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Convalescence and Mitohormesis

This post was written by Megan Pribyl MSPT, who teaches the course Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist. You can catch Megan teaching this course in June in Seattle.

Blog by Megan Pribyl MSPT Convalescence and mitohormesis…really big words that in a scientific way suggest “BALANCE”. In our modern world, there are many factors that influence the pervasive trend of being “on” or in perpetual “go mode”. We see the effects of this in clinical practice every day. The sympathetic system is in overdrive and the parasympathetic system is in a state of neglect and disrepair. And so we reflect on that word “balance” through the concepts of convalescence and mitohormesis.

 

“In the past, it was taken for granted that any illness would require a decent period of recovery after it had passed, a period of recuperation, of convalescence, without which recurrence was possible or likely.
Convalescence fell out of favor as powerful modern drugs emerged. It appeared that [antibiotics] and the steroid anti-inflammatories produced so dramatic a resolution of the old killer diseases… that all the time spent convalescing was no longer necessary.” (Bone, 2013)

 

How many of us take the time to convalesce after even a minor cold or flu? “Convalescence needs time, one of the hardest commodities now to find.” (Bone, 2013) We live in a culture where getting well FAST typically takes priority over getting well WELL.

 

On the flip-side of convalescence lies mitohormesis, or stress-response hormesis. Simply put, hormesis describes the beneficial effects of a treatment (or stressor) that at a higher intensity is harmful. Without mitohormesis, the driving, adaptive forces of life might lie dormant or find dysfuction. In a recent article (Ristow, 2014) mitohormesis is discussed: “Increasing evidence indicates that reactive oxygen species (ROS) do not only cause oxidative stress, but rather may function as signaling molecules that promote health by preventing or delaying a number of chronic diseases, and ultimately extend lifespan. While high levels of ROS are generally accepted to cause cellular damage and to promote aging, low levels of these may rather improve systemic defense mechanisms by inducing an adaptive response.

 

Relevant to nutritional trends, Tapia (2006) suggests this perspective: “it may be necessary…to engender a more sanguine perspective on organelle level physiology, as… such entities have an evolutionarily orchestrated capacity to self-regulate that may be pathologically disturbed by overzealous use of antioxidants, particularly in the healthy.” Think of mitohormesis as the cellular-level forces that spur change. Motivation….drive….exhilaration. These life-sprurring stressors include physical activity and glucose restriction among other interventions.

 

The natural world is full of contrasts; day and night, winter and summer, land and sea, sun and rain. These contrasts are not only essential in creating rhythm to our existence, but necessary as driving forces of life. But what happens when there is not a balance of activity and rest? What happens when our energy systems go haywire? What nutritional factors play a role in whether a client of yours will have a healing and helpful course of therapy or may struggle with the healing process? How might we frame our understanding of the importance of balance through the lens of nourishment?

 

March is “National Nutrition Month”! It’s a perfect time to register for our brand new continuing education course Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist to learn more about how nutrition impacts our clinical practice. To register for the course taking place in June in Seattle, click here.

 

References

Bone, K. Mills, S. (2013) Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy; Modern Herbal Medicine. Second Edition. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

Gems, D., & Partridge, L. (2008). Stress-response hormesis and aging: "that which does not kill us makes us stronger". Cell Metab, 7(3), 200-203. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2008.01.001

Ristow, M., & Schmeisser, K. (2014). Mitohormesis: Promoting Health and Lifespan by Increased Levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Dose Response, 12(2), 288-341. doi: 10.2203/dose-response.13-035.Ristow

Tapia, P. C. (2006). Sublethal mitochondrial stress with an attendant stoichiometric augmentation of reactive oxygen species may precipitate many of the beneficial alterations in cellular physiology produced by caloric restriction, intermittent fasting, exercise and dietary phytonutrients: "Mitohormesis" for health and vitality. Med Hypotheses, 66(4), 832-843. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2005.09.009

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