Fermenting Solutions Issue 2019.02: No Half Measures

Published: Thu, 02/21/19

February 21, 2019 View in browser

Since my last update, I've spent a bunch of time documenting some of my daily rituals and reviewing some of my favorite tools . I've already made a pretty major update to my daily ritual post with something I was experimenting with while writing it. TL;DR: I stopped taking any supplements during my fasting window. I did this because several of them were noticeably knocking me out of a 'fasted' state, making many of my reasons for 'fasting' invalid (this even occurred for supplements that had zero caloric content). On days that I Intermittent Fast, I now only consume tea and water during fasted periods.

After the post went live, I started fielding questions immediately about what I had written. I was surprised to not get many questions about 'why' I was doing something, but instead more questions regarding how I measure the effects of what I do. I mentioned the smart scale that I use and how much I love the Oura ring as a sleep/activity tracker in my post. I didn't really touch on how I measure biomarkers of interest or purposedly avoided discussing the procedure I use for deciding what to tweak or experiment with. This was mostly done in order to make what was already a long read more manageable. People just assumed I spent my life in a doctor's office having my blood drawn 😁 This is definitely one way to do this, and I always ask for the most detailed results possible when I do have labwork done, but there are far less invasive ways to do this these days.


Thanks to the popularity of the Quantified Self movement, there are 'gadgets' for tracking just about any thing. Anyone who is aware of my Kickstarter/Indiegogo problem knows that there are always new hardware devices popping up and I back many of them. Tons of them are garbage, or never materialize in a sustainable commercial form but they are often based on sound science. Most of the crowd funding pages for these devices provide links to scholarly articles that you can read through in order to get an understanding of how they likely work. You can then use pubMed to find even more information.

Many of these devices (and the underlying businesses) get killed by the regulatory burden of them riding the fine line between hardware measurement curiosity and medical device. A frequent problem with these devices is making them easy to use and glean actionable results from. Doing this in a way that is generalizable across the broad spectrum of the world's population is near impossible (especially when you factor in the regulatory problems of making any sort of 'medical' claim). Due to this, surfacing discrete accurate values is sometimes completely meaningless and is increasingly being avoided by these manufacturers. To someone who wants to 'improve', knowing the exact value is often useless any way without seeing a long trend of your data with your body being exposed to the many variables that it would be outside of a lab setting. What might be a 'good' value for me, is a 'bad' value for you, etc. This has lead many device manufacturers to focus on establishing baselines and monitoring trends. This idea and the ubiquity of the hardware and software used to create the 'Internet of Things' encouraged me to investigate the feasibility of building my own ability to measure what's meaningful to me.

A few devices that I backed use the concept of breath gas analysis in order to monitor volatile organic compounds present in the exhaled breath. Breath gas concentration can then be related to blood concentrations via mathematical modeling as for example in blood alcohol testing. The Raspberry Pi and Arduino ecosystems have just about everything you need commercially available to build your own 'Breath Gas Analysis' device. Using the Android Things platform has made it easy to integrate any measurements that you make with the Google Fit platform (it remains to be seen if this will continue to be a viable option). The resulting device that you build might not look pretty... and because of this likely wouldn't be very viable commercially, but I plan on writing up something soon on my experiences with this.

It's pretty amazing what you can measure with this technique and if all you're interested in is monitoring trends, you don't even need to be concerned about correlating your measurements to blood tests. You do need to understand what you're measuring though and it's important to do the research to understand how different variables can impact that measurement. Identifying outliers becomes easier after you start to establish your own personal trend line and you can use these to monitor the impact of your biohacking experiments. Sometimes, you really want a secondary means of measurement. It might be to calibrate some other device that you're using, or there could be well defined ranges of what constitutes something being 'bad' or 'good'. This is why I would always recommend taking measurments using your devices as close as possible to any actual bloodwork that you get done and distinctly marking the measurements that you take so that you can correlate them when you get your results back.


For those in-between doctor authorized lab work sessions, ZRT is a great place to turn. They provide great reports that have been extremely accurate in my experience. They also cover many things that you don't often get in routine blood work tests and can provide results for many of these things with just a saliva sample.


Of course, the real hard part of all of this is making sense out of the data that you collect... or even determining what things you should be monitoring/working on. I signed up for the 'beyond ancestry vanity metrics' 23andMe genetic testing kit when it first came out and this has been one of the greatest sources of experimentation ideas. While the initial reports from 23andMe mostly center around genetic mutations, that you would likely be well aware of if you had them, you can download your raw data and use it to do your own investigation. Initially, I used dbSNP to research things... usually based on articles that I read related to some aspect of my life that I wanted to improve, but I recently used DNAFit's service to see what it would find since making correlations across SNPs is often difficult to do by hand. I was surprised that DNAFit found something that I consider actionable that could directly explain one of the nagging areas that has been immune to improvement for me over the years. I'm in the process of formulating an experiment to try out based on this information which hopefully will result in another major change to my daily ritual post!


Hopefully those of you completely not interested in my quantified self experiments and labwork talk are still here 🙃 The other big thing I worked on since last time was solving the Shopify/AWeber integration problem that I mentioned. I have the basic issue solved and the solution is in production for two stores. There are still many enhancements to come, but his also lays the groundwork for what I hope will become the best marketing app for omnichannel Shopify-based stores. OmniSend recently introduced a tightly integrated solution, but they're still very email marketing centric. Stay tuned, lots of iteration happening on this project!


My interesting drink this time around is Best Spuds by Plan Bee Farm Brewery. Best Spuds is a New York Wild Ale brewed with potatoes. Aged in Red Wine barrels. In collaboration w/ Kent Falls brewing company. This was awesome! and if you've never visited Plan Bee, you really should. It's a great location (although I do miss the yurt) conveniently located near my in-laws. If you enjoy the 'beer check-in' of each issue, become Best Spuds by following me on untappd!

Thanks for tuning in for another issue. Even though it's snowing here in Upper Montgomery County, gardening season is on my mind and I'll likely dive into that next time.

As always, I want to hear from you. The interaction is the best part about this newsletter for me. Drop me a line to continue the conversation:

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