WARNING: The information in this article is not scientifically backed by double-blind peer-reviewed studies. Nor should it be!
This article is about real people. Each case is unique. Each person has found the Wim Hof Method (WHM) to benefit them in some way.
In researching this article, I read hundreds of cases of people who have experienced benefits similar to the four people featured here. So, suffice to say, these are not isolated cases.
Before delving into the experiences, you might be asking: If this method is so great, where are the scientific studies?
Let me direct you to two studies: one on Wim Hof himself and another on 12 people who were trained in the WHM. In both studies, the subjects were injected with E-coli bacteria and produced results which indicated that the method positively influences the immune system. Much has been written about these two studies so I won’t go into them here but if you’re wanting to read about them, go to https://www.wimhofmethod.com/science.
In addition to these two studies, there are currently six studies on the WHM being conducted in University research labs around the world. These studies are looking at how the WHM affects auto-immune diseases, inflammation and pain as well as sleep and brain activity.
So, the research is coming! But it takes time.
So for now, let’s find out what people are experiencing.
The Wim Hof Method: helping with urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Valentin Bunea from Romania had been trying cold immersion for insulin resistance when he got his first urinary tract infection (UTI). Steadfast in his belief that cold exposure would help him, Valentin went on a Wim Hof expedition in Poland. Upon his return home, Valentin increased his daily cold exposure to 6-10 minutes daily. Despite these efforts, he continued to suffer from repeated UTIs.
Not one to give up, Valentin analysed his cold-immersion only approach to the Wim Hof method which led him to a conclusion: he needed to introduce breathing (WHM’s second pillar) into his routine.
“I thought the method was all about the cold exposure and that the breathing was optional,” Valentin explains.
“I wasn’t prepared to do the breathing so I focussed all my efforts on cold exposure, which clearly wasn’t working.”
Valentin describes that prior to each UTI, his body receives signals or cues that an infection is imminent. These cues include extreme tiredness and cloudy urine. In the past, Valentin ignored these signs until one day, feeling the tiredness that he knew foreshadowed a UTI, Valentin did one round of the WHM breathing (1 min) followed by a retention and then one set of push-ups to failure. The next day he did another round. After the third day, the symptoms were gone.
It is hard to believe that simply doing a few breathing exercises can affect a bacterial infection in the bladder, but when you understand what is happening on a microbiological/microscopic level, it starts to make sense: the heightened influx of oxygen brings down CO2 levels which, through a series of subsequent chemical processes, lowers blood plasma pH.
How this can be extended to increase the PH levels in the urine is still not quite understood but Valentin says that during the expedition in Poland he was able to change his PH levels from 5 to 8 after 20 minutes of breathing. E-coli thrives in an acidic environment so changing the PH levels to be more alkaline makes the environment unsuitable for E-coli to survive.
After a year of no UTIs, Valentin is confident that using WHM has changed his health.
“I’m sure it’s not going to come back. When you have that confidence, it feels amazing,” he said.
The Wim Hof Method for pain
Marcus Garvie from Canada has been practising the WHM for two years and has seen a myriad of benefits including the easing of panic attacks as well as an improved immune system. However, his experience with using the method for pain relief is the most fascinating.
Marcus occasionally suffers from headaches and stomach pain which he attributes to his often, stressful life. When presented with a headache or indigestion, Marcus goes to his favourite remedy: Wim Hof breathing.
Using the WHM breathing technique, Marcus can lessen the pain of headaches and indigestion.
“Most of the time, this means I can avoid taking pain medication,” Marcus explains.
Knowing that the breathing helps with his pain, Marcus was surprised at his ability to reduce the pain from a toothache which threatened to ruin his Thanksgiving holiday.
“In my experience, once a tooth starts to hurt, the progress of pain is unrelenting and one must see a dentist ASAP. I have had two root canals and several teeth pulled so I know what to expect! So, when I started to get a pretty bad toothache on (Canadian) Thanksgiving, I knew I was in for an ordeal.”
With no dentists open for two days, Marcus relied on the breathing technique to get him through.
“I took some Advil which only partly alleviated the pain. When things got too bad I would do many rounds of breathing. This made me able to endure the pain and sleep at night until I saw my dentist two days later.”
The source of the pain was revealed as a cracked and infected wisdom tooth and the only action was for it to be removed.
“I did several rounds of breathing beforehand and afterward. There was almost no bleeding and little pain. By the second day, I didn’t need pain killers anymore and there was no swelling.”
When asked why he thinks the method is so effective for pain, Marcus explains:
“The Wim Hof Method helps me re-establish a healthy balance between my mind and my body. It allows me to consciously influence healing.”
The Wim Hof Method: helping with heart conditions
In 2015, Magdalena Bajer from Northern Canada received some bad news: she had cardiomyopathy and the prognosis was not good.
She had difficulty breathing, her lower body was starting to swell and the doctors informed her that she would only get worse. Due to her condition, she was told she would become less active until her condition would, eventually kill her.
A staunch believer in natural medicine and energy practises such as Reiki (which she has practised for 30 years), Magdalena decided to go against her doctor’s advice which was to go on pharmaceutical drugs. She was informed that without these drugs, she would die.
Around the time of her diagnosis, Magdalena watched a video on The Iceman (Wim Hof) and immediately felt a connection between what he was doing and her beliefs.
“I saw that he was getting breath through his whole body from the bottom chakra to the top. I thought to myself: if he can climb Mount Everest in just shorts, then I can get through this and get better.”
Magdalena signed up for the 10-week course and found that the WHM, together with the natural remedies she was taking, resulted in a huge improvement in her symptoms.
“One of the first things I noticed was how I responded to forest fire smoke. In 2017, we had 14 days of heavy forest fire smoke, that came with a wind change close to where I live. Despite having breathing issues due to forest fire smoke in the past, I was experiencing no problems this time round.”
Magdalena felt better than she had in years but felt that she had to prove it to the world.
“I had to attend a couple of hours of echo/electrocardiogram testing that thoroughly measures the heart and its functions,” she explains.
The results came in better than she hoped: a steady 50-60 pulse throughout the testing and normal blood pressure. In fact, her results were all within normal parameters.
The document, “Explaining the Wim Hof Method” provides the reason why cold exposure can play a major effect on the heart and vascular system. Practising cold exposure strengthens the cardiovascular system by training the tiny muscles within blood vessels to allow for easier blood flow. This then makes it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body.
However, doctors warn of the danger of cold immersion, particularly for people with heart conditions.
The WHM course does not advocate sudden exposure to the cold. In fact, the 10-week course takes people on a gradual journey in cold immersion starting with short bursts of cold at the end of a warm shower before introducing ice baths much later in the program.
“I believe that if my doctor knew about the Wim Hof Method, she would have advised me not to do it,” says Magdalena.
The Wim Hof Method: Improving vascular health and asthma
56 year-old Les Anwyl, from North Queensland in Australia says that the Wim Hof Method has helped him in a myriad of ways. One of these ways is an improvement in his vascular health.
“Before starting WHM I had a resting heart rate in the high 70s/early 80s. It’s now in the 60s,” he explains.
Two years ago, Les was experiencing heart palpitations but by practising the WHM, he says this is no longer a concern.
“I feel that I have direct conscious control of my heart rate. When its racing, I can bring it down.”
But one of the biggest improvements Les has seen is his breathing. As a lifelong asthmatic, Les has suffered mild asthma every winter.
“Since doing WHM breathing, my lung capacity has increased. My peak flow reading shows that my lung strength has improved and I no longer have the shortness of breath that I’ve always had.”
Recently Les completed a challenging bushwalk which finishes with a steep incline.
“In the past, I struggled to climb this section of the walk and would usually have to stop two or three times to catch my breath. But this time I used conscious power breathing and had no muscle fatigue or tiredness. I felt like a machine.”
Les can only sing his praises for the method.
“It gives your body the best opportunity to be the best it can be,” he said.
The immune system and depression
The Wim Hof method is well known for its effects on the immune system as well as depression. Check out my other article on WHM for more information on this topic.
In a nutshell
The popularity of the WHM is growing worldwide and there are countless anecdotes of its benefits.
It might sound too good to be true but there’s really no way of knowing if it will benefit you unless you try it. There are plenty of videos which demonstrate the breathing technique and the Wim Hof site offers a free mini class which introduces the basic exercises of the program.
NB: I have no affiliation with Wim Hof. My interest in this area is from my own experience using the method to improve my immune system.
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