So there are different types of stress and we naturally think all stress is bad right.
Of course, there is the negative stress and chronic stress that has a huge negative effect on every aspect of our health and longevity.
But we also need some stress and these are good stresses.
One is called EUstress and another Hormetic stress.
EUstress helps us stay motivated, work towards goals and feel good about life.
EUstress and distress are opposites
Distress is stressful overwhelm, whereas with EUstress, you might feel nervous, somewhat “stressed” if it is outside your comfort zone but also excitement, fulfilment, meaning, satisfaction. It keeps us moving forward.
Both EUstress and distress cause neurological and hormonal changes in the body but different types.
Catecholamunes and cortisol levels change rapidly in both types. Cortisol motivates us but in bad stress or chronic stress, the cortisol level remains elevated, which leads to oxidative stress in the long term in the body.
Studies have shown that manageable levels of life stress enhances resilience to oxidative damage in the long term so think anti-ageing.
EUstress is improving ourselves, emotionally and physically.
When it comes to EUstress, it is also all about mindset and perception. One person might perceive an upcoming challenge with fear and the next with excitement and anticipation.
EUstress has many things in common with hormesis, which is the beneficial biological response to low exposure to toxins and other stressors.
The term HORMESIS comes from the Ancient Greek word “hormalein” which literally means “to set in motion, impel, urge on”.
Some of the key BENEFITS of hormesis that have been observed in scientific studies:
- Improved immunity
- Enhanced tissue repair
- Improved learning capacity and focus
- Disease/injury resistance
- Healthy ageing snd longevity
Let’s talk about the different types of hormesis or hormetic stressors:
What if I told you the healthy compounds we have in fruit and veggies, which I am doing a reel series on over on instagram, the phytonutrients are actually toxic? Huh?
So these phytonutrients exist in plants to give them their vibrant colour but they are also a natural defense for the plants to protect them. To organisms like fungus and insects, these chemicals are toxic. In humans however, their mildly toxic effects have an adaptive response which contributes to more resilience in all our bodily systems.
They activate adaptive stress response pathways.
Longevity and anti-aging expert Dr. David Sinclair says one of the best things you can do for longevity and anti-ageing is eat stressed plants.
What does that even mean?
Well, plants can get stressed too. The more stressed, then as above, the more phytonutrients they have. Whether from drought, fungal attack, or simply the threat of being eaten, plants are faced with many external stressors. But unlike us, plants are rooted to the ground and can’t run away to escape harm, so they produce more of these chemicals or phytonutrients to protect.
Here are some examples:
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts (which contain the compound sulforaphane)
- Dark Chocolate (which contains catechins)
- Green Tea and White Tea (which contains EGCG)
- Turmeric (which contains the chemical curcumin)
- Coffee (which contains chlorogenic acid – again type of coffee, what you put in there and timing all count.
Hormesis is another reason why you want to eat organic fruits and vegetables otherwise the beneficial stress compounds will be sterilized away.
Exercise itself is catabollic, meaning your body increases stress hormones to break down body tissues for energy. Strength training in particular is the best example of hormesis as it causes microtears in muscle. Each minute of exercise further taxes your body. But afterwards a cascade of anti-inflammatory compounds respond to the damage to simultaneously treat the inflammation, heal and repair damaged tissues and flood a variety of anti-oxidants to the injury site. Your central nervous system adapts to the exercise and anticipates the next one will be less challenging.
DNA repair is enhanced
Brain function increases
Think about our ancestors, from an evolutionary standpoint, when your body is under a significant amount of physical stress, it adapts to the situation by over compensating i.e. generating more muscle tissue, making you stronger and better able to survive.
Exposing yourself to extremes in temperature for limited periods has some similar effects.
Extreme cold and hot temperatures in studies has been shown to improve overall fitness:
- improved cardiovascular health and lower heart rate
- Increased blood flow to skeletal muscle and other tissues
- Reduced rate of glycogen depletion (glycogen is the glucose stored in the liver)
- Increased red blood cell count
- Increased efficiency of oxygen transport to muscles
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Increased production of growth hormone, which is important for metabolism
- Increased in BDNF, which causes the growths new brain cells and the ability to learn new information and retain it.
- Reduction in anxiety and depression
- Increased attention and focus with the release of norepinephrine
It’s probable obvious by now that I am a big fan of time restricted eating and fasting in all it’s forms. I have tried them all and seen the benefits each time. Fasting increases our metabollic flexibility, training the body to change fuel sources easily from glucose, our primary fuel source to ketones, stored energy.
I have done a podcast on time restricted eating and fasting, focusing also on cyclical time restricted eating for women, within the cycle so check that out.
There are many forms of time restricted eating including extended water fasting, intermittent fasting with a variety of different types and alternate day fasting. In research, from an autophagy perspective, the most beneficial seems to be intermittent fasting regularly and coming in and out of this, using all the different protocols, depending on our cycle for women, activity level and your own health status and life stage, combined with a few prolonged fasts a few times a year.
In terms is anti-ageing and fasting, the main mechanisms involved are:
- Reduction in growth factor IGF-1 (low levels associated with increased longevity)
- Inhibition of mTOR (a major pathway for cellular growth and reproduction)
- Increased autophagy (replacing damaged cells)
- NRF2 activation (DNA repair)
- Acitivation of FOXO3 (a longevity gene and main pathway in the body that regulates a number of genes involved in DNA repair, tumor suppression, anti-inflammation, antioxidant status, immune function and more)
When you are in a “fed state” many of these pathways are down regulated or completely shut off as the body focuses on digestion.
So the body thrives with micro dose stressors as we can see but its about managing the stresses right and mindset towards any perceived stress. I think mindset and micro dosage are both key when we talk about these good stresses.
It’s the reason why we should encourage our kids to play in the mud and get dirty exposing them to a wide variety of mildly stressful bacteria and germs and is the best thing you can do to develop a strong immune system.
HORMESIS is the key to your health and longevity.
Overall you want to put your body through short bursts of mild stress to live longer, better.
This is a great reminder to get out of your comfort zone!
Nourish, flourish, Namaste,
To your abundant health,