Wim Hof, nicknamed “Iceman”, is a Dutch man who can withstand extreme cold by being able to control his autonomic nervous system through his hypothalamus. Is he unique? Is he a superhuman? He claims that this ability can be learned, through his techniques.
He holds over 20 world records including the longest ice bath. Other feats listed on his website include, but not limited to, running a marathon above the Artic circler in shorts, hanging on one finger at an altitude of 2000 meters, full marathon in Namib desert without water consumption. He appeared on the TV program Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files in 2012. On the show he stayed submerged in a tank full of ice for over 90 minutes without a change to his core body temperature or heart rate.
His method that he trains begins with proper breathing. A 10-week online program includes cold-immersion therapy, body temperature regulation and his breathing techniques. His method involves controlled hyperventilation, breathing until you will feel lightheaded then holding your breath. The theory is this will increase adrenaline. The adrenaline is immune suppressing and anti-inflammatory. This technique allowed him to injected with endotoxin in 2011, and resulted in him showing practically no symptoms. This was repeated with 12 of his followers, producing the same results published in PNAS 2014 Kox et al. The volunteers were able to increase the release of epinephrine, resulting in increase of anti-inflammatory mediators. This allowed the subject to not have the proinflammatory cytokine response normally resulting from IV administration of bacterial endotoxin.
His technique could have implications for patients who suffer from inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune diseases. As his abilities continue to garner attention, more scientific study will reveal more details on his technique.
Written by Michelle Mader, PhD
Feb 18th, 2016