Hormesis, Flavonoids, and why we should seek stress and #defycomfort just as nature intended
By Dr Nick Gillitt
Hormesis is the reason that eating a diet rich in Flavonoids is part of an effective overall nutritional strategy to promote the best chance for continued health and longevity that our genes are capable of. Research shows the higher dietary intake of all Polyphenols in general and which includes Flavonoids is associated with increased longevity and better health.
We instinctively know that our bodies naturally get stronger when they are appropriately challenged. We see this in a variety of ways. Resistance training strengthens our muscles, regularly exercising to get out of breath increases our cardiovascular capacity, and working our minds makes us smarter.
We even see this response with vaccines—the right dose of a pathogen causes our bodies to develop much needed protective antibodies. It’s a fact, challenged bodies improve! This is Hormesis and why a Flavonoid rich diet should be part of your overall health strategy. The science shows that Flavonoids provoke an internal stress response that causes the body to generate a protective position and that makes the body stronger. In fact, this protective response helps fight pain-causing inflammation, oxidative stress, and keeps your immune system in a heightened state of readiness.
Sadly, most people appear to want to make their lives more comfortable and easier. But we weren’t meant to sit around in an air-conditioned house, eating foods that provide pleasure but no nutrition and avoiding challenging conditions or ideas.
As outdoor people we relish the unpredictability and harshness of the outdoors. The worse the weather is, the more we should go out into it. We’re designed to deal with challenges and obstacles. We are wired for reasonable stress. Uniquely, dietary Polyphenols, of which Flavonoids like the ones found in Go Condition are the most abundant, create a measured dose of stress for our bodies to respond to.
Dietary Polyphenols are plant compounds found in whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and cocoa, coffee, and teas. They typically act as these plant’s natural defense mechanisms and are typically found in significant concentrations in the peels and outer layers as they act as the first line of defense to infections, predators and pests.
They contribute to the wonderfully vibrant coloration of the leaves, skin, flesh and bark of plants often protecting them from usually harmful UV irradiation and other environmental stresses. They generally don’t taste good to drive away pests, some even attract animals to come eat the plant to spread its seeds around and they also play an important role in the natural lifecycle processes like growth and ripening by acting as signaling molecules in those processes.
Of the many thousands of different Polyphenols identified in plants over half are flavonoids.
In humans however they can have a very different role and diets rich in them seems to provoke an adaptive response to the harmless stress they impart resulting in cellular protection for us. Nutritionists believe that they do this by creating hormesis; they act as an intentional dose of stress which our bodies react to by generating a protective response.
An essential element of good health and vitality is experiencing and enduring light stressors such as cold and heat exposure, heavy weights, getting out of breath from exercise and from the diet. Stressors like these will stimulate our in-built detoxification and other protective systems. Fruits and vegetables aren’t simply good for us because they contain the required vitamins and minerals we need, in fact it is also the presence of Polyphenols that cause a little bit of stress to the body, which then keeps it stronger. Flavonoids work best when they consumed as a variety of compounds and should be consumed as part of a varied diet than consuming a single type or several in very high amounts.
Being healthy is not avoiding stress, it’s actually getting the right amount of stress on a regular basis across a variety of different domains that your body then recovers from adequately.
Dosage is also important. Taking the right amount is better than simply taking a lot of them. More isn’t necessarily better. It’s like sun exposure, a little bit of exposure will stimulate the production of vitamin D, but too much exposure will burn you.
About the author.
Nick Gillitt PHD is currently the Chief Scientific Officer at the David H Murdock Research Institute (DHMRI) based in Kannapolis, North Carolina and a former Vice President of Dole Food Company where he was also Director of the Dole Nutrition Institute.