The N=1 Healing Protocol

N=1 ProtocolHealing Protocols are proliferating.

There’s a dozen of them in 12 Healing Protocols: a guide.

And there’s more. Like #13: Dr Datis Kharrazian’s Autoimmune Gut Repair Diet.

Why so many?

Because new technology has led to new understandings about human biology and the origin of illness.

And it’s natural that as this new science has become available, people have used it to develop innovative strategies to reverse complex health conditions and improve performance.

And that those people then want share these strategies with the world.

First, because the strategies are working.

Second, because this is how our practices have evolved since the beginning of time: we try things out and then share our discoveries with each other.

But healing protocols have been multiplying so rapidly that it’s getting confusing.

People are asking: Which one? What’s the difference? Why so many? Which sometimes leads to: maybe I’ll just put a frozen pizza in the oven and try to figure all this out some other time…

I’d like to simplify things by demonstrating they are all just variations of the same protocol. Continue reading

Create your own Wellness Wheel


A Wellness Wheel contains six or more domains that, when combined, comprise the elements of well-being.

There are core domains of wellness that we all share, but using these common elements you can create your own wheel.

But first, a quick overview of Wellness:

Beyond Sickness: Wellness~

Traditional cultures have always been concerned with wellness.

Preventative, holistic health systems are the foundation of our Ancient Wisdom teachings, from Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Yoga to Indigenous shamanic practices.

But ‘Wellness’ is a relatively new concept in the West.

The World Health Organization, without actually using the word ‘wellness’, first defined it as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”, back in 1948.

The first mention of ‘wellness’ in research literature was in 1959, in a visionary paper by Halbert Dunn, who wrote, “the state of being well is not a relatively flat, uninteresting area of ‘unsickness’ but is rather a fascinating and ever-changing panorama of life itself, inviting exploration of its every dimension.”

Halbert proposed a wellness grid which considered health and environment, creating four quadrants:

The Health Grid

The health axis included “an area of good health at present largely uncharted and undifferentiated, toward a goal as yet but dimly perceived which is indicated as peak wellness.”

Excitingly, 55 years after Halbert published this paper, we still don’t know what the outer limits of ‘peak wellness’ are.

And exploring this uncharted territory of peak wellness is the purpose of biohacking~.

The Wellness Wheel

6DimensionsDiagram_finalAcceptance of wellness spread, and in 1976 the prototype of the Wellness Wheel (called the Six Dimensions of Wellness), was developed by Bill Hettler. You can find his definitions for these six domains here.

As people have customized the model to include cultural, creative, financial, sexual and environmental domains, variations on the wheel have proliferated.

I’ve made my own.

It’s a bit extreme. But it works for me…

Petra's Wellness Wheel

What does yours look like?

Google ‘wellness wheel’ to check out the images online. Maybe your perfect wheel is waiting for you~.

Or construct your own.

Once you have one, how do you use it?

I’ll cover that in part 2.

Biohacking is Research

Not into the whole proto-cyborg thing...

Not into the whole proto-cyborg thing…

Normally I don’t tell people I’m into biohacking.

Because it sounds pretentious & weird.

Something a socially awkward person says at a party.

And admittedly, some biohackers are weird. Proto-cyborgs full of electronic implants.

But I’m a vanilla biohacker.

Just nutritional & lifestyle hacks for me!


In truth, I’m so into biohacking I have a blog about it. Here it is~! Biohacking autoimmune & Biohacking Peak Experience is the byline.

But, as mentioned,  normally I don’t say biohacking out loud.

Except recently. I was an evaluation conference at an airport hotel in Winnipeg & somehow, in that setting, it felt appropriate to speak about it.

Nobody knew what biohacking was, but all my fellow evaluators understood when I explained that I apply evaluative thinking to my personal life with the goal of maximizing my well-being. I run nutritional & lifestyle experiments, & use the data to fine-tune the strategies I use to achieve my goal.

In the company of other evaluation geeks, this made perfect sense.

That’s because an evaluative midset is all that biohacking requires.

Biohacking as Research~

Evaluation spiralEvaluation is research, and can be divided according to 3 purposes:

  1. Summative Evaluation:  To make a judgement at the end of an intervention;
  2. Formative Evaluation: For improvement during an intervention;
  3. Developmental Evaluation: In complex, dynamic contexts when the intervention is adaptive rather than predetermined.

You can use all types for biohacking.

Summative Evaluation

Use summative evaluation when you follow an established elimination diet, like the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Gather data about your health & well-being before you start (that’s your baseline), engage with the protocol exactly as prescribed, & gather data at the end. Then determine if it is worth continuing with the experiment. It’s important to stay with the protocol long enough to generate useful summative data for evaluation.

Formative Evaluation

Formative evaluation improves an intervention. For example, if you’ve been on the AIP (or another protocol) for a reasonable length of time, and you aren’t getting the interim results you hoped for, you might assess your fidelity to the protocol (are you following it exactly?) & discover that some refinements can be made in this area. Or you might level up to a coconut-free, low-FODMAP or a ketogenic version for a period of time, and continue to evaluate the results of this change.

Developmental Evaluation

Developmental Evaluation assists with learning & tracking progress when there is no predetermined intervention; conditions are complex; and causality is hard to track. It assists with developing an intervention inside the mess of real life. You might use it when nothing seems to be working and environments both inside and outside your body are unpredictable. Gradually, through self-experimentation, you might develop a pattern (an intervention) that can be evaluated formatively or summatively, but in the meantime, developmental evaluation allows you to observe and interact with complex systems and adapt as you go.

The internet has allowed people who are innovating in this way to communicate the results of their experiments with each other, enabling Developmental Biohackers to accelerate learning & pattern-finding.


Biohacking is a way to use evaluation to achieve your wellness goals & change your life.

In my case that means achieving peak experience or flow more frequently. In Matthew’s case it means reversing his disabling autoimmune conditions.

Mark Moschel calls biohacking a “systems-thinking approach to our own biology.”


Evaluation is research.

Evaluation research includes “any effort to judge or enhance human effectiveness through systematic data-based inquiry” ~Michael Quinn Patton.

N=1, in the language of evaluation & research, simply means an experiment with 1 participant. You!

The assumption inherent to n=1 biohacking experiments is that universal solutions to complex problems can have limited effectiveness, as we each have unique histories, genetic profiles, environments and patterns of responding.

We are complex systems living in complex systems.

And an evaluative mindset is what we need to leverage this complexity on behalf of our health & well-being.

Bone Broth (AIP & WahlsPaleo+)

Bone Broth 4My #1 finding after 7 months of biohacking the Autoimmune Protocol?

Bone broth is the answer. To most questions.

The days I don’t have bone broth in some form are comparatively lackluster. I’m less swift, less astute.

I never would have thought something as seemingly simple was so crucial, but I now believe that it is bone broth that most readily tips me over into peak experience.

I was a bit inconsistent about bone broth in the early months of the AIP, but after experimenting & observing the results, I’ve become fervent. I aim to have some every day.

It doesn’t have to be a lot. Half a cup of bone broth to help sauté some mushrooms or a mess of greens. To deglaze a pan of all the gorgeous brown meat bits after cooking. With some short ribs or a a pot roast in the slow cooker. Bone broth has become the basis for most of my cooking. I even use it in salad dressing (I’ll post that recipe sometime soon!) As long as I have some in the fridge, I feel like I’m well on my way to a perfect dinner.

The healing properties of bone broth are well documented by other AIP bloggers like This Sidney LifePhoenix Helix, and The Paleo Mom, so I won’t duplicate their efforts.


Today’s stock pot: beef marrow bones, venison bones, leftover bones from prime rib steak

Important: all bones should be pastured or wild.

I mix up my bones: a combination of beef or bison marrow bones, bison tail, and venison bones is my favourite. If we eat lamb shanks or short ribs or chicken, I save those bones in the freezer for bone broth day and add them to the pot.

Some people avoid pork bones, but I find them to be quite amenable: I boil them for 5 minutes and discard the water. Then proceed as for other bones.

Though some people cook their broth for as little as 8 hours, I go for 48. If it’s inconvenient to decant my bone broth after 48 hours, it sometimes simmers for yet another night or workday.

It does have a distinctive smell. I live in an apartment in a heritage house that contains 5 other suites. All my neighbours are friendly neighbourly-like folks, but they have let me know that the smell of marrow permeates the entire house.

Some people suggest brewing bone broth in the garage to mitigate the distinctive aroma, which sounds like a great idea… if you have a garage. It does smell peasanty & old country, for sure. Especially if I’m simultaneously sautéing up a cabbage.

But that’s life. Literally.

Bone Broth (AIP & WahlsPaleo+)

 from petra8paleoBone broth 2

  • 3 lbs bones (or thereabouts)
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • A quantity of water
  • Optional: Himalayan Salt

Preheat oven to 350

Roast your bones, turning once or twice, for 30 minutes for better flavour. Put the roasted bones & any browned bits into a slow cooker or stock pot.

You can optionally break any thin bones with your hands or a hammer.

Add the apple cider vinegar & bay leaves. Fill your chosen vessel with water.

Cook on low, so that the liquid is just simmering, for 48 hours.

After a few hours, fish out the marrow bones & remove the marrow. Return the bones & marrow to the pot.

Top up the water as it evaporates. You can also scoop out the broth & use it in cooking as it simmers it’s way to perfection.

After 48 hours, strain the broth through a colander. If you used meaty bones, you can eat the well-cooked meat & marrow. Discard the bones.

Well cooked bison & venison!

Well cooked bison & venison!

You can re-strain the broth through a sieve or cheesecloth, if you like.

Optionally, season with Himalayan Salt (to taste).

Refrigerate. Any fat that forms on the top is fully rendered & can be used for cooking. Unbroken, it also forms a seal on the broth that helps preserve it in the fridge. Melting this fat back into the broth when you cook it is extra nourishing & sustaining.

Bone broth freezes beautifully.

Eat some each day for increased super powers.

Bones & cat

Biohacking for Career Leverage

??????????????????????After 6½ months on the autoimmune protocol (3 months of that in ketosis on the Wahls Paleo Plus) I’m living in a state of peak experience most of the time.

I wrote a post about it, called Nutritional Biohacking for Peak Experience & since then I’ve been discovering what this state might do for my career.

Keep in mind, I’m a person without an autoimmune condition.

I’ve recently been working on an evaluation project for an AIDS organization. I attended an intravenous drug user’s conference & did 5 straight hours of intensive interviews with participants. I had 16 deep conversations, one after the other & afterwards I felt so energized, I went home & did 8 hours of transcription.

I was in a state of flow the whole time.

Relevant Detail: I’m a massive introvert (who can pass for socially normal) but being around people does not energize me.

However, being in a state of flow does.

Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi describes flow as a state in which “concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted.”

That’s what happened to me during those 5 hours of interviews. I was slightly, peripherally aware that workshops were ending & beginning, that lunch was being eaten, that workshops were convening again. If I hadn’t run out of interview forms, I wouldn’t have stopped.

It didn’t make sense that 5 hours had passed. I would have thought maybe 2, but more likely that time had somehow ceased to be relevant.

According to Csikszenmihalyi, flow provides “a creative feeling of transporting the person into a new reality… to previously un-dreamed of states of consciousness”. Like being in a state of peak experience, much of the time.

Now, I know that some people probably wouldn’t be able to get into a state of flow doing evaluation at an intravenous drug user’s conference, no matter how long they rocked the Wahls Protocol.

Some people just aren’t that into evaluation.

We’re all nerdy about something & evaluation makes my nerdy heart sing. Which is a precondition of flow.Flow 1

But even in daily life, when I’m not even close to doing what I love,  I’m perpetually in danger of flow & peaking.

Csikszenmihalyi’s model of flow looks like this:

But back in the SAD old days my psyche looked like this:

Flow 2In the dart-board of life, there was almost no way I was going to get into state of flow, except fleetingly, if conditions happened to be briefly & absolutely perfect.

And when are conditions absolutely perfect?

Here’s my flow pie now:

Flow 3Increased access to a state of flow is awesome, obviously, but there’s also this other thing.

Ready? It’s going to get wiggy.

I seem to have an increased capacity to channel prana.

So, I’m not just using my own expertise in my working day, but my ability to vector some life force energy into whatever I’m working on has increased exponentially.

An example?

After completing a total of 26 in-depth interviews with intravenous drug users, I met with the organization’s steering committee, which is comprised of peer-leaders who all also have first-hand experience as drug users, to do some analysis.

Together, in an hour, we generated everything we needed for a comprehensive logic model for the program.

Afterward I spent another hour & a half tweaking & formatting.

Several long day’s work. In less than 3 hours.

Even though I was there, I wasn’t sure how it happened. I feel as though I can take almost no credit for it.

The whole thing felt as though it was just coming through me. Like the channels were sufficiently clear & all I had to do was hold space & let the situation manifest itself.

I was exhausted afterwards.  As if I had just put in several long days. But I wonder if that’s because my circuits aren’t accustomed to conducting such powerful current. Maybe I can increase my voltage. That what I’m going to experiment with next.

So, career-wise:

  1. Increased capacity for flow;
  2. Increased capacity to channel prana.

Results in more fun, more learning, better outcomes, better connections & more efficiency.??????????????????????

Also, increased energy in the morning results in better hair.

Or at least my own conception of better hair.

Or increased good humour about my hairstyle attempts.

“The flow experience, like everything else, is not ‘good’ in an absolute sense It is good only in that it has the potential to make life more rich, intense, and meaningful; it is good because it increases the strength and complexity of the self.” ~Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi



Nutritional Biohacking for Peak Experience

happy faceAfter 2 years of refining my pattern of paleo living, I now seem to be in a state of peak experience ~of connectedness, energy & good humoured devotion~ much of the time.

Peak experiences are mini enlightenment occurrences that happen infrequently for most of us. But many people can identify one or two, if not as adults, then from childhood.

Before social conditioning & crappy food interfered.

Few of us reach enlightenment, but we get an occasional taste (or perhaps it’s a reminder) of an enlightened state, through fleeting peak experiences.

Peak experiences often happen during seemingly inconsequential moments:

  • Suddenly noticing sunlight shining through leaves and being overcome by a transcendent moment of affiliation and awe;Maslow
  • Playing soccer and being wholly and completely at one with everything, including the ball, the grass and the opposing team;
  • Listening to music while driving and suddenly, profoundly, understanding forever ~ or just for that moment, and what’s the difference between the two, anyway~ the perfection of everything.

Peak experiences are ephemeral. They briefly bring us out of ourselves and at the same time illuminate our true nature.

In Buddhist philosophy, achieving a state of frequent or ongoing peak experience might be called Satori, an early step on the path toward nirvana.

Peak experiences have also been linked to self-actualization in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:Maslows Hierarchy 2

I seem to have biohacked my way in to a state of frequent, sometimes almost continual, peak experience. Honestly, I almost want to print up some inspirational pamphlets & start going door to door, because I have not only seen the light, but I’m now living in it most of the time.

The funny thing is that Buddhists suggest that it takes years of devoted mediation to reach such a state. My sassy paleolithic response: maybe only if you insist on vegetarianism!

Along with an experience of Satori, in which I am in peak experience for prolonged periods daily, I am also regularly experiencing what Csikszentmihaly calls ‘flow’.

Flow is the state in which one becomes fully immersed in an endeavour. Self-consciousness fades and is supplanted by an experience of unity with that activity. When in flow, time flies, or becomes bendable, and capacities, including focus, are honed.

It’s a state of perfection.

Nutritional Biohacking for Peak Experience

Accessing Peak Experiences through nutrition makes sense from a Maslow’s Hierarchy point of view.

According to Maslow’s model, you need solid nutrition in order to access the higher levels of actualization, so why not, for efficiencies sake, use nutrition and other foundational levels (water, sleep, sex) in the hierarchy to leverage peak experiences?

Eileen at Phoenix Helix reminds us that nutritional experiments are ultimately n=1, meaning that each one of us is unique and we each need to experiment to find what will work for us.

After 2 years of experimenting, here’s my current regime:

As I’m an introvert, you needn’t worry, I will never knock on your door with an inspirational pamphlet.

But I will keep experimenting. And I will keep writing about my experiments and my experiences.

So consider yourself pamphleted.

An Adapted (semi-ketogenic) version of the Wahls Paleo Plus

Adapted WahlsPaleo+ food pyramidThis is the WahlsPaleo+ variation I’m using currently, and I think I’ve found my sweet spot.

At least for now!

This variation is Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) & is adapted from the WahlsPaleo+ protocol in the following ways:

  • It excludes nightshades, nuts, & seeds (also excluding seed spices), in line with the AIP;
  • It includes upgraded MCT oil (2 tablespoons daily) for increased energy;
  • It includes high carb vegetables (roots for me so far, but winter squash are good too) after intensive exercise to increase stamina for intensive exercise & increase energy for life in general. If I engage in more intensive exercise four times a week, that’s how often I eat higher carb veg,even if that kicks me out of ketosis for awhile.

Here’s the low-carb vegetable (+ berries) list for the WahlsPaleo+:Carbohydrate list

This list doesn’t mention sea vegetables. But it should: I include a few spoons of sea vegetable flakes daily.

Keep in mind I’m not a nutritionist. Or a doctor. I’m just a person who is doing nutritional experiments on myself. For fun. Please read my post Thinking Out Loud. It’s my disclaimer.

A lot of people have strong feelings about ketogenic diets. You can google around & check some of those opinions out. To get you started, the Paleo Mom shares thoughts here & Mark Sisson here.

I’m currently experimenting with my own adapted, semi-ketogenic version of the WahlsPaleo+ for reasons I outline in my 2 latest biohacking updates: 40 days on the WahlsPaleo+ and 5 months on the Autoimmune Protocol.

I originally started the WahlsPaleo+ as an experiment in Nutritional Ethics and that is still a primary reason why I’m pursuing this variation.

I’m also just intensely curious. And really interested in achieving peak experiences through health.

I’ll report out on my observations as I go.