Who am I? I am my body. My body is a decentralized mass of matter. Why decentralized? Because the community of cells that makes up me has no central authority. Each cell takes care of itself, and its genetic program is based, for the most part, on preserving its own integrity. The smaller part of the cell’s code is devoted to managing cooperations with other cells — it produces something for other cells and receives something from them.
What I call my “self” (or, more accurately, what I call my “self” when communicating with other sapients) is just an abstraction — it’s the relationships between cells, and even more so, the relationships between cells and something else (more on these in the chapter Who We Are and What Defines Us). I call awareness of this relationship perception.
Mindset of HOS
There are some people (and they are the majority) who are not very concerned with perception. In my previous blog on perception, I briefly described their way of thinking and suggested that “they themselves tend to regard their subjective experience as an interpretation of objective reality (and in extreme cases, not just in terms of capturing reality by some sense organ, but also by its subsequent evaluation by arbitrary brain activity)”. In this blog, I’d like to cover them and their mindset a bit more.
I call such people Homo Obsoleta Sollicitus, or HOS for short. In short, these are people who have no intention of improving their perception, since they don’t even understand it themselves. About these people I would still dare to say that they are absolutely controlled by circumstances and are characterized by low ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives. They are people whose brain complexity is too small for the complexity of the environment in which they live. They have not had time to evolve.
What is interesting is that the existence of these people (including their population majority) is more or less realized by everyone who is not them. And I perceive it quite strongly, since I purposefully meet precisely people who are not among the HOS. The non-HOS people, whom I call Homo Novus Excitavitus (or HNE for short), additionally invent peculiar names for HOS, as they are aware of their difference. Maybe they do it only very subtly and not quite consciously, but quite often they are called e.g. “statists”, “normies” or “assholes”. Marianna Sádecká, for example, calls them “bisons” :))
Since HOS resist perception, they spend their time on all kinds of activities that weaken their ability to perceive. Mostly these are repetitive cycles, but it should not be forgotten that HOS are the majority in the population and therefore there is multiple variability among the activities they perform. Some of them watch TV programs (and especially commercials), go to bars, or vote, while others watch football, listen to loud (and always the same) music, or gossip about other sapients in order to satisfy certain structures of their obsessive-compulsive brains that arouse self-loathing in them.
This blog, however, is for the most part about the microbiome and biohacking. That’s why I’d like to address mainly the HOS approach to their health in it.
Since HOS don’t really address the fact that their environment affects them and they are created by it, they mostly don’t address their health either. Respectively, they usually only address it when their health problem is so enormous that they are able to capture it with their lousy perception. And they solve it mostly by going to the doctor.
HOS do not perceive themselves, but only obey certain structures of their brain, which they identify with in the moment of the affect of obedience. This need not even be an extreme case, such as a sidewalk sleeper in post-mortem convulsions during existential stupor with a cloth of toluene on his/her nostril.
As a HOS, I’m fine with plain over-roasted Italian trash with a sucrose-laced lactose-casein bomb, ideally with hormones as a bonus. And of course, as it happens in HOS-cafes, the over-roasted Italian trash also comes with a sucrose-gluten bomb (which calls itself a dessert), which gives me dopamine and comforts one brain structure, which allows me to have peace of mind from other brain structures, since I don’t realize that the analyzer is the analyzed. I am just a mass of matter enslaved by a very simple brain in an overly complex environment.
(I am not attacking anyone with this example. Kudos to all the HNE who have a shitty coffee with a shitty cookie, or a shitty cloth with a shitty toluene because they really want it.)
Meanwhile, HOS justify a lot of their self-destructive behavior by saying things like “I like myself and I indulge”. However, I strongly doubt the competence of this claim — if I like myself and that’s why I enjoy things that diminish my ability to perceive myself, then there must be something rotten about my self-love. And with all due respect, I don’t think HOS like themselves. I highly doubt they know who they are at all.
Who We Are and What Defines Us
As I mentioned before, HOS have access to the environment a lá “a certain structure of my brain, which I identify with at the moment, does it well and so I indulge”. I had that attitude too, as I was a HOS as well. And so was every one of us who grew up in an HOS environment. It is, in short, a law of nature; the environment influences us and we are created by it.
Importantly for me, however, I no longer have that attitude. As I started biohacking, I also started to get a better sense of how my body reacts. For example, if I consume gluten, which civilization is filled with, I get sick to my stomach and find it hard to think. My reactions are slowed down and my ability to perceive is thus greatly impaired because the increased production of zonulin in my gut has caused cellular spacing that is causing pathogens from the environment to enter my body. I also experience a similar cognitive impairment when I consume a high-glycaemic food, or perhaps a food that has been treated in carcinogenic oil.
And because of this, I have developed a sensitivity to my body, or the ability to perceive. And I also developed a natural aversion to junk food.
Some people (mostly HOS) who know my diet often ask me things like “don’t you ever have a sweet tooth?”, or “don’t you get cold when you get into ice water?”. They usually don’t understand my answer “no”. By honing the sensitivity in my body, I can automatically perceive what a given thing does to me (and whether it mainly does me good or bad). A person who is caught up in overwhelming himself with some particular thing that distorts his perception will never understand this.
Oh well. But then who am I and who are we? In the beginning of the blog I wrote something about cells, the relationships between them, and also that I’m going to cover more of that in this chapter. So let’s get to it.
Yes, I am made of human cells; that is, cells that contain “my” DNA. However, I am far from being only from them. For every cell with human DNA in my body, there are 10 cells with different DNA. And they are bacteria.
Many of them live in symbiosis with me and form an integral part of my digestive system. I’m constantly exerting all kinds of energy to feed them. And they don’t have to do anything but wait patiently for food and reproduce. That’s also why their DNA has been evolutionarily simplified to the minimum necessary — bacteria are actually very tiny and don’t need to do many of the activities that quanta of their relatives located outside my body have to do.
Bacteria are undoubtedly a part of me. After all, they too send protein signals to the same body in the same way that cells with human DNA do. They co-create my perception.
And then what about the bacteria that directly influence the brain’s behavior? A beautiful example is the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii — a parasite of the cat that spends part of its life in the blood of warm-blooded animals such as mice. It is capable of generating neurotransmitters that direct the behaviour of its carrier so that it does not experience fear and behaves in a risky way. In the case of mice, for example, it makes them easier prey for cats, a target destination for toxoplasma. The same is true for humans, although they are usually not eaten by cats, but become lifelong carriers of toxoplasma. Humans who are infected with toxoplasma have slowed reactions. They suddenly perceive everything differently because toxoplasma has become part of their consciousness.
No one knows how many such bacteria are part of our bodies. But what is certain is that they are involved in the perception of our “self”. I don’t even need to talk about viruses, which are in our bodies in far greater numbers than bacteria.
But what if some HOS were to argue to me that subjective human experience is absolutely unique, some viruses and bacteria may bend it in all sorts of ways, but not completely create it? That my feelings, preferences, thoughts, and opinions are, for the most part, mine after all?
I really don’t. My favourite discipline of biology — memeology, or more accurately, memetics — can show us the truth.
Our “self” is merely the output of memes in the competition to get the most individuals. Each of us is merely part of a culture made up of the self-interested memes, and that’s true whether you’re in bed, at the bar, at the theater, or writing this blog right now. Since birth, the human neocortex has been sucking memes into ever more complex and intricate structures, and individuals affected by them have become an integral part of history, tradition, religions, technological development, fashion, gastronomy, political organizations, and lifestyles. That is to say, culture.
And from old memes, new memes are created. We don’t choose them, but they choose us.
And why hack the microbiome?
Just as I try to choose the environment of the memes I am made of (by using other memes), I also try to choose the environment of the microbiome.
My microbiome is influenced by a wide variety of things. It is affected by diet, exercise, sleep, and last but not least, the neural activity of my brain. It’s an enormously complex relationship that can be modified by enormously complex activities.
(So, of course, hacking the microbiome is related to hacking many other things in and out of the body.)
I won’t address too complex relationships in this blog. We’re all individuals anyway, made up of different organisms, and something different works for everyone. I’m not going to talk about running and eating seafood here to someone who has no legs and is allergic to shrimp.
What I do want to discuss here, however, is my experience with super natural hacks of the microbiome. And those are kefir and tibicos.
I started drinking kefir every day starting in December 2020 (except for days when I’m traveling) and quit in January 2022.
Kefir is actually one of the healthiest dairy products. It is full of vitamins and also contains very valuable B12, K2, or biotin. It also has a decent dose of minerals (calcium and magnesium) or essential amino acids.
Thanks to the combination of K2 and calcium, it is also very beneficial for bone strength – vitamin K2 makes sure that calcium goes to the bones and teeth and not where it doesn’t belong (soft tissues, blood vessels).
In total, over 50 different species of micro-organisms have been recognised in kefir. Depending on the origin of the sample, the microbial composition of kefir varies. The common denominator is about 12 main species, which include e.g. bacteria of the genera Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Lactococcus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium and Acetobacter, yeasts of the genera Kazachstania, Kluyveromyces and Saccharomyces, as well as the filamentous mould Geotrichum candidum.
The kefir core is composed almost exclusively of Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens and Lactobacillus kefiri. The other members of the kefir community are present in the nucleus only in minute quantities and only in the milk environment do they gradually expand, depending on conditions. This is mainly influenced by temperature, the degree of oxygenation and, above all, the type and quality of the milk.
Moreover, kefir is also easily digestible for those who are relatively lactose-sensitive – it even improves the human ability to digest it simply by modifying (= hacking) the gut microbiome.
I won’t spam you with a recipe for making kefir here. Rather, I’ll insert here an image from the Slovak Wikipedia, which describes the process aptly enough (and even right away in archaic Slovak):
The picture is fine, but I see a fundamental problem with it. Kefir should never come into contact with metal. So the spoon that Mr. Graphic says you need should ideally be made of wood or plastic (I used an old Powerlogy collagen measuring spoon for this).
I switched to Tibicos a few days ago with the goal of moving on. And truth be told, I’ve decided to eliminate dairy (rather than microdosing lactose, casein doesn’t sit well with me), with the exception of butter, of course.
Tibicos is a drink made up of the eponymous grains. The grains are actually a culture of bacteria and yeast in a substrate of polysaccharides that the bacteria make themselves.
There is a big difference between milk kefir and tibicos. It would be impossible to make tibicos from milk kefir grains because they are composed of other beneficial bacteria and yeasts that need milk (lactose) for their growth.
As a rule, tibicos cultures contain nearly 60 strains of lactobacilli, yeasts and other microbes. Tibicos usually (usually, as no two tibicos cultures in the world are identical in composition) contain a mixture of Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria, Saccharomyces yeasts, and many others. The bacterium Lactobacillus brevis has been identified in tibicos as the species responsible for the production of the polysaccharide dextran, which forms tibicos grains.
Like all fermented beverages, tibicos contain a small amount of alcohol – around 0.5% to 0.75%. To clarify, this is a comparable amount to what you would find in overripe fruit. However, when driving, I recommend bypassing police patrols with the Waze app.
Making tibicos is basically similar to making kefir. However, you don’t pour milk over the grains but water (ideally distilled or boiled – chlorine is quite damaging to the grains) and to give the bacteria access to minerals and sugar to digest, you add sucrose and dried fruit. The finished tibicos are then infused and you can flavour them with lemon juice, fruit and herbs.
(I’m an absolute tibicos beginner at the moment, so I’m not going to give you my own recipe with fancy hacks.)
As I said, I made the decision to switch from kefir to Tibicos in order to move on. Likewise, I switched to kefir from nothing. Whether Tibicos will work for me (and whether I’ll be able to cultivate it without running dry), I can’t say for sure yet. Everything for me is a process of refining and honing my own perceptions. I, like you, am made up of a multitude of organisms that do a multitude of different things. In my life I try to understand these organisms and to adjust the relationships between them so that I can feel the greatest benefit from them and experience the best possible cooperation (= synergy) during the limited time of their cooperation.
So I bid you farewell. Long live biohacking (= conscious living)!