HEALTHY BITE | Hormesis: Intentional Stress to Boost Immune Function

Every week I am going to record a healthy bite, a small snack-sized episode to explore some health advice or what's happening in the media. This week it is about hormesis... is all stress bad? What stress is good and how can you expose yourself to it?


The question is, is all stress bad? And the answer is no. There are some intentional stresses which actually boost our immune system and are actually good for us. An example of that is exercise. Exercise is intentional stress that you undertake that actually puts the body under some stress, but at the same time builds resilience and boosts immune function and that’s a good thing. Obviously, other forms of hormesis or intentional stress hormetic stress, they’re all the same thing include ice baths, infrared saunas, fasting.

One could even argue that perhaps meditation is intentional stress as well. We’re going to be talking to that legend. I think he’s a legend, Deano Gladstone. I first met Deano at another legend and a lot of legends here, but Aaron McKenzie’s, gym Origin of Energy. I first started working out with Aaron around 10 years ago. There were some great people that I got to know in that gym and Deano Gladstone was one of them. You probably know Deano Gladstone, too, if you’ve been looking at watching the last 16 episodes, 16 years of Bondi Rescue.

I grew up in Bondi and to have a show that revolves around the beach where I spend an awful lot of time, Bondi Beach, and not only that but to showcase what I believe are probably the best ambassadors Australia could ever have.

I am just constantly amazed at how good-natured, capable, they all seem to be with people doing some really silly things, and they’re always really respectful and good-natured about it and they save people’s lives. Deano is one of the senior lifeguards in that Bondi rescue show and we talked a lot about breathing. It’s ironic in many ways because as a lifeguard, Deano saves his people’s lives literally through the breath and breathing is something we give very little thought to. It’s there’s a big but there is a big difference between breathing, just breathing, and breathing well, breathing is critical to optimal immune function to helping balance out our body chemistry.

Interestingly, breathing can also be used as a form of intentional stress. And this references the work of Wim Hof a Dutchman who has made a huge reputation for himself by literally rewriting the physiological textbooks about what is actually a human he’s capable of. I think he’s scaled Mount Everest in his shorts. He’s been on the ice for an hour or more at a time. He’s done things that apparently aren’t possible, but he’s done them by controlling his body’s physiology and he’s done that through breath and through meditation. Deano’s episode explores that and Deanos is training people and runs courses on this very topic.

Ice bath

I started this with my partner in dental surgery, my nephew, Dr Lewis Erhlich. And we visited Deano in December of 2020 and went in for my first ever ice bath. I hate cold water, so this was very confronting for me but Deano ran us through some breathing exercises and then also we hopped into an ice bath or we individually hopped in.

We took out turns hopping into an ice bath that was two degrees and we stayed in there. My first effort there was around two and a half to three minutes. Since then, Lewis and I, with some others, have regularly met on a Saturday morning at Lewis’s place and also gone through those breathing techniques and the ice baths. It’s been a really empowering and very interesting thing.


It’s going to be a theme that I’m going to be exploring more this year, and that is using intentional stress in various forms to build resilience and immune function. So is all stress bad? No, it’s not. Here is an example of using breathing in a stressful way, intentionally stressing our system. Using a particular breathing technique and then also getting into an ice bath to again challenge our body and build resilience, and I’ve really enjoyed doing that. You will realize that not all stress is bad for some intentional stress.


This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.