Gehani with the BioCharger
Photographs by Rohit Sabu
Health 04 Jun 2024 10 MIN

A family that does red-light therapy together...

Complete with a BioCharger and hyperbaric chamber at home, the Gehani family's life in Dubai is an exercise in biohacking

It’s 9 am on a Wednesday in Dubai. Rohini Gehani, 42, has just seen her boys off to school and is settling down to start her day. But it’s not just the usual breakfast-workout-work routine. Because for Gehani and her family, which includes her entrepreneur husband Vivek (51) and sons Rajveer (18) and Viraaj (13), their home is built around a buzzy new trend that seeks to enhance their body and overall life. A veritable biohacking hub, the space doesn't boast of Eames chairs or Art Deco furnishings, but rooms that accommodate a hyperbaric chamber, massage guns, an infrared sauna for detoxification, a power plate and BioCharger to boost energy, an ice bath for after workout, and red-light therapy for muscle recovery.

In February this year, her older son severely injured his ankle, and his doctors were convinced it would take four to six weeks to heal. “This meant he’d have to miss playing the last basketball match of the season—he was gutted,” recalls Gehani. For two weeks, she made him sit in the oxygen chamber at home for an hour while he studied for his exams, in addition to strapping on a red light around the damaged area for a few minutes daily. “He was totally fit to play,” she shares, recalling how she had remained unfazed through this period.

On most days Gehani has a cure close at hand. At times when she struggles to get sleep, she doesn't need to reach out for a pill. Instead, she sits in front of her BioCharger, puts in the sleep recipe (BioChargers have recipes for different issues), and is ready to hit the sack within minutes.

In spite of the paraphernalia that surrounds her, Gehani’s approach to biohacking is still quite far from those of biohacking extremists who are known for their strict protocols. Instead, she has adopted a more relaxed and accessible approach. Her day begins with a simple ritual—a cup of hot lemon water to break her 12- to 14-hour overnight fast. “It’s great for a metabolic rate increase and your digestive system, is anti-inflammatory and also amazing for the skin,” she says. This is followed by a meal of porridge packed with nutrient-dense ingredients like nuts, seeds, maca powder, collagen, and cacao powder. “I’m a creature of habit,” she says, “So I have the same thing every day; even if I’m travelling. Then I might have a coffee and a celery juice before heading to my workout.” Where the average person might sip on a bottle of regular water to stay hydrated, she opts for electrolyte and hydrogen water. “I use a hydrogen bottle [the generator in the bottle splits the water into two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen] as hydrolysed water helps you absorb nutrients better,” she explains. “Adding hydrogen to the water also increases its anti-inflammatory properties and energy, and improves muscle recovery after a workout—it’s a tool that my husband and I are currently enjoying.” 

Coined in the early 2000s by Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Dave Asprey, the term ‘biohacking’ gained popularity when his Bulletproof coffee went viral. This butter-infused coffee, designed to boost energy levels, paved the way for a wide array of lifestyle practices ranging from simple sleep journalling to more complex treatments like oxygen therapy and even human augmentation through device implantation.  

Another notable, some would say controversial, figure in the biohacking world is technology entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, who has made headlines with his ambitious Blueprint project. Using this US$2-million-a-year anti-ageing “algorithm”, Johnson aims to restore his biological age to that of an 18-year-old (he is 46). With a dedicated team of doctors overseeing his journey, he famously adheres to a strict dietary regimen, eating his final meal of the day at 11 am and always sleeping alone for optimal recovery. Beyond these lifestyle modifications, Johnson takes an astounding array of over 100 supplements every day. He regularly undergoes an extensive range of cutting-edge tests and experimental treatments, including blood plasma transfusions, penis shockwave therapy, collagen-inducing micro-needling, and anti-inflammatory LED light therapies.

While there is a huge difference in approaches, from basic healthy practices to extreme treatments, the core principle of biohacking remains the same: the pursuit of physical and mental optimisation. 

Gehani’s interest in the trend began in 2016, after her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and took root in 2020 after her subsequent health decline. “I saw this woman—who was a powerhouse, the matriarch of the family—regressing. She's in India, so we don’t even live together, but her rapid cognitive decline had an impact on us all.” This drove Gehani to find out as much as possible about the condition, which in turn, led her to the world of biohacking. She educated herself on it and attended various conferences around the globe, such as the Dave Asprey conference and the Health Optimisation Summit. “I immersed myself in the lifestyle and many of the findings I encountered were backed by scientific evidence.”  

Armed with her newfound understanding, she began making significant adjustments within her household. “I focused on incorporating these evidence-based practices into our daily routines, gradually reshaping the way we approached health and wellbeing as a family unit, beginning with our diet. I immediately threw out all processed goods and swapped them for foods rich in macro-nutrients. Then I had blood work and food intolerance tests done for the whole family, which have now become a bi-annual event for my husband and me.”  

The tests were an eye-opener. She was shocked to learn that her healthy, athletic boys were deficient in vitamin D, despite their active, outdoorsy lifestyles. She took action to ensure that their diet had enough vitamins and protein by way of foods such as sourdough sandwiches with chicken and avocado, and acai bowls with berries and peanut butter. “They were initially resistant; I mean, healthy food isn’t always the yummiest,” she laughs.

“I found a good balance and I let them have cheat days. After seeing the positive changes in their strength and stamina, they themselves understood the benefits of our lifestyle. I now know that they make healthy food choices even when they’re out with friends. So, if they’re having burgers, I know they’ll choose the right burger.” It helps that their school has a health awareness class that teaches them about good food choices. “It’s become more of a lifestyle here—barely any of my friends’ kids have a soda—you’ll find them ordering fresh lemonade or sparkling water,” she says. 

Dr Frank Lipman, an advisor at Wellth, a functional and integrative medicine clinic in Dubai, believes that biohacking has emerged as a powerful tool for those who want to enhance their physical and mental well-being. According to him, the benefits include optimised metabolic function, improved physical performance, and better cellular health overall. “One of the most significant advantages of biohacking is that it addresses the individual's genes and circumstances,” says Lipman. “This means that it can be tailored to the unique needs of an individual. Patients can employ techniques to treat their current diseases, or even attain a long-term health objective. Incredibly, biohacking can also stimulate the production of dopamine and serotonin in the brain—two hormones that are often lacking in patients with mental illness. Following specific dietary and lifestyle adjustments can boost the production of these hormones, leading to improved mood, productivity, stress management, and an overall healthier lifestyle.”   

But Dr Lipman also recognises that experimenting with one’s own body can go wrong at any time. “The quest to find treatments through biohacking often compromises high-quality scientific research,” he warns. “At the extreme end of the spectrum, implanting foreign objects in the body can trigger inflammatory reactions and potentially lead to chronic illnesses. So it’s important to proceed with caution and prioritise safety and scientific rigour.” 

Rest and recovery are also a top priority for Gehani, who aims for eight hours of sleep each night, typically turning in at around 10:30 pm on weekdays. “I know that I should really be in bed by 9 pm and be up by 5 am, but I just can’t. If I want to go out with friends once a week, I might even sleep at midnight—and that’s okay.”  Why the specific timings? “About 9 pm is when you have the most melatonin released, making it the best time to wind down. Once you pass that window, it becomes hard to sleep naturally—that’s definitely what happens to me as well,” she explains, adding, “My routine works for me and I’m not too hard on myself.” 

This flexibility is key to Gehani’s approach. “Diabetes runs in my family, so I wear my CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) for a couple of weeks each year to help me understand what spikes my glucose,” she says. “I know the right time to have that piece of dark chocolate and I’ve learned that if I’ve had a full meal with protein, carbs, and some greens, I can even have a piece of cake and I’ll be fine.” She is well aware of her obsessive nature and the dangers of over-dwelling on the numbers. For example, “I have an Oura ring to track my sleep and I was getting obsessive with it. It began doing me more harm than good.” Her family noticed her hyper-fixation on tracking her data and confiscated the device to force her to step back and relax. “I wear it once a year now for two weeks straight to check and monitor my glucose readings,” she says. 

Passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences, Gehani organised an introductory biohacking day in Dubai, using her social media moniker, Mindful Biotinker, as the name of the event. The event showcased six vendors and attracted a curious and enthusiastic crowd. Encouraged by the response, she plans to host more pop-up events and build a community of like-minded individuals interested in exploring the world of biohacking across the region, with plans for an event in India next.  

In the rapidly evolving world of biotechnology, the concept of ‘relaxed biohacking’ is on the verge of transforming the wellness landscape, moving away from the militant and obsessive protocols associated with early adopters. Prioritising balance, sustainability, and the integration of basic healthy practices into daily life, Gehani’s gentler approach makes it easy for more people to adopt it, regardless of how tech savvy or wealthy they are.