This article was originally written in German by Dr. Z and is called: “Die größte Lüge der Fitness- und Gesundheitswelt“. Thanks to our loyal reader Alexander W., who has now translated this very successful article into English to make it accessible to even more people. We are very happy about this support.
Did you know that asbestos, radiation, and cigarettes can be healthy? That vitamin C can promote cancer and abstinence can make you sick? Well now, ready yourself for an entirely different perspective on ‘fitness & health’.
WHAT IS THE LIE?
Most of us divide the world into what is healthy and what is harmful: Sports and vegetables are healthy. Whiskey and Plutonium are harmful. Most scientists, doctors, authors, trainers, and therapists do this as well and IT’S WRONG.
THE MISTAKE IN REASONING
… is to believe in a linear relationship between dosage and effect: To consider, for example, a poison to be toxic regardless of its amount. Initially there are only mild symptoms of poisoning, but with an increasing dosage these symptoms become more severe, eventually leading to death.
AND THIS IS THE WAY SCIENCE IS DONE
… following a paradigm: Often, there is only a small sample size that serves as foundation to this conclusion. The individual measurements are placed onto a coordinate system and a linear line is drawn through them. Points that lie too far away from the line are considered special cases or measurement errors. And just like that, you get a linear model.
BUT THE FACTS SHOW
… that asbestos, for example, is not increasing the risk of cancer immediately after first contact with it (as often cited). Workers, serving in an asbestos factory for a long time, even have a lower cancer rate than the population average. A similar effect has been observed for workers exposed to different kinds of radiation. They too tend to suffer less often from cancer than the population average. Is this just random variation or is there a natural concept connected to this? Of course, there is. And its name is …
Hormesis is not a new concept. Paracelsus already stated that poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy. However, this concept has never been adapted by science, medicine, or therapy. All of these areas are still dominated by the linear paradigm: Sport, moderation, and abstinence are good for us and taking things too far or exposing ourselves to harmful influences damages our health. We all know plenty of super-clean’n’tidy-boys who think like that.
NOTHING AGAINST LINEARITY
… it is just not the way nature works. Neither fitness nor health is a peaceful state that grows in equilibrium and ascesis and is threatened or damaged by allegedly harmful influences. On the contrary: Fitness and health are a state of war. Both are dynamic processes that grow stronger the more they are threatened, attacked and challenged. Nature is authoritative, destructive, creative, complex and above all non-linear. Nature prefers curves and dances along a zig-zag-line, all the while following two simple principles:
1. HARMFUL INFLUENCES MAKE YOU FIT & HEALTHY
… as long certain thresholds are not exceeded. This is true for basically everything. Everything that moves, attacks, poisons, or stresses our body disrupts its equilibrium AND activates protective and stabilizing measures. To be precise, …
THE HORMETIC TRIPLE
… is called to arms:
1. Damaged structures are repaired.
2. Supercompensation and increased protection prepare for future attacks.
3. Weak and little stress enduring structures are cleaned out.
… the body does not just repair itself. It also grows stronger and more stable, all the while cleansing itself from weak and unstable structures. The weakest parts of the system are cleaned out, whereby the system as whole gets stronger and more stable. And this does not just happen on a local but also on a global scale. For this reason, local radiation therapy also destroys tumors that have not been targeted directly. This does not make sense under the linear paradigm. But from a hermetic perspective it does, since the allegedly cancer-inducing radiation activates stabilizing, cleaning and rejuvenating processes in the whole body. However: Radiation can be cancer-inducing, which brings us to the second principle of hormesis:
2. A DOSAGE TOO HIGH MAKES A POISON
Only when there is too much of an influence, it becomes a poison. Before that the influence leads to the opposite: Fitness, stability, and health. The impulse pushes the organism and the organism holds against the impulse, on all levels. Take as an example of a bunch of young rascals, pushing and slapping each other without ever seriously fighting. They toughen up – Hormesis. And this concept can be found in all areas of life.
For this reason, researchers currently investigate low-intensity radiation. If you find the right dosage, you can fight cancer that has already spread – by activating the body’s self-healing powers.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE: VITAMINE C
Highly praised as a potent antioxidant and used to fight free radicals. The still young research on hormesis (it only started in the 1990th), however, showed that free radicals have many constructive effects on the body. They, for example, serve the immune system by oxidizing hostile bacteria and viruses.
If you swallow huge amounts of vitamins, you support important processes in your body and protect it from harming substances, but you also interrupt many healthy processes, such as the body’s ability to deal with an infection on its own. And hey: Do you really believe that after millions of years of evolution mother nature did not find a way to deal with free radicals or even find a way to use them in a constructive manner? Just like cholesterol they are part of our body and essential.
Our body can produce sufficient antioxidants (such as Glutathione) on its own, if it needs them and a balanced diet is given. Consequently, it is not surprising that many studies can’t find a positive effect for high vitamin C supplementation. In case of fat-soluble vitamins studies even find symptoms of poisoning and increased mortality associated with overdosage.
HIGH DOSAGES OF VITAMINE C INTRAVENOUSLY
… on the other hand, is interesting. In contrast to swallowing vitamin C, administering it intravenously leads to a much higher concentration in the blood, where it becomes hydrogen peroxide and its effect the opposite: the ‘beneficial’ antioxidant becomes a ‘harmful’ pro-oxidant. And that is good … for example, it supports chemotherapy when treating cancer. How so?
Chemotherapy tries to eradicate malignant cancer cells before the drugs destroy the rest of the body.
It is primarily oxidative stress from free radicals that is supposed to eradicate the tumor. If you take vitamin C with it, it has a contra productive effect: antioxidation. Most of it is going to be used by the tumor to shield itself from the free radicals that are supposed to destroy it. That’s why cancer patients often have a low vitamin C serum level.
High dosages of intravenously administered vitamin C, on the other hand, act pro-oxidative and support the eradication of the tumor by boosting the free radical’s power. This effect can’t really be explained under the linear paradigm. Although it makes sense from a hormetic point of view – because every substance can be beneficial or harmful, depending on dosage and consumer.
WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM THAT?
For the future, we need a much more individualized and dose-oriented medicine and therapy. Artificial intelligence will support this immensely. Fact is: What poisons one person, heals and strengthens another – and vice versa, depending on the dosage.
THIS IS THE CASE FOR BASICALLY EVERYTHING
… including drugs, poisons, spices, chemicals, radiation, heat, cold, breathing, conflict, storm, sex, hunger, thirst, noise and so on. Stress in every conceivable form. All those extremes in our life and in our world act depending on their dosage in a beneficial or harmful way.
This means: There is nothing that is either good or bad. If someone wants to make you believe this, she is lying to you and sabotages your development. It also means:
EXTREMES ARE SUPERIOR TO MEDIOCRACY & ABSTINENCE
If you live nice and healthy following the linear paradigm and indulge in mediocracy, you actually live less stable, much more impotent and less resilient compared to someone who lives an extreme, polarizing, sinful and dangerous life. Because the latter has been around the block, knows every trick in the book and is generally fit, competent and stable.
If he doesn’t die due to misadventure, he will live longer and healthier – not ‘even though he lived his life the way he lived it’ but because he travelled, took risks, experimented with drugs, got infections, parasites, injuries, and got exposed to weather, dirt and conflict; at the end of the day Nietzsche was right:
WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, MAKES YOU STRONGER
Our grandparents became as old as they’ve become for exactly this reason. They had to suffer through hard times and poverty. Hormesis researchers as well as epigeneticists assume that recent generations are much more susceptible to diseases despite medical progress and will pass away earlier. Why? Because they are lazy and live spoiled lives.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
First of all, stop being a crybaby about every small issue. Do not believe in the linear paradigm and the respective models. Your neighbor’s asbestos roof, the radio tower around the corner, the hot chili, the germs in your curry, the vaccine at the doctors – all of this is like jumping into icy water, hyperventilation or breathing reduction: A toughening cure.
THE ICE MAN?
Why do you think Wim Hof and his followers have become immune to cold, stress and infections?
Correct – hormesis in its purest form. All of his techniques are immensely stressful for the body. It’s the hermetic triple at work, not just locally but systemically: First, reparation of destroyed and stressed structures. Next, supercompensation and preparation for further next extreme. Last but not least, sorting out weak and unstable structures.
Sauna, caffeine, sparring and chili are wonderful supplements. Even heavy metals can assist, and I don’t just mean barbells.
One night in Venus embrace brings a lifetime of mercury – so they said 500 years ago. Although this doesn’t refer to the planet Mercury, but mercury the element. Back in the days, mercury appeared to be the only functioning therapy against the persistent STD. Syphilis killed most who suffered from it until in 1536 the already mentioned Paracelsus found that mercury helped to fight it, but only when used in small amounts. If the dosage becomes too large, mercury becomes poisonous. We see that in itself mercury is neither beneficial nor harmful. It’s both – depending on the dosage.
THERE IS MORE
In the early 20th century, syphilis therapy has been revolutionized. The German chemist Paul Ehrlich had the idea to use a proven malaria treatment against syphilis and it worked perfectly. What was this healthy treatment? Arsenic – an extremely deadly poison (once a certain dosage is reached).
Over the course of the 1950th, Syphilis became highly treatable due to antibiotics. And what is this penicillin? It’s a fungus. Doesn’t really sound healthy, does it?
But somehow it does. Apparently, it’s the especially extreme substances that can be especially beneficial (emphasising the ‘can be’): It’s the dosage that must be correct.
ASK AN TOADSTOOL
Have you also been raised in belief that the common toadstool is poisonous and absolutely deadly? Are you still believing it?
Fact is, that this is just one of those countless ‘linear paradigm’ tales that taught children to make sure they keep well-behaved. The toadstool is actually a culinary speciality in Japan and served in a variety of cultures, regardless of the epoch, as a popular hallucinogenic. It has been used by priests in antic India and the Maya realm, as well as by the Vikings and can be found in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The fungus has been chewed, distilled, smoked and drunk for centuries. Allegedly, it was also responsible for the Berserker’s rage. The Vikings believed that wherever the toadstool grew, drool from Wotan’s horse’s mouth had fallen onto the face of the earth. Later in Scandinavia, urine from reindeers has been drunk, where the reindeers have previously been fed with the fungus. The Scots chose a more distinguished approach. They mixed the toadstool into their Whiskeys. And Russian nobility even had toadstool parties. Selling the fungus has been quite profitable back then.
As you can see, the fungus of death can’t really be that deadly. How else can you explain that it also serves as a symbol of luck?
THE SMOKERS PARADOX
Current research shows that smokers have a significantly better convalescence and survival rate after severing a heart attack. Is that possible? From a linear paradigm standpoint: No.
Nevertheless, this is the case. The reason being that the body, due to the damaging effect of the previous smoking, has created its own bypasses before any surgeon got the chance. Of course, chain smokers and habitual smokers are located far beyond the health-promoting dosage. They smoke themselves to death.
Still though, there is an increasing number of signs that suggest that smoking and nicotine might have positive effects. The shared joint or the pipe before going to bed are not pure poison.
There are many research results on allegedly harmful influences, that later turned out to be health promoting. However, most of these results are neglected or ignored, since they should exist in the linear paradigm.
MY APPEAL TO RESEARCHERS, DOCTORS & THERAPISTS
The time has come to embrace the realistic paradigm – the time has come for hormesis. It is to fitness, therapy and medicine what quantum mechanics has been to Newtonian physics: A ground-breaking paradigm shift towards a modern, more accurate understanding of the processes taking place on small and large scales.
We need to leave the predominating ‘black and white’ mentality behind us and we need to research the potential and beneficial dosage of allegedly harmful influences – in context of the individual patient.
LET’S CHANGE PERSPECTIVE
Many of the things we consider healthy or normal are poisonous. Let’s take oxygen as an example. Oxygen is destructive. It attacks everything, your car, airplanes, ships – all as part of a process we call oxidization. Calcium, zinc, and sodium are no better. On the contrary, they are toxic. However, our body has learned to use them and grows as a result of it. Another example:
Caffeine, nicotine, cacao, resveratrol and so on. All of them are poisons, created by a plant to disable enemies. For us stimulating and activating pleasure. And this isn’t new, it has been part of human culture for over thousands of years, in tribe culture and as part of their rituals.
What about opium, hashish, alcohol, and co(cain)? Sigmund Freud wrote a treatise on coca, calling it “die göttliche Pflanze” (the godly plant). All of these drugs have been loved, despised, and established. However, there also has been misuse, addiction, and criminality.
Weak people escape into powerful substances, alcohol, tobacco, and as of recent into virtual realities (Instagram, TikTok, Netflix, …), because they are not capable of building a beautiful life in actual reality. Healthy, strengthening substances have become destructive poisons – because of too high, to frequent and too un-reflected dosages.
CONDEMNATION & STUPIDITY FOLLOWED
Life-averse, fearful, and conservative forces judge everything that is risky, powerful, and extreme. They forced their one-dimensional linear paradigm onto this world and placed a label on it: This is bad. It’s the devil’s work. Just be good, go to work, go to church, make sure you put warm cloth on and, of course, pay your taxes. You can also give this a cool spin: Go to the gym, take your BCAAs, take care of your Insta-Account and stay away from lactose.
YES, “LIVING HEALTHY”
… that sounds so easy, simple, and linear: Sports, vegetables, and abstinence. Truth to be told, you have been raised in a society and generation fueled by simplified condemnation and stupidity. Here are two simple truths:
1. SPORTS, VEGETABLES; AND ABSTINENCE are healthy because they are poisons for your body – attacks, destruction, deprivation, and stress. They themselves are not that beneficial to your health. It’s the hermetic reaction of your body that makes them healthy. You have to open yourself up for influences in contrast to your current lifestyle – otherwise your life stays one dimensional and linear (and that ain’t gonna serve you well in a non-linear world). Have a look at a martial artist who ends up in a street fight after years of training in his dojo. He’s going to kiss the ground in no time, mumbling something about “that was against the rules”. There are no rules out there. Only attack, defense, and arms races. Peace is an unnatural illusion. Your body knows that. What did the Romans say? Oh, right: Si vis pacem? Para bellum – If you want peace, prepare for war.
2. EVERYTHING ALLEGEDLY BAD ISN’T REALLY BAD – as long you can keep a handle on the dosage. Have a look at snake charmers. They have been bitten, poisoned and … generally have an outstanding robustness. Do you know Lord Shiva, the one from ancient Indian mythology? The god of creative destruction?
This mighty aggressive and at the same time focused and self-controlled god is usually depicted completely blue. Why? Because he is loaded with poisons and drugs. Inwardly he seethes and outwardly he smiles. Human and natural drugs don’t bother him. He lives high up in the stormy mountains of Himalaya. Everyday he has himself bitten in the tongue by a cobra and I can tell you: That guy is nonstop shitfaced.
IT HASN’T BEEN MUCH DIFFERENT FOR DR. Z
I have written a certain part of my book “Leider geil, fett & faul” deliberately under the influence of drugs. Since I was little, I have been pervaded by an appetite for self-destruction, that has been pushing me to extremes. The masculine role models that entered my life now and then, haven’t been the kind of guys that count calories, swallow vitamins and measure body fat. On the contrary: Those guys have been laughing about that. They lived with power, intensity, and passion and still, they have been stable, robust, and vigorous. However, most of them haven’t been the brightest of the bunch.
And the smart ones with whom I debated, philosophized, and talked about books … Well, they have been smart due to compensation, because their body was that of a ‘Homer’. Stability and power have been the last things you would associate with them.
COMBINING THE BOTH
That was my first goal when I was young. I wanted to be incredibly fit: With mind and body. Reconciliation and embodiment of the mind. Mostly, because I haven’t seen this anywhere around, although it is so beautifully holistic – smart, strong, stable.
TWO HEARTS POUNDING IN ONE CHEST?
Still, there has always been this appetite for self-destruction, drugs, and booze. Have there been two hearts pounding in my chest?
Fit and healthy when the sun is up and indulged in self-destruction once it settles behind the horizon? That was the way it appeared for many years – at least based on the linear paradigm and under the misconception, that some things are clearly healthy and others clearly harmful.
I didn’t really understand myself for many years but still though I followed my intuition and my instincts. Even though I wrote books about fitness, I never became part of the world associated with it – the fitness and supplement industry with its phoniness and expositions. And the followers of that cult with their Tupper-boxes and camera-friendly faces always ready to present the latest supplement to the camera never warmed up to me.
Myself, on the other hand, often had a few beers after working out or went partying, never really following any training plans or other crutches to ‘support’ my development. Why do you want to make something as easy as power and muscle building unnecessarily complicated?
I ALSO TOOK THIS TO THE EXTREME
… and consumed as an experiment as many drugs as possible for half a year, daily, for months with up to 30 nights of partying a month and a bottle of whiskey for breakfast. Only at the extreme I have come to find my limits, although it did not pull me down or destroyed me. On the contrary.
Afterwards I was sober for two years. No drugs, no cigarettes, not a drop of alcohol, and barely any parties. Another experiment. And how did this turn out? Well, theoretically such an abstinent life should have had a potent effect on my performance and health.
BUT I DIDN’T
Sure, my blood levels have been great, but I didn’t feel it. Life just carried on as usual, only a little bit more one dimensional. When the lock down in Goa started and I visited my neighbors, I was greeted by five lively girls from Moscow or St. Petersburg in bikinis and pyjamas, offering me a gin and tonic. It didn’t even occur to me for a second to say ‘niet’.
And this was the beginning of some beautiful months in Goa, that still carry on and which I used to familiarize myself with hormesis, borscht and hallucinogens. Now and then there is also a bottle of wine on the table.
Nowadays, there aren’t two hearts anymore beating in my chest. Be it training and diet or drugs and self-destruction, both lead you two the same path. Fitness, Nietzsche, stability – Hormesis; only from different directions (and as long as the dosage is under control).
Many people are not capable of this. For them it is easier to separate into healthy and harmful, good and bad. Sure, that is a kind of order, but it is far from reality and pretty limited. Because the widespread condemnation and stupidity doesn’t just result in fear and weakness. Immense amounts of potential for growth are lost. Rousseau already said it: “There is no evildoer who could not be made good for something”.
Nothing is good or bad in itself, it’s our reaction to it that makes it good or bad. Everything is connected to everything, creates itself, and is holistic. If you have trouble with the world or too many enemies, be aware that it is you who creates these problems.
BUT THIS IS EVOLVING
In the near future there will be more and more people who see our wonderful world more realistic and more complex. They will leave the rigidity of our current thinking behind and see the good in the bad. They will massively profit from this change in perspective, not just on a physical level, but also on a spiritual and financial level, as well as in regards to fun, flow, and passion. Let’s hear Nietzsche on this:
SMOOTH ICE IS PARADISE FOR THOSE WHO DANCE WITH EXPERTISE
If you want to further familiarize with the topic, I suggest to you the following book by Richard Friebe (however, it hasn’t been translated into the English language; but if you want to exercise your German this your chance): „Hormesis. Das Prinzip der Widerstandskraft. Wie Stress und Gift uns stärker machen.“
Go for it!
While I was writing these lines, I was bitten by a spider, right in the keister, and the next morning I’ve been left with a hand-sized rash by a poisonous caterpillar that made my lymph nodes swell painfully. Right now, I’m finishing up on the article while Bramy is working on my tattoo. Chemical colours in a dirty studio in India, injected deep under the skin. With it a Ganesh statue, power shortages, Punjabi music, street kids swarming around, chai tea, and incense candles – for four hours, on 5 square meters. Under the linear paradigm some really nasty moments.
FORM A HORMETIC PERSPECTIVE
… just another productive day in the jungle, in the probably dirtiest country ever, in which I’m stranded for about 8 months now, thanks to corona. And you know what’s best about hormesis?
It gives you a much more stable, self-confident perspective on supposedly harmful and risky influences. Radiation, dirt, and poison become vitamins. And you start to take everything a little more relaxed, no matter how bad it is – and with that you got over it. Never forget:
MINDSET IS EVERYTHING