In the year 1800 in Aveyron, France a young boy naked and with numerous scars on his body walked out of the woods. Local townspeople took him in and it was determined that he was a feral child of approximately 12 years of age and that he had been living wild in the woods for the majority of his childhood. Soon after he was found, a biologist named Pierre Joseph Bonnaterre examined the boy. Bonnaterre removed the boy’s clothes and allowed him outside in the cold and snow. The boy moved about as if unaffected by exposure and cold, suggesting the boy had naturally, Hormetically adapted to his environment.
There are many notable times throughout history where Humans were faced with severe deprivation and hardship with situations and circumstances that lasted perhaps for years, and pushed people to the edge both physically and mentally. Many times the survivors of such challenges go on to live a long and productive life suggesting that what did not prove fatal, only made them stronger.
One easy to identify example of Hormesis in everyday life is the pruning of trees or shrubs and the cutting of grass. This simple process of pruning and cutting stresses and insults the plant but also stimulates growth and overall health.
The body may have a Hormetic response to a stressor in one area and have health benefits in a completely different area. For example, exercise strengthens the obvious areas being stressed such as muscles, joints, ligaments, cardiovascular system etc. But exercise also strengthens and clears the mind improving neurological and cognitive function.
Mithridatism is a related concept to Hormesis whereas an individual willfully exposes themselves to toxins and poisons in order to gain immunity. This practice is used widely by zoo handlers who commonly work with venomous animals. Many handlers have reported total immunity. Others have claimed success in using this practice to simply strengthen the overall system so as to aid in curing a particular ailment or condition.
A calorie restricted diet has a very positive Hormetic effect on the body. In study after study on mice, calorie restriction increased stamina, disease resistance, and life span as compared to control groups that received higher caloric intake. A very effective way of introducing calorie restriction is to embark on a fast. A fast as short as 24 hours can have very positive effects.
Hormesis and Homeopathy share some similarities but yet they are different. Homeopathy is the concept that “like cures like”. For example, in order to cure the body of a particular ailment, Homeopathy introduces a very small amount of that exact ailment in order to get the body to react and adapt to it. Hormesis is not necessarily the response to an exact match but rather a response to a stressor that might mimic the condition.
We have become a society consumed with sterilizing everything. We have pasteurized milk, irradiated food, and now there is talk of pasteurizing eggs. People are obsessed with filtering the air to block allergens and pollutants. Many children are sheltered to the point of practically living in a bubble. Sterilizing wipes and sprays are used incessantly. Individuals race to the doctor for antibiotics every time they get a sniffle. By much of our actions we are denying ourselves the ability to adapt naturally and through Hormesis become stronger. Rather our focus should be on properly nourishing our bodies and that of our children and let our bodies’ own defenses naturally adapt and protect us.
Written by DMK of Seven Grains.