For my 44th birthday weekend, I attended the 2022 Health Optimisation Summit in London. It is one of the largest health conferences in Europe and it was a 2-day in-person event with speakers, workshops, and exhibitors helping you take your health to the next level from all angles, including biohacking, nutrition, longevity, fitness, functional and preventative medicine.
My husband took our son to watch the Rugby 7’s tournament at Twickenham so I had the whole weekend to myself. Best birthday present!!!
I met some of my heroes and heroines including Dr. Jolene Brighten (Naturopathic Hormone specialist and author of Beyond the Pill), Dr. Amy Killen (Sex & Skin Doctor), Ben Greenfield (GOAT of Biohacking), and Dr. Harry Adelson (expert in full body stem cell therapy). I tried out new superfoods and new wearable technology e.g. BrainTap to train your brain waves to get into meditative state quicker and reach your goals more effortlessly.
Attending a conference like this helps me be a better practitioner for my patients. As I work with women to help them get back on track with their health, manage their food cravings, clear their skin, and balance their hormones, I’m intrigued to find out how this process can be made more efficient, more fun, and with more ease.
In this blog, I wanted to share my 5 key takeaways from the summit:
1. Get curious a bout your body
I sat in Dr. Amy Killen’s talk on Sexponential Medicine and she shared the importance of sexual health for our longevity. One of the elements to maximise our sexual health is to understand and support our pelvic floor and clitoris (which is often ignored).
Did you know the first published medical paper on the full anatomy of the clitoris written by a female doctor only came out in 2005?! That means we’ve only started understanding the structure and function of this vital organ in the last 17 years. So prior to that, how we learned about sex and orgasm originated from men. Doesn’t it blow your mind!
Did you also know that stimulating the clitoris activates the brain to cause a combination of changes in the female reproductive tract including enhancement of vaginal blood flow, an increase in vaginal lubrication, an increase in vaginal oxygen and temperature, and most importantly a change in the position of the cervix, the entrance to the uterus.
Even if you’re not interested in getting pregnant, this process can help maintain vaginal health preventing vaginal dryness, vaginal infection, and UTI’s which often comes with hormonal decline and age.
She also stressed the importance of the pelvic floor muscle in supporting the female pelvic organs, controlling the bladder and bowel function, and contributing to the intensity of our orgasms. She stressed how Kegel exercise is not always the best choice which can worsen tight but weak pelvic floor muscles.
Symptoms that suggest tight pelvic floor muscles include:
- bloating and constipation
- straining during bowel movement
- sensation of incomplete emptying
- pain during sexual intercourse
- urinary incontinence
- frequent or painful urination
- lower back pain
When I work with women, I help them optimise their nutrition, gut health, and detoxification. From Dr. Amy’s talk, I am reminded how we also need to take into account the surrounding anatomical structures of our organs and how the blood flow to these organs can contribute to tight pelvic floor muscles.
2. Biohack like a woman
Biohacking is the art and science of changing the environment around and inside of you so that you have better control over your own biology. This can be as simple as using nutrition and supplements to optimise your energy to using neurofeedback devices to enhancing brain function.
An important key to biohacking is understanding your body – how it works and why it works the way it does. That means, our biochemistry changes throughout our cycle due to our hormones. By knowing how it changes, we can maximise our energy, rest, creativity, productivity, and weight loss (if that’s your goal). By better understanding our hormones, we can work with our cycles, instead of against it.
Take for example the USA Women’s Football team who won the World Championship in 2019. They attributed their success partly to tracking their cycles. Their coach chose against taking the pill as it suppresses the natural ebb and flow of the hormones. In their case, the cycle biohacking will not work. If you have irregular cycles or no more cycles (due to menopause), you can still cycle sync with the moon cycle.
From Dr. Jolene Brighten’s talk on “Optimising Hormones and Fertility”, one of the biggest harm we can do to our hormones is overtraining and under fuelling. This puts our body in constant stress which throws the balance off because when the body does not feel safe, it will shut down the reproductive organs which makes the sex hormones. This also applies to fasting especially in the Luteal phase when we need about 5-10% more calories during this phase.
When I work with women, I help them understand their hormones and cycles, learning how to read and trust the cues on what their body needs and doesn’t need. The common thread that was discussed among the female speakers during the event was that women’s superpower comes from being cyclical beings. We shouldn’t try to do what men do because it will burn us out. We shouldn’t try to work, train, eat or rest like men. This also includes biohacking. Women function differently than men.
3. Schedule proactive work in the morning and reactive work in the afternoon
Ben Greenfield talked about “What I do in a day” where he shared ALL his biohacking tricks and tips – for body, mind, relationship, and spirit. He spoke on both days and on the first day, he had an hour allocated where he only just managed to finish part of his presentation on what he does by lunchtime so he had to finish off on the second day.
Ben Greenfield is a superhuman and any mere mortal sitting in the audience would be blown away by what he does. My favourite piece of advice from him was to “schedule proactive work in the morning and reactive work in the afternoon”. Proactive work is creative work while reactive work is replying to emails, messages, doing client work or even doing interviews. He explains that our energy and brain function peaks in the morning so we should allocate that brain power to create something we desire.
I also love how he does his reactive work on the go e.g. on a walk or hike through the hills where he lives. This is a great way to get your daily steps in and also helps to move any anxiety or worry out of your body while you’re doing reactive work.
As I do most of my health coaching sessions online via Zoom, I plan to start walking and talking with my patients and encouraging them to do the same with me.
4. The body does not heal if it does not feel safe.
This is a big one as we talked about emotions and how it can be trapped in our body if it’s not processed. Past trauma and past conditioning – this can all put our body in survival mode by default that when we try to relax, it feels VERY uncomfortable.
Healing happens when our nervous system is regulated and we are more in parasympathetic mode which controls digestion, reproduction, rest, repair, and rejuvenation.
At the summit, there were workshops, talks, and exhibitors showcasing energy work, movement, and different types of meditation. There are many modalities and it’s finding one that you can relate to and be able to do consistently.
These are the 3 key aspects in managing emotional and mental stress:
- Movement (to move the stagnant emotions out of the body)
- Breathwork (to settle the mind & nervous system)
- Journalling or therapy (to process our thoughts and emotions)
5. Technology comes and goes but nature will always be there.
Speaking of regulating the nervous system, there is this technology called Sensate that helps to activate the vagus nerve (major nerve in the parasympathetic system) by placing a vibrating stone-like device on your chest and also a headset (with shades) called BrainTap to train your brainwaves to get into the meditative state quicker.
I tried both and I can see the appeal but I question if we are relying on technology too much. Decompressing and managing stress is a muscle and we can practise to get better at it. We have the strength and resiliency to handle stress. I personally will feel more comfortable and triumphant if I do this without being plugged onto a device.
We also use technology to help us with work efficiency and free up our time so we can be more productive with things that matter. But the irony of it all is this same technology also becomes the reason why we are always running out of time.
I get that we have a limited time in our daily schedule and we want to maximise it to get more things done. But activities such as “relax”, “meditate”, and “self-care” are important appointments we need to schedule in our calendars. It’s something we have to DO, rather than BE.
We are always plugged into a device and it reduces our chances of going outside and spending more time in nature which is free medicine! We forget how to take our constant focus away from our laptops and phones. We fail to appreciate our surroundings.
Research has shown that radiating EMF (electromagnetic field) increases the risk of headaches, anxiety, fatigue, and cellular damage. It can potentially become another fix where we get a dopamine high when we use it and then put ourselves in a tailspin if it runs out of batteries, or if it doesn’t have a connection or we can’t find it.
By depending on technology, I feel we are giving away too much of our power and it takes away the opportunity for us to truly FEEL and WITNESS what nature can give to us.
My realisations after attending the summit
Women are naturally more intuitive but we have been conditioned not to trust our bodies. We are more sensitive to changes but we are taught to ignore these subtle changes and are often put down because we are not motivated enough to adapt to the changes or we are being too emotional.
This happens a lot in the healthcare industry. I learned how women are not included in many trials for drugs, medication, and treatment modalities due to having too many variables (thanks to our cycle). The women who are tested are only brought in at Stage 3 of the research (which is the final stage) so the doses are often too high for them because the results have been based on men in the earlier stages.
Once the drugs/medication is approved and launched to the market, women start to report side effects and complications and they are often dismissed, being gaslighted and labelled as a hypochondriac or imagining things (due to stress) as it was never reported during the trials or the initial results for women are often ignored.
I felt angry when I learned that but was not surprised. Women’s participation in medical research has only started to garner attention recently.
I will share as much as I can with you as I continue to trust my own body wisdom and learn about women’s health. We women have so much unconditioning to do. We must come back to our inner knowing so we can discover and unravel the healthiest and happiest versions of ourselves.
Remember being a woman is not a weakness, it’s a superpower.
Get to know your body, your hormones, and yourself. Honour your superpower and use it to your advantage!
To your best self,