The Science behind the Wim Hof Method |
Dina and Matthias Wittfoth both majored in Psychology and hold PhDs in Neuroscience. They are avid fans of the Wim Hof Method which has helped them to take their lives to a new level both personally as well as professionally. This podcast is for you if you are eager to learn more about the scientific facts behind the Wim Hof Method from an educated and reliable source. Join us and find out why guided breathing, cold exposure, and mental focus are so extraordinarily effective in increasing physical, mental and emotional health!
Find out more at https://scienceontherocks.org
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Brain freeze: a conversation about the research from Detroit
Wim Hof recently participated in a research study in Detroit while being exposed to cold water. The research has already been published in a peer-reviewed (i.e. "proper) scientific journal called NeuroImage.
Dina had the pleasure to interview Otto Muzik and Vaibhav Diwadkar, the scientists who conducted the study (you can listen to this interview in SOTR Episode #11), but a number of listeners chimed in and told us that they felt a little overwhelmed by the scientific terms and explanations provided there.
In the latest episode, Dina and Matthias share their conversation about the Detroit study where they address many of the questions they received in lay-man terms.
What has actually been studied?
What were the results and why were these findings so surprising?
Which conclusions can we draw from the study, and which interpretations are too far-fetched?
We hope you will enjoy this conversation as much as we did, and find it helpful in creating a well-rounded picture of this interesting new piece of research elucidating the health-boosting effects of the WHM.
At the beginning of this episode, we also introduce the HUSO Sound Therapy System.
Are you aware that sound can actually heal because specific frequencies are able to influence the function of your body cells?
We always interested in techniques that can amplify the effects of the Wim Hof Method. When we heard Dave Asprey talk to Larry Doochin, the CEO, about the HUSO system on his podcast 'Bulletproof Radio' we figured that this might be a valuable tool to increase the benefits of the WHM.
We got in touch with Larry Doochin who kindly sent us one HUSO system for testing at home. We tried HUSO for a couple of weeks, and are excited about the calming and relaxing effects of this specific sound therapy system. AND... it's an incredible experience when you listen to these sounds that are based on human voices while you are doing your breathing techniques!
Want to give it a try? Go to thisishuso.com and enter MATTHIAS25 as a discount code to save 25$ on your order!
Meditation can really change your brain - Britta Hoelzel
Britta Hölzel is a German neuroscientist and a mindfulness-based stress-reduction and yoga teacher.
She conducts neuroimaging research to investigate the neural mechanisms of mindfulness practice. After five years as a research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, she is now associated with the Technical University in Munich.
Britta talks about her research findings and which of them had surprised and impressed her the most.
In the Wim Hof Method, meditation is beautifully integrated. There are various reports that people find it usually easier to mediate after they did their breathing session.
After listening to this episode, you will understand your own ability to influence your body, for example how you might impact the structure of your brain by the things you do and the consequences you experience based on your decisions.
Go to scienceontherocks.org for further information.
Hormesis – The biological concept that explains the Wim Hof Method
When people first hear about the Wim Hof Method, they often wonder how it can possibly be healthy to repeatedly expose your body to ice water, hyperventilate and hold your breath.
Turning to science, the research field of hormesis can readily provide answers to these legitimate questions. The concept of hormesis was developed more than a hundred years ago and research in this area has rapidly expanded over the last two decades.
By definition, hormesis is a dose-response phenomenon characterized by low-dose stimulation and high-dose inhibition.
Hormesis means that the administration of small doses of stress which in high doses would be very harmful to a specific live form can stimulate physiological processes that are beneficial in the long run.
Now transfer the hormetic principle to the Wim Hof Method: immersing yourself in cold water for just the right amount of time, or challenging your body with periods of low oxygen during breath retentions for just the right amount of time, should have beneficial effects on your physiology!
Edward Calabrese who has been dubbed a “Toxicology Rock Star”. He is a professor of Toxicology at University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences. He has an impressive resume, including over 600 scholarly articles and more than 10 books. He was awarded the Marie Curie Prize in 2009 for his work on hormesis. In the past 20 years, Calabrese has conceived and carried out hundreds of experiments to test and re-confirm his findings. His work is a reminder that it is easy to think we have attained vast amounts of understanding about the natural world, but in fact, there is so much more that we don’t know.
Go to scienceontherocks.org for further information.
Homeostasis during exposure to environmental extremes - Marc Cohen
Professor Marc Cohen is one of Australia’s pioneers in integrative and holistic medicine.
He is a registered GP with degrees in physiology and psychological medicine, as well as PhDs in Chinese medicine and biomedical engineering.
I had the pleasure and opportunity to speak with him for “Science on the Rocks” about his work and his perspective on the science behind the Wim Hof Method.
Marc Cohen’s very impressive scientific work includes the investigation of lifestyle interventions, such as Yoga, breathing techniques, herbal medicine, and hot (sauna) and ice-cold bathing.
Or, as he put it, “to investigate homeostasis during exposure to environmental extremes”.
In the podcast, I was able to ask him about his view on topics such as hormesis (which will be one of our main topics on the podcast in the next weeks), mountain sickness, the main differences between sauna and ice immersions, why people with Raynaulds’ syndrome which is a medical condition showing spasm of arteries that itself causes episodes of reduced blood flow, have to be careful when going into the cold, the Bohr effect, a metabolite called dynorphin, and what mechanisms of the WHM might turn on stem cells in your body (which is an extraordinary process).
One of the things that I found highly interesting and which increased my understanding of the WHM breathing technique was Marc’s explanation of the five phases of breathing.
First, during the conscious hyperventilation, you increase your ph-level and your oxygen saturation while carbon dioxide decreases. Then you have an anaerobic phase during the breath retention. Here, lactate rises and the pH level is slowly decreasing.
And because hemoglobin’s oxygen binding affinity is inversely related both to acidity and to the concentration of carbon dioxide, it tends to keep oxygen much tighter in its structure during low carbon dioxide levels in this phase. You could measure this with an oximeter and notice that the oxygen saturation will stay as high as 100% for about a minute before carbon dioxide is increasing again.
Then, still in the retention phase, you come to the point when oxygen finally is released from hemoglobin (aerobic metabolism) and when you will realize that the urge to breathe again is getting stronger and stronger due to higher carbon dioxide in the blood.
The fourth phase is the action of the recovery breath when everything returns back to its physiological balance.
Marc considers the last phase as subjectively very peaceful when you don’t actively do anything and your body has to cope with this single inhale. Your pulse rate drops significantly below your resting pulse rate.
Interestingly, the psychological experiences are mainly dysphoric during the transition from the hyperventilation to the breath-hold and also when you feel the need to breathe at the end of your retention phase but are euphoric during the last phase when you hold your breath again for 20 seconds.
So, going from one extreme to the other, you can find your balance.
And what is totally striking is that - from a physiological perspective - you might need these phases of dysphoria and discomfort in order to experience euphoria later on much stronger because the stuff which is associated with dysphoria which is called dynorphin can increase the number and sensitivity of endorphin receptors. Endorphin’s principal function is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals; it may also produce a feeling of euphoria very similar to that produced by other opioids. As you may have guessed, I’m really eager to interview Marc after the Kilimanjaro expedition again!
Please go to scienceontherocks.org to receive additional information and the show notes. We will also provide Marc’s lecture in which he presents the five phases of the breathing technique (26:00 minutes into the lecture) and a lot
Neuroimaging Wim Hofs' brain - Otto Muzik and Vaibhav Diwadkar
Prof. Otto Muzik and Prof. Vaibhav Diwadkar, two neuroscientists working at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine in Detroit/Michigan, are experts in investigating the correlates of thermoregulation in the human brain and body.
Then one day, their Ph.D. students told them about this crazy Dutch guy who seems to have almost superhuman capacities withstanding the cold – and it became pretty clear that they had to invite Wim to their lab to study his brain. Wim Hof underwent functional MRI and PET scans while he was exposed to mild hypothermia wearing a special cold suit.
The results of these experiments were very surprising...
Here, you will get a sneak preview of these findings that have not been published yet.
Listen to the interview, in which Dina was given the chance to ask the neuroscientists about what results were so unexpected and what exactly the set-up of this neuroimaging study was.
Support us on patreon.com/scienceontherocks
Disturb the comfort - Kiki Bosch
Kiki Bosch is a dutch ice-water free diver.
In this episode, she shares her story.
She speaks about her experience as an ice freediver, about her role as an ambassador of nature and a body awareness coach and upcoming WHM instructor.
What makes this episode unique and extraordinary is that Kiki and Dina discuss their own experiences of sexual abuse and how the cold as a force of nature that can support overcoming trauma.
Support us on patreon.com/scienceontherocks
Thank you! Really enjoy the format of the podcast. Bringing practitioners and scientists together on the same show is quite helpful. There are a lot of people who need the scientific perspective to better understand that some more ancient practices have incredible value for general health, well being, and societal well being.
So happy to see the science behind some of the traditions put out in the mainstream.
Wonderful review of the physiology of the Wim Hof, I learned a lot. I listen to some of the podcasts twice
Really enjoy the show keep up the good work