You might have heard of the Wim Hof Method, but have you ever thought about how the Wim Hof technique can benefit people with kidney disease?
Never fear because I’m going to bring you up to speed on what the Wim Hof Method involves, the sort of physical and mental health benefits you can expect and of course how it can benefit people with Kidney Disease.
Let’s start with who Wim Hof is….
Wim Hof is a man of Dutch origin, often referred to as ‘The Iceman’- and for good reason too. Wim currently holds 26 Guinness World Records for feats which are beyond comprehension to most who hear them. In 2007 he climbed Mount Everest in only shorts and shoes, In 2009 he ran a half marathon in the Arctic circle in temperatures close to -20° C (-4°F) (wearing only shorts!) and in 2011 Wim broke his own cold-endurance record, remaining submerged in an ice bath for 112 minutes. He is also an avid traveller and hosts awe-inspiring Expeditions for any able-bodied individual, who has taken part in breathing and cold training and is not suffering from any extreme illness.
The Wim Hof Method (WHM) is scientifically endorsed, founded on a special kind of concentration and meditation technique, and enables the practitioner to dive deeper into the mind and body in a natural way.
So what does the WHM involve?
The WHM is based on the following 3 Pillars:
- Cold Therapy
Cold is an important component of the WHM and involves gradual exposure to cold showers or ice baths- gradual being the operative word here! Exposure to cold has been linked to a number of different health benefits including:
- speeding up the metabolism and the build-up of brown adipose tissue and resultant fat loss
- reduced inflammation
- balanced hormones
- improved quality of sleep
- better focus
- strengthening of the cardiovascular system
- improved immune response
- triggering the production of endorphins- feel good chemicals in the brain that naturally elevate mood and reduce pain.
You’re probably thinking ‘Hang on, I know how to breathe’ but what Wim Hof suggest is that while we’re always breathing, we’re largely unaware of the tremendous potential of the breath. Wim teaches a specific breathing technique that helps to release more energy, reduce stress and improve the function of your immune system.
The third pillar is the foundation of the other two. Mastering the WHM requires commitment, patience and dedication; indeed, if you desire to master your own body and mind, focus and determination are two of the main tools that you’ll require to do so.
What can you expect from practicing the WHM?
- Increased energy
- Better sleep
- Heightened focus and determination
- Improved sports performance
- Increased willpower
- Reduced stress levels
- Greater cold tolerance
- Faster recovery
- Enhanced creativity
- Stronger immune system
Let’s have a closer look at the second pillar, Breathing, and what it actually involves.
The Six Steps of the Wim Hof Breathing Method
1. Get Comfortable
Find a comfortable place to do your breathing exercises where you won’t be disturbed. Do not do this exercise whilst driving or standing up, whilst operating heavy machinery or engaged in any activity where distraction will risk your health. Instead, complete this exercise either sitting down or lying on your back.
2. Do 30 to 40 Wim Hof ‘Power Breaths’
This is simply breathing at a regular, steady pace, in and out through the mouth. Inhale deeply so that you feel your stomach rise, and exhale so that you feel your stomach fall (but don’t exhale all the way out). The sensation of this breathing style may feel similar to hyperventilating but remember that you are always in control. During their initial experience, some participants may feel a tingling sensation throughout the body, or feel themselves becoming lightheaded, which is perfectly normal.
3. Retain your breath
After completing step two, exhale and empty your lungs of all air. Then hold your breath for as long as you can do so, without excessive discomfort or force. At this stage, you may find it beneficial to adopt a meditative mindset, focusing on the space between your eyes for example. Most people at this stage are able to hold their breath for longer than they could before, when they have not yet completed the 30 to 40 power breaths. You may want to time yourself and track your results!
4. Breathe in for 10 to 15 seconds
After holding your breath in step three, inhale deeply and hold it for 10 to 15 seconds. And then exhale.
5. Repeat steps 1 to 4
Do steps 1 through to 4, three more times
After you have completed all 4 rounds of power breathing, you can proceed to your regular meditation practice. Alternatively, you can meditate for 5 minutes by closing your eyes, bringing your attention and awareness to your breath, and again locating and focusing upon that space between your eyes. If you haven’t meditated before, you may want to begin with meditating for 5 minutes, gradually increasing the time spent in mediation following each session of power breaths.
Some of the science behind the WHM
Now, it’s important to emphasise that the WHM isn’t a technique that sprang into existence last week; this method is grounded in substantial research and results as well as Wim’s real-life experiences.
The effectiveness of this method has been known to Wim for years, which is why he wishes to share it with the world. In 2007, Wim Hof was examined for the first time by the well-known Feinstein Institute in New York, this generated some interest in the scientific community and in 2011, the University Medical Centre St Radboud in Holland really got the ball rolling.
What Wim is capable of was long viewed as scientifically impossible but after running several tests, scientists couldn’t help but admit that Wim and others were able to voluntarily influence the autonomic nervous system and innate immune system. This was a ground-breaking finding because science had always maintained that no influence can be exercised over the autonomic nervous system or immune system, until Wim came along that is.
This finding sparked greater academic interest and the WHM started to gain more widespread recognition. Since then, numerous studies have been undertaken to further understand the power of the WHM.
Does the WHM work for everyone?
Now, I know what you might be thinking- that Wim Hof is some sort of superhuman or scientific marvel or that his results come from the fact that he has practiced this method for many years- so there’s no way someone like you could get the same benefits from the WHM, right??
Well, I’m happy to say that you’re wrong.
Studies have shown that when Wim Hof taught his method to groups of healthy volunteers, they too demonstrate the same effects on their autonomic nervous system and immune system.
One such study by Kox et al., (2014) involved 24 volunteers, 12 were trained by Wim for only 10 days using the WHM and there was a control group of 12 people. They all received an injection with elements of the E.coli bacteria which under normal conditions results in almost all people in flu symptoms. The study showed that the volunteers that had practiced the WHM:
- Less flu-like symptoms (nausea, headaches, shivers, muscle pains) than the control group
- Had less of an increase in body temperature
- Produced far less inflammatory proteins (such as TNF-a, interleukin-6 and interleukin-8) and
- Produced more anti-inflammatory proteins (interleukin-10)
Once again, this study demonstrated that the innate immune response can be voluntarily influenced through voluntary activation of the autonomic nervous system but I think even more importantly it showed that the benefits of the WHM are available to anyone and not reserved for Wim Hof alone.
So, I hear you asking: what does the WHM have to do with Kidney disease?
That’s a good question.
As you’re likely aware, the acidic and alkaline levels of the body can directly reflect a person’s state of health.
This is particularly the case for people with impaired kidney function, the common denominator which affects the severity of their kidney disease is the acidity of their diet, so maintaining a more alkaline diet is one of the pillars of improving overall health and wellbeing.
The breathing techniques taught as part of the WHM has been shown to result in an immediate and profound decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) and bicarbonate and an increase in pH- providing a more alkaline environment in the body
Couple an alkaline rich diet with the enhanced power breathing techniques as included in Wim’s method and your body has the capacity to become a supercharged machine. When both the diet and breathing are a part of your everyday routine, you can reap the rewards of increased performance and recovery rates, as well as a boosted immune and disease fighting system.
For more information on an alkaline diet in kidney disease, see my article here.
Want to know more??
If you’re interested in finding out more about the WHM, Wim offers three online mini sessions that will delve deeper into what each of the three pillars of the WMH entails. The topics of these sessions are:
- Power of Breathing
- The Power of Cold
- The Power of Commitment
And the best part is that they’re free!
If what you’ve read here has inspired you to jump straight in and start reaping the benefits of Wim’s techniques, Wim offers a 10 week video course that gives you all the tools and education you need to learn the WHM at home and start implementing it into your daily life.
So there you have it, now you’re all caught up on what’s involved in the Wim Hof Method and the numerous health benefits it has to offer. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on the WHM and whether it’s something you’re already practicing in your life and please click the ‘SHARE’ button below if you’ve found this article useful and/or enjoyable.
Thank you for reading!