Hormetic stress can be defined as adaptive reorganizing of epigenetics, that has the potential to make you more fit for your circumstances or environment. Imagine that you were sentenced to solitary confinement for 10 years. Who would you be when you got out? The chances that it wouldn’t change you are slim to none. The type of environment you consistently spend time in dictates not only your behavior, but your health.
In nutrition we often think about macro nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and micro nutrients such as vitamins, and minerals. We may even consider the quality of those nutrients, as in good fats, or trace minerals. It is rarely discussed in terms of how genetically fit or robust an animal or plant is. The fact of the matter is viewing nutrition only through a domestic lens has clouded our perception of nutrition. Just as your health and genetics would degrade living in solitary confinement, so do the domesticated plants and animals we think of as food.
Countless examples are seen between the domesticated food and wild food we eat. Pacific Salmon is a great example that can easily be seen. Look at farmed salmon compared to wild salmon. The wild version is bright orange with firm flesh and a rich fat layer. While the farmed fish is dull in appearance, has soft spongy flesh, and often is sick with bacterial infection, or parasites. The wild genetics far out compete the farmed genetics. The same thing can be said for plants, wild blueberries contain up to 4x more antioxidants than cultivated blueberries. This is all down to the intermittent stress from the natural environment, it creates genetic resilience. This directly correlates to the nutrient density you get in the form of food.
To optimize this effect the concept of eating local should be at the forefront. Fishing for the wild salmon as it spawns up river in late summer puts you in the same environment. You stand in the river exposed to the water, feeling the hot summer sun, and the soft sand of the river beneath your waders. It’s in this process, this exposure to the elements, that prime your body, your genetics for this wild food and create a synergy between two species genetics and the environment. Think about the microbes picked up just standing in a river, that alone changes you on a cellular level. Then blend in food from that space that also has those same microbes and nutrient density, and that feeds your biology to the genetic level.
You miss out on all of the nuance when your food gets dropped off by someone at your door. You miss a key concept of the stressors from the environment and the blending of that stress on the food that you hunt or gather. That is what not only creates nutrition, but allows your body to be ready to utilize it.