Why “Safe” is not safe?
(this is NN Taleb inspired, any flaws in this article are not his but mine, anything good in this article is not mine but his.)
“Short exposure to extreme cold and heat is good for you”, I said. “But why?” my friend asked. Despite trying hard, I couldn’t come up with anything brief at the moment. I said I don’t know.
This article is for that friend.
Always keeping your child in a perfectly safe environment, say your home, is a terrible idea. The child needs to play out in the open and get a few scratches. The child also needs to be exposed to some bacteria and viruses to develop a healthy immune system. In fact, many childhood allergies have been linked to not enough exposure to these “unhealthy” microbes.
Within a certain range, the human body is very antifragile. We destroy our muscles, and they come back stronger. We get exposed to a small dose of venom, and we can tolerate much higher doses. Muay Thai practitioners make their shin extremely hard by causing a lot of small fractures in the shin bone. Exposure to a small dose of viruses builds up defenses against much higher doses.
If we were not antifragile, we wouldn’t exist. To survive we had to be antifragile. Mother nature has made almost all its creatures this way. Antifragility is the trait evolution selects for.
In an antifragile system, small shocks are good, even necessary. When we protect antifragile systems from a natural dose of healthy shocks we make them weak. For example, overprotected child(who is only allowed to play inside his house) is weaker compared to children playing in the open, with everything else remaining constant.
Fasting is another kind of shock humans and many other animals adapted for. Nature does not serve food three times a day. If we could not survive without food for a week, we wouldn’t be here. Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2016 for his research on how cells recycle and renew their content, a process called autophagy. Fasting triggers autophagy, which helps slow down the aging process. Turns out the human body has adapted to turn lack of food to its advantage. Shocks not only help but are necessary. It is artificial consistency that kills.
Food is not only calories but also information. Food or lack thereof triggers hormonal and epigenetic changes in the human body. But this is not limited to food. Many modern researchers have shown a similar result with periodic exposure to cold and heat. It is as beneficial as it is natural. It is a simulation of our ancient environment.
Exposure to cold triggers certain mechanisms in our bodies that act like fasting. Our body has learned to take advantage of such small shocks.
I feel it’s unnecessary to cite the science behind why cold or hot is good for us. It couldn’t have been any other way. The human body has evolved to not only survive but take advantage of the environment.
Like the famous mathematician, Jacobi said, Invert always Invert. To live a healthy lifestyle do not add. Subtract! Remove everything that is not natural. For example, getting food without exercise is extremely unnatural. Surviving the winter without being exposed to extreme cold even once is almost impossible in the natural setting. Not walking even for 1 or 2 hours is also very unnatural. Subtract! Always Subtract!