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By Shane Ellison M. Sc.
The People's Chemist
November 27, 2010

The sky is brutally honest. It shows you who you are, or aren’t. It can redefine you too, because flying offers a freedom that can’t be found on the ground. “Strapping on” my new plane for the first time, the “Mooney aerodynamics” was sure to test my guts, and introduce me to new ones. Not only is it one of the fastest in its class, it’s also very slippery on landing. The ensuing stress that accompanied my first 175 mph decent for landing – as a nervous, rookie pilot – is probably when the drugs kicked in.

On the bleeding edge of scientific understanding is an adaptive response to stress that triggers our “internal pharmacy” to manufacture a “custom drug cocktail,” which alters our biochemistry for better survival. Technically, it’s known as hormesis and it proves, “that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” As an organic chemist studying it at the molecular level, hormesis appears to be one of the best ways to live longer, disease-free, as long as you're willing to get out of your comfort zone.

Hormesis was first discovered via “the runners high.” In particular, pain-soothing, euphoria-inducing molecules known as endorphins (and many others) were found to be made by adrenals in response to the stress. A physical transformation ensued thanks to the internally made drug cocktails. Over time, hormesis has shown beneficial in protecting us from diabetes and cancer, just to name a few.

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See blog post for picture here.

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Putting Hormesis To Work for You

One of the quickest ways to benefit from hormesis is to take part in “proper exercise.” But, let’s face it, most people would rather run from exercise than actually do it. If done correctly, even sparingly, it can ward off type II diabetes thanks to the hormesis phenomenon. But the drug cocktail that confers these benefits can only be obtained via strength training. And you gotta make it hurt…like hell.

Studies on hormesis show that when you put your magazine down and get out of the lazy zone at the gym you can force your internal pharmacy to produce a fat melting compound known as glucagon. This is the “I can’t wait to wear a bathing suit” hormone.

Natural Enemy to Belly Fat, Get into Your Skinny Jeans

When released by the pancreas, glucagon works to lower blood sugar, while activating fat metabolism. As the natural enemy to belly fat, it melts the spare tire hanging around your gut. As glucagon increases, so does the holy grail of all hormones, testosterone. And that means libido and motivation return to their rightful place in the bedroom, rather than being forgotten in the name of aging.


Strength training also gives rise to oxidative stress, not just muscle fatigue. Many pundits shun it for this very reason. But, it’s myopic because hormesis eventually comes to the rescue and releases anti-aging and anti-diabetic compounds from the internal pharmacy. Once mainlined, they shuttle blood sugar into muscle cells, just like insulin. But, unlike insulin they don’t store fat! A biochemical dream for anyone who appreciates getting back into their skinny jeans, this allows you to simultaneously build muscle and burn fat, while avoiding oxidative stress.

Stop Being Depressed

Depressed about how many of your friends voted for Obama, and really thought he represented “Change?” Hormesis can cure that, too. When muscles are stressed, your pharmacy produces a happy drug known as phenylethylamine. It helps “feel-good” neurotransmitters – the ones that help you smile at Obama supporters when you see them at Walmart – last longer.

The “hormetic benefits” of strength training can’t be obtained if you’re gonna be a sissy. You have to “make it count” when you workout. In other words, you have to leave The Whine Flu at home, regardless of your age or condition. Pain will be your litmus test here. The more it hurts the better. Dancing around the kitchen doesn’t count, nor does crawling around your garden, or strolling around the block.

If you want to activate hormesis and put aging in a choke hold, you have to go to the gym like you’re going to war. This will open up your cardiovascular system to enhance circulation of oxygen, and even repair damaged arteries thanks to a custom-made drug known as VEGF.

Workout like your life depends on it, ‘cause it does. Workout like you are fighting for your life, ‘cause you are. The good news; you don’t have to do it very often. Every other day will suffice for general health. Rest periods are vital for hormesis to occur. You’ll feel the immense benefits, fast. People will notice. Do it too often and you risk over-training and injury, and since you won’t be activating hormesis, you’ll grow old prematurely as well.

Avoid the Toxic Onslaught

Activating hormesis isn’t limited to strength training. In small doses, cancer-causing toxins can spark an adaptive stress response, which ignites the production of biological cleaning agents that rid our body of the deadly invaders, thereby thwarting cancer. Where large doses of toxins can kill, it appears that small ones can activate the protective mechanism that ends up keeping us alive longer thanks to hormesis.

Put Muscles on Your Eyes

Short term hunger can also get hormesis to churn out drugs that help in the eye-candy department at your local pool. Stop grazing like a cow and the body produces a drug cocktail made up of somatomedin’s. You don’t have to know how to say it. But you do need to know that when you split meals by five hours and avoid snacking, the liver releases these peptides into the blood and allows muscles to bulge. I heard this was how Sponge Bob got “muscles on his eyes.” The process isn’t bullet proof.

Lick that ice-cream off your spoon – or eat that post workout snack – and you can forget it. Tapping hormesis for muscle production is all about short term hunger (more so than caloric restriction), so stop snacking. And, if you go to the extreme and skip breakfast or any meal, hormones freak out and force your body into fat storage mode, which only inflates the unsightly tire hanging on your belly.

Unlike my surly attitude, hormesis isn’t a phenomenon that operates independently of outside influence. All the success rests in your body’s ability to manufacture its own drugs. As highlighted in my book, Over-The-Counter Natural Cures, you need to make sure it gets the raw materials by adhering to nutrient logic. Like a meth lab is sure to stock ephedrine, you need to make sure your body has some basics on hand.

And they are as follows:

Amino acids from whey isolate protein and micellar casein
Naturally occurring insulin mimics such as cinnamon
Moderate sunshine exposure
Pure water, daily

Get Some Guts

No doubt, I was hooked on my own custom drug cocktail after flying my Mooney. And over time, perhaps scientific method will isolate and characterize them. Regardless, one thing is for sure: My head is left spinning every time with a one-of-a-kind cocktail that makes me feel timeless – like a child who can’t comprehend “five more minutes,” or even “the real world.”

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And while those drugs keep me motivated to be the best pilot, they also prove that our health and longevity are absolutely dependent on hormesis. No prescription required, you just have to have some guts to activate it, even if it does hurt or stress your system in new ways. Even if you have to redefine yourself. It’s biochemistry telling us that success lies beyond our comfort zones and; “Only the strong survive.”

� 2010 Shane Ellison - All Rights Reserve

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Ellison’s entire career has been dedicated to the study of molecules; how they give life and how they take from it. He was a two-time recipient of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Grant for his research in biochemistry and physiology. He is a bestselling author of Over-The-Counter Natural Cures, which helps you live healthier and pay less with $10 lifesaving supplements for under $10! Learn more here.












Depressed about how many of your friends voted for Obama, and really thought he represented “Change?” Hormesis can cure that, too.