A Word I’d Never Heard: Hormesis

I learned something new this week.  Well, more than one thing.  I learned how to get myself out of a locked bathroom when the door knob has been removed.  But, more relevantly, I learned a new term: Hormesis.

Dr. Andrew Weil wrote a fascinating article in the Huffington Post discussing ” a little-known term with huge implications”.

Hormesis is…

A favorable biological reaction to low doses of chemical toxins, radiation or some other form of stress that is damaging, even fatal, in higher doses.

Hormesis is, in essence, the technical term for the old adage that “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”.  Practical examples of hormesis include protection from disease through immunization and the building of muscle through resistance training.

What fascinates me most is the implications hormesis has on the use of chemicals in our environment.  Most notably industrial agriculture.

It seems hormesis provides a perfectly scientific defense for those who would pollute our environment. And those charged with regulating toxins’ use and safe exposure levels.

From my point of view, this is a faulty argument.  I do not require, nor have I asked for, the development of immunity to toxins in our environment.  It is not as if I’ll need this immunity in a battle of wits to the death with a Sicilian.

Hormesis is an interesting topic.  And, perhaps, a little environmental toxin does a body good.  Still, I’m buying organic whenever feasible.  Hormesis be damned.

(Oh, and you get out of a bathroom sans doorknob by reinserting the removed doorknob that was thankfully left inside.  Seems obvious.  But you tend to not think clearly when your wife asks “Who do I call to get you out?” and you imagine the locksmith/neighbor/fireman finding you in your drawers sitting on the commode) 

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One response to “A Word I’d Never Heard: Hormesis

  1. Pingback: The Poison on Your Face | Essentials of Nutrition

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