The Iceman Fixed My Headaches!

The Wim Hof method of life improvement through hyperventilation, breath holding and cold exposure has gone mildly viral, but until I googled “Wim Hof and headaches,” I thought I would be the first to mention a headache connection.

Mr. Hof is no joke, by the way, though he comes across as happier and more enthusiastic than our jaundiced society allows. For this, some call him crazy.

He’s not.

But he’s not above reproach, either. Who is? He makes a few over-the-top claims. For instance, he’s made medical claims that jerk the black-and-white chains of professional skeptics whose logic casts out the baby with the ice water at the slightest provocation.

But many scientists, journal gatekeepers, and healthcare providers depend on the “incurable” adjective. And they’re human. Where would they all go if, for instance, type 2 diabetes disappeared along with a few of the most common cancer types? How can anyone expect them to be objective about feeding their children?

I’m afraid I’m not.

So let the skeptics howl while the rest of us avoid their binary thinking. We’d be nuts to write off Wim Hof for simply being as excitable and capable of exaggeration as most of the rest of us.

You probably know he’s earned many world records for things like sitting in ice water for roughly 2 hours and swimming a terrifically long distance under surface ice, once overshooting the exit hole and nearly drowning.

He recalls no fear of dying during the incident and now says he has no baseline fear of death. That’s fascinating and probably important. Who knows?

Under medical supervision, a few brave scientists injected him with toxic bacterial antigens, waited, then drew his blood for analysis. It showed a lack of the expected spike of inflammatory markers. He had no fever and felt no flu-like symptoms.

Wondering if Wim was unique in this ability to suppress inflammatory markers, they had him train a dozen new students for 2 weeks, then tested them.

The students’ bloodwork showed a low inflammatory response compared to controls, and they reported less intense flu-like symptoms.

And as if destiny wanted to remove all suspicion that Wim has “superhuman” talent, the man has an identical twin with no unusual cold tolerance.

Another group of scientists put Wim in an MRI scanner wearing a cold-immersion bodysuit. This was fascinating. They found peculiar activity in his insula and the periaqueductal gray areas of his brain. Also, he had increased glucose metabolism in his intercostal muscles.

I’d like to know if he was panting. I vaguely remember a video clip of him panting in a tub of ice, but I can’t find it now.

It’s safe to say that Wim Hof’s path to “health, strength, and happiness,” has a few credible underpinnings in physiology. And there’s also the “life-changing” effects asserted by his raving students.

Unfortunately, the body is too complex for our hyper-segregated sciences to explain the morphologic, physiologic, biochemical, epigenetic and genetic details of anything much beyond conditions like sickle-cell anemia, but an obvious feature of Wim’s achievements is human antifragility, a counterintuitive response that includes hormesis, the beneficial middle-dose of something toxic or even lethal at higher exposures.

Sulforaphane, for example, is a hormetic found in broccoli seeds and sprouts, produced ostensibly as an irritant to discourage predators from destroying the seeds. When we ingest broccoli sprouts (or seeds) with the right dose of sulforaphane, it activates dormant genes that strengthen us against certain stressors. For all the wholesome details, listen to the research scientist, Rhonda Patrick, PhD, cast a spell on the subject discussing studies that correlate sulforaphane ingestion with reduced incidences of breast and prostate cancer.

Oh dear, I hope the medical thought police don’t revile me for suggesting there’s hope of preventing such lucrative diseases through simple hormesis.

Anyway, in the Wim Hof method, the hormesis comes from hypoxia and cold exposure, either of which might kill you at too high an exposure.

What doesn’t kill us wakes us up, it seems.

Hmm…

Since my first breath-holding ocean dive (with no wetsuit) at Shell Beach, California, age 12, I’ve loved holding my breath — just for the relaxation and clarity of mind it brings. As we know, the mammalian diving response kicks in, shunting blood to the brain, lungs and heart.

What a fortunate setup for anyone living on a water planet, though! Who do I thank?

Later when I took SCUBA, I learned that by hyperventilating before breath-holding, I could stay down longer because huffing and puffing expels carbon dioxide and makes the blood less acidic. This shifts the oxygen dissociation curve to the left, allowing the red blood cells to deliver more of their oxygen to the tissues, giving us the feeling that hyperventilation supersaturates the blood with oxygen. It doesn’t as far as science can so-far determine.

It’s also true that CO2 buildup in the blood provides us with the urge to breathe. That’s why blowing it off in hyperventilation lets you stay down longer before air thirst forces you up for a breath.

This scenario is dangerous, though, because hyperventilation can make you pass out and drown — as can hypoxia.

I urge you not try hyperventilation in the water. Wim Hof says to do it lying down. (Far from a pool or bathtub, I’d add.)

And here’s another caveat: too much hypoxia causes brain damage, depression and dementia. We know this from studying sleep apnea, a common ailment that’s vastly underdiagnosed and contributes to a truckload of human misery. So “moderation in all things” is the faithful heuristic. And for the careful, swimming underwater in the cold (without hyperventilation) wakes up the mind and makes you feel sharp as a tack.

Since life on Earth was intelligently designed, our bodies keep us fully conscious and awake under water because the alternative tends to be fatal. Whoever wrote this planet’s genetic codes must have designed life around water and decided that we would hold our breath and spear cold-water fish during the ice ages. This would have the side effect of providing a diet rich in marine oils to supply DHA to our brains which are predominantly lipid and heavy with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid.

Periodic ice ages awaken humanity’s epigenetic adaptations to cold, it seems, switching on genes that become dormant during warmer eras. Activating our “cold-shock” genes to produce cold-shock proteins renders us not merely cold-resistant, but antifragile to cold. We don’t merely survive the ice ages, we thrive — mentally, physically, emotionally and probably spiritually.

We’ve all seen clear evidence of this in the ancient megalithic structures on most continents — evidence the mainstream detests because it falls outside their “gradualism” dogma of all history.

Nevertheless, since the Younger-Dryas event ended the last ice age about 11,600 years ago, our species has forgotten the value of God’s latent gift of cold-adaptive epigenetics. Fortunately, Wim Hof and a few scientists are rediscovering it, uncovering what may be a human capacity for broad volitional immune regulation and substantial mood management.

Some of this magic results from the “mammalian diving response.” It’s a well-studied physiologic mechanism that shunts blood to vital organs, as I mentioned. This includes the brain’s center of higher decision making, the prefrontal cortex, which is close to a quasi-pleasure center located just below the left prefrontal region.

It would seem that Earth’s DNA Code Writer has worked to keep us alive, healthy, happy and eating cold-water fish with our broccoli sprouts.

“The God Hypothesis is now a more respected hypothesis than at any time in the last 100 years.” — Frederic Bradford Burnham, PhD.

I haven’t taken the Wim Hof course, as yet, but I’ve watched enough relevant YouTube videos to know the basics, and I’ve been doing an easy version of cold exposure and hyperventilation-with-breath-holding for five months now, several times a week. In my view, Wim Hof is onto something big with the potential to help many of us, not just my fellow headache sufferers. But let’s be careful not to over-do the hypoxia aspect.

Although I’m not quite as predisposed to euphoria now as when I was younger, I do feel exhilarated after a cold shower, and mentally sharp with temporary mood elevation after the intermittent hyperventilation and hypoxia.

By the way, if you try cold showers, consider my method. I’m careful not to let my subconscious mind learn to hate the whole experience. To me, this principle of catering to the subconscious is a key to sustaining purpose with anything that requires discomfort and ongoing effort.

Here’s how I avoid hating cold shower…

First I step back out of a hot shower, turning the knob all the way cold. Then I put one part of myself into the shower at a time. I stay in the cold spray for seven breaths, step out and warm up for a few breaths then rotate another section of me into the cold.

In the past I’ve tried cold showers by sudden immersion and wound up avoiding the whole process after a few weeks, having never consciously decided to stop. It seems that when anything is judged by the subconscious self to be too uncomfortable, we avoid it reflexively without conscious deliberation. In this way, the subconscious mind makes many decisions about survival. We see this happening with hunger avoidance, cold avoidance, pain avoidance, and the avoidance of believing things that will bring us rejection by our peers and bosses.

There’s good scientific evidence now that cold showers should improve most people’s health and well-being, but the most unexpected thing for me was the headache remedy.

I’ve had headaches all my teen and adult life, originally caused by something in fresh fruit (probably fructose) or in my 30’s by caffeine withdrawal.

Nowadays, my headaches come mainly from eating a little naturally occurring sucrose in my low-carb, circadian diet. (Sucrose or “table sugar” is half fructose, so that may be the primary cause of my headaches now.) Incidentally, the low-carb, circadian diet brings me mental clarity like nothing else ever has.

I’ve had about 12 headaches (all associated with “natural” sucrose intake) since I’ve been doing my easy version of the Wim Hof method. Each headache has vanished after hyperventilation and breath holding, usually after 4 or 5 cycles. That’s 12 our of 12!

Cold exposure doesn’t seem to affect my headaches, though at least one observant writer describe evidence that “cryotherapy” of this sort might prevent migraine headaches by reversing the low norepinephrine levels found in migraine sufferers.

Also, it may be noteworthy that at least one anecdotal report has surfaced of a headache appearing after doing the Wim Hof technique.

One size rarely fits all in biology. Perhaps it’s tangentially relevant that when I’m trying to get rid of a headache, it sometimes feels worse during the hyperventilation phase, diminishes during the breath holding, and then vanishes after several cycles.

My last headache inspired me to write this article. It woke me at 5:30 AM pounding in my skull. It felt like one of the monster headaches that lasts all day and brings nausea.

I did the usual 4 cycles of Wim Hof hyperventilation and breath holding and although the pain diminished, it quickly came back. Not willing to give up and waste the entire day in pain, I kept at it, hyperventilating more and more vigorously and holding my breath longer and longer as my heart chugged in my chest. Finally, after about 12 intense cycles, the pain vanished completely and never came back, not even a dull ache.

Dude! Thank you, Wim Hof.

I speculate that the diving reflex, while shunting blood to my central nervous system as designed, also sent blood flowing swiftly through my scalp where the nerve endings for headache are thought to reside, diluting out vicious chemicals released by mast cells. These chemicals were causing vasoconstriction and pain while signaling for inflammatory cells to rush in.

And because I treated the headache early in its course, I postulate that the inflammatory cells that would have migrated in, set up shop and made the headache a full-day affair never had time to arrive in significant numbers.

Of course, not all headaches have the same pathophysiology. What stops mine might not touch yours, and might even make yours worse. But the Wim Hof Headache Fix is worth a try if you suffer headaches. Just promise me you won’t hyperventilate near water, pass out and drown, OK?

Eyes open, no fear, be safe everyone.

I wish I’d had the Wim Hof Headache Fix when I was a highschool boy lying in bed on Sunday afternoon in my dorm room in throbbing pain, praying to God for relief and assuring him that I understood if this wasn’t the time for a miracle.

And I wish scientists weren’t so quick to shout down everything that moves contrary to their “knowledge.”

Science has historically made quantum leaps by seeking the unexpected, the weird and impossible. It’s tragic that many scientists today express pride in their skepticism. It would serve us all if skepticism were a source of scientific shame.

And it doesn’t matter what’s new, weird, or improperly boxed, my generation of baby-boomer scientists will attack and viciously debunk it, often without studying the work they’re struggling to bury. For example…

The “fringe” evolutionist, Elaine Morgan’s theory that humans evolved from aquatic apes is rejected by mainstream evolutionists for purely emotional reasons, as best I can tell. The phrase, “aquatic apes,” doesn’t sound right to them regardless of the evidence.

The non-materialist research scientist, James Tour, makes an absolutely stunning case for intelligent design in origins theory, only to hear the materialist establishment reject his insight and expertise because they already “know” that life’s origins are mindless and meaningless.

When David Chalmers, a self-proclaimed “materialist at heart,” calls for open minds in the scientific community to consider the “crazy” possibility that consciousness (rather than matter and energy) is fundamental to the cosmos, the mainstream ridicules him because their own untestable assumptions seem patently obvious.

Scientists of the Thunderbolts Project provide evidence that electromagnetism is a more influential force than gravity in the universe, but the mainstream still struggles to ignore them.

Governmental officials team up with fighter pilots to show evidence that UFO’s are real, someone in our skies seems to have breakthrough technology, but academics remain invested in denial of anything beyond their insular, inbred boxes of narrow expertise.

I’m hoping that something will change with the next generation of scientists and thinkers.

Maybe the next team will value objectivity over skepticism.

Science could use their help right now.

Cheers,

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD

Please share this post with friends who suffer from headaches or chronic dogma impairments.

14 thoughts on “The Iceman Fixed My Headaches!

  1. One size rarely fits all in biology.

    You can say that again. All my life I’d enjoyed eating copious amounts of cruciferous vegetables (raw, steamed and sprouted), but I still developed breast cancer, and after I later eliminated those plants from my diet because of increasing problems with my thyroid function despite supposedly adequate T3 and/or T4 supplementation (I have autoimmune hypothyroidism that’s so virulent, my antibodies exceed the highest reporting ranges, and my thyroid gland lights up on a PET scan like a Christmas tree), values on my thyroid function studies slightly improved.

    • I’m sorry you developed breast cancer. What a nightmare. I hope you’re cancer-free now.
      About six months ago I started drinking smoothies every day, low-low carb with lots of organic, cruciferous vegetables. I developed a rash on my shins. Then, as is so often the case throughout my life, I “just happened” to run into an article where a health guru with some scientific leanings said that too much broccoli and the like can cause an autoimmune reaction. I cut out the broccoli and the rash went away. Another victory for n=1 anecdotal medicine. 🙂
      I believe I’ve had hypothyroidism most of my adult life, despite “normal” T3, T4 and TSH. It was finally diagnosed by a functional medicine doc who put me on NatureThroid. Later when that brand became so popular (due to an “epidemic” of hypothyroidism, I suspect) I did some reading and learned that people have vastly different experiences with one thyroid medication versus another. All kinds of side effects are attributed to some brands. NatureThroid generally got high marks as did Armour Thyroid, which is what I’m using now. Unfortunately, it’s expensive.
      Your autoimmunity sounds like a real problem. If you haven’t, you might read Bredesen’s book, “The End of Alzheimer’s” even though it’s not directly relevant since you’re not having brain fog issues. He talks a lot about reversing the causes of chronic inflammation and autoimmunity, and he’s the top true scientist in the field by far, in my opinion. Hang tough! 🙂

  2. He recalls no fear of dying during the incident and now says he has no baseline fear of death. That’s fascinating and probably important. Who knows?

    Persons who undergo near-death experiences often report their losing the fear of death. Near-death experiences have a variety of manifestations, but somehow they all convey a basic understanding that once matter, energy and intelligence have been united (“life”) their partial separation (“death”) can and will occur, but a complete and permanent reversion to a state of disconnected disorganization will never happen.

    The universe that’s described by quantum mechanics as being bumpy, chaotic, turbulent, twisted, distorted, wild, frenetic, fluctuating and jittery is the reason why living things (particularly those which are self-aware) have an innate fear of death: it represents the constituents of the universe in their disorganized state. Once God has organized matter, energy and intelligence (a process that’s partially described by string theory) to achieve orderly attributes (as partially described by Einstein’s general theory of relativity), the sub-atomic constituents of living things recoil from the idea of dissolving those organizing bonds and returning to disorder: hence the fear of death.

    Faith also overcomes that fear. The expression of faith can be rudimentary, such as in the simple scientific-materialist belief that the only things that exist are matter and energy, which are never destroyed, but only change state. People who go no further than this level of faith believe the comfort they feel from it means that there is no God, so they describe themselves as atheists.

    Religious faith addresses the questions “Why and how does does this happen?” The Christian answer is “perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment,” “God is love,” and “We love him, because he first loved us” (all quotes from 1 John 4). As I explained in a prior set of comments on another of your posts, God organizes the universe because he knows that joy or happiness can be experienced only when matter, energy and intelligence are united in an orderly fashion, and he loves the the universe enough to devote all his work (and even to make the most painful sacrifice a parent can endure) towards that goal: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17) In this way, Christian faith can help alleviate the fear of death on both the material and the spiritual levels of existence.

    • So true, and so well stated. Thank you for sharing your faith with me. I like to call myself a “non-fundamentalist Christian” even though there’s probably no such thing. The “non-fundamentalist” part means that I no longer think there’s an infallible book or human available to me. The “Christian” part means that I love the God that many, probably most of the sayings attributed to Jesus convey. To me, just being able to talk to God, knowing he hears and has a good, loving character is enough. I suspect he does intervene in human affairs (in ways that rarely, if ever, interfere with free will), but even if he doesn’t, just his presence in my life is enough to dispel most of my death fears, at least so far. We’ll see how brave I am when the time comes. 🙂 I also appreciate the Eastern flavor of some the saying attributed to Jesus. For instance, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” John 17:3.

      • In my experience, there’s a big difference between being “a Christian” and “being Christian.”

        Oh, sure, there’s such a thing as “non-fundamentalist Christians,” and we count in the millions. Many of us choose to affiliate with a congregation (for example, as of April, 2019, there were 16,313,735 Latter-day Saints worldwide; and there may be as many as 250,000 to 350,000 Messianic Jews), but I’m sure there are just as many who practice their faith alone. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2) – another ancient religious concept towards which string theory is groping. 😉

        I don’t know where the fundamentalist notion of an infallible Bible came from (anybody who knows anything about the history of that anthology of scripture should know better), although it may have been a Protestant sectarian reaction to the Roman Catholic claim of papal infallibility.

        God wouldn’t encourage us to pray to him, if he had no intention of intervening in human affairs. He always answers every prayer, although his answers often differ from what we expect (for example, God has many more creative ways of alleviating suffering than by his simply effecting a “miraculous” cure). So sometimes his answer is “yes,” sometimes it’s “no,” sometimes it’s “later,” and sometimes even “I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t guarantee anything” (because he often delegates the answer to prayer to other human beings, to test their obedience). These aspects of communication with God confuse many people (which can result in their abandonment of faith), but they make sense because God wants us to voluntarily live by faith, engage in works that bless the lives of others, and he refrains as much as possible from abridging our free agency.

        The felt presence of a good, loving and attentive God is the ultimate comfort.

        Thank you for welcoming conversation on the topics you post.

    • Hi Mark Ward! Thanks for the link to your site. You’ve written some interesting articles, well worth reading. I really like the theme and direction of your work. It’s wise to be focused on a single topic the way you are, rather than writing about a broad spectrum of ideas the way I do. Search engines ignore unfocused blogs, I think.

      I should have mentioned in my post that Wim Hof’s idea that deeper breathing significantly increases the oxygenation of the blood is not part of the mainstream scientific current understanding. Of course, modern science changes its mind from week to week on everything, so Wim might be proven right on this point, eventually. For now, I’m thinking that the left shift in the oxygen-dissociation curve gives the subjective feeling that our red cells are carrying more oxygen following hyperventilation and the initiation of the diving reflex.

      After all, let’s say a red blood cell can ordinarily carry 10 (arbitrary) units of oxygen and deliver 4 units to the tissues. (Six units are just sitting there doing nothing.) After the hyperventilation (and increased pH) shifts the O2-dissociation curve to the left, the red cell can deliver 6 units of O2. Certainly this would feel like more oxygen is being carried by the blood, even though the truth (assuming the mainstream is correct) is that more O2 is being delivered (but not carried) to the tissues by the blood.

  3. The medical world would not permit plant-based remedies to be used. There is too much money being made in the pharmaceutical industry. Some people are seeing the logic of plant-based but it will take a while I fear. I was in an accident with a concussion that has had my head hurting for two years. All the doctors wanted to do was give me prescription pain medication. Eventually, I found a chiropractor, who also works with herbs and vitamins. He called my condition a “brain bruise” and gave me an adjustment plus a vitamin/herb combination to heal brain tissue. All I can say is my headache is so much better than before as now I can even put my head on a pillow without it hurting.

    • It’s wonderful to find relief, even if there’s still some residual discomfort. I’m glad you’re feeling so much better. One problem with MD’s is we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that anecdotal evidence is virtually worthless. What a total fallacy! If genuine scientists followed that prescription of thought, there would be essentially no breakthroughs ever. Nothing new is handed to a scientist with an attached double-blinded study. But MD’s always require it. Breakthroughs come by way of anecdotal observations, anecdotal accidents in the lab, or “anecdotal” brilliant ideas. Sorry, I’m getting preachy this morning. 🙂 But I’m so glad you’re feeling better, Bev. Let me know if you ever try Wim Hof’s method (or a cautious version of it).

  4. We need more people to experiment outside the established medical practices. There are things out there in nature that cure just about everything. But people insist on relying on their doctors to give them a prescription for a cure. I like to hear of cures outside the traditional box.

    • I wish there were more money available to fund plant-based remedies. Some young person should start an institute for un-patentable research and fund it through charitable donations. Nowadays, it might fly. Many people are seeing the logical connection between intelligent design and a world full of plant-based cures and remedies.

      • It looks like the establishment absolutely wants to avoid any possible shift in our preferences from the chemical pharmaceutic industry to the “mild” medicine. In France, country known for its deep past in alternative medicine, especially homeopathy, new regulations deny medical insurance to
        homeopathic treatment, the laboratories that have been producing these medicines are closing, together with the homeopathy departments in their academic institutions. The invented reason is that homeopathy doesn’t produce results – in spite of a large part of the population who only swear by such therapies, because highly effective. In spite of a considerable number of medical insurance companies that prefer working with people under homeopathic therapies precisely because they are long-term, easily cured.

        • Homeopathy is probably the easiest target because their tiny dosages are “known” to be ineffective. Next it will be all plant-based products that have been literally designed to help us by this world’s DNA code writer. It’s sad and short-sighted. Many corporations dependent on the supposed incurable nature of human disease. Type 2 diabetes and “prediabetes” are probably the best examples.

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