It used to be the goal of health experts to protect the human body from things that were thought to place it under stress. The idea was to cocoon people in a safe, antiseptic environment.
This kind of thinking was well intentioned – but it actually had the opposite effect.
For instance, it’s now believed that allergies arise when the immune system doesn’t receive enough exposure to dirt, microbes and other common substances in childhood. Without this ‘priming’ effect your body may become hypersensitive to stimuli. Today people grow up in much more antiseptic environments than their ancestors did, and consequently suffer from allergies at a much greater rate.
A certain amount of stress is also good for your skin. It triggers the biological repair and maintenance mechanisms that slow down skin damage and ageing.
Researchers are now looking at ways to induce the right kind of stress, which is called hormesis. Here’s one study:
Application of hormesis in aging research and interventions is becoming increasingly attractive and successful. The reason for this is the realization that mild stress-induced activation of one or more stress response (SR) pathways, and its consequent stimulation of repair mechanisms, is effective in reducing the age-related accumulation of molecular damage.
The implications are huge for anti-ageing cosmeceuticals. We’ll take a closer look at this in another post.