Hormesis: Why Biological Stress Can Make Or Break Your Health


Difficult word?

Let me take a detour before defining that word:

This is part 2 of a series on chronic stress. The previous part of this series explained what stress is and how to understand stress within the human body and brain. 

The third installment, which will be published soon, treats the topic of psychological stress.

And in the current installment you're reading we're talking about the topic of biological stress. One key concept regarding biological stress is that of hormesis.

Hormesis is the process by which your body adapts to light to moderate stress by getting stronger and healthier. Extreme stress and no stress, on the other hand, at all lead to contrary effects - your health becomes poorer.

That principle might sound abstract so an example makes it easier to understand.

Exercise is one example of a hormetic stressor. You probably understand that some exercise is a whole lot better than extreme amounts of exercise or no exercise at all.

Other non-hormetic types of biological stressors exist as well - these will be considered in some detail.

Why care about stress in the first place? Simple: it's one of the main mechanisms by which people either have deteriorating health over time or achieve their pinnacle in that regard.

But let's first reiterate the argument I made in my first blog post on this topic that helps you understand chronic stress:



Recap Of The Previous Blog Post On Understanding Stress

This section briefly goes over the argument I made in the previous blog post on stress.

In the past, I've defined stress as follows:

"Stress is a (perceived) inability to deal with demands placed upon you, which leads to both physical as well as mental burden and strain."

Not all stress is the same. In fact, many types of stress exist. Let's go over some examples:

  • You're lying awake at 3 AM thinking about that next presentation or how your child is doing in primary school. That stress is psychological in nature
  • You're in an EMF-rich environment 24-7. If you search your phone there are 25 different WiFi devices picked up. That EMF is a form of biological stress.
  • You're fasting regularly. Fasting is a biological stressor and can be hormetic.
  • You've got an upcoming marriage and want to plan everything in great detail. Just thinking about that important day gives you anxiety though!
  • You started your first business but don't know how to get your first clients. Again, the last two examples are psychological.
  • You're not wearing any blue-blocking glasses and therefore your sleep quality is ruined.
  • Overtraining and poor recovery is a way of living for you. Remember that exercise is hormetic but overtraining does not have any health benefits...
  • You just broke up with your spouse.

And don't get me wrong: not all stress is bad! In fact, stress has helped humans survive for millions of years. 

Chronic stress, however, is also a silent killer. Billions of people suffer from stress-related woes and are unable to master it.

So there's a huge difference between acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is what your ancestors experienced when they saw a snake nearby or if they were cornered by a lion. Chronic stress is a series of (counterproductive) acute stress episodes.

Let me explain the difference in more detail:

In acute stress, you're having a "fight, flight, faint, or freeze" response.

During evolution in Africa, when your ancestors were under extreme danger, they had the possibility to 1) fight the threat; 2) flee; 3) faint so that you don't experience your demise; 4) freeze in petrification.

In chronic stress, you basically have a long series of fight and flight, free, or faint episodes, that occur over a course of days, weeks, months, or even years. Remember that the acute stress response helped your ancestors survive. Being chronically stressed, however, will not increase but rather decrease your survival capacity.

Almost everything you do, you do less well with chronic stress, ranging from cognition, physical performance, having a well-functioning immune system, etcetera.

Moreover, different brain areas manage that stress response:

  • Your amygdala, an emotional center in the brain, can get sensitized and overactive over time. If that over sensitization happens then it becomes much easier to trigger an acute stress response.
  • Your hippocampus is an important area involved with memory, specifically long-term memory. That hippocampus can help you overcome stress in the future by overcoming acute and chronic stress frequently. If you're under a lot of stress for a longer period of time, however, your long-term memory will be impeded big time.
  • The prefrontal cortex, located behind your forehead, can regulate the amygdala so that it becomes less active. The prefrontal cortex is key in inhibiting the development of chronic stress as well as its potential reversal.
  • The hypothalamus is one main area involved in the actual creation of stress hormones. With regard to continuously pumping out stress hormones downstream, it's essential to ensure the hypothalamus doesn't go haywire by training the prefrontal cortex to stop needless stress from happening. More on that process in the next installment of this series.

I made a car analogy to better understand these areas.

The driver of the car is analogous to the prefrontal cortex. Next to the driver, there's the hippocampus (memory) which can aid the prefrontal cortex getting to the destination more efficiently.

In the backseat, however, a couple of children can be found. The amygdala is like a 2-year-old who continually throws tantrums. The hypothalamus is another child that can be found there too.

If everything goes well, the driver and main passenger are in control and the car gets where it needs to go quickly. If the children in the backseat are continually rebellious, however, the driver (prefrontal cortex) loses attention and begins making mistakes. The main passenger (hippocampus) also then needs to shift attention to the backseat instead of the road, no longer helping the driver in the process.

The end result wouldn't be so great!

Mastering chronic stress entails ensuring that your prefrontal cortex is in maximum control. How you'll learn soon in the third installment of this series.

This installment mainly talks about hormesis - why you need to manage the amount of biological stress you place upon your body. If not, you might overtrain and also enter a state of "chronic stress" that's somewhat different than the state of stress experienced under psychological stress.

Want to know more about the topic I just treated? Read more about these brain areas and the car analogy, consider my previous installment on the topic. 

And now that you understand the basics about stress, let's consider how biological stress - and hormesis specifically - affect your health.

This blog post is made up of several sections:

Want to read everything? Then start with the first section below:



Part 3 of this series is readable here: Everything You Need To Know About Stress Management


Why Short-Term Stress Is Essential To Your Health.

If you've been reading up until now, you might almost get the impression that I'm against stress. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Some people do think that life without stress is to be preferred:


In fact, a life without stress is a mistakeWithout at least some stress, you'll never get a hormetic response in your body. Once you're in good health, you'll even need hormesis to move closer towards optimal health.

The most important element in hormesis is getting the dose right. Engaging in too much hormesis means promoting chronic stress. No hormesis means you're devolving into a being who cannot tolerate any stressors.


  • Too much (biological) stress - which feeds chronic stress -  and you'll end up with anxiety, depression, insomnia, agitation, being overwhelmed, low energy, stomach problems, lower immune system functioning, poor memory and focus, and radical changes in appetite.
  • The right kind of stress, however, provides the opposite benefits: more energy, better mood, higher focus and memory, a stronger immune system, etcetera. 

Those benefits sound great right?

In the rest of this blog post, when I talk about hormesis, understand hormesis as intermittent (biological) stress. Intermittent stress can be conceived as the temporary stressing of your body, which is then canceled-out so that your body can rest and recuperate.

To optimize the use of hormesis, periods of rest need to be cycled with periods of stress.

The other side of the coin of stress is thus the use of intermittent relaxation, during which your body recovers. 

So both an absence of stress and an absence of relaxation are damaging.

a coin analogy displaying how the body needs both stress and relaxation
Coins have two mutually supportive sides
In the body's energy department,
stress and relaxation act as two sides 
of the same coin as well.


(This section considers the topic of healthy hormetic biological stressors. The following section considers all other types of biological stressors). 

Let's first look at some beneficial hormetic stressors:

  • Fasting.[53; 54; 55; 56: 57; 465; 466; 467; 468; 469; 470; 471]

    Fasting creates new stem cells. Stem cells are the primordial cells in your body which functions has not yet been determined in or specialized towards a specific role.

    Periods during which you do not consume any proteins lead to longer lifespans. For most people, these periods come down to fasting, although modern research also hints that abstaining from protein can be a valid strategy as well.

    Overall, fasting seems to promote cellular repair, slows down aging, strengthens your nervous and immune system, help you lose weight, and lowers your chance for getting illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. 

    The biggest disclaimer is that you should be healthy for fasting. I do not recommend fasting if you're unhealthy. I also don't recommend fasting without properly understanding your health through lab-testing.

    (Advanced explanation: for an alternative theory on fasting, read the Ray Peat-inspired post "Aging, Metabolism, And Caloric Restriction", which makes an argument against fasting and caloric restriction.)

  • Infrared and sauna exposure. 

    Infrared saunas use "infrared light", which is also emitted by the sun. Regular saunas use hot air to warm up your body. 

    I'm not yet 100% sure whether I consider regular saunas or infrared saunas the better option. There are advantages to both options. Infrared saunas are better for drawing toxins from your cells, while regular saunas are better for exposing your body to lots of heat.

    Regular saunas get a lot hotter than infrared saunas. For that reason, regular saunas might be your preferred route to "stress" your body temporarily.[98; 99; 100; 101] With "stress" I mean hormesis in this context.

    There are lots of benefits to regular and infrared saunas though. 

    Beware, here's a list:

    Saunas can lower your blood pressure, improve your hormone functioning, lower sensations of pain, help you detox, aid in maintaining muscle mass, enhance recovery, improve mental well being, and increase your overall metabolism.[103; 104; 105; 106; 107; 108; 109; 110; 112; 113; 114; 115; 116]

    And that's just a shortlist of sauna benefits..

    infrared saunas for relaxation

  • Red light therapy is also hormetic. Low doses of red light therapy have great effects, while higher doses decrease the end-results of the treatment.[95; 96; 97]

    "But what's red light therapy", you ask?

    Red light therapy are LED light panels, which generally contain lots of LED light bulbs. 

    If you've read some of my other articles, you know that the sun generally emits 1) ultraviolet light; 2) visible light; and 3) infrared light at noon.

    Red light therapy devices generally emit the red part from the visible light spectrum and a very small part of the infrared light spectrum.

    That red light and infrared light does have tremendous health benefits. Red light therapy:[117; 118; 119; 120; 121; 122; 123; 124; 125; 126; 127; 128; 129; 130]

    - Lowers inflammation, which lies at the basis of many modern diseases
    - Decreases joint, muscle, and chronic pain
    - Reverses hair loss
    - Help your thyroid function. The thyroid organ on your neck is necessary for proper metabolism. 
    - Increases fat loss.
    - Aids in how well your body metabolizes carbohydrates. In other words, red light therapy makes sure carbohydrates are stored in your muscles, instead of as fat mass.
    - Help recovery after workouts, heals injuries, and increases your strength and endurance gains.
    - Improves your hormone levels, such as testosterone. 
    - Makes your skin look better
    - Clean your teeth, and prevents caries (yes, really!)
    - And finally: help treat depression and anxiety

    And I didn't even name all red light benefits here yet. Make sure to follow the optimal dosage provided by the manufacturer though, to get the best hormetic effect.

    Alex has written an extensive guide about red light therapy - make sure to read that if you're interested.

  • Cold therapy is yet another modality that places stress on your body, while also being hormetic.

    The list of benefits of cold therapy is as long as the list of benefits from red light therapy. I won't bore you with another long list, however.

    The most important benefits of cold therapy are improved immune function, hormonal levels, fat loss, muscle mass increases, and energy improvement.[131; 132; 133; 134; 135; 136; 137; 138; 139]

    Of course, remember that cold therapy can cause stress because it's hormetic especially at higher intensities. Engaging in too intensive cold therapy is even dangerous - and counterproductive if done too often.

    For many people, cold therapy is a big step to get used to.

    Read my extensive guide on cold therapy to learn how to implement less intensive cold therapy modalities first. Always start slow on the cold...

  • Exercise. 

    Yes, exercise is hormetic.[140; 141; 142; 143; 144Why? If you exercise too often, or too intensely, you'll get overtrained or injured. If your exercise intensity is not high enough, you won't get many benefits.

    Part of the benefits of exercise is making your fitter, happier, and smarter. If you overshoot on exercise, however, you'll achieve the opposite: weakness, depression, and lower thinking ability.

    One of the ways in which exercise causes stress in the body is by the generation of what are called "reactive oxygen species". In simple terms, damaging reactions with oxygen are created. An analogy would be the rusting of metal, which also happens because of reactions with oxygen.

    The damage induced by oxidation is beneficial, however. If you try to inhibit that damage, through supplementing with lots of antioxidants (which inhibit the damage), you'll no longer gain the benefits from exercise.

    For overall health benefits, I consider a combination of resistance training (best for bone strength) and cardiovascular exercise (brain function) best.[448; 449; 450There's no need to run long distances though. 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week is probably best. 

    Moreover, engaging in lots of high-intensity exercise damages the functioning of your brain. Don't hit the gym intensely six times a week. Unfortunately, I've been there, done that...

  • "Toxic" substances in plants. 

    Polyphenols are one such "toxic" substances that are found in plants.[91; 92; 93; 94] Examples of foods that contain these polyphenols are coffee, cacao, different types of berries, wine, and nuts, green veggies, onions, and tea.

    Your body - specifically your liver - has to work harder to digest foods that contain more polyphenols. 

    The food you eat is thus yet another stressor that can make you stronger.

One key discussion is how often you should commit to stressing your body. Of course, now you'll understand that some stress is good and that both excessive and no stress are bad. 

What is clear, however, is that if you've got a chronic health condition, you should not be exercising intensively at all. Instead, people with chronic health conditions are recommended to avoid all intense exercise.

That knowledge, however, does not tell you exactly when you reach the sweet spot as a healthy person.

The remaining question in my argument is thus:

"How do you know to what extent you should rely on hormesis, and to what extent you should not?"


One way to find the answer to that question is to just consider how you are feeling in general:

  • If you're bristling with energy all day and feel great, your libido is amazing, it's great to include hormetic stress into your weekly routine. Most people aren't located here!
  • If you're doing good in the energy and mood department, you've got good libido, include some hormetic stressors but take it very slowly
  • If you're unhealthy, or if you've got very poor energy levels, I would take it very slow on applying any hormetic stressors.  I also recommend considering many other low-hanging fruits for health improvement first, such as your diet or your 24-hour day and night rhythm. Deal with psychological stress first as well, for which tips are included in the bottom of this guide.

Of course, that advice is very general. Being 70 years old with no libido nor energy is a totally different situation from being 20 years with the same problem.

But, we're not done yet on hormesis...

Let's return to the car analogy I gave earlier, to better understand hormesis.

Hormesis helps you build a faster car, with a bigger and more efficient engine. Even if the driver (prefrontal cortex) loses control once in a while, if the car is simply quicker, you can still compensate. 

Of course, it would be best to have the children (hypothalamus and amygdala) in the back always act nicely. But you also know that children just don't always behave that way.

Remember that with good behaving children, the navigator (hippocampus) does not get off track, and the driver (prefrontal cortex) assures that everyone gets at the right destination.

But let's say the children at the back indeed get rebellious, especially the amygdala - who triggers the hypothalamus (which creates stress hormones). 

In that instance, a bigger car allows you to compensate simply because you're much more resilient to some setbacks. A car that drives 120 miles an hour arrives quicker than a car that drives 50 miles an hour, even with some setbacks.

You've thus got more energy to spare in your body.

Your body literally has engines called "mitochondria", which are often imagined as the "energy-producing factories" of your cells. Hormesis creates new and bigger mitochondria so that you get more resilient over time.

We thus want to upgrade both the car and condition the passengers to make the journey as quick as possible.

And remember: if you stress the engine too much, the engine breaks down, and no-one reaches their destination anymore. Hormesis can be overdone.


Bad Stress: Avoid These Stressors At All Cost

Let's consider why not all types of stress buildup is essential to your health.

In the introductory section of this article, I've talked about 1) useless hormetic stressors; and 2) non-hormetic stressors. We'll treat both stressors here because they have one thing in common: degrading your health. 

Both options thus need to be avoided.

First, let's look at hormetic stressors which are useless:

  • Heavy metals and many other toxins fall within this category.[75; 76]

    On the one hand, exposing your body to heavy metals such as lead or mercury can have a hormetic effect. On the other hand, most people are already exposed to levels of heavy metal toxins that are too high.[78; 79; 80

    Remember that some stress is good to get a hormetic reaction, but too much stress negates the hormetic reaction. Exposing yourself to even more heavy metals while you're already overexposed is detrimental to your health.

    How do I know you're probably already overexposed?

    It's not coincidental to me that guidelines for the maximum exposure levels of heavy metals such as lead have been going down for decades. The safe dosage of heavy metals is thus probably very low.

    That lower tolerated exposure level demonstrates to me that there's very little benefit in risking exposing yourself to these toxic metals - especially because a too-high dosage can be so extremely harmful to your health.

    Intentionally exposing your body to these stressors is thus akin to playing with fire: it's almost impossible to get the dosage right with heavy metal exposure.

    Steer clear from heavy metals, which you might get exposed to by pollutant areas, working in industrial areas, eating fish high on the food chain, and by working with chemicals.

  • Radiation from the environment.[81; 82; 83; 84; 85] Examples are electromagnetic frequencies emitted by electronics and wireless devices, and nuclear radiation. 

    Even though there's some indication that radiation might be hormetic, the exposure levels are becoming extremely excessive in modern environments. 

    Electromagnetic frequencies - stemming from smartphones, cell towers, microwaves, WiFi routers, and other electronic devices - have been growing exponentially in number and intensity in the last few decades. 

    Although these devices can have a hormetic effect, we've passed that threshold long ago, and these frequencies now put you in the excessive stress territory very quickly. In plain language, many people are already exposed excessively to electromagnetic frequencies.

    If you really want a hormetic response from radiation, you'll probably have to reduce the amount of electromagnetic radiation in the environment by many-fold. 

  • Mold might be another problem. Although some mold exposure might be hormetic, the amount of mold that's growing in many buildings nowadays is totally unnatural. 

    Our ancestors were never exposed to the amounts of mold that can grow in a modern building that has water damage.

    So even though mold might possibly be hormetic, modern exposure levels are so high that there's no upside to breathing in mold. 

Mold, radiation (especially from wireless devices), and heavy metals (but other toxins as well in general) thus need to be avoided like the plague. If you're not avoiding these stressors, you're increasing your stress levels 24/7, which happens almost fully imperceptibly.

Others can be found as well such as toxic air.

Most people are not aware they have high levels of mold exposure, for example, until their health really turns south.

But there's more to avoid:

There are some non-hormetic stressors, secondly, which exclusively lower your health:

There's no benefit to ingesting these substances, ever.

These non-hormetic stressors cause a stress reaction in your body, without resulting in any adaptive response. In other words, your body is not getting stronger because you're exposed to such stressors.

 Non-hormetic stressors include:

  • Consuming too many low-quality fatty acids, such as vegetable oils.[158; 159; 160; 162; 163; 164; 166; 167; 168; 169; 170]

    Vegetable oils can increase your risk for cancer, lower the functioning of your immune system, increase your chances for heart disease, mental health problems, and obesity. That's just a shortlist of all the problems these fats cause...

    Consuming vegetable oils will thus cause stress - and that stress is not hormetic. Consuming these "frankenstein fats" - which have never been consumed before in human history - will thus make you weaker in both the short term and the long term. 


  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies. 

    If you're deficient in certain vitamins or minerals, that stress will not trigger a hormetic response in you. 

    Because vitamin and mineral deficiencies do not give a hormetic response, they, therefore, do not make you more stress-tolerant. Instead, being deficient in these nutrients makes you more stressed in the short-term, and less stress-tolerant in the long term.

    Why do I mention vitamins and minerals? Many people - even in modern societies - are deficient in them.

    In terms of minerals, many have deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, iodine, selenium, and copper.[152; 153; 154; 155; 156; 157] Regarding vitamins, lots of people are deficient in the animal forms of vitamin A, D, E and K2, but also vitamin B12.[145; 146; 147; 148; 149; 150; 151]

    Of course, you're saying: "I'm not deficient. I eat very well!"

    Are you sure? 

    Are you really sure? 

    98% of people are potassium deficient, 50% calcium deficient, about 20% zinc deficient. My guide on magnesium demonstrates that 80-90% of people have sub-optimal magnesium levels as well.

    In terms of vitamins, an estimated 50-75% of people are vitamin D deficient, and 90% low on vitamin E and K2. (I've written guides on how to increase your vitamin D and vitamin K2 levels as well.)

    Don't assume that if you think you "eat well" you're not at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Many people who think they "eat well" don't actually eat that well under more scrutiny.

    Again, the most important thing to remember with nutritional deficiencies is that they create stress that makes you weaker, especially in the long-term. Nutritional deficiencies are not hormetic. Treat deficiencies accordingly and as quickly as possible.

    The reality regarding nutrients is far more complicated than what I'm getting at above, here. Lots of lab testing is necessary to assess which nutrients you might be deficient in, for instance. You also need the correct labs. Suffice it to say, however, that many people with chronic stress, even psychological, have nutritional deficiencies.

    Nutritional deficiencies should also preclude you from going really hard on hormetic stress because doing so will further increase your needs for nutrients.

  • Having harmful parasites in your body.[373; 374; 375]

    Some types of parasites can really wreck your health. And no, some dangerous types of parasites in your body will not "make you stronger".

    The topic of parasites is very complex, and discussions regarding this topic lie beyond the scope of this guide. If you suspect that you're infected by a parasite, do more research.

  • Poor gut function.[365; 366; 367; 368; 369; 370; 371; 372]

    If you've got gut or digestion issues, I would recommend an elimination diet to avoid any foods that might potentially trigger your gut.


    Gut function is intrinsically related to stress. If your gut function is poor, you're certainly going to be more stressed, anxious, and fearful. 

    What to do?

    Eliminate any grains, artificial foods, additives, beans, legumes, nuts, soy, nightshades, vegetable oils, and alcohol until your gut function is stable for 2 weeks. 

    If it takes longer than 6 weeks for your gut function to become stable again, then consider additional testing for your gut, because something might be going on. In that case, food intolerance might not be your problem.

    If the elimination is successful, however, then reintroduce foods one by one, and wait for a couple of weeks to see whether your gut function remains stable. If you tolerate a food for a few weeks, you can definitively keep that food in your diet.

    Why re-introduce foods so slowly?

    Some foods do not cause an immediate negative reaction to your gut but take time to manifest. If you consume a food that provokes you but falsely conclude after a day that you're fine, you might re-introduce foods that cause an adverse reaction later on.

    Eliminating potentially irritating foods and reintroducing them can be a long-winded and slow process. But remember that if your gut is not functioning, your stress levels will always skyrocket. While more research is needed on this subject, an elimination diet seems to be your best bet if you have gut problems.

    Having poor gut function is, for example, tied to issues of inflammation.[365; 451; 452; 453] Excessive inflammation plays a role in many modern diseases.

    To lower inflammation, make sure to double-check whether you need certain medications, such as painkillers and acid blockers. Inflammation is tied to many modern diseases again, such as diabetes and heart disease.

    Also avoid alcohol if your gut function is poor, make sure to eat enough fiber (not too much, but also not too little), and make sure your vitamin D levels are adequate.

  • not respecting your 24-hour day and night rhythm.[454; 455; 456; 457; 458] 

    Your rhythm is a big reason why you might get stressed. 

    That 24-hour day and night rhythm is called your "circadian rhythm". The circadian rhythm influences and even regulates almost all processes in your body.

    You might be acquainted with rhythm disruptions if you've ever had a jet lag. What many people don't know, however, is that the enormous amount of artificial light at night also disrupts your rhythm. 

    What light? 

    Well, light consists of different colors. The sun emits both ultraviolet light (which can give you a sunburn), visible light (which contains all the colors of the rainbow), and infrared light (which makes the sun feel warm on your skin).

    The visible light - especially the blue and green colors - can be especially harmful for your circadian rhythm. 

    Blue and green light tell your brain its daytime, and that you should stay awake. If you tell your brain to stay awake at nighttime, by exposing your eyes and skin to artificial light, you'll cause a mini-jetlag in your body.

    Of course, clubbing until 5AM causes a much bigger mini-jetlag than staying up until 1AM.

    The solution?

    Wear blue-blocking glasses after sunset.


That's it...

I could potentially have named more stressors, but this short-list should already help you take action. If you can eliminate all the stressors displayed in this section, you'll do your overall stress levels a big favor.

In certain instances, you might be exposed to many of these stressors. In that case, your body might not be able to generate energy because your cells are busy with dell defense.

That cell defense mechanism can be triggered by parasites, heavy metal overloads, other toxins such as flame retardants which is commonly found on furniture, or simply stressing your energy production too much by too many workouts.[68That cell defense mechanism plays a major role in chronic fatigue, for example.

If you suspect getting exposed to some of the stressors listed above, such as pollutants, please commit to some additional reading on these stressors. These topics are too complex to fully treat in this blog post. 

And again, it's important to remember that many of these stressors cause a low-level chronic stress 24-7, even while you sleep...

Lastly, how to understand useless stressors from the car analogy?

Simple: using the stressors displayed in this section is similar to not repairing your car, doing damage to your car, and driving recklessly with your car. Avoid, because even slight damage to your car can already slow how quickly you get to your destination.

Let's move to a solution to the problem of biological stress:



Solution: Stress Relief By Providing More Nutrients

The worse your overall health is, in general, the more careful you need to be with applying techniques that stress your body even more, such as hormesis. The better your overall health, instead, the more hormesis you can (and must) apply. 

Increasing energy intake is one of the best ways to lower your overall stress levels, without having to rely on hormesis.[1]

Increasing energy intake simply means consuming more high-quality calories. These calories need to be high in nutrients, such as high-quality fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

getting older entails handling stress less well
"Old animals: not made to withstand
high levels of stress, such as extreme cold and heat"


Let's say you've got a modern disease, or you're having high chances of getting such a disease because you're obese or in poor physical shape. In these cases, improving your energy intake should be the first strategy you apply.

Increasing energy intake can improve both biological and psychological stress.

There are other situations where you'll want to increase your energy intake. Let me give you an example:

Amy is a 32-year old woman, working at a prestigious law firm. She working 70 hours a week, and also has children with the ages of 2 and 4.

Amy has been chronically stressed since a few years. That period has coincided with 20 pounds weight gain. 

One reason she's so stressed is because Amy has a high-stress job while simultaneously having to take care of the kids. Her husband has a company of his own, which places much of the responsibility of taking care of the children on Amy.

Summer is coming. Amy decides she wants to lose her excess 20 pounds of weight, so that she can look great on the beach during vacations. She goes on a low-calorie diet, eating lots of vegetables to combat hunger.

10 pounds of excess bodyfat come off within just one month. But then the weight loss stops. Amy doubles down by eating even fewer calories, and 3 months later Amy's in a burnout.

In time, her weight rebounds (with a vengeance), she has to dial back her work at the law firm, and takes years to fully recover...

While Amy's example might sound like a horror story, radically cutting calories is far more common than you would think.  

What's the solution?

Do the reverse. Take the long-road of losing weight by eating lots of high-quality food.[59; 60; 61; 62Taking that long road might not help you lose 10 pounds in a month, but that strategy will help you lose weight and improve health for a lifetime.

The bottom line is that the higher your stress levels are, the higher your nutrient requirements also become.

Let's go through some great nutrient-rich options.

First of all, make sure you consume lots of foods that have an extremely high nutrient density, such as shellfish and organ meats. Fresh organ meats are best, but for people who slowly want to get used to consuming organ meats, high-quality supplements also exist.

Also make sure you consume copious amounts of grass-fed meats and some oily seafood that's low on the food chain (sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies). Add lots of high-quality fats such as butter from grass-fed cowsbeef tallow, and extra virgin coconut oil.

Add high-quality salt to all your meals, increase your fruit intake, and consume some vegetables and lots of spices.

If you tolerate milk, add some raw organic milk from grass-fed cows. Also add bone broth, gelatin, or collagen to your diet.

Remember: the overall goal of these foods is not only to eat more calories but also to increase your vitamin and mineral intake.

Avoid ketogenic or very low carb for long periods of time. Such diets increase the stress you place on your body. 

Our ancestors never went without carbohydrates for long periods of time - even Eskimos. When Eskimos consumed freshly-killed meats, for example, these meats themselves still contained carbohydrates.

Lastly, make sure you sleep well each night.

Although sleep is a very low-hanging fruit, lots of people actually sleep very poorly in modern society. For that reason, Alex has created a guide with the best sleep quality tips to increase deep sleep and the sleep periods during which you dream.

Got it?

Let's therefore conclude:



Finishing Thoughts: Hormesis Is The Pinnacle Of Health--Not Its Foundation!

Stress is a major part of people's lives. Millions if not billions of people experience chronic stress regularly.

And yet, the recommendation on many online blogs is to "eat less, exercise more". Doing so will destroy your health over time, unfortunately.

The solution? Build your health first and master psychological stress - the topic of the next installment of this series. Only then add some hormetic stressors such as saunas, exercise, and others.

Also ensure that you're well-fed and don't have many non-hormetic stressors in your life, or useless hormetic stressors. Examples are toxins, EMF, low-quality air, etcetera. Remove these stressors from your life before engaging big time in hormesis...



Part 3 of this series is readable here: Everything You Need To Know About Stress Management


This is a post by Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MS - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MS), and is currently a health consultant at Alexfergus.com. 


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