Wim Hof (the Iceman) on Defeating Extreme Cold & Attenuating the Immune Response
Posted on January 3rd 2016 (over 3 years)
Dr. Rhonda Patrick interviews Wim Hof, also known as the "Iceman."
Wim holds the world record for the longest ice bath (1 hour and 53 minutes and 12 seconds), just to name one of his many impressive feats. Dr. Patrick and Wim talk a bit about Wim's back story that culminated in him trying out cold water immersion, the 2014 scientific publication of the “Wim Hof Method” which includes cold exposure during training, exposure to bacterial endotoxin, Wim's breathing techniques, and meditation.
The 2014 study demonstrated the effects of just 4 days of training with the “Wim Hof method” on 12 volunteers injected with bacterial endotoxin.
Some of the effects observed in the 2014 study included:
- increased epinephrine (greater than first time bungee jumpers while laying in bed!)
- increased norepinephrine
- increased anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-10)
- decreased pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha)
- decreased carbon dioxide blood levels
- increased blood pH to 7.75 (in some cases), which is actually a mild respiratory alkalosis
As discussed in the video, the respiratory alkalosis, in particular, might explain why Wim’s technique helps him to endure the cold more, while some of the other changes, help to explain how he is able to suppress his inflammatory response to endotoxin.
For a deeper conversation about these topics, see the related video below.
- Related episode: Dr. Pierre Capel on the Power of the Mind & the Science of Wim Hof
WARNING: Breathing techniques should not be practiced when in water or before swimming. Shallow-water blackouts, which may be fatal, can occur.
Rhonda: Hello everyone. I'm here in...well I guess it's not really Amsterdam. It's somewhere close to Amsterdam. What's the name?
Wim: It's Stroe.
Rhonda: Stroe. I'm sitting here with someone I'm very excited to be having a conversation with, not only because he's extremely charismatic and passionate, but also because he's into the cold. And as you guys all know that I'm very interested in changes in temperature on human physiology, on brain function... His name is Wim Hof. You may have heard of him through the Tim Ferriss interview recently, or through the VICE documentary. He holds 26 different world records. Maybe you can tell us more about that?
Wim: I have 26. Different disciplines, like climbing Mount Everest in your shorts, or climbing Kilimanjaro in record times, or hanging by one finger in the air, or 1 hour, 53 minutes in direct contact with the ice, or swimming beneath a thick ice cap under the ice, or running marathons. Not been trained to do so, but then run a marathon, because, and a runners going to tell you, about breathing techniques. Very, very revolutionary. But tell.
Rhonda: Well, I want to ask you, Wim, I mean, I've been very interested in the effects of changing temperature on human physiology. Specifically, I've been interested in the sauna for a while, mostly because I sort of serendipitously started using the sauna when I was in graduate school, which is a very stressful time for me. And there was a sauna across the street from where I lived. And so I started using the sauna every morning before I would going to the lab and do my experiments. And I noticed that I felt really good after, and I was able to handle stress better. So I started to figure out, why is this? And so I started diving into the science and I'm trying to understand how it affects the brain. But how did you become interested in sitting in the ice or taking ice baths?
Wim: I thought there was more than meets the eye. There is more into all the system. And I was like grown up in a big family, but my, you know, school results were not so big. And everybody was into, "Hey, you have to become a doctor. You have to become this. You have to become that. Otherwise, you are lower in the system." And I thought, "No. What I feel is okay. What I feel, it's not what really I want." So I began to wonder. I began to look. Hundreds of books in psychology, philosophy. Though I was, by school system, narrowed down as being, "Yeah, you can be a carpenter. You can be a painter." And I said, "No." I knew there was something different. So I went into books. At my age of 12, I began to read about psychology already. Going into Hinduism and Buddhism and all these religions and traditions and cultures, and began to learn languages, different languages, by my own. Not by the schooler system.
Rhonda: By your own interest and passion for it.
Wim: Yes. And when I reached the age of 17, then my head was full up with all these philosophies and philosophying about it, all the traditions and cultures and the languages and everything, and all I did was karate and kung fu and yoga. I could do it all. All. But it still did not satisfy the depth of which I wanted to reach inside, which my mind, in the start, was looking for. And a Sunday morning, I was wandering throughout the park, and I saw this thin layer of ice on the water, and it attracted me. And I thought, I got to go in. I was looking around, nobody was there because, Sunday morning, everybody is working, you know, they have their tranquility...tranquilidad in Spanish. The have to...you know, they want to have a easy time in bed or something. So I could...take off my clothes and went in, and it just, in one minute, I felt the sense I'm really going deep in. This is really responding to the soul searching I did for many years before, and about that what I think is there is more than meets the eye, I found it at that moment. And I came out, and I felt great. And from there it all started to... Whenever you feel great, you come back. So the other day, I came back, and then once again, once again. And I noticed that the pattern of the breathing changed. It changed, and it brought me more oxygen inside the body, being able to withstand the cold, say, for 20 minutes, ice cold, huh? Ice water, and then stay for five to seven minutes under the water. And it brought me a sense of tremendous power within. A control. I was looking for that. That's the way it all began.
From there, I began to do my own study of life itself. And yes, it brought me to all kinds of challenges. Staying in shorts, no t-shirt, no nothing, just in freezing temperatures all night out. The human potential of his physiology is far beyond than what we exercise right now. And because of this comfort zone way of thinking, we think we can control nature, but we do not control the inner power anymore, which is the physiology, which goes far deeper than we exercise right now, which causes all these diseases, all the depressions, all the lack of oxygen. The right chemistry in the body is not there, causing all these ailments. And we have no control. And yeah, right now we have found the techniques, and we brought it back to the laboratory setting, showed that everybody is able just to tap into their deepest levels of their physiology, which is the autonomic nervous system, related to the immune system, related to the endocrine system, which means the immune system is the health. The layers of the immune system after millions of years are really perfect, but if you do not tap in, you're not making use of these immune systems. Another one is the endocrine system about glands, the hormones. If you don't feel good, if you don't feel happy, make some happy hormones working. If you don't feel strong, you feel weak and...make some strong hormones working. We have shown people lying in bed producing, it's all science now, producing within a half hour, more adrenaline than somebody in fear going for a bungee jump. Comparative study of blood results. So the endocrine system, the immune system, just in a couple of days, we are able to access, every individual in the world therein. And we got to spread this news, because it makes us happy, strong and healthy. And that's what we want. And now you come and you interview me, and you're a bright girl. You're a bright woman. Help me to bring this to the world. That's what we do. It's good, it's for everybody, that's what we're doing.
Rhonda: Yes. So you're talking about these couple of studies that were published, but before jumping into that, you've got this technique that you're referring to where you're getting in the cold, and you mention that your breathing, you noticed when you first were doing it, your breathing changed.
Rhonda: I'm just curious, is that how you decided to harness the breathing techniques? Was it something that you'd noticed you did automatically when you were in the cold? Or how did you couple those two together?
Wim: In the cold, if you go in the cold, and it feels good, because you feel, there's no thinking involved, you just feel, and just feeling is tremendous, nice. It's okay. It's strong. It's a strong feeling. That is what the reaction is of the cold. Okay, but then your breathing will change because it's naturally already there. And to withstand cold impact, which is of course coming in, it needs oxygen, combustion. It needs oxygen to go round. So you need oxygen, in a natural way, in every cell. But as we breathe shallow in our conditioned minds and in the comfort zone, etc., it doesn't get in all the cells, the right amount of oxygen. But the cold really forces you to breathe the natural way, which is very much more profound, bringing in oxygen in all the cells, taking up the pH level, and then you don't feel the pain, you don't feel the cold, you get control over them. The neurotransmitters in the body, they go fast and they listen to your will. They listen to what you have to say. That's the way nature built us to be. So I learned it in the cold by feeling, because I knew that there was no book. The book was me. The book was the interaction with the nature.
Rhonda: No, it's really cool. I was speaking with a mutual friend of ours yesterday, Peter Capel, who was explaining some of the science behind how the breathing techniques that you're referring to that you use when you're doing this hyperventilation. Do you want to explain it?
Wim: Hyperventilation is over...it gets to you. What we do...we go controlled to the level where hyperventilation occurs, but we do it controlled. So there is a neural activity contact with the brain and the way we get in oxygen to the right pH levels and then that's... Hyperventilation is a sort of a limited indication for now. But we are not suffering from hyperventilation, we make use of whatever goes on in hyperventilation to get a degree of mastery or a certain level of trance within our physiology, within our chemistry, and we do it right.
Rhonda: Okay, yeah. So your controlled breathing technique, what it ends up doing at the physiological level is it is decreasing the carbon dioxide level in the blood, which then, as you mentioned, has a response in raising the pH, which is usually very hard to do, you know? Normal blood pH is around 7.35, 7.4.
Wim: If that's the case, 7.3, 7.4, then everybody's okay. But everybody is actually suffering from lower degrees of pH. That's our problem in this society, because we build up a lack of oxygen throughout the daily life, and that's why we get lower pH levels, and from there all the problems of autoimmune diseases and probably cancer, etc. I don't want to mention all these words, but it's logical. If you go with a car, and you got petrol, diesel or gas, you put in sugar, you change the chemistry and you are not able to drive anymore. The same works with the body. If we get too long a time, too low pH degree, the auto, which is Greek for self, our physiology, is not working anymore, and then we get these chronic diseases and the autoimmune diseases. It's logic.
Rhonda: What's interesting to me is that there's the pain receptor, the acid sensing receptor that is coupled to the pain signalling pathway, and so when you are able to raise your pH by this brilliant technique, and lowering the carbon dioxide to 7.75 or 7.8...
Wim: Eight, average, last study.
Wim: It's still not published, but I can say...
Rhonda: Well, in the published study, it was about 7.75 or 7.8, which is still high. And that's too...that's a high enough pH to deactivate the receptor that senses the acidity, and therefore it is unable to send signals to the other pain receptors.
Wim: Wow, great. Science, I love this shit. If you get it to 7.6, the trimerization goes into monomer, so the pain signal is composed by three...
Rhonda: Receptors. They [inaudible 00:15:38].
Wim: ...receptors, then two get away because there's just no signal on them. I loved your...
Rhonda: And that's why you can sit in the pool.
Wim: And then it goes away. And there is no pain. That's the way we master our own body again. That's the way nature built us to be able to do.
Rhonda: Well, so that's just one interesting point about your breathing and cold...
Wim: Yeah whatever that mattered, I didn't got it out of books, I got it out of nature.
Rhonda: No, it's so cool. Right, yeah.
Wim: I brought it back to the laboratory, it's in the books right now, in American books, even, the Future of Biology and Medical Students, it's a full chapter, 'Testing the Ice Man', it's called, and it's not anymore about me. It's about a comparative study with 12 people who did the method just within 4 days, and it wasn't even really a puritan training, which I did with them, to make them able to go and tap into the autonomic nervous system, and the immune system, and get endotoxin injected, and have it controlled within a quarter of hour. That's what...
Rhonda: It's amazing.
Wim: Hundred percent. Hundred percent. Within four days. All this "Oh, so many years," and this, and that, and all they say, you know, people who are very puritan take years about it, "Acidic, alkaline, what we got to do," and always miming about it... Just in four days. And in the nights, in the evenings, we drank beer, and we had guitar playing, and we had some relaxation going on. And during the day, they were fully committed, and the fourth day, they were with me without prior experience, in the cold, at minus 10 Celsius. I mean, that's below freezing point. Celsius, Fahrenheit, you know, it's really below freezing point. They began at the foot of a mountain, and like hours it took to get to the summit in Poland-Czechia border in the wintertime, and all in shorts, like three hours or three and a half hours, and it was minus 27 at the top, and they were still... We were doing the Harlem Shake on top. Then I knew these guys, after four days of training, without prior experience, in the cold, having a real good time in the night, and during the day, go again. Four days later, and I knew it at the summit, they are...these people are ready. These people are back in their natural state of their physiology. They have control by the mind over their body the way a endotoxin experiment or a bacteria gets injected, and within a quarter of a hour they will have complete dominion of the bacteria. And that in spite of the others, who had no instructions, they suffered from three to six hours uncontrolled shivering, headaches and overall agony and all that. So we got to go back to nature. Our nature. The inner nature, the inner mechanisms. And it's not so difficult. It's very easy, actually. Very simple.
Rhonda: So I want to dive a little more into the science, but I have a question. So after the 4 days of training, these 12 individuals were completely untrained, they did the 4 days of training. How soon after that did they have the endotoxin injected?
Wim: Four days later.
Rhonda: Four days later. So they did training for four days and then they had the... So they weren't...were they doing any of the breathing techniques or anything right before the endotoxin?
Wim: Right before the endotoxin they did this breathing...
Rhonda: The breathing.
Wim: ...and that made them able to go into the brainstem, which is the cause of adrenaline, direct adrenaline. And in a way, comparatively, they compared it with studies wherein people go into a...in fear, first time, going into a bungee jump. And these guys were just lying in bed and producing more adrenaline. That means control within, you know, controlled stress hormone like adrenaline, epinephrine and all this, that means it works like medicine. It ignites the immune system, "Go and reset and do what you got to do." And what we are able to do is to fend ourselves off from disease, like animals, like mammals. I don't see any psychiatric asylums in nature. I don't see pharmacies in nature, no hospitals. But they still live and they run and they are fast and they go and they live and they enjoy life. Even though there are predators and everything, it's a beautiful cycle. But we thought we are better. We dominate nature. But we don't. We have to go back and this mammalistic brain, the limbic system, the brainstem, if it is in order once again, we become happy, strong and healthy.
Rhonda: So what you're saying is so interesting because the breathing techniques you're talking about does increase the epinephrine and the adrenaline, which has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. So that is able to secrete these anti-inflammatory cytokines that prevent the immune system from going crazy. So in the study where these 12 individuals did your method, I found it interesting that they were injected with endotoxin, which is like, by the way, it's something that humans are constantly exposed to small amounts of, because we have it in our gut, and it's a driver of the inflammation, it's a driver of aging, it's a driver of cardiovascular disease, everything aging-related. All aging related...
Wim: Cardiovascular diseases.
Rhonda: ...diseases come back to endotoxin.
Wim: Look what you mentioned. How big it is.
Rhonda: Yeah, it's a big thing. So what happened, you know, physiologically what's happening with the breathing techniques, specifically, which I'm calling it hyperventilation, it's controlled, you know, but for simplistic reasons, when you hyperventilate, you increase the adrenaline and the epinephrine, and that has a profound effect on anti-inflammatory. And so these individuals that were doing your method versus the control when they were injected with the endotoxin, their immune response was activated. But immediately, they had this anti-inflammatory cytokines coming out and quieting the immune system from not going crazy, and that's why they were not experiencing all the negative effects of when you have your immune system going overactive, it's inflammation. And then you get the pain, you get, you know, nausea, and things that you were describing. That didn't happen.
Wim: We got so many cases with rheumatic arthritis, atherosclerosis, we are doing... It's going to come, the studies, and the disease of Lyme, and the disease of Crohn, colitis and asthma, all kinds of... And it's all the same cause. And we are now very able to tap into that very direct...
Wim: ...but we have to show this scientifically. And I got so many cases of people using medicine for like 20 years and not using them anymore, there's no need anymore, in all these autoimmune diseases, about the inflammation, the cytokine production and all that, they control it. They control the pain. They control all the symptoms, and they don't need the medicines anymore. And we want to prove this by science, because I think there is a big industry behind...wants us to take medicine. So how much is the interest to look into a method which is natural, doesn't cost anything, anybody is able to do, and yeah, that's what we do. So that's what we do right now.
Maybe it's not so smart of me to say this or to mention this, but I have no fear. I have no fear. I think this scientific discovery that we are able to tap into the autonomic nervous system and relate it to the immune system and the endocrine system, brings back the belief to every person in the world that we are able to do so much more within our bodies. We lost this belief that we are unable to become happy, strong and healthy because we got lost in this sort of system, and we got confused, because then you get dependency. And now we turn around dependency and the disbelief and the discomfort into the ability by a natural method to bring about this consciousness of being happy and strong and healthy. That's my own thing. And we bring it about by scientific based evidence. And so there is no speculation going on.
And I love your study, I love your way of seeing things. That's good. So all what we do I think it's good, because what do we want for our children? That's love. And love, I think, is composed of what do you want for your child? Happiness, strength and health. That is what I want for my child. Is that love? Yes. That's love. But now, we will determine that by scientific scrutiny, by scientific results, evidence and that's it. And I call it crazy monkey sometimes. And we are making a song about it, and the crazy monkey is the brainstem. The brainstem, the primitive brain, is very able to direct... It's about to fight, to flight, food, to fuck and to freeze. Very primitive. But it's like a reptilian brain. It only reacts. It doesn't think. But because of our thinking, we are so dominated by our thinking, it doesn't get the right blood flow. And that heavier in the brainstem all to...resides the pineal gland, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, amygdala, which is the emotion. And it's all there and doesn't get sufficient blood flow. So if something happens, trauma or disease or danger, we don't know how to deal because there's not sufficient blood flow because this crazy monkey is all the time going around and actually wants to get and tap in back into its roots feeling okay. The crazy monkey. Eh, wow, it’s nice, huh?
Rhonda: Do you think that part of the effects of meditation in general, because a lot of meditation has focuses on breathing and breathing, do you think that the breathing itself may be responsible for some of those positive effects: meditation, respiration?
Wim: Sure. If you go in very... Capel, Professor Capel who was also talking about this, about the neocortex and the hypothalamus, which is the surface of the brain, and the hypothalamus is the brainstem, more or less, and we lose the contact, but it's all the time the neocortex going on with the world, like, "Hey, I got to do this. I got to do this." Then the blood flow will go to this, and it creates a sympathetic nervous system activity all the time. But to create new energy, it happens only, like a cow, it's going to sit down, it's going to chew on its grass, and this way, if these chemical processes are able...if she runs, these chemical processes to make milk are not able to happen. So we got a same process. We are mammals too. So in the cell, it needs peace. We need to sit down, relax, and to make new energy in the cell. But as we are always going on in the brain, the sympathetic nervous system is going on and on and on, and it only takes energy. And because we don't know how to get into the parasympathetic nervous system, which enables the cell production to make new energy, we are not able to disconnect therefrom. Therefore we get no new energy. And that's why life is so depressing, or too much going on, and you got to go all the time.
So now to get into this part by breathing, vipassana meditation and all that, every person [SP] and all these techniques, I worked them out. I wrote a manuscript on yoga as a technique, but so long a time it takes to get into it. And now we are doing a study with psychiatrical research, we are doing, to compare it with mindfulness. Mindfulness is actually a Western answer on the Asian meditation forms of the East, and it's called mindfulness. But still it takes such a long time to tap into the brain the right way to disconnect from the sympathetic nervous system activity course by the neocortex to get into the limbic system which is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates energy, which gives space, which doesn't give anxiety, and all that. So if you go into this breathing, profoundly, then there is no danger. There is no danger. You don't need to be. And if it takes just four minutes or five minutes, then it will disconnect from the neocortex, which is the sympathetic nervous system activity, it shuts down. There's no blood flow anymore going toward it, and it goes down, and you feel relaxed. Okay, oh, nice, nice. Now, it takes time, because some people are so stubborn within the sympathetic nervous system related to the neocortex. It goes on and on and on and on and it doesn't stop. So what we do now with this breathing technique, cut down, disconnect completely. The conditioned breathing pattern which is providing the oxygen, the blood flow to the neocortex, we cut it down. And you know what they saw? After one and a half minute of retention, that's refraining from breath.
Rhonda: It's like holding in?
Wim: After exhalation, no air in the lungs. That means [inaudible 00:33:02]. No oxygen here. And we got the pH degree. We got it completely up. So nothing happens. The body is completely provided. But then we fooled the brain. We fooled the brain. It takes one and a half minutes for the brain to get back, because we oxygenize the body so much, we get the carbon dioxide out, but the pH level we get up. Oxygen gets so much freed. Now for the first time, deep breathing, it gets to work all the cells. And then after one and a half minute, it gets down to 100% because what I know its science doesn't yet know. We are able to oxygenize the body more than 100%. These are the devices. They took up abstract devices. They... This is 100 percent... This 30% people die. You know what I show? I took the device, I took it with this finger. It's one of the strongest fingers ever. I was hanging in the wintertime at one finger between two balloons. And for 23, 50.4 seconds. Yes. That's that. They got these oximeters. And it's showing your heartbeat and your saturation in your blood. After one...everybody, it will show in the physiology of everybody, after one and a half minute, it then begins again, 100%, 90%, 80%, 70%, 60%, 50%, where people normally die, 40%, 30%, and the device goes 0, 0, 0. There's no measuring anymore.
Rhonda: On you?
Wim: Not on me only anymore, everybody who took part in the study in four days.
Rhonda: I saw the oxygen saturation went down by 50% in everyone, right?
Wim: Yes, yes. That's the average. But some guys just went out completely off the device.
Rhonda: So individual variation between the people. Some of them went down...
Wim: Yeah, a little bit, but everybody goes down. Like normally it's mortal. You are dying. If you would be acidic, you would die at that moment. So that's the way we trick the mind, because the reptilian mode is just reactive, to crawl, to freeze, to fuck, to flight, and to food. That's what a reptilian does. That's not us. We got a mind. But we don't know how to tap into this mode. Now we know. And this brings about the connection between all the parts of the brain, which also concerns disease.
Wim: And depression. The glands. The pineal gland. The pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, and we got it. So it's so simple and so effective.
Rhonda: Yeah, for the relevance, for diseases. So, if you just think about the cold itself increases norepinephrine, which is used to treat ADHD, it's used to treat depression, they're giving norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors to treat that, which have all sorts of side effects. And then the breathing increases the epinephrine, which then causes all the anti-inflammatory response.
Wim: Say that again. It's very interesting. I love that you say it, girl.
Rhonda: So then couple the two, you're talking about increasing the focus, the attention...
Rhonda: Epinephrine. The norepinephrine is increased by the cold, and then the breathing, the controlled breathing, increases the epinephrine and the adrenaline, which then cause all the anti-inflammatory response and then it decreases carbon dioxide, which then stops the pain.
Wim: It is science. No speculation.
Rhonda: Yeah. So what you're talking about potentially, and this is what I'm interested in, is treating possibly depression, anxiety, OCD, inflammation...
Wim: Look how serious this is. This is, and I wanted science to back it up. Please help me with the scientific research. We got it, but we need to prove it.
Rhonda: You're doing a pretty good job. Right now, you've got two pretty good publications, one of them in the PNAS journal, which is a very nice journal. It's a great paper, you know, I read it two times. I think that you're on the right path to using science and harnessing the power of science to show the physiological changes, the brain changes that are occurring through the use of the cold, you know, shock, through the use of these breathing techniques and [inaudible 00:38:25].
Wim: You're very humble. She's a humble girl. Nice.
Rhonda: Thank you. I'm curious, like what made you decide to turn to the science? Just your curiosity? You got that scientific sort of mind where you wanted to understand?
Wim: Recognition, science, yeah, I already knew it 25 years ago that the autonomic nervous can be influenced, and the immune system, but everybody told me I was crazy. Yeah, I'm crazy, about my life,and about my wife. That's okay. But for the rest, no. I know, because of nature, of cold and all that. And I can think. I am able to deduct and to make conversation, like with you right now. I can recognize what you say. I can recognize where we are, what we do and what we need to do even more. So that's the way I began. And I began, of course, when I had the chance. And that was in New York. "Wow, now we're getting something."
Rhonda: In New York.
Wim: New York, Manhasset.
Wim: Yeah, Manhattan. I did a record over there standing in the ice during the winter, in January in front of the Museum of Himalayan Arts in New York, and I did like 1 hour 13 minutes then. Now it's 1 hour 53 minutes. Doesn't matter, you know? Every time, a little minute to hold on, it's being invited [SP] all over the world. "Don't try it." But I did it. And then the other day, I went to the Feinstein institute in Manhasset, New York, which is under the supervision of Doctor Kevin Tracey, which is a microbiologist, and he is an authority in the field. He is also in the board of Nobel Prize winners for medical research. So you should give me. By the way, making jokes, you know? But the real serious thing is that he then saw me influencing the vagus nerve. And not a little bit. And he saw it compared to a whole lot of test subjects before, and I was the first one who was doing this, actually. There's a whole story behind it, as he'd read, but then he taught me... We were going to do all kinds of research, comparative studies, because if this would be...if I would be able to pass it over to a group of persons, that would be huge consequences for human mankind.
A month later, I did not hear any contact anymore, and I found out they are quite sponsored by pharmaceuticals. But that's okay. That's okay. Everybody needs money to go around and blah, blah, blah, etc. But years later, I had this opportunity to show in the Radboud University here in Holland, in a physiological experiment, cold experiment, that I was able to, you know, go into 80 minutes immersion into the cold, direct cold, ice cubes and water and all that, and stay 80 minutes, and raise my core body temperature whilst doing. And they had blood retrieving from me, and they exposed it, ex vivo, without me, in a laboratory setting, and they saw 100% cytokine suppression. A hundred percent, eh? And then later, yeah, of course, they began to become interested by intensive care department, "Do you want to be injected, do you want to be part of an experiment like that?" And then they saw this, and then I said, "Yes, but maybe I could do it." And all these people didn't do it. All these hundreds of people who were not able to do it, and now I'm able to do it with such a big difference. But I say, "It's not because I'm the ice man. Anybody can do it." So you can do it, anybody can do it. Even the dog can do it. But she is out there calling for us. Let her in. She said, "I'm taking part of this interview." It's all about love.
Rhonda: So that's how it came... the endotoxins, they came to be.
Rhonda: Because that has, like I said, has huge, huge clinical relevance.
Wim: Sit down. Sit down. Sit down. Sorry. My little cytokine. Sit down. Doesn't do anything. I suppress the cytokine production in my body, but I cannot control my dog. It's all about the love, you know?
Rhonda: Absolutely. Very, very cool. I would love to see, you know, this, like I said, potentially be used to help treat depression, to help treat a lot of...
Wim: Oh yes, depression. It's my next thing.
Wim: My wife died because of being schizophrenic, as they say. Like no control. And I saw there was no control. I lost her, and I have four kids with her. That's the way I began to have interest in scientific studies to show we are able to do so much more. It's in there. It's a soul search. And that's the way I began.
Rhonda: Do you think that Holland may be open to this type of treatment? And the reason I say this is because, just a couple of days ago, I was at the Van Gogh Museum, you know, I'm a tourist, and going to the Van Gogh Museum, and we're all kind of drawn to van Gogh, because he has got this dark story, he cut off his ear, he killed himself.
Wim: Same thing. Same thing.
Rhonda: Yeah. And as I was reading through...you know, looking at his paintings and reading through, you know, the history behind it...
Wim: Emotions and all that, yeah. It's real.
Rhonda: Yeah. Well then, what happened was he went to this sort of psychiatric hospital, and I thought immediately, "Oh, they probably put him on drugs." I mean, that's what I thought. As I was reading, it said, "No, his prescription was two cold baths a day."
Wim: Look at that.
Rhonda: And that... I was... I mean, I looked at my husband, and I was like, "Are you kidding me? Is this really, you know..." So is that something you think that maybe... You know, because this was in the Netherlands.
Wim: Yes. Actually it was in the south of France with van Gogh.
Rhonda: Oh, was it in the south of France? I thought you said, oh, okay...
Wim: Yeah, but he was so depressed, and the light has got a lot of influence on depression. Melatonin, serotonin, the hormone production, etc. So he went to the south of France finally, and then Arles, somewhere south of France, he got into this psychiatric asylum, but they didn't know as well. Because the cold brings about the alarm cells in the body, which suppresses the cytokine production direct, but then the breathing even does more.
Rhonda: Yeah. Norepinephrine is increased by the cold, and it suppresses the cytokine production, but the epinephrine from the breathing does it even more robust. But I was so curious that back in the late 1800s they were saying cold bath. Why not now?
Wim: You are the first one to tell me he took a bath.
Rhonda: Twice a day.
Wim: I've lost my respect for Vincent van Gogh, who was a crazy motherfucker. I'm sorry.
Rhonda: It's okay.
Wim: We cannot say that. But he cut off his ear, and then shot himself. And my wife, you're like 200 years later, jumped from 8th floor, having 4 children. I'm working with the children right now, and we're having a great company, and we got a lot of happiness and all that, but those days we had a lot of discomfort and no power and being dependent on all these systems, and that's why I say, sorry about the F word, but it's the F word, these systems, F these systems, because we are going to do something about this. And this time we're going to bring back the belief, but also the real chemical connection within the body and the brain toward all the people. And that's regarding depression, any type of mental disorder or physical disorder.
Rhonda: Yeah. Inflammatory disorders in general.
Wim: Yes, inflammation. Cytokine production. Are we able to tap into that? Yes. Are we able to tap into the vagus nerve? Yes. Are we able to tap into the autonomic nervous system? Yes. I'm sorry, yes.
Rhonda: Please keep doing what you're doing, and, you know, it's awesome, your passion, your energy and what you're doing, I respect.
Wim: And likewise.
Rhonda: Thank you.
Wim: I respect your work, which is very good, and it is really needed.
Rhonda: So if people want to find out about Wim Hof?
Wim: Just go to innerfire.nl, you know, www, all these stripes, yeah, like that, .innerfire.nl. NL is Netherlands.
Rhonda: Uh-huh. Inner fire, like I-N-N-E-R F-I-R-E?
Wim: Yes. Inner fire is about, you know, "the cold is cold." But if you go into the cold, and this fire comes up, you feel good. That's the inner fire all about. So www.innerfire.nl, NL is the Netherlands. NL, you know, Netherlands.
Rhonda: And that's it?
Wim: That's it. And the rest, I don't know. I don't know nothing about Twitter and Witter and Batter and Letter, I don't know.
Rhonda: Yeah, and you've got like a training technique?
Wim: Oh yeah, we got like online videos and we got a free video course as well.
An area of the brain located close to the hippocampus, in the frontal portion of the temporal lobe. The amygdala governs our responses to fear, arousal, and emotional stimulation. Poor sleep increases activity within the amygdala.
Autonomic nervous system
A division of the peripheral nervous system that influences the function of internal organs. The autonomic nervous system regulates bodily functions that occur below the level of consciousness, such as heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal. It is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response and the freeze-and-dissociate response.
Cold shock proteins
Proteins that preserve cell viability at low temperatures by binding to nucleic acids and, subsequently, controlling gene expression. Cold shock proteins have what is known as a "cold-shock domain," a sequence of amino acids whose expression is associated with cold and is thought to help cells survive in lower than optimal temperatures.
A broad category of small proteins (~5-20 kDa) that are important in cell signaling. Cytokines are short-lived proteins that are released by cells to regulate the function of other cells. Sources of cytokines include macrophages, B lymphocytes, mast cells, endothelial cells, fibroblasts, and various stromal cells. Types of cytokines include chemokines, interferons, interleukins, lymphokines, and tumor necrosis factor.
System of glands regulating the body through the production of hormones. The endocrine system's effects are slow to initiate, and prolonged in their response, lasting from a few hours up to weeks. In contrast, the nervous system sends information very quickly, and responses are generally short lived.
Presence in the blood of endotoxin, which, if derived from gram-negative rod-shaped bacteria may cause shock.
A region of the forebrain below the thalamus that coordinates both the autonomic nervous system and the activity of the pituitary, controlling body temperature, thirst, hunger, and other homeostatic systems, and involved in sleep and emotional activity.
A critical element of the body’s immune response. Inflammation occurs when the body is exposed to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. It is a protective response that involves immune cells, cell-signaling proteins, and pro-inflammatory factors. Acute inflammation occurs after minor injuries or infections and is characterized by local redness, swelling, or fever. Chronic inflammation occurs on the cellular level in response to toxins or other stressors and is often “invisible.” It plays a key role in the development of many chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Long-term meditation is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or develop a desired mental state. It can range from 20 minutes to an indefinite amount of time. Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem.
The term "mindfulness" is derived from the Pali-term sati which is an essential element of Buddhist practice, including vipassana, satipatthana and anapanasati. It has been popularized in the West by Jon Kabat-zinn with his mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program. Large population-based research studies have indicated that the construct of mindfulness is strongly correlated with well-being and perceived health.
A substance produced in the brain. Norepinephrine acts as a hormone and neurotransmitter and is best known for its role in the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress. Its role as a neurotransmitter has been exploited as a molecular target for a class of drugs known as norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, which were developed for the purpose of treating disorders ranging from ADHD to narcolepsy and depression. Norepinephrine also plays a role in converting white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue via an uncoupling protein 1 (UCP-1) mediated mechanism.
Sympathetic nervous system
One of the two main divisions of the autonomic nervous system (the other being the parasympathetic nervous system). The sympathetic nervous system's primary process is to stimulate the body's fight-or-flight response. It is constantly active, however, at a basic level to maintain homeostasis. The sympathetic nervous system is described as being complementary to the parasympathetic nervous system which stimulates the body to "rest-and-digest" or "feed-and-breed".
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