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Hormesis: The Kind Of Stress That Makes You Resilient

Have you ever thought about how with each passing generation we seem to be getting weaker, not stronger? Think about the greatest generation, those who fought in WWII. No grocery stores, no Walmart’s, no screens, no air conditioning, etc., and very little chronic disease. Walking 5-10 miles, or riding one's bike double to triple that was no big thing. It was considered normal.

Spending much of the day outside in the sun with no sunscreen, working hard, getting dirty, eating a lot of plants (everything was organic), it's no wonder they were much more resilient than we are. We’ve gotten much too comfortable. My Dad tells the story of how when one of their fence posts would break, they would go up into the forest, cut down a tree, and make another one! Now that is kinda bad-ass.

Basically, if folks back then could avoid the deadly infectious diseases that today are pretty much wiped out, they were good to go for the most part. Of course, cancer, heart disease, and other sicknesses were around, but on a vastly smaller scale. For example, Type II diabetes was basically non-existent compared to the millions it plagues today. It’s almost completely preventable. Mistakes have been made.

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. One key thing we can learn from our past is that being physically uncomfortable now and then makes a person much stronger. This is the science of hormesis. There are many ways to practice hormesis, but today let's briefly discuss cold therapy, sometimes referred to as cold thermogenesis.

As I alluded to earlier, we have gotten too comfortable in modern times. Our cars have heated seats and steering wheels for example.

God forbid we spend even a few seconds without being perfectly comfortable! If kids get their feet wet at school or have to endure a little heat at recess, they think they are going to die.

Check out the book, “Civilized to Death” by Chris Ryan to dive deeper into this topic. If you expect to be resilient, you cannot live this way all the time.

Inflammation unchecked in the body is at the root of all disease according to Functional Medicine. Keeping it under control seems to be absolutely key in preventing, and even reversing, many health problems. Conditions like arthritis are a prime example. Keeping the fire down means everything from a pain standpoint. Cold therapy, and specifically what's known as the Wim Hof Method, is being shown as a very promising way to combat inflammation and disease.

In a nutshell, it involves a few simple rounds of deep breathing upon waking up, followed by a normal shower with the last 30 seconds or more turned all the way to cold. I have consistently been doing this for a couple of months now and have experienced some very noticeable changes in my physiology. For one thing, it's easier to endure the cold now and just breathe into it as Wim teaches.

I feel focused, on point, motivated, energetic, happy, strong, and ready to kick some ass most mornings after completing this. This is thanks in large part to the hormone norepinephrine being released as a response to the cold. It is now my go-to morning routine to start the day. There is more scientific validation as to why I feel this way. Science is something Wim is utilizing as much as possible to prove that we have the ability to control what were once thought to be involuntary body processes.

He has been involved in the scientific community since 2007, including studies at Wayne State University in Michigan (2018, ‘Brain Over Body’), Radboud University in the Netherlands (2014), and he is also heavily involved in ongoing research. One example of this is at the University of California, San Francisco where, since 2019, research has been conducted looking at how his method appears to help with stress resilience and mental health. Click here for the complete list.

Our vascular system delivers blood to our cells, which of course means oxygen, nutrients, and all the things we need to feel great and achieve health. Cold showers stimulate, exercise, challenge, and “wake up” our vascular system as Wim likes to say. We have over 60 thousand miles of veins, arteries, and other connections as part of this that should be strong and function well. Instead, Cardiovascular related diseases are the number one killer in the world.

In the Radboud study followers of the WHM were found to have a higher immune response, which is of course something of great interest to me. Since sporadically starting this last summer, and then routinely since Dec, I have yet to get any kind of sickness. In fact, I feel great. Coincidence? Maybe, but I highly doubt it.

One of the most fascinating things I read in Wim’s book, “The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential”, was the fact that he has taken several groups up Mount Kilimanjaro. Not seasoned climbers, not fit people, in fact, many who had little experience and were quite sick from autoimmune disease, arthritis, and other serious medical conditions. He was advised that he was going to “kill somebody” with this approach. However, the opposite happened.

Not only did each group summit, but they also destroyed the average time it takes to get to the top, with many of them wearing only a t-shirt and shorts at over 19000ft! The WHM is teachable and doable for anyone interested, which in my mind proves that Wim isn’t some freak of nature. He is just a regular guy who has tapped into something special that we all can take advantage of to own our health.

The practice of hormesis is something I have used for a long time to stay healthy. There are countless other ways to engage in it, but that is a topic for another day. Our immune system needs to be challenged to function optimally. A cold shower at least 5 days a week for a matter of seconds is completely free, but like anything else you have to be willing to commit to see the results.

If you need some help on your path to cold therapy, or anything else you are trying to achieve from a health standpoint, let me know. A coach on the sidelines can make a big difference. Follow me on Instagram, and subscribe to Break-Free Wellness at the bottom of this page to stay in the loop on all things wellness related, especially immune health.

Lastly, don’t forget anyone who places a supplement order with me during the month of February will get 25% off all products. This is a fantastic way to try out the Fullscript program and find significant savings for as long as you want.


Bart Thurman, FDN-P, INHC, AFDNP Functional Health Coaching Cafe of Life Chiropractic 1325 Dry Creek Drive #307 Longmont, CO 80503 Office: 720-849-0124 Website: Instagram: @bart_breakfreewellness

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