- Becca Roberts
The Wim Hof Method Cold Therapy Review
The Wim Hof Method is centered around 3 pillars as a derivative from the Tibetan Tummo Breathwork: cold therapy, breathing and commitment. It has benefits that include: increased energy, better sleep, reduced stress levels, heightened focus & determination, anti-inflammatory, increased sports performance, workout recovery, autoimmune relief, arthritis relief, fibromyalgia relief, post-treatment lyme disease syndrome, COPD management, migraine relief, MS recovery, asthma management, lowered blood pressure, improved metabolism, positive stress, burnout recovery, stress relief, improved mental health, stronger mind-body connection, improved happiness and creativity, boosted endorphins, stress control, increased willpower and a stronger immune system (Wim Hof Method). Wim Hof, otherwise known as the “Iceman” founded this method and completed the first scientific study done at Radboud University in The Netherlands in 2011. According to Me Time Away, Wim Hof is a Dutch extreme athletic who holds 18 Guinness World Records. In his life, he’s climbed Mount Kilmanjaro and Mount Everest in shorts, run a half marathon in the Arctic barefoot and has stood in a container filled with ice for more than 112 minutes all while keeping a body temperature of around 37 degrees. As cited in Me Time Away, his motto is, “What I am capable of, everybody can learn.” Results from the studied showed that Wim was able to impact his autonomic nervous system by choice which rewrote biology textbooks (Wim Hof Method).
When people feel sick, endotoxin build-up in the body cause fever, nausea, headache or shivering. This is a sign that the immune system is preparing itself to be able to fight off infections. In the study done at Radboud University, researchers injected Wim Hof with endotoxins, making him feel sick. Using the breath work Wim developed, he created a rush of adrenaline in the body which gave rise to Interleukin 10 (IL10), a key messaging protein. These behaviors and the presence of adrenaline impacted the autonomic nervous system which is responsible for the heartbeat, breath and fight-or-flight reactions when danger or anxiety is present.
To further test the study, 18 male participants were trained by Wim Hof and 12 were simply injected with endotoxins and acted as the control group. The 18 volunteers went to Poland and received combined training in meditation, cold exposure and breathing technique throughout four days. They bathed in water at freezing temperatures, laid in the show and climbed a mountain at 5200 ft at -15℉ in swim trunks. The control group was injected with endotoxins giving rise to the innate immune response of sickness. Researchers noted blood composition, cytokines, catecholamines, white blood cell count, and other physiological changes like heart rate and temperature. The control group was not associated with any breathing techniques, while the other group performed trained breath work in the first 2.5 hours of the 8 hour experiment.
The research showed that the trained group had a significant more amount of energy running through the body than the control group. The increased about of adrenaline is correlated with the production of IL10 which is otherwise known as an anti-inflammatory cytokine (Wim Hof Method). The control group did not have nearly as high production of IL10. IL10 is anti-inflammatory because it stops the production of other cytokines that give rise to inflammation. Inflammation is a way the body tries to regulate the innate immune response and attempt to heal. The results were than the trained group didn’t have an many inflammatory proteins released, was less symptomatic and had quicker recovery times compared to the control group. Due to adrenaline in the system, white blood cell count increased in the blood in the trained group. What this means is that the immune system was still working despite less acute systems and inflammation in the trained group versus the control group. The research showed that the Wim Hof method might be a key factor in lessening inflammation especially when related to autoimmune disease. Prior to this research, biology textbooks described it as impossible for the human to influence his autonomic nervous and immune systems on their own, resulting in this study changing science as it had been known (Wim Hof Method).
According to Loria, “living in a constantly pleasant 72-degree bubble avoids the environmental stress that might help push our bodies to their full potential.” We are too comfortable in our surroundings, and by putting ourselves in an uncomfortable setting like extreme cold temperatures, the way our body reacts to an otherwise forgotten part of physiology might be very important. In a study cited in this article by Business Insider done at University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center by anthropologist Scott Carney showed that the presence of extreme cold alters the metabolism from burning carbohydrates to mostly burning fat. Determined by the study, this change equates to seven hours of cardio per week (Loria). It’s likely not going to be easy for a person to adjust to cold temperatures right away, but after time the body begins to get more used to it. This process is synonymous with training the body to, “better cope with physical stress, thereby strengthening the circulatory system in ways that might affect cardiovascular health and help gain some control over the immune systems” (Loria).
In an article by Riley published in GQ Australia cites Wimhof Expert Johannes Egberts, “Your body has something called homeostasis which means your internal functions maintain a state of equilibrium.” Homeostasis is a balance of the five basic elements: oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, glucose and temperature. When you push these elements, your body gets a physiological workout in trying to bring itself back to balance. The breath work that’s a part of the Wim Hof method “works out” your breathing: when you breath in your oxygen levels are high and when you breathe out they are low. The article draws an analogy with intermittent fasting, which common knowledge (relatively speaking) dictates is good for people. Depriving the body temporarily of an excess of oxygen is extremely good for it. When your body is deprived of oxygen a chemical called erythropoietin (EPO), a chemical helpful in better athlete performance allow the body to recycle and renew. There is vast research regarding how cold therapy and the Wim Hof method can support many positive body functions but the best way to decide is to try it for yourself.
Cold Therapy and Wim Hof Method.” Me Time Away, 11 Feb. 2020, www.metimeaway.com/magazine/cold-therapy-and-wim-hof-method/.
Loria, Kevin. “How to Go beyond Diet and Exercise to Incorporate a 'Third Pillar of Fitness' into Your Training.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 14 Jan. 2018, www.businessinsider.com/how-to-try-wim-hof-method-cold-exposure-training-2018-1.
Riley, Christopher. “Ice Baths, Immunity And Inner Peace: GQ Road-Tests The Wim Hof Method.” GQ, 20 Mar. 2020, www.gq.com.au/fitness/health-nutrition/ice-baths-immunity-and-inner-peacegq-roadtests-the-wim-hof-method/news-story/01e51d60cd75ae4973d16c3ec9abcdc3.
“The Science Behind The Wim Hof Method.” Wim Hof Method, www.wimhofmethod.com/science.