The body composition specialist

The Wonder of Hormesis

The following strategies fall under a larger umbrella of scientific strategies that promote cellular renewal, resilience, and anti-aging called “hormesis.” Hormesis, as Todd Becker notes, “is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses.”[1]

Two good examples are exercise—our body bounces back from the physically stressful experience of running, for example, and builds endurance, stamina, and strength. A suntan is another example of hormesis. The body adapts in the face of a stressor that’s mildly harmful, by developing a tan to protect itself and, in the process, becomes more resilient to the sun for months.

So hormesis is just a form of mild stress that sets off cascades of reparative processes in the body that are exponentially healthy. As one researcher notes,

“Single or multiple exposure to low doses of otherwise harmful agents, such as irradiation, food limitation, heat stress, hypergravity, reactive oxygen species and other free radicals have a variety of anti-aging and longevity-extending hormetic effects.”[2]

So, while chronic stress of any kind, physical, mental, emotional—all of it, can weaken the mind and body and cause decay and un-health, exposure to hormetic stressors helps you become, as Tauleb would call it, can make us “anti-fragile”—stronger in the face of all forms of stress we might endure on a given day, from an argument with our significant other, to running a marathon.

Some of the key benefits and categories of hormesis that have been observed in the scientific literature include:

  • Tissue repair
  • Immune cell proliferation
  • Fecundity and fertility
  • Injury resistance, resistance to illness and disease
  • Enhanced cognition, learning, and memory
  • Anti-aging and longevity
  • Weight loss and faster metabolism[3]

Here are some hormetic strategies you can try yourself, all proven to instigate cellular renewal and benefits such as extended lifespan, increased resilience, weight loss, fat burning, and enhanced energy.

Cold Showers

Cold exposure and taking cold showers has proven to help us grow new mitochondria, which are batteries full of chemical energy that fuel our bodies for every breath we take, every beat of our heart and every time we run, move, walk, climb….Each major organ possesses thousands of mitochondria within every cell, so birthing new mitochondria lets our bodies run on more fuel sources, empowering us with new energy and life. Cold showers have proven to give us greater resilience to other stressor, a better tolerance for pain, a stronger metabolism, a faster metabolism, and more brown fat on the body instead of white, dangerous fat.[4]

Hot Saunas

Just as getting cold acts as a mild stressor that sets off cascades of cellular healing and repair, hot saunas act in much the same way. In fact, we’re learning in studies that not just one sauna a week is healthy but 3 or more saunas are ideal.

In the study, over 2000 middle-aged men were observed over 20 years. In that time men taking only 1 sauna per week were 3 times more likely to die from heart disease or other causes compared to those taking 4-7 saunas per week.[5]

The study also found that the longer the better –20 minute sauna sessions were twice as effective as 10 minutes ones.

Researchers believe the benefit lies in the fact that the high temperatures can drive heart rates to levels often achieved by moderate-intensity physical exercise.



Exercise increases resilience and lengthens lifespan in a long, long list of ways. Exercise not only decreases your risk of heart disease and heart attack and helps you stave off obesity and diabetes, I also positively impacts the SIRT1 gene positively, which regulates aging at a cellular level, including longevity, the telomeres on the end of our DNA caps, and promotes brain protection and anti-cell death.[6]


Calorie Restriction/Fasting

Calorie restriction promotes longevity by helping keep blood sugar levels and by normalizing pancreatic cell function. It also enhances insulin sensitivity, and this is what you want. To be insulin sensitive, not insulin resistant. This way, you are burning fat when you are in a calorie deficit and you will avoid deadly diagnoses like diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.[7] Fasting and calorie restriction are also very anti-cancer. In a study on monkeys, after a period of calorie restriction, cancer rates dropped by 50%.[8]

One way that CR promotes longevity is that it instigates mitochondrial hormesis because CR actually encourages ROS to form – however, this minor insult to the system is immediately followed by positive health effects such as adaptive stress resistance, and increase in SIRT1,[9] which promotes longevity, and by lowering insulin-like growth factor, as well[10]


Phytonutrient-rich plants (with a high defensive mechanisms)

Some plants, especially the most bitterer berries and tender lettuces, have had an especially hard time on the lookout for predators. Red wine is another example. Either way, these foods, fruits, vegetables, have evolved ways to stay alive in the face of predators. Often, they use bitter taste to ward off animals who might munch their leaves. These protective mechanisms in plants are profoundly healthy for humans and we, in a sense, get to piggyback off their resilience—which makes us more resilient.

Phytonutrients are also beneficial to the body in many other ways, such as:

  • boosting immunity
  • strengthening heart and blood vessels
  • preventing tumors and cancer[11]

There are countless phytochemicals and phytonutrients in food. In fact, there are over 600 carotenoids alone. So far, the most important ones currently being revered for their anti-aging properties are:

Anthocyanins are powerful phytochemicals and antioxidants that protect DNA against cancer causing damage and promote death of cancer cells. They are also powerful sunscreens, preventing photodamage. Good food sources of anthocyanins are blueberries (the richest in this blue, bitter, super-healthy dye), grapes, black currants, acai, and goji.[12]

Allyl Sulfides organosulfur compounds suppress growth of tumor cells and help excretion of cancer causing chemicals. They also aid in cloud circulation, lower inflammations, and reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis and diabetes. These are found most in garlic, onions, and shallots.[13] 

Catechins are strong antioxidants that help prevent tumors and reduce your risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer, and diabetes. Found primarily in green tea.[14]

Chlorophyll is a blood-boosting and a potent detoxification agent that helps to cleanse the body and protect the system from free radical damage. Good food sources: wheat grass juice, spirulina, chlorella, barley grass, and in leafy greens.[15]

Ellagic acid defends cells lining the digestive tract against carcinogenic substances, preventing colon and esophageal cancer. It may also help the liver to break down and remove cancer strawberries. 

Lutein is a powerful carotenoid used as an antioxidant taken in high doses to reduce risk of breast, colon, endometrial (uterine) and prostate cancers. Lutein and zeaxanthin, another carotenoid, are powerful nutrients help protect your eyes from harmful sun rays and can help slow the progress of or stave off degenerative eye conditions associated with old age. For food rich in these two nutrients your best is orange bell peppers, not green or red–combined with a serving with corn. These two foods will give you give you 60% of o RDA for lutein and 37% of your RDA for zeaxanthin. You can get the rest form dark, leafy greens, which are packed with it.

Lycopene – protects against prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and is helpful for cardiovascular disease,[16] cancer,[17] diabetes,[18] osteoporosis,[19] and male infertility. Good food sources are tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, papayas, and rosehip.

Quercetin – prevents inflammation and inhibits the release of histamines. Recent studies to treat skin and prostate cancers,[20] showed a 90% death of the cancer cells within 48 hours, with no visible deaths of the normal cells! This phytonutrient is used to treat cancer, prostatitis, heart disease, cataracts,[21] and respiratory diseases like bronchitis and asthma. Food sources of quercetin include capers, apples, tea, onions, grapes, citrus, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, cherries, turmeric, and cranberries. 

Resveratrol – kills cancer cells making it effective for anti-cancer, antiviral, neuroprotective, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and life-prolonging. It is also being studied for its benefit in athletic performance. The best food choices to get more resveratrol are the skin of red grapes and red wine, raspberries, mulberries, peanuts, blueberries, bilberries, and cranberries. 

Sulforaphane – activates enzymes that detoxify carcinogens; interfering with cancer cell growth and kills cancer cells.[22]Good food sources for sulfurophane: broccoli, and broccoli sprouts.

Three of My Favorite Anti-Aging Supplements for Youthful Skin and Little-Kid Energy

If you want to slow the aging process at both a cellular and a surface level aging and degenerative disease, I recommend you supplement with the following:

Zinc carnosine. Zinc is an anti-aging miracle mineral that stimulates the production of new cells and slows the aging process.

Vitamin C with your anthocyanins. Why? Both are crucial for nourishing the mitochondria within your skin cells which means your cells maintain the energy they did in your youth and you keep manufacturing collagen and elastin. It’s a win-win. Try drinking kale smoothies with blueberries for the plumpest, dewiest skin you’ve ever had.


The most effective antioxidant produced in the Body, known as the “super antioxidant.” A powerful detoxification agent, glutathione protects the tissues throughout the body from aging. Glutathione helps cleanse the liver, prevents over 70 diseases, and is one of the most powerful anti-aging supplements to replenish the body at a cellular level that there is.

Alpha Lipoic Acid.

ALA is a powerful antioxidant with a powerful anti-aging effect as well, especially on the skin. It’s also great for ridding the body of inflammation. It actually brings inactive antioxidants back to life that have been deactivated by free radicals.[23] It also protects the liver, lowers blood sugar, removes toxins from the body, and helps prevent atherosclerosis.[24]

Anti-aging Protocol: Goals to Achieve a Younger You

  1. Increase your sleep by 10%. Sleep is essential for healing, repair, for fat burning, muscle building and for a well-functioning machine overall. Sleep is crucial. Prioritize it as much as your biggest responsibilities.
  2. Increase your internal release of growth hormone 20%. You can accomplish this via strength training 4 times a week, 15 to 30 minutes. Besides fighting aging, benefits include enhanced cardiovascular health, prevention of Osteoporosis, delayed or prevented onset of Alzheimer’s, more youthful skin, and more resilience to aging and disease.
  3. Cut down calorie intake by 30%. Calorie restriction prolongs life, prevents diabetes and all that follows (the deadly cascade of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, obesity, and death). It also spikes growth hormone which helps you build muscle and burn fat.
  4. Increase your green leafy vegetables intake by 40%. Green leafy veggies are full of vitamins and minerals that are hard to get anywhere else for such a low calorie payoff. Vitamins and minerals give you the toolkit you need to manufacture hormones, collagen, keratin, muscle, and keeps your neurotransmitters firing on all cylinders.
  5. Reduce stress by 50%. Stress kills. It elevates blood pressure, risk of heart attack, and cortisol, a pro-aging hormone. Try meditation, journaling, baths and aroma therapy. My favorite is a professional massage on the really tense days.
  6. Increase pure filtered water consumption by 60%. Most of us are dehydrated and not aware. Bottled water is the next best.
  7. Reduce refined sugar and refined grains by 90%. High-carb/sugar foods are high glycemic index foods that are full of toxins and are GMO. Bread today is grown out of such strong grains, built to endure pesticide resistant insects, that the foods pierce the gut, setting off an inflammatory response and inflammation-based diseases. Sugar is especially aging for the skin and is the number one cause of a long list of diseases from Alzheimer’s to diabetes and cancer.
  8. Protect your cells against free radicals 100% of the time by taking in optimum amount of antioxidants. I take beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, selenium, chelated magnesium, and chromium to encourage fat burning and keep insulin tamped down.

If you adopt just one fourth of my suggestions here, making sure to keep eating for the skin and hydrating for the skin a top priority, you will be amazed in two short weeks how much more youthful you look and feel. Getting rid of toxins in the diet, supplementing for collagen and elastin synthesis, and practicing some hormesis—if nothing else, the cold showers or saunas. Saunas challenge the system in the same way the cold showers do and are the surest way to detoxify at the same time. With a solid workout, saunas, phytochemicals, and supplement, I promise a younger-looking and feeling you in one month (but keep with it. That good feeling will grow exponentially as you improve other areas of your life. Stick with it a year and see how transformed you’ll be!!!