research, neither company has yet come up with a breakthrough in clinical trials.
tDCS wearable headsets have been reported to instigate headaches in anecdotal information on the internet due to overstimulation. Scientists warn that tDCS devices for consumer markets can actually inhibit and impair brain functions due to reversed polarisation of neurons in the brain via overstimulation.
Why is this? The answer is simple: tDCS doesn't work for neurological diseases. Although tDCS can be utilised for deep brain stimulation (as opposed to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) which is limited in its capacity of deep brain stimulation) and successful cases have been reported of using tDCS for temporarily waking up patients from comatose states, tDCS has little to zero effect on neurological disease states; and I will even extrapolate has zero effect on athletic performance or memory and cognition.
Certainly one can jumpstart a car battery using electrical shock, and the same could be said of tDCS, but a continual direct current stimulation isn't going to enhance brain functioning or able to alter the mitochrondria of neurons or stimulate them to make new connections; it might do exactly the opposite. In fact, it could potentially impair the brain's function as opposed to enhancing its function by reversing the polarity of neurons in the brain. Anecdotal information of people using tDCS devices on the internet have reported headaches; known risks also include seizures and mood changes.
Although I tend to think tDCS wearable devices and the funding behind them is mainly due to hype, I also do think there are other innovative technologies that do in fact, accelerate the brain recover from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and neurological diseases which I will not go into detail here.
Cells and neurons in our body need potassium (K+) for optimal action potential.
However, despite any advanced treatment, the best way to hack your brain and body is nutrition and exercise. One way to increase the action potential of neurons and cells in your body is through intake of potassium (K+). All the cells in our body in the resting state need potassium to maintain homeostasis. Two British scientists, Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1963 for their research a decade earlier for their discoveries in ionic mechanisms involved in excitation and inhibition of the cell membrane and documenting the roles of potassium and sodium. An increased consumption of sodium opens the channel in the cell to release potassium to achieve a resting state and has an inhibitory effect on the cell membrane. When excessive sodium is consumed, more potassium is released, leading to fatigue, bloating, weight gain. If we examine all the pre-packaged foods available to us for purchase in our daily lives, they all have excessive amounts of sodium. This sodium-potassium imbalance prevents cells from optimal performance. When cells are at an optimal resting state, there is more potassium in the cell than is released outside the cell.
Coconut water is a food source with the highest amount of potassium (K+) which enhances the action potential of cells and neurons in our bodies.
Foods high in potassium include coconut water, spinach, avocados and bananas. Many Olympic athletes consume multiple banana smoothies a day because it is the consumption of high potassium K+ content that leads to energy, strength and endurance. I personally drink 2 litres of coconut water a day, and drinking about a cup half and hour before a run enhances my strength training and ability to run longer and faster.
Another way to hack your body is by limiting your protein intake. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an excess protein consumption leads to many disease states including kidney disease, cancer and osteoporosis. In addition, many studies have linked heart disease and stroke with too much dietary protein. This is because the key issues are the rate at which the gastrointestinal tract can absorb amino acids from dietary proteins and the liver's capacity to denaminate proteins and produce urea for excretion of excess nitrogen.
"Dangers of excessive protein, defined as when protein constitutes > 35% of total energy intake, include hyperaminoacidemia, hyperammonemia, hyperinsulinemia nausea, diarrhea, and even death." -Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
It is estimated that Americans and the British already consume excessive amounts of protein in their diets and that a person who weighs 80kg (176 lbs) should ideally consume only 176g of protein per day (approximately 3/4 cup of protein per day). With the available foods today that is focused on excessive protein consumption, most people will not suffer from a bereft of protein from plant and animal sources. In fact, the danger is too much protein in the diet.
Marketing campaigns for milk have been misleading consumers for decades by utilising celebrity endorsements. Human milk does a body good due to its low levels of phosphorus; however cow's milk contains high levels of phosphorus leading to inhibition of the body to absorb calcium. More recent milk ads have switched from "does a body good" to "high source of protein".
For those of us who grew up in the U.S., we were probably all inundated with the "Milk does a body good" campaigns of the 1990s and early 2000s. For years we were told to get our calcium from milk or cheese or other dairy sources. Although these dairy products do have a good amount of calcium, the problem is that they also contain high levels of phosphorus, which inhibits the body's ability to absorb calcium. Whereas dairy products from cows have a high level of phosphorus (94g in one cup); in human milk, there is little phosphorus (15g in one cup). Ingesting high amounts of phosphorus limits the body's ability to absorb calcium, and creates a physiological condition ripe for allergies and lowered immune responses. Milk does a body good, but only human milk. Our bodies do not work optimally ingesting high amounts of phosphorus from cow's milk. That is why many people who suffer from osteoporosis often wonder what went wrong although they consume high amounts of dairy products from cows.
Popeye, the cartoon, made its debut in 1929. Popeye achieves his strength, energy and endurance from consuming spinach, not heavily salted, high protein-fatty foods, such as meats and cheeses as in our contemporary era. Our ancestors knew then spinach was a superfood with high levels of potassium, vitamin K and calcium which is what the body needs to achieve optimal action potential.
For the body to properly absorb calcium, the body also needs vitamins K and D. Spinach is a superfood, not only because of its high potassium content, but also due to its vitamin K and calcium content. It is an ideal food to consume on a daily basis because it enhances energy in the cell membrane, and creates a state of optimal athletic performance. One way to eat more spinach without having to consciously think about consuming more spinach is by replacing lettuce with spinach in sandwiches and burgers.
A lot of marketing tactics in food use "fresh" "high source of protein" and "does a body good" campaigns to make the consumer think what they are consuming is healthy. Most of these products are laden with sodium, high fructose corn syrup (a sugar that the human body cannot metabolise and leads to impaired pancreatic function), and excessive amounts of protein or phosphorus.
No marketing campaign ever tells you that a product is high in potassium K+ and vitamin K, which is what the body actually needs for energy and absorption of calcium. In our current era, more than 68.8% of the U.S. population of adults and in the U.K. 61.7% of adults are considered overweight or obese.
Let's us think about why that is.
By Sierra Choi
[Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational purposes only and not to treat nor diagnose any diseases.]