Today, I’ll be sharing with you the awe and wonder of hormesis and why it is so important to maintaining our health, particularly when we enter the age when things can start to go south, in our fifties and beyond.
Technically, the term hormesis is used by toxicologists to describe the way our bodies can react in a positive way to low doses of a substance or biological agent that can be toxic to us in higher doses. The toxicologists use the fancy term, biphasic effect, to describe this phenomenon.
Just think of hormesis as our body reacting in a positive way to some kind of stress. Take exercise for example. Exercise is stress on our body. It actually damages our muscle tissue by causing many small tears within the muscle fibers and our bodies respond by repairing the damaged muscles with more muscle tissue, thus making them stronger. Which is a good thing.
Too much exercise could cause a lot of damage or even be fatal.
In The Essential Boomer podcast #55, I talk in detail about the many physical and psychological benefits of using a dry sauna. This is another great example of hormesis in that the sauna is a source of heat stress which triggers our bodies to react in beneficial ways.
The stress of the extended exposure to high temperature causes our bodies to make changes at a cellular level designed to make our bodies more resilient to the stress. In the case of the sauna, we experience effects much like the positive effects of cardiovascular exercise, as well as many other cellular effects, which actually protect our cells and DNA and improve our immune system.
Of course, too much heat stress could kill us.
Even the food we eat can have a hormetic effect on us.
Take cruciferous veggies, like broccoli and radishes, for example. These foods contain biological substances which when combined, produce a substance called sulforaphane.
When the plants are growing and some bug comes and nibbles on the stem, this causes the plant to release sulforaphane which acts as an irritant to the bugs causing it to fly off in search of tastier plants.
When we eat sulforaphane, it still acts as an irritant to our bodies, causing us to respond in various positive ways on a cellular level, much like the benefits of the sauna. This is a result of hormesis, also known as the hormetic effect.
If you’d like all the details on the benefits of sauna use or learn how to easily grow your own broccoli sprouts for the sulforaphane, just listen to the essential boomer podcasts numbers 52 and 54.
So, it turns out that a little stress in our lives can be a very good thing that can add years of good health to our lives.
So the next time you chow down on some broccoli you can impress your friends and family by waxing poetic on the virtues of hormesis.
So until next time, have a great day and remember to eat your veggies!