Hormesis is the effect on the body of small doses of harmful effects.
Living organisms have always had to cope with harsh natural and climatic conditions in order to survive. Evolutionarily developed complex survival mechanisms and all these responses to the effects of the external environment are collected in a single concept called "hormesis".
Hormesis is understood as a stimulating effect on the body of small doses of stressors that are not strong enough to cause harm.
The general biological mechanism of action of hormesis is such that the body responds to small doses of the stimulus with stimulation. As the impact increases, the stimulating effect is replaced by oppression, and then the death of the organism occurs.
The idea of hormesis has received scientific recognition only recently.
One of the reasons for the long non-recognition of the mechanism of hormesis was its similarity with the pseudoscience of homeopathy.
There were fears that the owners of large chemical plants that pollute the air, using the idea of hormesis, would receive scientific confirmation that environmental pollution is a blessing, as well as radiation leakage.
The paradox is that the recognition of hormesis would automatically mean the recognition of the fact that the body cannot be healthy if it is deprived of exposure to poisons, toxins or other stressors.
Hormetic stress, to be useful, must not exceed the point beyond which it becomes dangerous. What does not kill us may not always make us stronger, sometimes it can make us disabled.
The main hormetins (hormesis agents) are:
- various exposures (sunburn, radiation)
- temperature effects (heat, cold)
- various poisons, including ethanol (ethyl alcohol)
- heavy metals
- certain medications (such as antibiotics)
When the body's cells are exposed to short-term chemical, physical, or even psychological stress—whether it be radiation, poisons, sports, or stress—it activates defense mechanisms that increase the stress response, allowing the body to better withstand possible future hazards.
The most studied hormetins are temperature effects (bath, hardening), sports, alcohol and spices.
Agents of Hormesis
Sports, physical activity
Any training is a process of overcoming difficulties, as a result of which we become stronger and more resilient.
Strength training causes micro-tears in the muscles, the healing of which stimulates muscle growth and development. So a little stress makes the body stronger and gives it the ability to withstand great stress.
With regular physical activity, not only the regeneration of the muscles involved in the exercises occurs, but also various damages in the body that accumulate during the aging process are eliminated.
But in order to be useful, hormetic stress must be in the health zone. Excessive training will only hurt. As mentioned above, not everything and not always what does not kill can make us stronger.
Short fasts help cleanse the body of cellular debris. During the absence of food, the body uses bad proteins for nutrition. This process is called autophagy (read more here ☛).
This is an adaptive mechanism that selects and destroys the weakest, which has been developed in the process of evolution.
Periodically arranging emergency situations for the body associated with a lack of nutrients, we force it to temporarily stop implementing long-term programs, including old age and death, and force it to urgently solve the problem of how to survive now.
Therefore, calorie restriction and short-term (24-36 hour) fasting contribute to an increase in life expectancy. Longer fasts can be dangerous.
The constant abundance of food does not awaken the body's defenses, deprives it of the need to survive, and therefore to live.
Studies show that light to moderate drinkers have a lower risk of all-cause mortality than abstainers. However, drunkards are at the highest risk.
When drinking alcohol, moderation is key! Alcohol can be both a medicine and a poison, depending on the dose. The safe daily dose of alcohol is approximately 30 grams of ethanol (two small shots of vodka or two small glasses of wine).
Everything that is within this norm is hormesis.
Studies show that radiation, in small doses, is a vital condition that stimulates the protective and other functions of the body. We wrote more about this amazing fact in the article "Unexpected misconceptions about radiation".
Temperature effects: bath, contrast shower
All of the above procedures are stressful for the body. More precisely, a stress vaccine that increases the level of stimulating hormones in the blood. Such temperature swings pose a threat to the internal balance of the body and it is forced to defend itself, to increase its protective functions. Alternate expansion from heat and contraction from cold trains blood vessels, improves metabolism.
Due to small doses of poisons, the body becomes stronger.
With a high degree of probability, it can be argued that the chemicals contained in vegetables and fruits are good for our health.
In the small proportions in which agricultural chemicals are found in fruits, they do not carry a lethal threat, but they can be enough irritation to cause a compensatory adaptive response at the cellular level.
Stress is a special psychological state of the body, being in which a person experiences discomfort due to a discrepancy between the level of environmental requirements and the ability to cope with these requirements.
Among non-specialists, it is customary to identify stress with nervous tension. Obviously, due to the fact that the word "stress" is translated as "tension".
In fact, stress is a physiological reaction of the body, manifesting itself in the range from the mobilization of internal forces to their complete exhaustion.
There are 2 types of stress: eustress and distress.
- Eustress is a positive stress that mobilizes a person. Usually of short duration. Such stress, for example, is experienced by a student in an exam. He is not able to clearly express his thoughts, speech is confused, blushes, etc .;
Eustress maximally mobilizes and activates internal reserves, improves the flow of mental functions (speed of thinking, coherent speech, etc.) and physiological functions of the body.
- Eustress, however, can become unnecessarily intense or chronic and turn into dangerous distress. And such stress must be dealt with, because it has a detrimental effect on the body. It can develop under the influence of prolonged negative emotions, prolonged illness, poor living conditions, etc.
If man did not experience stressful situations, he would not have survived as a species!
Thanks to the mechanism of stress, we learn to resist the adverse effects of the external environment. With any stress, the reserve forces of the body are activated, but, unfortunately, they are not unlimited. And a large amount of stress also destroys the body, as well as a large amount of poison.
Thus, the effect of hormesis is due to the internal desire of the organism to survive. Hormesis is a unique mechanism by which the body benefits from harm!
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