Self Experimentation + Part of My Story

What is Self-Experimentation?

Self-Experimentation is the unique act of single-subject scientific experimentation where the experimenter hypothesizes and performs the experiment on him or herself. In this article I want to show the value of self-experimentation as a tool to improve your life, without sacrificing your safety. One of my long-term goals is to level the playing field of well-funded modern research and speed up the time it takes the average person to get cutting-edge information that will meaningfully impact their lives. 

Story Time

Take John Paul Stapp. He was known by many as the fastest man on earth. When John started his research back in 1947, most physicians believed that the body could withstand 18g of thrust before suffering fatal trauma. John Stapp shattered this belief and proved the body could withstand 40g of thrust--in one daring test. 

How did he do it? Like any reasonable man would. Jumped in a rocket sled, revved it up to 421 mph, and preceded to slam on the brakes! (Johnny Knoxville would have been proud!) Remarkably, he survived and through his continued testing and research he suffered two broken wrists, retinal hemorrhaging, and broken ribs. Was he sent to the loony bin? No. He changed his field and helped science understand how the body reacts to extreme forces--research that has undoubtedly saved human lives.

Human history is full of these jaw-dropping stories with everything from a doctor catheterizing his own right arm to men creating their own vaccines against snakebites by injecting themselves with pure venom from several species of mambas and cobras. While those examples are of the extreme variety, and I highly disapprove you trying those sorts of things, you don't in fact need to put your life on the line to self-experiment and improve your life. There are many examples, including my own, where you don't necessarily accept the 'status quo' and decide to modify things in a responsible, yet fun way.

My Experience

I was in middle school the first time I came home to my Mom complaining of horrible stomach aches. She thought I had a 'bug' and asked how long I had been having them. I replied, "for a while." Not one to settle for a vague answer from her children, Mom repeated, "How long is a while?" With a shrug I replied, "a couple months?" The answer caught her off-guard as she tried to hide her shocked face by going to the fridge to flatten some ginger ale, the only thing that seemed to settle my stomach those days. (I hated soda, so flat was the only way it was going down).

My mom, fortunately for my future career, was ahead of her time as far as nutritional awareness goes. Instead of giving me the nasty pink stomach syrup or chalky antacids or the usual modern medicine band-aid approach, she brainstormed much like any natural doctor would, "Why do you think that's happening?" "Are any of your friends getting sick?" "Did you eat something different?" The answers weren't so clear at first and thus a few weeks went by.

Given it was around 10 years ago, I couldn't recall how Mom arrived at the conclusion that I might be lactose intolerant. I think it was because I used to tell her I loved getting cheeseburgers for my school lunches! See, somehow she must have noticed a correlation between when she packed my lunch (no dairy / no stomach complaints) and when she gave me a special treat (let me buy school lunch / stomach aches). Sherlock Holmes would have been proud!

Given the nutritional status of school lunches (horrendous) we could not completely show I was lactose intolerant from that finding in my 'history.' Plus, when I went to my pediatrician he said it was normal to have stomach aches (whaaat?) and I was probably just working through a bug. (For months??)

Alas, there was only one thing left to do! Self-experiment! I cut out dairy (with help from mom of course) and any source of lactose from my diet and noticed an IMMEDIATE reduction in stomach aches from an average of once daily to once every other week. Not a perfect cure, but then again (when mom wasn't looking) my diet wasn't exactly perfect either! That, my friends, was my first real-life experience in how foods can affect human performance, and more importantly, taught me the valuable lesson of "you are what you eat."   

I quietly fostered a level of curiosity about the human body for years while tracking and completing self-experiments on noticeable changes in my weight, muscle, acne, sleep cycles, gallstones, digestive issues, energy levels, and immunity to name a few. I mainly did it by challenging commonly held belief systems and modified and attempted to optimize everything in my diet, lifestyle, sleeping habits, supplements, detoxing, etc.

While I've had plenty of setbacks--thinking whole grains were good for me (they're not), and believing multi-week juice fasting was the cure for anything (I turned orange for 2 days!)--I've also had plenty of successes (gained 20 lbs of muscle in 30 days, cleared most of my acne naturally, eliminated my gallstones without surgery, no longer have stomach aches, went a year without getting a cold).

Christian _friends _webEnjoying part of the weekend with NUHS friends.

Parting Words

My journey is still developing and while the story has a much longer (and sometimes comical) tale I will leave you with this: If there is something in your life that you'd like to change/improve/eliminate, I encourage you to do some research. The internet has allowed for the transaction of information in ways never known to the human race and has leveled the playing field for the average Joes unable to afford 'personal coaches,' 'expensive treatments' and the like. If you have a problem, there's always a solution, and usually someone has already figured it out. Find like-minded people and figure out how they got their results. You might just learn a neat trick that will help you change your body (and your life) for the better!

"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." --Ralph Waldo Emerson