How Hormesis Improves Health
Happy Fall Ya’ll!!
I have just had two wonderful weeks of vacation with 10 days of soaking in all the quiet moments in nature, enjoying long walks by the ocean and basking in the colors of the sunrises and the sunsets.
I was taking the time to fill up my bucket, increasing my resilience and making room for new growth. All this got me thinking about Hormesis. I know you are all rolling your eyes saying ” What is Hormesis- Dr Pia.”
How Hormesis Improves Health
So, hormesis, or the idea that short, intermittent bursts of certain stressors (“hormetic stressors”) can actually trigger a cascade of cellular processes that enhance overall health, slow aging, and make you more resilient to future stress (both physical and mental). It’s fascinating stuff, and one of the hottest areas of longevity research right now.
How Hormesis improves Resilience
Most of us in today’s world are bombarded with more, more, faster, better, latest, smartest, and have this constant need to keep up, not to mention the onslaught of technology. So how do we in our day to day life offset these micro stressors that build up until we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, tired, and unmotivated. The opposite can also happen where being hyped up is “normal” for us we can’t relax and wind down. Too much all at once or a little for too long can impact all areas of our life and results in the breakdown of cellular health and the disease process begins.
Our best defense is to build resilience by using small bursts of micro stressors to help us adapt and improve health at the celluar level.
You know the old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Science has revealed that (at least in some situations) it’s surprisingly accurate—even down to the cellular level.
What is hormesis? The health-enhancing stress you need in your life.
There’s no question that chronic stress caused by things like an unsustainable workload, poor relationships, lack of sleep, or financial hardships can wreak havoc on your health.
Hormetic stressors, on the other hand, are controlled, acute stressors that trigger healthy adaptive responses.
What does this look like in real life? Researchers have found that hormesis is a common thread underlying many of the health benefits associated with intermittent fasting, cold exposure, heat exposure, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), intermittent hypoxia, and even certain phytonutrients found in plant food, like the glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables.
High or prolonged doses of any of these behaviors or substances aren’t sustainable or healthy, however in short bursts, the little bit of irritation that these stressors cause is just enough to change state and activate a variety of cellular mechanisms and signaling pathways. These pathways then promote stress resilience, repair cellular damage (via processes like autophagy or as I like to say taking out the trash), repair DNA, combat oxidative stress, produce new mitochondria, reduce inflammation, support elimination of toxins, improve blood sugar regulation, reduce risk of cancer, and more.
6 ways to use Hormesis and reap the health benefits.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to go on a multiday fast or start doing cryotherapy. There are a bunch of small, sustainable habit changes that can help you reap the benefits of hormesis:
You can also apply this strategy to all areas of your life. Short consentrated micro bursts and more productive and have a better outcome than too much for too long. With that said here are some ways to incorporate Hormesis.
Do workouts that challenge you.
Start slowly if you haven’t worked out in a while.. and if you push it in the gym 5-6 days a week you might want to slow down and add balance and alternate with Yoga.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)—characterized by intermittent bursts of all-out effort for about 30 seconds followed by 15 seconds of rest—is one of the most efficient ways to experience hormesis. During these intense bursts, your muscles are briefly starved for oxygen (hypoxia), which stimulates the production of mitochondria. Any exercise that challenges you, whether it’s an intense spin class or a boxing workout, is also a good choice once or twice a week however you then need to keep yourself balanced by alternating them with slower, restorative workouts like yoga.
Incorporate breathwork into your routine.
While we need more research to flesh out the perks, holding your breath for as long as is comfortable from time to time may be a good way to experience intermittent hypoxia and improve lung capacity, says Rountree. You can do this when you’re sitting at your desk or lying in bed. For a more subtle approach, you can try box breathing, which involves inhaling through your nose for four seconds, holding it for four seconds, exhaling through your mouth for four seconds, then holding the exhalation for another four seconds.
Get out of your temperature comfort zone.
Saunas, hot baths, working out on a warm day, or even taking a hot yoga class are all ways to reap the benefits of heat. Short periodic heat exposure, in general, can boost the expression of “heat shock” proteins in the body, which may help strengthen the immune system and promote longevity.
Ice baths, cold showers, or even spending time outside when it’s cold for short periods can also be beneficial, too. Regular short periods of cold exposure has been shown to boost levels of certain immune cells, including cytotoxic T-cells, which play a role in killing virally infected cells and cancer cells. Both heat and cold exposure have also been associated with mitochondrial biogenesis.
Eat lots of colorful plant foods.
Even phytonutrient-rich plant foods can activate your healthy hormetic stress response—the term for this is xenohormesis. The glucosinolates in broccoli sprouts, for example, activate beneficial phase II detoxification pathways in the Liver and clear excess estrogens and therefore balancing hormones. Other nutrients include curcumin from turmeric, resveratrol from berries and wine, allicin from garlic, quercetin from a variety of fruits and vegetables, and green tea, says A good general rule: Look for bright colors. The supplements I like for support are Cruciferous Complete, Boswellia Complex and Livco. To purchase
Experiment with intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting puts your body into a perceived state of stress due to temporary nutrient deprivation. Fasting inhibits a cellular process called mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin), thus triggering a cellular cleanup process known as autophagy, which may contribute to better cellular health and longevity. The type of fasting you choose depends on a variety of factors, but you don’t necessarily have to do anything too intense to reap the benefits.
Consider confining your eating to an eight- or 10-hour window. How long you fast and how break your fast is important. Aim for a savory start to your day to keep blood sugar balance. If you are experiencing the ” shimmy shakes” then you have fasted for too long and you are experiencing hypoglycemia and you have moved out of Hormesis and into overload.
Try a new activity
Learning new skills, engaging in something new can stimulate some of the same cellular pathways mentioned above—and even generate brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes neuroplasticity. There’s one big caveat, though—in order for you to reap the benefits from psychological stress, you need to feel like the stressor is manageable and that you’re in control. If you feel helpless, the stressor becomes toxic.
Take Inventory : Start Slowly
While you may be psyched to incorporate all of these hormetic stressors into your life start slowly. Certain things like eating a colorful, nutrient-rich diet are always a great idea. But before you engage in some of these more intense activities, such as intermittent fasting or HIIT, assess your current stress levels. You might need to remove some stressors or scale back in order to make room for new growth.
Ladies: consider taking it easy the week before your period, too. This is when your estrogen levels experience a steep drop, which leads to cortisol sensitivity (our stress hormone)—so your body is much more susceptible to the effects of additional stressors. This is healthy eating, yoga and breathwork time not HITT time.
Take away on Hormesis
This is the time of the year when we need to take inventory of where we are and what we want moving forward. To do that we have to make space for it. Sometimes we need to do less and make the things we do more concentrated by using the power of Hormesis.
This also the time of the year when nature sheds and slows to make room for new growth. Nature is always providing us with lessons… As you prepare for the Holiday season ask where can you slow and nourish so you do not always spend your time in recovery mode.
Have a healthy week and I am always here to serve.