Optimizing your health pays dividends in so many ways, and it is worth putting in a little time to prevent chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. But it doesn’t have to be difficult! There are many cool tools available today to make figuring out your diet or understanding your sleep an easy-peasy option.
Below is an ever-growing list of tools, websites, books, and other resources that make it easier to optimize your health.
Have a suggestion for something that works great for you? Hit me up via the member’s contact form. I would love for this page to be a great resource reflecting the input from all Genetic Lifehacks members.
Nutrient Content: Apps for Optimizing Diet
Cronometer is a great online and phone app for tracking your nutrient intake, weight, and activity. Often, I explain in articles how genetic variants can increase your need for certain nutrients (e.g. choline or folate). But how can you know what you’re already getting each day? Tracking what you eat using Cronometer for a week or two will give you a good baseline of how much folate/iron/vitamin B12 you are already getting via your normal diet.
Cost: Free to sign up online, low-cost phone app
NutritionData from self.com is a great tool for figuring out which foods are high in a specific nutrient. It is a vast database of nutrient information, and you can sort by either 100 g or 200 calorie servings. When you’ve used Cronometer for a week and know you need more B12, head to NutritionData, and find the foods that are highest in B12.
Circadian Rhythm optimization:
f.lux is a program that shifts your computer or tablet screen towards the red end of the spectrum. You could use this as an alternative to blue-blocking glasses.
Blue blocking glasses are your easiest and cheapest way to optimize your circadian rhythm. Pick up a pair on Amazon, and remember to wear them for two hours before bed each night. It’s that simple. You want to look for glasses that block 100% of light in the blue wavelengths (~480nm) and are comfortable to wear. Options range from $8 safety glasses that look kind of dorky to really nice (and expensive) glasses that are more stylish.
The Oura Ring is a sleep and activity tracker that is built into a stylish looking ring. I’ve had mine for a couple of years now and use it to see trends in sleep quality. I can see how alcohol affects my sleep (badly) and how stress causes me to wake up at 4 am. The Oura ring also includes tracking for overnight heart rate, heart rate variability, and temperature. For me, the fact that it is a ring (and not on my wrist) is the greatest feature. I don’t like to sleep in a watch, and the ring has a long enough battery life that it doesn’t need to be charged all that often.
LabDoor analyzes off-the-shelf supplements to see if they contain what their label says. They also test for metals and contaminants that you don’t want in your supplements. LabDoor has a wide range of products that they’ve tested, from vitamins to protein powder to fish oil.
Examine is a great resource for finding research-based information about supplements and diets. They do an in-depth look at the effectiveness of many different supplements with a variety of parameters. The information is well laid-out and easy to navigate.
Cost: Free, paid option
Toxinless is another website where you can find the details about what is contained in different brands of supplements. This site is great for finding brands with excipients that you would like to avoid. In addition to the full ingredients of a bunch of brands, the site also highlights any ‘negative’ additives and explains what they are.
Tip: Buy vitamins and supplements as powders in bulk.
I’ve found that a great way to avoid the excipients added to supplements is to buy bulk powder and put them in capsules myself.
- Empty gelatin capsules are available on Amazon and at health food stores, and you can get a little capsule maker gadget for filling the capsules for around $20.
- PureBulk and Bulk Supplements are two companies that I’ve used for buying the powder.
- If you’re ordering from a strange website, be sure to ask for a certificate of analysis that shows the test results for the supplement you are buying.
- On a per capsule basis, buying the bulk powder is inexpensive, but your initial cost may be higher than just buying a bottle with 30 or 60 capsules in it.
For many in the US, it can be cheaper and more convenient to get your lab tests done on your own without going through insurance and convincing your doctor to order the test.
UltaLabs is a US-based company that facilitates ordering your own lab tests online. I’ve found that they usually have the best prices on lab tests, but do shop around. There are a number of websites now offering direct to consumer lab tests, and they all have coupons and sales at various times.
Website: https://www.ultalabtests.com/geneticlifehacks/Shop/Items/Search (affiliate link)
Cost: test costs vary.
Tip: While I like UltaLabs, I do encourage everyone to shop around at the various online lab testing companies. They all run sales and have coupons, and the prices can vary quite a bit.
Thyroid calculator (translated from Polish) for free T4, T3 levels (submitted by a member).
In the zone:
Brain.fm is music for work or study, designed to get you in the zone and keep you there. It also features music and tones designed to help you relax or sleep.
Tip: Another low-cost option for music designed for focusing is to use YouTube. There are various channels dedicated to study or work music. Additionally, the playlists of ‘video game music’ are great for concentration. Video game music is specifically designed to get the players in the zone and focused on the game.
General information websites on Genetics:
Learn Genetics from the University of Utah is a great resource for filling in the blanks on anything you don’t know about genetics.
Geeking out on Genetics:
Here are several websites that I use regularly for diving deep into research studies on genetics and health:
LitVar – search published research studies by rs id or alternative ways to identify the variant
PubMed – NIH database of abstracts and research studies
PubMed Central – a database of open-access studies, which is great for reading the full study
Google Scholar – a Google search engine for research papers on all topics
dbSNP – an NIH database of all single nucleotide variations which includes population frequency and links to publications
SNPedia – a user-generated wiki linking SNPs with research studies
Books that I’ve enjoyed:
Here is a quick (and incomplete) list of health and genetics-related books that I’ve enjoyed.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Doctoring Data: How to sort out medical advice from medical nonsense by Malcolm Kendrick
Lifespan: Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have To by David Sinclair
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
The First Cell: And the Human Cost of Pursuing Cancer to the Last by Azra Raza
Who We Are and How We Got Here by David Reich
Evidence-based medicine blogs:
Dr. Malcom Kendrick’s blog has some interesting articles on cardiovascular disease, medical statistical manipulation, and more.
Dr. Peter Attia’s blog and podcast are worth taking the time to read/listen to.
The Anti-Aging Firewalls blog contains thought-provoking articles on one man’s quest for healthy aging.
Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering and also an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.