Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Dr. Mark Hyman:
Whether it’s through restricting your food intake or time-restricted eating or exercise or hot and cold therapies or hypoxia or hyperbaric oxygen, you literally activate these ancient systems of healing and repair, including DNA repair, dramatically reducing inflammation and boosting your body’s antioxidant systems and boosting stem cell production, increasing your brain function.
Hey everybody, this is Dr. Hyman. Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy, a place for conversations that matter. And today we’re going to talk about why stress is important for healthy aging. Yes, stress. And this is a special episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy called Health Bites, which can improve your health by taking small steps every day and lead to profound changes over time. And today’s episode is all about the benefits of stress. Yep, you heard me right, stress, which can be a good thing. But the type I’m talking about is not what you’re thinking about. It’s called hormesis. It’s not a psychological stress which can be bad for you. It’s a physical stress, and these stresses are really important. Basically the idea is what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and it’s actually true. Our bodies are not designed to be in a 68 degree thermal regulated, perfectly controlled environment.
Our bodies evolved in a very dynamic state, whether it was scarcity of food, where we had to do a lot of exercise, where we had extremes of temperature, altitudes, we really have developed these ancient mechanisms to activate our healing systems using the power of stress, which is what I want to talk to you about today. So think of it like these small little doses of adversity that help activate these ancient longevity pathways in your body. For example, starvation. We all had to deal with starvation because there was no grocery stores or Whole Foods or 7-11s on every corner. And we would literally go through periods of scarcity. And when that happens, our bodies would kick in these ancient mechanisms to keep us alive. So that’s a stress, for example.
So this is a very protective thing and when your body has these kinds of stresses it activates these ancient healing systems. So when you activate, whether it’s through restricting your food intake or time-restricted eating or exercise or hot and cold therapies or hypoxia… and we’ll talk about other ones like hyperbaric oxygen… you literally activate these ancient systems of healing and repair including D N A repair, dramatically reducing inflammation and turning off inflammation, boosting your body’s antioxidant systems and boosting stem cell production, increasing your brain function… because if you’re starving you want to make sure you have enough brain power to go find some food. It improves your protein function, enhances your detox system, stimulates your mitochondria, improves your insulin sensitivity, and improves your gene expression.
All these things are involved in helping you live a longer, healthier life. And I really talk a lot about these from the framework of longevity, and it’s because my book, Young Forever, is coming out February 21st, 2023, where I lay all this out in very detailed ways. This is just a little teaser to get you a sense of what’s in the book. And I’m really excited about the hormesis thing and I try to do it every day because it’s such a really exciting and powerful way to often at very low cost activate these ancient healing systems. So let’s talk about what are the most common ways that we have access to that we can all use to regulate this. The first is calorie restriction. Now, that sounds like a terrible idea because who wants to basically not eat? We like eating. It’s a good thing. But the idea is, don’t eat all the time.
In last week’s Health Bite I talked about how fasting or time-restricted eating or calorie restriction activates these longevity switches to clean up and repair the body through what we call autophagy, which means self-cleaning or self-cannibalism. It helps repair DNA, shut off inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, makes more mitochondria, there’s so many beneficial things. And you don’t have to starve yourself forever, you just need to do a short period of not eating every day, which we used to call breakfast. Right? We’d eat dinner and then we’d eat breakfast. But we just kind of eat all the time and we don’t often give ourselves enough time before we go to bed to not eat and we often eat early in the morning.
So the idea is to give yourself at least 12 hours every day. If you eat dinner at six, then you can eat breakfast at six. Or better to eat dinner at six and then breakfast at eight, that’s a 14-hour fast. Now, that’s not hard. Everybody can do that. And it has profound impact on our biology rather than eating all the time. So it really is powerful because if you look at the calorie restriction model, it extends life by a third animal model. So there’s very few things that can do that. I’m not saying that having 14 hours between dinner and breakfast will extend your life by a third, but it helps this process of autophagy or cleaning up your cells and it improves your insulin sensitivity, helps reverse diabetes, cools off inflammation, helps you mobilize fat, improves your mitochondrial function, helps you build muscle, lowers fat mass, and boost stem cell production. It’s pretty much awesome.
And so the holy grail of longevity science and healthy aging science is to somehow hack calorie restriction, but nobody wants to eat a third less calories because you’re going to be miserable, cranky, and skinny, and it’s going to be bad. So you want to do things that mimic that. And so basically by taking a 12, 14-hour, 16-hour break a day, you can activate these longevity switches, things like insulin signaling, mTOR, sirtuins, AMPK, that we talked about last time on the podcast, but it’s not too hard and I would encourage you to do that. There are also other things, phytochemicals, potentially drugs that can do this too, but let’s just sort of talk about the food. The next thing is heat therapy. Saunas, a powerful strategy that’s been used in cultures. I love that the Fins have a lot of saunas in Finland. There’s enough saunas for everybody to be in a sauna at the same time in Finland in the entire population. And the control group in this study they did was like someone who took us sauna once a week versus two or three times or four or five times.
Those people who took saunas four to six times a week reduced their risk of death by 42%, which is pretty impressive. And what happens when you take a sauna, well, it activates something called heat-shock proteins, which help to refold and fix damaged proteins. One of the hallmarks of aging are these damaged proteins so it helps fix those, recycle them. It also activates antioxidant systems, helps to also activate your innate immune system, improves your cardiovascular fitness, heart rate variability, insulin sensitivity, blood sugar, blood pressure, all these incredible benefits from just sitting in a sauna. So I love that because you just sit there and you don’t do anything. So it’s great. And you can incorporate those through a hot bath, through a sauna, an infrared sauna, steam, hot springs. Hot yoga is my favorite thing to do. So there’s a lot of ways you can actually do this, but it’s important to do it on a regular basis.
Next is cold therapy, which often is great following heat therapy. Cold therapy, again, is also powerful because our bodies have mechanisms of actually activating really important things that keep us young longer by this trigger of a cold temperature. So you might have heard of Wim Hof and the Iceman, I mean that’s extreme going in a tub full of ice. I’ve done that a bunch of times. I do a little bit warmer like 40 degrees, not like 32 degrees, 45 degrees sometimes. That can be a very powerful tool for healing your body from pain and injury, but also it boosts endorphins. It strengthens your immune system. It activates brown fat which is your metabolic engine. It improves circulation. It helps reset your autonomic nervous system. So it’s really, really beneficial for you. So I’d encourage you to do cold water swimming, cold showers. You can just do a cold shower in the morning.
I do that regularly. I’ll just go in the shower, it’s better than coffee, just jump in the morning, go in an ice cold shower for two minutes, hit your timer on your phone or watch and just boom, you’re already doing cold therapy. It’s super easy. And of course there’s cryotherapy where you go into a whole unit that’s like minus 200 and something degrees Fahrenheit and that’s also very, very helpful. But it’s hard to get one of those. So just start with a cold shower or even a cold bath after a steam or a sauna. Exercise, also a really important way to do hormesis because you’re pushing yourself. So exercise is a really important form of hormesis, basically, whether it’s interval training, whether it’s strength training, they all have different benefits. But when you lift weights, for example, you tear muscles. It’s an injury where your body goes, oh, I better do something so it builds more and you get bigger, stronger muscles.
So make sure you get good cardiovascular fitness through interval training. That’s basically where you sprint and then rest, sprint and rest. I did that this morning on my Peloton. I also did a strength training with bands. I did resistance training. I also did a steam in my steam shower and also an ice bath right after. So I did all kinds of hormesis. I did like four kinds of hormesis in an hour in my morning routine. It was pretty easy. Obviously you have to have a little steam shower, but those aren’t too expensive to put in. I’ve had mine for 20 years and it’s never broken so it’s pretty good. And then doing all those things can really be powerful. In terms of the strength training stuff, you don’t have to lift massive amounts of weights, but bands are great. I do those. You can do body weight exercises. There’s lots of things you can do that are pretty low cost.
Also, interval training, whether it’s sprints or whether it’s yoga, sorry, vigorous running or vigorous walking or riding your bike. Tennis, I played tennis recently with someone and I was running, sprinting, the whole time. My average heart rate was 145. That’s average the entire time, I was often at 160 or more. So it’s good. Also, we can increase muscle mass and function by doing these bands, weightlifting, body resistance training as I mentioned. And I kind of was resistant to it, no pun intended, for a long time because I just don’t like smelly gyms, but now I do it at home. I use bands, it’s great, and it’s super powerful hormetic therapy. Exercise is probably the fountain of youth. If you could put exercise in a pill it would be the most powerful longevity drug on the planet. It works a lot on all the hallmarks of aging we talked about last week. So I encourage you to get moving and get lifting, do that stuff.
There’s lots more things I talk about in terms of hormesis in the book like hypoxia therapy, like hyperbaric oxygen therapy, ozone therapy. There’s a lot of things that you can do, but those are really easy and accessible that we just mentioned. So I encourage you to check out my new book, Young Forever. It’s out February 21st. Go to youngforeverbook.com and you’ll get all kinds of bonuses and access to health and wellness products that I tend to use and recommend free. It’s awesome. Basically, the whole idea of this podcast was to inspire you to find ways to stress yourself in a good way, basically to understand the principle of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and do intentional stress. Small bouts, not too much. Too much cold therapy you’re going to freeze to death. Too much heat therapy you’ll die of heat stroke, et cetera, et cetera. Too much calorie restriction you’ll die of starvation. So let’s find that Goldilocks amount and they’ll jumpstart your body into a rejuvenated state and keep you living a longer, healthier life.
It’s just a little bit of a view into what I talk about in the book in terms of hormesis. Check it out. I hope you enjoyed this Health Bite. Please share with your friends and family. Tell us how you use hormesis in your life, what it’s done for you. And we’ll see you next week on the Doctor’s Farmacy.
Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.