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A Little Stress for a Longer Life

by Beth on March 10th, 2023

Have you heard of hormesis? It occurs when small amounts of stress trigger biological processes that enhance health, slow aging, and make you more resistant to future stress. Short bursts of stress activate healing and survival mechanisms designed to keep you alive. Hormetic stressors can trigger the repair of cellular damage and DNA, the reduction of inflammation, the elimination of toxins, the production of new mitochondria, improved regulation of blood sugar, and reduced risk of cancer. Pretty cool, huh?

The good news is that there are many small, daily habits you can adopt to reap the benefits of hormesis. Here are some:

  1. Eat more plants – the phytochemicals in plants can activate a hormetic stress response. Plants produce these chemicals in response to stressors in their own environments. Some of the best foods for this include coffee, extra virgin olive oil, resveratrol found in red grapes (and red wine!), strawberries, green tea, turmeric, and pomegranates.
  2. Practice time-restricted eating – taking a break from eating for 12 to 16 hours a day puts your body into a perceived state of stress due to temporary nutrient deprivation. Time-restricted eating has been shown to reduce inflammation and increase the recycling of old and damaged cells.
  3. Do high-intensity interval workouts – intermittent bursts of all-out effort followed by rest stresses your body by briefly starving your muscles of oxygen.
  4. Give cold or hot therapy a try – both heat and cold exposure activate your body’s repair systems. A 1-to-2-minute cold shower or time in a sauna will do the trick. A study in Finland found that people who used a sauna 2 to 3 times a week had a 24% lower risk of death than those who used saunas once a week. The reduction in death rose to 40% for those who went 4 to 7 times a week.
  5. Manipulate oxygen supply – too little or too much oxygen is another way to trigger a hormetic response. Higher numbers of centenarians can be found in places like Tibet, where high altitudes lead to low-oxygen states. Athletes use hyperbaric oxygen therapy to heal injuries and recover faster. Breathing through your nose with longer exhales or holding your breath for as long as you can are easy ways to simulate a low-oxygen state.    

Scientific advances regarding the benefits of hormesis are exciting. I’ve incorporated several of these practices into my daily routine in hopes of adding more years to my life and more life to my years. Which ones will you try?

From → Health, Well-being

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