Research on omega–3 fatty acids has expanded enormously over the past 10 years. Beginning with the mid 1970s, most of the research focused on the role of omega–3fatty acids in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Epidemiological observations, animal studies, clinical intervention studies, and studies at the molecular level firmly established the importance of omega–3 fatty acids, in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, studies on the mechanisms and the need to balance the omega–6 to the omega–3 ratio for homeostasis and normal development have been carried out at the molecular level and in transgenic animals using lipidomics and informatics. It is now accepted that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) are essential for brain development during pregnancy, lactation and throughout the life cycle. Recently, studies on brain and retinal function as well as mental health have dominated the field. That DHA can affect brain function and behavior is no longer controversial. The studies on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) given supplemental DHA have revealed significant interactions between DHA and genetic variants. In animal experiments, deficiencies in DHA show impairments in cognitive development correctable by its repletion. Furthermore, the consumption of DHA or fish oil by humans slows cognitive decline in the aged and in subjects with early Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and promotes mental development in infants. Over 60 countries worldwide have supplemented infant formula with DHA and AA, yet the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has not determined the nutritional requirement of DHA.
There have been a number of volumes in the series of the World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics (WRND) on various aspects of omega–6 and omega–3 essential fatty acids (EFA) beginning with Volume 66: Health Effects of Omega–3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Sea foods, published in 1991, which truly established the field. It was followed by Volume 75: Fatty Acids and Lipids: Biological Aspects, published in 1994. Volume 83: The Return of Omega-3 Fatty Acids into the Food Supply I. Land-Based Animal Food Products and Their Health Effects, published in 1998. Volume 88: Fatty Acids and Lipids – New Findings, published in 2001. Volume 92: Omega–6/Omega–3 Essential Fatty Acid Ratio: The Scientific Evidence, published in 2003. The present volume 99: Omega–3 Fatty Acids, the Brain and Retina is the sixth in the series, published in 2008.
The volume begins with the paper by Artemis P. Simopoulos on Omega–6/Omega–3Essential Fatty Acids: Biological Effects’ which sets the stage for what follows. Dr. Simopoulos emphasizes the changes that have taken place in the food supply that led to high intake of omega–6 and low intake of omega–3 fatty acids, particularly the last 50 years, and the biological effects of the resulting imbalanced omega–6/omega–3 ratio. Major advances have taken place in the concepts of inflammation and proresolution of new lipid mediators, lipoxins, resolvins and protectins discovered by using new approaches mainly lipidomics and informatics. Finally the paper provides an overview of mental illness and eye disease that are presented in detail in the papers that follow.
Rhonda: Hello everyone. I'm here in...well I guess it's not really Amsterdam. It's somewhere close to Amsterdam. What's the name?
Wim: It's Stroe.
Rhonda: Stroe. I'm sitting here with someone I'm very excited to be having a conversation with, not only because he's extremely charismatic and passionate, but also because he's into the cold. And as you guys all know that I'm very interested in changes in temperature on human physiology, on brain function... His name is Wim Hof. You may have heard of him through the Tim Ferriss interview recently, or through the VICE documentary. He holds 26 different world records. Maybe you can tell us more about that?
Wim: I have 26. Different disciplines, like climbing Mount Everest in your shorts, or climbing Kilimanjaro in record times, or hanging by one finger in the air, or 1 hour, 53 minutes in direct contact with the ice, or swimming beneath a thick ice cap under the ice, or running marathons. Not been trained to do so, but then run a marathon, because, and a runners going to tell you, about breathing techniques. Very, very revolutionary. But tell.
Rhonda: Well, I want to ask you, Wim, I mean, I've been very interested in the effects of changing temperature on human physiology. Specifically, I've been interested in the sauna for a while, mostly because I sort of serendipitously started using the sauna when I was in graduate school, which is a very stressful time for me. And there was a sauna across the street from where I lived. And so I started using the sauna every morning before I would going to the lab and do my experiments. And I noticed that I felt really good after, and I was able to handle stress better. So I started to figure out, why is this? And so I started diving into the science and I'm trying to understand how it affects the brain. But how did you become interested in sitting in the ice or taking ice baths?
Wim: I thought there was more than meets the eye. There is more into all the system. And I was like grown up in a big family, but my, you know, school results were not so big. And everybody was into, "Hey, you have to become a doctor. You have to become this. You have to become that. Otherwise, you are lower in the system." And I thought, "No. What I feel is okay. What I feel, it's not what really I want." So I began to wonder. I began to look. Hundreds of books in psychology, philosophy. Though I was, by school system, narrowed down as being, "Yeah, you can be a carpenter. You can be a painter." And I said, "No." I knew there was something different. So I went into books. At my age of 12, I began to read about psychology already. Going into Hinduism and Buddhism and all these religions and traditions and cultures, and began to learn languages, different languages, by my own. Not by the schooler system.
Rhonda: By your own interest and passion for it.
Wim: Yes. And when I reached the age of 17, then my head was full up with all these philosophies and philosophying about it, all the traditions and cultures and the languages and everything, and all I did was karate and kung fu and yoga. I could do it all. All. But it still did not satisfy the depth of which I wanted to reach inside, which my mind, in the start, was looking for. And a Sunday morning, I was wandering throughout the park, and I saw this thin layer of ice on the water, and it attracted me. And I thought, I got to go in. I was looking around, nobody was there because, Sunday morning, everybody is working, you know, they have their tranquility...tranquilidad in Spanish. The have to...you know, they want to have a easy time in bed or something. So I could...take off my clothes and went in, and it just, in one minute, I felt the sense I'm really going deep in. This is really responding to the soul searching I did for many years before, and about that what I think is there is more than meets the eye, I found it at that moment. And I came out, and I felt great. And from there it all started to... Whenever you feel great, you come back. So the other day, I came back, and then once again, once again. And I noticed that the pattern of the breathing changed. It changed, and it brought me more oxygen inside the body, being able to withstand the cold, say, for 20 minutes, ice cold, huh? Ice water, and then stay for five to seven minutes under the water. And it brought me a sense of tremendous power within. A control. I was looking for that. That's the way it all began.
From there, I began to do my own study of life itself. And yes, it brought me to all kinds of challenges. Staying in shorts, no t-shirt, no nothing, just in freezing temperatures all night out. The human potential of his physiology is far beyond than what we exercise right now. And because of this comfort zone way of thinking, we think we can control nature, but we do not control the inner power anymore, which is the physiology, which goes far deeper than we exercise right now, which causes all these diseases, all the depressions, all the lack of oxygen. The right chemistry in the body is not there, causing all these ailments. And we have no control. And yeah, right now we have found the techniques, and we brought it back to the laboratory setting, showed that everybody is able just to tap into their deepest levels of their physiology, which is the autonomic nervous system, related to the immune system, related to the endocrine system, which means the immune system is the health. The layers of the immune system after millions of years are really perfect, but if you do not tap in, you're not making use of these immune systems. Another one is the endocrine system about glands, the hormones. If you don't feel good, if you don't feel happy, make some happy hormones working. If you don't feel strong, you feel weak and...make some strong hormones working. We have shown people lying in bed producing, it's all science now, producing within a half hour, more adrenaline than somebody in fear going for a bungee jump. Comparative study of blood results. So the endocrine system, the immune system, just in a couple of days, we are able to access, every individual in the world therein. And we got to spread this news, because it makes us happy, strong and healthy. And that's what we want. And now you come and you interview me, and you're a bright girl. You're a bright woman. Help me to bring this to the world. That's what we do. It's good, it's for everybody, that's what we're doing.
Rhonda: Yes. So you're talking about these couple of studies that were published, but before jumping into that, you've got this technique that you're referring to where you're getting in the cold, and you mention that your breathing, you noticed when you first were doing it, your breathing changed.
Rhonda: I'm just curious, is that how you decided to harness the breathing techniques? Was it something that you'd noticed you did automatically when you were in the cold? Or how did you couple those two together?
Wim: In the cold, if you go in the cold, and it feels good, because you feel, there's no thinking involved, you just feel, and just feeling is tremendous, nice. It's okay. It's strong. It's a strong feeling. That is what the reaction is of the cold. Okay, but then your breathing will change because it's naturally already there. And to withstand cold impact, which is of course coming in, it needs oxygen, combustion. It needs oxygen to go round. So you need oxygen, in a natural way, in every cell. But as we breathe shallow in our conditioned minds and in the comfort zone, etc., it doesn't get in all the cells, the right amount of oxygen. But the cold really forces you to breathe the natural way, which is very much more profound, bringing in oxygen in all the cells, taking up the pH level, and then you don't feel the pain, you don't feel the cold, you get control over them. The neurotransmitters in the body, they go fast and they listen to your will. They listen to what you have to say. That's the way nature built us to be. So I learned it in the cold by feeling, because I knew that there was no book. The book was me. The book was the interaction with the nature.
Rhonda: No, it's really cool. I was speaking with a mutual friend of ours yesterday, Peter Capel, who was explaining some of the science behind how the breathing techniques that you're referring to that you use when you're doing this hyperventilation. Do you want to explain it?
Wim: Hyperventilation is over...it gets to you. What we do...we go controlled to the level where hyperventilation occurs, but we do it controlled. So there is a neural activity contact with the brain and the way we get in oxygen to the right pH levels and then that's... Hyperventilation is a sort of a limited indication for now. But we are not suffering from hyperventilation, we make use of whatever goes on in hyperventilation to get a degree of mastery or a certain level of trance within our physiology, within our chemistry, and we do it right.
Rhonda: Okay, yeah. So your controlled breathing technique, what it ends up doing at the physiological level is it is decreasing the carbon dioxide level in the blood, which then, as you mentioned, has a response in raising the pH, which is usually very hard to do, you know? Normal blood pH is around 7.35, 7.4.
Wim: If that's the case, 7.3, 7.4, then everybody's okay. But everybody is actually suffering from lower degrees of pH. That's our problem in this society, because we build up a lack of oxygen throughout the daily life, and that's why we get lower pH levels, and from there all the problems of autoimmune diseases and probably cancer, etc. I don't want to mention all these words, but it's logical. If you go with a car, and you got petrol, diesel or gas, you put in sugar, you change the chemistry and you are not able to drive anymore. The same works with the body. If we get too long a time, too low pH degree, the auto, which is Greek for self, our physiology, is not working anymore, and then we get these chronic diseases and the autoimmune diseases. It's logic.
Rhonda: What's interesting to me is that there's the pain receptor, the acid sensing receptor that is coupled to the pain signalling pathway, and so when you are able to raise your pH by this brilliant technique, and lowering the carbon dioxide to 7.75 or 7.8...
Wim: Eight, average, last study.
Wim: It's still not published, but I can say...
Rhonda: Well, in the published study, it was about 7.75 or 7.8, which is still high. And that's too...that's a high enough pH to deactivate the receptor that senses the acidity, and therefore it is unable to send signals to the other pain receptors.
Wim: Wow, great. Science, I love this shit. If you get it to 7.6, the trimerization goes into monomer, so the pain signal is composed by three...
Rhonda: Receptors. They [inaudible 00:15:38].
Wim: ...receptors, then two get away because there's just no signal on them. I loved your...
Rhonda: And that's why you can sit in the pool.
Wim: And then it goes away. And there is no pain. That's the way we master our own body again. That's the way nature built us to be able to do.
Rhonda: Well, so that's just one interesting point about your breathing and cold...
Wim: Yeah whatever that mattered, I didn't got it out of books, I got it out of nature.
Rhonda: No, it's so cool. Right, yeah.
Wim: I brought it back to the laboratory, it's in the books right now, in American books, even, the Future of Biology and Medical Students, it's a full chapter, 'Testing the Ice Man', it's called, and it's not anymore about me. It's about a comparative study with 12 people who did the method just within 4 days, and it wasn't even really a puritan training, which I did with them, to make them able to go and tap into the autonomic nervous system, and the immune system, and get endotoxin injected, and have it controlled within a quarter of hour. That's what...
Rhonda: It's amazing.
Wim: Hundred percent. Hundred percent. Within four days. All this "Oh, so many years," and this, and that, and all they say, you know, people who are very puritan take years about it, "Acidic, alkaline, what we got to do," and always miming about it... Just in four days. And in the nights, in the evenings, we drank beer, and we had guitar playing, and we had some relaxation going on. And during the day, they were fully committed, and the fourth day, they were with me without prior experience, in the cold, at minus 10 Celsius. I mean, that's below freezing point. Celsius, Fahrenheit, you know, it's really below freezing point. They began at the foot of a mountain, and like hours it took to get to the summit in Poland-Czechia border in the wintertime, and all in shorts, like three hours or three and a half hours, and it was minus 27 at the top, and they were still... We were doing the Harlem Shake on top. Then I knew these guys, after four days of training, without prior experience, in the cold, having a real good time in the night, and during the day, go again. Four days later, and I knew it at the summit, they are...these people are ready. These people are back in their natural state of their physiology. They have control by the mind over their body the way a endotoxin experiment or a bacteria gets injected, and within a quarter of a hour they will have complete dominion of the bacteria. And that in spite of the others, who had no instructions, they suffered from three to six hours uncontrolled shivering, headaches and overall agony and all that. So we got to go back to nature. Our nature. The inner nature, the inner mechanisms. And it's not so difficult. It's very easy, actually. Very simple.
Rhonda: So I want to dive a little more into the science, but I have a question. So after the 4 days of training, these 12 individuals were completely untrained, they did the 4 days of training. How soon after that did they have the endotoxin injected?
Wim: Four days later.
Rhonda: Four days later. So they did training for four days and then they had the... So they weren't...were they doing any of the breathing techniques or anything right before the endotoxin?
Wim: Right before the endotoxin they did this breathing...
Rhonda: The breathing.
Wim: ...and that made them able to go into the brainstem, which is the cause of adrenaline, direct adrenaline. And in a way, comparatively, they compared it with studies wherein people go into a...in fear, first time, going into a bungee jump. And these guys were just lying in bed and producing more adrenaline. That means control within, you know, controlled stress hormone like adrenaline, epinephrine and all this, that means it works like medicine. It ignites the immune system, "Go and reset and do what you got to do." And what we are able to do is to fend ourselves off from disease, like animals, like mammals. I don't see any psychiatric asylums in nature. I don't see pharmacies in nature, no hospitals. But they still live and they run and they are fast and they go and they live and they enjoy life. Even though there are predators and everything, it's a beautiful cycle. But we thought we are better. We dominate nature. But we don't. We have to go back and this mammalistic brain, the limbic system, the brainstem, if it is in order once again, we become happy, strong and healthy.
Rhonda: So what you're saying is so interesting because the breathing techniques you're talking about does increase the epinephrine and the adrenaline, which has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. So that is able to secrete these anti-inflammatory cytokines that prevent the immune system from going crazy. So in the study where these 12 individuals did your method, I found it interesting that they were injected with endotoxin, which is like, by the way, it's something that humans are constantly exposed to small amounts of, because we have it in our gut, and it's a driver of the inflammation, it's a driver of aging, it's a driver of cardiovascular disease, everything aging-related. All aging related...
Wim: Cardiovascular diseases.
Rhonda: ...diseases come back to endotoxin.
Wim: Look what you mentioned. How big it is.
Rhonda: Yeah, it's a big thing. So what happened, you know, physiologically what's happening with the breathing techniques, specifically, which I'm calling it hyperventilation, it's controlled, you know, but for simplistic reasons, when you hyperventilate, you increase the adrenaline and the epinephrine, and that has a profound effect on anti-inflammatory. And so these individuals that were doing your method versus the control when they were injected with the endotoxin, their immune response was activated. But immediately, they had this anti-inflammatory cytokines coming out and quieting the immune system from not going crazy, and that's why they were not experiencing all the negative effects of when you have your immune system going overactive, it's inflammation. And then you get the pain, you get, you know, nausea, and things that you were describing. That didn't happen.
Wim: We got so many cases with rheumatic arthritis, atherosclerosis, we are doing... It's going to come, the studies, and the disease of Lyme, and the disease of Crohn, colitis and asthma, all kinds of... And it's all the same cause. And we are now very able to tap into that very direct...
Wim: ...but we have to show this scientifically. And I got so many cases of people using medicine for like 20 years and not using them anymore, there's no need anymore, in all these autoimmune diseases, about the inflammation, the cytokine production and all that, they control it. They control the pain. They control all the symptoms, and they don't need the medicines anymore. And we want to prove this by science, because I think there is a big industry behind...wants us to take medicine. So how much is the interest to look into a method which is natural, doesn't cost anything, anybody is able to do, and yeah, that's what we do. So that's what we do right now.
Maybe it's not so smart of me to say this or to mention this, but I have no fear. I have no fear. I think this scientific discovery that we are able to tap into the autonomic nervous system and relate it to the immune system and the endocrine system, brings back the belief to every person in the world that we are able to do so much more within our bodies. We lost this belief that we are unable to become happy, strong and healthy because we got lost in this sort of system, and we got confused, because then you get dependency. And now we turn around dependency and the disbelief and the discomfort into the ability by a natural method to bring about this consciousness of being happy and strong and healthy. That's my own thing. And we bring it about by scientific based evidence. And so there is no speculation going on.
And I love your study, I love your way of seeing things. That's good. So all what we do I think it's good, because what do we want for our children? That's love. And love, I think, is composed of what do you want for your child? Happiness, strength and health. That is what I want for my child. Is that love? Yes. That's love. But now, we will determine that by scientific scrutiny, by scientific results, evidence and that's it. And I call it crazy monkey sometimes. And we are making a song about it, and the crazy monkey is the brainstem. The brainstem, the primitive brain, is very able to direct... It's about to fight, to flight, food, to fuck and to freeze. Very primitive. But it's like a reptilian brain. It only reacts. It doesn't think. But because of our thinking, we are so dominated by our thinking, it doesn't get the right blood flow. And that heavier in the brainstem all to...resides the pineal gland, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, amygdala, which is the emotion. And it's all there and doesn't get sufficient blood flow. So if something happens, trauma or disease or danger, we don't know how to deal because there's not sufficient blood flow because this crazy monkey is all the time going around and actually wants to get and tap in back into its roots feeling okay. The crazy monkey. Eh, wow, it’s nice, huh?
Rhonda: Do you think that part of the effects of meditation in general, because a lot of meditation has focuses on breathing and breathing, do you think that the breathing itself may be responsible for some of those positive effects: meditation, respiration?
Wim: Sure. If you go in very... Capel, Professor Capel who was also talking about this, about the neocortex and the hypothalamus, which is the surface of the brain, and the hypothalamus is the brainstem, more or less, and we lose the contact, but it's all the time the neocortex going on with the world, like, "Hey, I got to do this. I got to do this." Then the blood flow will go to this, and it creates a sympathetic nervous system activity all the time. But to create new energy, it happens only, like a cow, it's going to sit down, it's going to chew on its grass, and this way, if these chemical processes are able...if she runs, these chemical processes to make milk are not able to happen. So we got a same process. We are mammals too. So in the cell, it needs peace. We need to sit down, relax, and to make new energy in the cell. But as we are always going on in the brain, the sympathetic nervous system is going on and on and on, and it only takes energy. And because we don't know how to get into the parasympathetic nervous system, which enables the cell production to make new energy, we are not able to disconnect therefrom. Therefore we get no new energy. And that's why life is so depressing, or too much going on, and you got to go all the time.
So now to get into this part by breathing, vipassana meditation and all that, every person [SP] and all these techniques, I worked them out. I wrote a manuscript on yoga as a technique, but so long a time it takes to get into it. And now we are doing a study with psychiatrical research, we are doing, to compare it with mindfulness. Mindfulness is actually a Western answer on the Asian meditation forms of the East, and it's called mindfulness. But still it takes such a long time to tap into the brain the right way to disconnect from the sympathetic nervous system activity course by the neocortex to get into the limbic system which is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates energy, which gives space, which doesn't give anxiety, and all that. So if you go into this breathing, profoundly, then there is no danger. There is no danger. You don't need to be. And if it takes just four minutes or five minutes, then it will disconnect from the neocortex, which is the sympathetic nervous system activity, it shuts down. There's no blood flow anymore going toward it, and it goes down, and you feel relaxed. Okay, oh, nice, nice. Now, it takes time, because some people are so stubborn within the sympathetic nervous system related to the neocortex. It goes on and on and on and on and it doesn't stop. So what we do now with this breathing technique, cut down, disconnect completely. The conditioned breathing pattern which is providing the oxygen, the blood flow to the neocortex, we cut it down. And you know what they saw? After one and a half minute of retention, that's refraining from breath.
Rhonda: It's like holding in?
Wim: After exhalation, no air in the lungs. That means [inaudible 00:33:02]. No oxygen here. And we got the pH degree. We got it completely up. So nothing happens. The body is completely provided. But then we fooled the brain. We fooled the brain. It takes one and a half minutes for the brain to get back, because we oxygenize the body so much, we get the carbon dioxide out, but the pH level we get up. Oxygen gets so much freed. Now for the first time, deep breathing, it gets to work all the cells. And then after one and a half minute, it gets down to 100% because what I know its science doesn't yet know. We are able to oxygenize the body more than 100%. These are the devices. They took up abstract devices. They... This is 100 percent... This 30% people die. You know what I show? I took the device, I took it with this finger. It's one of the strongest fingers ever. I was hanging in the wintertime at one finger between two balloons. And for 23, 50.4 seconds. Yes. That's that. They got these oximeters. And it's showing your heartbeat and your saturation in your blood. After one...everybody, it will show in the physiology of everybody, after one and a half minute, it then begins again, 100%, 90%, 80%, 70%, 60%, 50%, where people normally die, 40%, 30%, and the device goes 0, 0, 0. There's no measuring anymore.
Rhonda: On you?
Wim: Not on me only anymore, everybody who took part in the study in four days.
Rhonda: I saw the oxygen saturation went down by 50% in everyone, right?
Wim: Yes, yes. That's the average. But some guys just went out completely off the device.
Rhonda: So individual variation between the people. Some of them went down...
Wim: Yeah, a little bit, but everybody goes down. Like normally it's mortal. You are dying. If you would be acidic, you would die at that moment. So that's the way we trick the mind, because the reptilian mode is just reactive, to crawl, to freeze, to fuck, to flight, and to food. That's what a reptilian does. That's not us. We got a mind. But we don't know how to tap into this mode. Now we know. And this brings about the connection between all the parts of the brain, which also concerns disease.
Wim: And depression. The glands. The pineal gland. The pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, and we got it. So it's so simple and so effective.
Rhonda: Yeah, for the relevance, for diseases. So, if you just think about the cold itself increases norepinephrine, which is used to treat ADHD, it's used to treat depression, they're giving norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors to treat that, which have all sorts of side effects. And then the breathing increases the epinephrine, which then causes all the anti-inflammatory response.
Wim: Say that again. It's very interesting. I love that you say it, girl.
Rhonda: So then couple the two, you're talking about increasing the focus, the attention...
Rhonda: Epinephrine. The norepinephrine is increased by the cold, and then the breathing, the controlled breathing, increases the epinephrine and the adrenaline, which then cause all the anti-inflammatory response and then it decreases carbon dioxide, which then stops the pain.
Wim: It is science. No speculation.
Rhonda: Yeah. So what you're talking about potentially, and this is what I'm interested in, is treating possibly depression, anxiety, OCD, inflammation...
Wim: Look how serious this is. This is, and I wanted science to back it up. Please help me with the scientific research. We got it, but we need to prove it.
Rhonda: You're doing a pretty good job. Right now, you've got two pretty good publications, one of them in the PNAS journal, which is a very nice journal. It's a great paper, you know, I read it two times. I think that you're on the right path to using science and harnessing the power of science to show the physiological changes, the brain changes that are occurring through the use of the cold, you know, shock, through the use of these breathing techniques and [inaudible 00:38:25].
Wim: You're very humble. She's a humble girl. Nice.
Rhonda: Thank you. I'm curious, like what made you decide to turn to the science? Just your curiosity? You got that scientific sort of mind where you wanted to understand?
Wim: Recognition, science, yeah, I already knew it 25 years ago that the autonomic nervous can be influenced, and the immune system, but everybody told me I was crazy. Yeah, I'm crazy, about my life,and about my wife. That's okay. But for the rest, no. I know, because of nature, of cold and all that. And I can think. I am able to deduct and to make conversation, like with you right now. I can recognize what you say. I can recognize where we are, what we do and what we need to do even more. So that's the way I began. And I began, of course, when I had the chance. And that was in New York. "Wow, now we're getting something."
Rhonda: In New York.
Wim: New York, Manhasset.
Wim: Yeah, Manhattan. I did a record over there standing in the ice during the winter, in January in front of the Museum of Himalayan Arts in New York, and I did like 1 hour 13 minutes then. Now it's 1 hour 53 minutes. Doesn't matter, you know? Every time, a little minute to hold on, it's being invited [SP] all over the world. "Don't try it." But I did it. And then the other day, I went to the Feinstein institute in Manhasset, New York, which is under the supervision of Doctor Kevin Tracey, which is a microbiologist, and he is an authority in the field. He is also in the board of Nobel Prize winners for medical research. So you should give me. By the way, making jokes, you know? But the real serious thing is that he then saw me influencing the vagus nerve. And not a little bit. And he saw it compared to a whole lot of test subjects before, and I was the first one who was doing this, actually. There's a whole story behind it, as he'd read, but then he taught me... We were going to do all kinds of research, comparative studies, because if this would be...if I would be able to pass it over to a group of persons, that would be huge consequences for human mankind.
A month later, I did not hear any contact anymore, and I found out they are quite sponsored by pharmaceuticals. But that's okay. That's okay. Everybody needs money to go around and blah, blah, blah, etc. But years later, I had this opportunity to show in the Radboud University here in Holland, in a physiological experiment, cold experiment, that I was able to, you know, go into 80 minutes immersion into the cold, direct cold, ice cubes and water and all that, and stay 80 minutes, and raise my core body temperature whilst doing. And they had blood retrieving from me, and they exposed it, ex vivo, without me, in a laboratory setting, and they saw 100% cytokine suppression. A hundred percent, eh? And then later, yeah, of course, they began to become interested by intensive care department, "Do you want to be injected, do you want to be part of an experiment like that?" And then they saw this, and then I said, "Yes, but maybe I could do it." And all these people didn't do it. All these hundreds of people who were not able to do it, and now I'm able to do it with such a big difference. But I say, "It's not because I'm the ice man. Anybody can do it." So you can do it, anybody can do it. Even the dog can do it. But she is out there calling for us. Let her in. She said, "I'm taking part of this interview." It's all about love.
Rhonda: So that's how it came... the endotoxins, they came to be.
Rhonda: Because that has, like I said, has huge, huge clinical relevance.
Wim: Sit down. Sit down. Sit down. Sorry. My little cytokine. Sit down. Doesn't do anything. I suppress the cytokine production in my body, but I cannot control my dog. It's all about the love, you know?
Rhonda: Absolutely. Very, very cool. I would love to see, you know, this, like I said, potentially be used to help treat depression, to help treat a lot of...
Wim: Oh yes, depression. It's my next thing.
Wim: My wife died because of being schizophrenic, as they say. Like no control. And I saw there was no control. I lost her, and I have four kids with her. That's the way I began to have interest in scientific studies to show we are able to do so much more. It's in there. It's a soul search. And that's the way I began.
Rhonda: Do you think that Holland may be open to this type of treatment? And the reason I say this is because, just a couple of days ago, I was at the Van Gogh Museum, you know, I'm a tourist, and going to the Van Gogh Museum, and we're all kind of drawn to van Gogh, because he has got this dark story, he cut off his ear, he killed himself.
Wim: Same thing. Same thing.
Rhonda: Yeah. And as I was reading through...you know, looking at his paintings and reading through, you know, the history behind it...
Wim: Emotions and all that, yeah. It's real.
Rhonda: Yeah. Well then, what happened was he went to this sort of psychiatric hospital, and I thought immediately, "Oh, they probably put him on drugs." I mean, that's what I thought. As I was reading, it said, "No, his prescription was two cold baths a day."
Wim: Look at that.
Rhonda: And that... I was... I mean, I looked at my husband, and I was like, "Are you kidding me? Is this really, you know..." So is that something you think that maybe... You know, because this was in the Netherlands.
Wim: Yes. Actually it was in the south of France with van Gogh.
Rhonda: Oh, was it in the south of France? I thought you said, oh, okay...
Wim: Yeah, but he was so depressed, and the light has got a lot of influence on depression. Melatonin, serotonin, the hormone production, etc. So he went to the south of France finally, and then Arles, somewhere south of France, he got into this psychiatric asylum, but they didn't know as well. Because the cold brings about the alarm cells in the body, which suppresses the cytokine production direct, but then the breathing even does more.
Rhonda: Yeah. Norepinephrine is increased by the cold, and it suppresses the cytokine production, but the epinephrine from the breathing does it even more robust. But I was so curious that back in the late 1800s they were saying cold bath. Why not now?
Wim: You are the first one to tell me he took a bath.
Rhonda: Twice a day.
Wim: I've lost my respect for Vincent van Gogh, who was a crazy motherfucker. I'm sorry.
Rhonda: It's okay.
Wim: We cannot say that. But he cut off his ear, and then shot himself. And my wife, you're like 200 years later, jumped from 8th floor, having 4 children. I'm working with the children right now, and we're having a great company, and we got a lot of happiness and all that, but those days we had a lot of discomfort and no power and being dependent on all these systems, and that's why I say, sorry about the F word, but it's the F word, these systems, F these systems, because we are going to do something about this. And this time we're going to bring back the belief, but also the real chemical connection within the body and the brain toward all the people. And that's regarding depression, any type of mental disorder or physical disorder.
Rhonda: Yeah. Inflammatory disorders in general.
Wim: Yes, inflammation. Cytokine production. Are we able to tap into that? Yes. Are we able to tap into the vagus nerve? Yes. Are we able to tap into the autonomic nervous system? Yes. I'm sorry, yes.
Rhonda: Please keep doing what you're doing, and, you know, it's awesome, your passion, your energy and what you're doing, I respect.
Wim: And likewise.
Rhonda: Thank you.
Wim: I respect your work, which is very good, and it is really needed.
Rhonda: So if people want to find out about Wim Hof?
Wim: Just go to innerfire.nl, you know, www, all these stripes, yeah, like that, .innerfire.nl. NL is Netherlands.
Rhonda: Uh-huh. Inner fire, like I-N-N-E-R F-I-R-E?
Wim: Yes. Inner fire is about, you know, "the cold is cold." But if you go into the cold, and this fire comes up, you feel good. That's the inner fire all about. So www.innerfire.nl, NL is the Netherlands. NL, you know, Netherlands.
Rhonda: And that's it?
Wim: That's it. And the rest, I don't know. I don't know nothing about Twitter and Witter and Batter and Letter, I don't know.
Rhonda: Yeah, and you've got like a training technique?
Wim: Oh yeah, we got like online videos and we got a free video course as well.
Over the course of the past century, the Western culture has faced numerous health epidemics, from obesity to opioids. Today we are facing an epidemic of a different nature. The epidemic of loneliness.
We're more connected than ever, but are we feeling more alone? In the last 50 years, rates of loneliness have doubled in the United States. In a survey of over 20,000 American adults, it was found that almost half of respondents reported feeling alone, left out, and isolated. Further, one in four Americans shared that they rarely feel understood, and one in five people believe they rarely or never feel not close to people. Loneliness is on the rise for Americans regardless of geographic location, gender, race, or ethnicity.
Human beings did not evolve to be alone. Sociality plays a fundamental part in the wellbeing of Homo sapiens. Conversely, social isolation and loneliness are known risk factors for premature death, more so than being obese (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015). Individuals who feel socially isolated and alone also have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, alcoholism and suicidality, physical diseases related to stress and compromised immune function, and in later life, greater risk of degenerative dementia. Even worse, researchers have observed that geriatric individuals who are considered lonely have a 45% increased risk of mortality (Leland, 2012; Perissinotto, Stijacic Cenzer and Covinsky, 2012).
Moreover, lonely individuals experience reductions in reasoning and creativity. In addition to these reduced abilities, loneliness affects workplace productivity, as lonely individuals report less job satisfaction and are more likely to face unemployment. Not surprisingly, loneliness is commonly correlated with mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. Similarly, loneliness is often associated with poor coping mechanisms, such as compulsive technology use, smoking, and self-harm. In other words, loneliness has both physical and psychological implications, many of which could be long term.
Alone versus Lonely
Before determining yourself as lonely, there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Being alone and feeling lonely are not mutually dependent. Loneliness is a subjective experience, a feeling of sadness stemming from isolation or abandonment. But, a person can be alone without feeling lonely, since alone describes a state of being and lonely describes an emotional response to one's circumstance. For example, most people don't feel sad when they go to the restroom by themselves. A person can be alone in the sense that no other people are present, or alone in the sense that they are unaccompanied, even in a crowd.
When assessing loneliness, introverted and extroverted personalities should be taken into account, because some people enjoy the presence of being alone with themselves, whereas others are dependent on others to cope with not being by themselves. Being at either end of the spectrum, whether it is total isolation or complete dependence, is not considered a healthy behavioral pattern.
Factors Influencing Loneliness
The predictors of loneliness is the basis for the identification of factors that cause and contribute to loneliness. The are three broad categories that influence the feeling of loneliness:
These categories may be subdivided into multiple factors that increase loneliness:
While it is impossible to avoid loneliness completely, it may be alleviated. It is recommended to investigate the contributory factors towards loneliness because knowledge of these may substantially lessen the impact of loneliness on people's mental health status. Such knowledge will contribute to an improved quality of life, productivity and health.
Sleep Deprivation-Induced Loneliness
The "loneliness phenotype" can be triggered by sleep deprivation. Researchers have observed that a lack of sleep induces critical changes within the brain, altering behavior and emotions, while also disturbing essential metabolic processes and influencing the expression of immune-related genes. The end result is that people who are sleep-deprived avoid social interaction. This asocial profile is recognizable by other people, who, in turn, shun the sleep-deprived people in a psychosocial loop that perpetuates in a vicious cycle of loneliness and other mental health disorders.
Some Solutions to Loneliness
Ali, S. (2018). What You Need to Know About the Loneliness Epidemic. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201807/what-you-need-know-about-the-loneliness-epidemic [Accessed 1 Sep. 2019].
Harris, R. (2015). Are we lonelier than ever?. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-loneliness-epidemic-more-connected-than-ever-but-feeling-more-alone-10143206.html [Accessed 1 Sep. 2019].
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T., Baker, M., Harris, T. and Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), pp.227-237. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614568352
Leland, K. (2012). Loneliness Linked to Serious Health Problems and Death Among Elderly. [online] UC San Francisco. Available at: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/06/98644/loneliness-linked-serious-health-problems-and-death-among-elderly [Accessed 1 Sep. 2019].
Perissinotto, C., Stijacic Cenzer, I. and Covinsky, K. (2012). Loneliness in Older Persons. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(14). https://doi.org/10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1993
Ben Simon, E. and Walker, M. (2018). Sleep loss causes social withdrawal and loneliness. Nature Communications, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-05377-0
Meditation is the practice of being in the here and now. Researchers have long observed that meditation, or the sense of presence, has the ability to:
Meditation has the ability to fundamentally change the way you live. Researchers have observed individuals who meditate and have discovered that the human mind wanders nearly half of the day. Moreover, research suggests that a wandering mind is a better predictor of happiness, independent of financial security. In essence, if your mind is wandering, you are much less likely to be happy. The sense of the present moment determines happiness.
Meditation develops two important skills to help keep the mind from wandering. The first is the ability to remain focused and attentive. The second, is the ability to recognize when the mind wanders so that it can gently be returned to the present moment.
An crucial concept to grasp before diving into meditation is the relaxation response. In the modern world, stress is chronic. The modern world is deluged with a vast amount of information and moves at such as fast pace, and this places everyone experiencing it in a state of stress. This often results in a surge of cortisol and adrenaline, hormones released by the adrenal glands, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight or flight response. As a result, the mind turns outward, seeking to evaluate and resolve anything that is the source of the stress. Unless you are relaxed, out of fight or flight, you cannot meditate. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system must occur (the mind must be turned inward) in order to practice meditation. This balance can be achieved by learning the relaxation response. Relaxation is the first step to meditation.
The key to the relaxation response is noticing what happens in your body when the response is activated. What physiologic cues are revealed to you when you are relaxed? It is different for everyone. Some may experience a release of tension in the shoulders, others in the neck, many in the jaw. What is important is knowing when your body is relaxed and is ready to begin meditating.
In 1975, Herbert Benson wrote the book "The Relaxation Response". As a cardiologist, he noticed that many of his patients who had high blood pressure felt worse with the medications that he prescribed. Patients simply visiting him made matters worse. Benson discovered that stress was the culprit and relaxation was the cure. Benson reluctantly began working with transcendental meditation meditators because they claimed to be able to reduce their blood pressure. He observed that they were in fact correct. The meditators were able to successfully reduce their heart rate, metabolic rate, and breath rate. Benson coined this effect the "relaxation response". After researching this phenomena more he discovered that the relaxation response could be triggered easily, quickly, and anywhere.
Just as stress can be triggered in a variety of ways, so too can relaxation, including meditation. Benson later discovered four key components underlying the relaxation response:
Eventually, Benson later discovered that only the last two are required, a mental device and an allowing attitude, to activate the relaxation response. This means that anyone can tap into the relaxation response anywhere and anytime.
Benson, H., & Klipper, M. (2000). The relaxation response. New York: HarperCollins.
Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045-1062. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0013262
How many hugs have you had today? Neuroeconomist Paul Zak, also known as "Dr. Love," recommends at least eight hugs a day to feel happier and more connected, as well as nurture relationships. As psychotherapist Virginia Satir said:
"We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth."
There may very well be a "hug threshold" that allows your body to produce ample amounts of oxytocin, which is released in response to physical touch such as breast-feeding, orgasm, hugs, snuggling, holding hands, partner dance, massage, bodywork, and prayer. The neuropeptide oxytocin, released by your pituitary gland, is a naturally occurring hormone in the body with incredibly powerful, health-giving properties.
This "love hormone" is also a key reason why the simple act of hugging is such an incredible way to enhance bonding with others but also boost your physical, and emotional, health.
How Hugging Makes You Healthier
Hugging increases levels of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that acts as a hormone. This, in turn, has been observed to have beneficial physiological effects on your cardiovascular health and emotional happiness. One group of researchers observed, for example, a reduction in blood pressure among adults following a brief episode of warm contact with their partner. A 20-second hug, along with 10 minutes of hand-holding, reduces the harmful physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate (Grewen, Anderson, Girdler & Light, 2003). This makes sense, since positive physical contact as hugging and reduces cortisol, increases oxytocin, and lowers systolic blood pressure in stressful situations (Holt-Lunstad, Birmingham & Light, 2008). But researchers suggest there is even more to it than that.
The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped rapidly adapting mechanoreceptors called Pacinian corpuscles with a large receptive field that can sense pressure and vibration and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve winds its way through the body and provides input and receives sensation from the heart, liver, and digestive tract. (Freberg, 2006). The vagus nerve is also connected to oxytocin receptors. One theory is that stimulation of the vagus triggers an increase in oxytocin, which in turn leads to the cascade of health benefits.
A 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body that can significantly improve your health. Hugging has been observed to stimulates your nervous system while decreasing feelings of loneliness, combating fear, increasing self-esteem, defusing tension, and showing appreciation. According to researchers, hugging has been observed to (Forsell & Åström, 2012):
The effects of connection
There's no doubt that physical touch of all kinds feels good. Whether it is a hug or a handshake, physical touch has a powerful effect on the human psyche resulting in us feeling happy, regardless if you are the toucher or touchee; connection, big or small, results in happiness.
Yet, many people are touch-deprived. One poll found that one-third of people receive no hugs on a daily basis while 75 percent said they wanted more hugs. Findings such as these, coupled with the emotional and health benefits of human touch, have led to the emergence of cuddle therapy centers, where people can pay for a lunchtime cuddle.
However, some have questioned whether or not physical contact from strangers has the same impact as those from someone you know and trust. While cuddling with a spouse or partner has been shown to boost satisfaction in relationships, some researchers have observed that hugs are only beneficial if trust is involved.
Neurophysiologist Jürgen Sandkühler, Head of the Centre for Brain Research at the Medical University of Vienna actually cautioned against worldwide "free hugs" campaigns (where strangers offer hugs to others), saying that this may be perceived as threatening and actually increase emotional burden and stress. However, significant benefits have been found from cuddling with a pet, which shows hugs don't have to only be between humans to be beneficial to your heart and overall health.
The Importance of Hugging
On average, people spend on hour a month hugging. That doesn't seem like much, but when you consider that the average hug is 3 seconds long, that adds up to be a lot of hugs.
And if you had any doubt about the importance of touch, consider that children who lack physical connection have delays in walking, talking, and reading. The act of hugging has a near-immediate impact on health, lowering your heart rate and inducing a calming effect while also leading to a more upbeat mood.
Touch is described as a universal language that can communicate distinct emotions with startling accuracy. Researchers observed that touch alone can reveal emotions including anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy, with accuracy rates of up to 83 percent (Hertenstein, Holmes, McCullough & Keltner, 2009).
Hugging is a way to encourage your body to release oxytocin, and the more oxytocin your pituitary gland releases, the better able you are to handle life's stressors.
Moreover, oxytocin quite likely plays a role in why pet owners heal more quickly from illness, why couples live longer than singles, and why support groups work for people with addictions and chronic diseases.
Oxytocin has also been found to reduce the cravings of drug and alcohol addiction, as well as for sweets. It even has a positive influence on inflammation and wound healing. Even beyond this, regular hugs have the added benefit of:
Do You Need a Hug?
Often making a concerted effort to hug the people close to you is one of the best ways to get more hugs in return. This can include your spouse, children, and other family members along with close friends. But even if you're not currently in a life situation conducive to getting daily hugs and producing enough of your own oxytocin on a regular basis, the good news is there are some alternatives you can use to help you deal in a healthy way with your emotional response to stress and anxiety.
With the already known and still-to-emerge health and quality of life benefits to be derived from the natural release of oxytocin in your body, your best course of action is to make sure you're cultivating warm, loving, intimate relationships, no matter what stage of life you're in. Additionally, if you have a pet, just a few minutes petting your dog or cat can promote the release of your body's "happiness" hormones, including oxytocin. Since touch anywhere on your body, as well as positive interactions and psychological support, are known to increase oxytocin levels, you might also consider:
Chillot, R. (2013). The Power of Touch. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201303/the-power-touch
Forsell, L., & Åström, J. (2012). Meanings of Hugging: From Greeting Behavior to Touching Implications. Comprehensive Psychology, 1, 02.17.21.CP.1.13. https://doi.org/10.2466/02.17.21.CP.1.13
Freberg, L. (2006). Discovering biological psychology (2nd ed.). Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.
Grewen, K., Anderson, B., Girdler, S., & Light, K. (2003). Warm Partner Contact Is Related to Lower Cardiovascular Reactivity. Behavioral Medicine, 29(3), 123-130. https://doi.org/10.1080/08964280309596065
Hertenstein, M., Holmes, R., McCullough, M., & Keltner, D. (2009). The communication of emotion via touch. Emotion, 9(4), 566-573. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016108
Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W., & Light, K. (2008). Influence of a “Warm Touch” Support Enhancement Intervention Among Married Couples on Ambulatory Blood Pressure, Oxytocin, Alpha Amylase, and Cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70(9), 976-985. https://doi.org/10.1097/psy.0b013e318187aef
Mercola, J. (2014). How Hugging Makes You Healthier and Happier. Retrieved from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/06/hugging.aspx
Richardson, J. (2014). 9 Reasons You Need To Be Giving and Receiving Hugs Everyday. Retrieved from http://preventdisease.com/news/14/012314_9-Reasons-Need-Giving-Receiving-Hugs-Everyday.shtml
Zhivotovskaya, E. (2012). Oxytocin: Go Out and Touch Someone. Retrieved from https://positivepsychologynews.com/news/emiliya-zhivotovskaya/2012032321636
What can we all do to overcome the stress and anxiety that seems to pervade our news and daily interactions these days? In other words, how do we keep ourselves peaceful, healthy and thriving in these chaotic times we find ourselves in?
In this interview, Rosemary Gladstar shares a handful of herbs that can be used to keep your body centered and at peace – including one slightly controversial plant if you’re feeling adventurous. What is most striking about this interview is the deep wisdom that the legendary medicine woman shares. Her perspective is one worth listening to.
The stress-healing herbs Rosemary mentions are:
Wim Hof is an autodidact and taught himself how to control his heart rate, breathing and blood circulation. All this is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. Conventional science says that the autonomic nervous system is a part of the body you just can´t control, yet Wim can, by steering his hypothalamus (an area in the brain which regulates the body temperature). Where the body temperature of an untrained person drops dangerously after exposing it to extreme cold, Wim is able to retain his core temperature around 37 degrees Celsius, constantly. Even after 1 hour and 52 minutes sitting in ice, Wim’s core temperature stays the same. Scientists around the world baffled by this exceptional performance. In the Netherlands, Prof. Maria Hopman of the UMC St Radboud Nijmegen examined Wim’s physiology as he was affected by the cold, while he was up to his neck in a cylinder filled with ice cubes.
Wim Hof, aka "The Iceman" holds the world record for the longest ice bath lasting over one hour and 52 minutes and 20 other world records for feats performed while withstanding the cold. He has climbed Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro in just shorts and shoes. His method enables him to control his core body temperature and immune system, which can be learned by anyone including. Wim's ultimate goals are to end all disease to facilitate a paradigm shift towards health to promote care for our planet and to bring back love and happiness for all people by encouraging them to get in touch with the cold, and he plans to do all this under the scrutiny of science.
Determining The Daily Dose of Nature
Humans are ancient beings living in a modern world. We have been hard-wired through evolution to require and seek contact with nature. A healthy, balanced life, physically and emotionally, requires this contact. Exposure to nature is one of the key foundations to a meaningful life. Indeed, a growing body of evidence overwhelmingly suggests connecting with nature is paramount for optimal health.
Connection with nature has been associated with:
How much exposure to nature and outdoor natural environments is necessary, though, to ensure healthy development? Are there such things as minimum daily requirements of nature?
Determining a daily dose of exposure to nature is comparable to the nutrition pyramid that has been touted as a useful guide for the types and quantity of food consumption necessary to be healthy. It has been dubbed the Nature Pyramid,.
Referring to the standard nutritional pyramid, towards the top are things that are less healthful in larger quantities—meat, dairy, sugar—and should be consumed in the smallest proportions. Moving down the pyramid are elements in the diet—fruits and vegetables—that should be consumed more frequently and in greater quantity, and then finally the foods that contain the most nutrients that are needed on a daily basis. The Nature Pyramid would work in a similar way.
The Nature Pyramid challenges us to think about what the analogous quantities of nature are, and the types of nature exposures and experiences, needed to bring about a healthy life. Exposure to nature, that is direct personal contact with natural, is not an optional thing, but rather is a necessary and important element of a healthy human life. So, like the nutritional pyramid, what specifically is required for optimal health? What amounts of nature, different nature experiences, and exposure to different sorts of nature, together constitute a healthy existence? While researchers may lack the same degree of scientific certainly or confidence regarding a specific quantifiable amount of connection with nature necessary to ensure a healthy life, the pyramid at least begins to ask the right questions.
Nature-Deficit Disorder and the Nature Principle
In 2005, in Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv introduced the term nature-deficit disorder, not as a medical diagnosis, but as a way to describe the growing gap between humans and nature. Every day, our relationship with nature, or the lack of it, influences our lives. This has always been true. But in the twenty-first century, our survival — or thrival — will require a transformative framework for that relationship, a reunion of humans with the rest of nature.
The Nature Principle is an amalgam of converging theories and trends as well as a reconciliation with old truths. This principle holds that a reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, wellness, spirit, and survival. Primarily a statement of philosophy, the Nature Principle is supported by a growing body of theoretical, anecdotal, and empirical research that describes the restorative power of nature — its impact on our senses and intelligence; on our physical, psychological, and spiritual health; and on the bonds of family, friendship, and the multispecies community. What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in electronics? How can each of us help create that life-enhancing world, not only in a hypothetical future, but right now, for our families and for ourselves?
Our sense of urgency grows. In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lived in towns and cities. The traditional ways that humans have experienced nature are vanishing, along with biodiversity. At the same time, our culture’s faith in technological immersion seems to have no limits, and we drift ever deeper into a sea of circuitry. We consume breathtaking media accounts of the creation of synthetic life, combining bacteria with human DNA; of microscopic machines designed to enter our bodies to fight biological invaders or to move in deadly clouds across the battlefields of war; of virtually-augmented reality; of futuristic houses in which we are surrounded by simulated reality transmitted from every wall. We even hear talk of the “transhuman” or “posthuman” era in which people are optimally enhanced by technology, or of a “postbiological universe” where, as NASA’s Steven Dick puts it, “the majority of intelligent life has evolved beyond flesh and blood intelligence.”
This collective disorder threatens our health, our spirit, our economy, and our future stewardship of the environment. Yet, despite what seem prohibitive odds, transformative change is possible. The loss that we feel, this truth that we already know, sets the stage for a new age of nature. In fact, because of the environmental challenges we face today, we may be — we had better be — entering the most creative period in human history, a time defined by a goal that includes but goes beyond sustainability to the renaturing of everyday life.
Symptoms of Nature-Deficit Disorder
Do you or does someone you know experience nature-deficit disorder (NDD)? In this day in age, it is common to develop mild or severe forms of NDD. Here are several symptoms to look out for:
Interpreting the Nature Pyramid
At the bottom of the pyramid are forms of nature and outside life that should form the bulk of our daily experiences. Here there are the many ways in which we might daily enjoy and experience nature, both suburban and urban. As adults, a healthy nature diet requires being outside at least part of each day, walking, strolling, sitting, though it need not be in a remote and untouched national park or otherwise more pristine natural environment. Brief experiences and brief episodes of respite and connection are valuable to be sure: watching birds, hearing the outside sounds of life, and feeling the sun or breeze on one’s arms are important natural experiences, though perhaps brief and fleeting. Some of these experiences are visual and we know that even views of nature from office or home windows provides value. For school aged kids spending the day in a school drenched in full spectrum nature daylight is important and we know the evidence is compelling about the emotional value of this. Every day kids should spend some time outside, sometime playing and running outside, in direct contact with nature, weather, and the elements.
Moving from the bottom to the top of the pyramid also corresponds to an important temporal dimension. We need and should want to visit larger more remote parks and natural areas, but for most of us the majority of these larger parks will not be within distance of a daily trip. Each week, we should seek out a local park or area larger than your backyard. Each month, we should seek out a larger, national park. At the top of the pyramid are places and nature experiences that are profoundly important and enriching yet are more likely to happen less frequently, such as remote verdant areas, perhaps only several times a year. They are places of nature where immersion is possible, and where the intensity and duration of the nature experience are likely to be greater. And in between these temporal echelons (from daily to yearly) lie many of the nature opportunities and experiences that happen often on weekends or holidays or every few weeks, and perhaps without the degree of regularity that daily neighborhood nature experiences provide.
Like the food items higher on the food pyramid, the sites of nature highest on the Nature Pyramid might best be thought of occasional treats in our nature diet—good for us in small and measured servings, but actually unhealthy if consumed too often or in too great a quantity. For many urbanites from industrialized nations, large amounts of money and effort are expended visiting remote areas, from Patagonia, to the cloud forests of Costa Rica, to the Himalayas. It seems we relish and celebrate the ecologically remote and exotic. While they are deeply enjoyable nature experiences, to be sure, they come at a high planetary cost, as the energy and carbon footprint associated with jetting to these places is large indeed. No longer are such trips appreciated as unique and special “trips of a lifetime,” but fairly common and increasingly pedestrian jaunts to the affluent citizenry of the North. The Nature Pyramid sends a useful signal that travel to faraway nature may as glutinous and unhealthy as eating at the top of the food pyramid.
A Solution - Shinrin-yoku (Forest Bathing)
Forest bathing—or Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy—is a Japanese healing method that allows an individual to immerse in the forest’s atmosphere. It stills the mind, leaving bathers focused and more alert. Researchers have observed that evergreen trees secret a natural chemical called phytoncide, which directly reduced stress levels and boosted immune systems in subjects (Li, 2009).
Researchers (Hansen, Jones and Tocchini, 2017) have determined with the healing components of Shinrin-yoku specifically hones in on the therapeutic effects on:
How to Forest Bath
Beatley, T. (2012). Exploring the Nature Pyramid – The Nature of Cities. [online] The Nature of Cities. Available at: https://www.thenatureofcities.com/2012/08/07/exploring-the-nature-pyramid/ [Accessed 21 Mar. 2018].
Hansen, M., Jones, R. and Tocchini, K. (2017). Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(12), p.851. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080851
Li, Q. (2009). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), pp.9-17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12199-008-0068-3
Louv, R. (2012). The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. Algonquin Books.
More than 2000 references on the biological responses to radio frequency (RF) and microwave radiation, published up to June 1971, have been documented. Devices that emit RF and microwave radiation include, but is not limited to, cellphones, two-way radios, Wi-Fi routers, cellphone towers, smart watches, bluetooth devices, Smart meters, cordless cell phone base stations, wireless baby monitors, microwave ovens, and any WiFi-connected smart devices that receives and transmits data. Particular attention has been paid to the effects on man of non-ionizing radiation at these frequencies.
Reported Biological Phenomena (*Effects') and Some Clinical Manifestations Attributed to Microwave and Radio-Frequency Radiation
A. Heating of Organs*
(Applications: Diathermy, Electrosurgery, Electro-coagulation, Electrodesiccation, Electrotomy)
B. Changes in physiologic function
C. Central Nervous System Effects
D. Autonomic Nervous System Effects
E. Peripheral Nervous System Effects
F. Psychological Disorders ("Human Behavioral Studies") - the so-called "Psychophysiologic (and Psychosomatic) Responses"
G. Behavioral Changes (Animal)
H. Blood Disorders
I. Vascular Disorders
J. Enzyme and Other Biochemical Changes
Changes in activity of:
K. Metabolic Disorders
L. Gastro-Intestinal Disorders
M. Endocrine Gland Changes
N. Histological Changes
O. Genetic and Chromosomal Changes
P. Pearl Chain Effect (Intracellular orientation of subcellular particles, and orientation of cellular and other (non-biologic) particles) Also, orientation of animals, birds, and fish in electromagnetic fields
Q. Miscellaneous Effects
Glaser, Z. (1971). Bibliography of reported biological phenomena ('effects') and clinical manifestations attributed to microwave and radio-frequency radiation. Navel Medical Research Institute. http://safeschool.ca/uploads/Navy_Radiowave_Brief_1_.pdf
A growing body of evidence suggests that exercise is one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression.
A recent study, conducted over the course of 11 years, was designed to address whether exercise provides protection against new-onset depression and anxiety and if so, the intensity and amount of exercise required to gain protection and, lastly, the mechanisms that underlie any association.
Researchers evaluated and followed 33,908 adults, which were selected on the basis of having no symptoms of common mental disorder or limiting physical health conditions.
The researchers observed that regular leisure-time exercise was associated with reduced incidence of future depression but not anxiety. The majority of this protective effect occurred at low levels of exercise and was observed regardless of intensity. After adjusting for confounding variables, the results suggests that 12% of future cases of depression could have been prevented if all participants had engaged in at least 1 hour of physical activity each week. The social and physical health benefits of exercise explained a small proportion of the protective effect.
Researchers have established that processed food is addictive, can make you extremely unhappy and will prematurely kill you. Is there a chance that food manufacturers been able to deceive the world about these facts? Dr. Robert Lustig has written a new book, “The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains,” in which he explains how and why this occurred.
He is perhaps most well-known for his brilliant research into sugar and obesity, and his previous book, “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease,” was a New York Times Best Seller. Lustig is an emeritus professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, a member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies, and he’s also completed a master’s in public health law.
Tryptophan, which is the precursor for serotonin, is one of the rarest amino acids in our diet. But it’s a mistake to think the answer to depression is as simple as taking tryptophan to boost serotonin. The reason for this is because most of the tryptophan is converted to serotonin in your gut, and it does not freely travel into your brain. Lustig explains:
“Tryptophan is the only amino acid that can be converted into serotonin. Tryptophan is the rarest amino acid in our diet. Eggs have the most. Certain poultry and other avian species have some [tryptophan]. There’s very little in vegetables. Obviously, carbohydrates have virtually no tryptophan whatsoever.
It’s actually pretty hard to get tryptophan into your body to start with. Take processed food on top of that, then it’s even harder because it tends to be tryptophan-depleted. [Moreover], 99.9 percent of the tryptophan you ingest either gets turned into serotonin in the gut for your gut’s purposes, or it goes into your platelets to help your platelets help you clot. [So] very little tryptophan actually gets to the brain.
Top that off with the fact that tryptophan has to share an amino acid transporter with two relatively common amino acids: phenylalanine and tyrosine, which, by the way, are the precursors for dopamine. You can see that the more processed food you eat, the more dopamine you will make because you will have the precursors for that.
They will actually crowd out the ability to get tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier … Yet, serotonin is the nidus of contentment, of happiness. It explains why diet is so problematic … ”
Many try to bolster their happiness through certain food choices, but this actually does not work, and Lustig provides compelling arguments that the foods you crave drive up dopamine and drive down serotonin. Rather, it’s experiences that make you happy. People can make you happy. You can make yourself happy. In his book, Lustig outlines a number of different strategies to become happier.
“Ultimately, the goal is [to increase] your serotonin,” he says. There are four ways to boost your serotonin, and they’re all free. They’re also things your grandmother likely told you to do. First and foremost is making human connections.
“Turns out that Facebook does not count as connection. When we’re talking about interpersonal connection, we’re talking about eye-to-eye,” Lustig says. “The facial emotions of the person you’re talking with activate a set of neurons in your brain called ‘mirror neurons,’ which are the drivers of empathy and specifically linked to serotonin.To be able to generate a feeling of empathy, which ultimately turns into contentment/happiness, you actually have to connect. You can’t do it over the internet. You can’t have a connection with ‘anonymous.’ It just doesn’t work.”
On the contrary, social media generate dopamine, associated with pleasure, and hence can drive addiction. The main problem is that when dopamine goes up, serotonin goes down. So, online communication is actually a major causative factor of unhappiness.
Lustig also elaborates on how companies — both food manufacturers and electronics companies — capitalize on the biology of dopamine versus serotonin to get us addicted to their products. There’s even a book on this topic written by Nir Eyal, called, “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.”
Dopamine Versus Serotonin
It’s important to realize that the dopamine (or reward-generating) pathway is the same no matter what your source of pleasure is. It can be a substance, such as nicotine, alcohol, heroin or junk food; or it can be behavior, such as internet surfing, shopping or pornography. The problem, in a nutshell, is that dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and in excess is neurotoxic.
When dopamine is released, and the neuron on the other side accepts the signal, it can damage that neuron. Over time, excitatory neurotransmitters can cause cell death. To protect itself from damage, the postsynaptic neuron employs a self-protective mechanism — it downregulates its receptors.
By having fewer receptors, the dopamine cannot do as much damage. So, each time you get a “hit” or rush of dopamine, the number of receptors decrease. As a result, you need increasingly larger doses or “hits” to get the same rush. Eventually, you end up with tolerance, a state where even a large dose produces no effect. Once the neurons start to actually die off, you’re a full-blown addict.
“The point that you need to know is that it takes three weeks for the receptors to repopulate. The cravings can go on for upwards of a year when you’re addicted. This is a long-term process that sometimes requires medical intervention and medical management by physicians who understand addiction medicine,” Lustig says.
Serotonin, on the other hand, is not an excitatory neurotransmitter. When it acts on the serotonin-1a receptor (the “contentment” receptor), no damage occurs. Hence, happiness does not lead to addictive behavior. Keep in mind that dopamine downregulates serotonin, so it’s basically impossible to achieve happiness (related to serotonin) through pleasure-seeking behavior (related to dopamine).
One of the cheapest pleasures that stimulates dopamine is sugar. Many reach for sweet junk food when they feel down, thinking it’ll help them feel better, but neurochemical science reveals this simply cannot happen. Add the stress hormone cortisol to the mix, which downregulates the serotonin-1a receptor, and you have a recipe for both addiction and depression. “That’s what we’re seeing throughout all of civilized society, not just in America, but around the world,” Lustig says.
There are three other ways, besides connecting, that boost serotonin and happiness. The remaining three of the four C’s are:
1. Contribute: Meaning the act of contributing to something greater than yourself; making a contribution to society. “You can get happiness and contentment from your job, but there are certain criteria that have to be met,” Lustig says. “Most people, unfortunately, have a boss who is not contributing to their happiness. The workplace is not usually the best place to achieve meaningful contentment.”
2. Cope: Lack of sleep, insufficient exercise and multitasking are all causes of unhappiness. Sleep is extremely important for healthy serotonin production. Here, avoiding exposure to electronic screens is important, as blue light inhibits melatonin production, thereby making sleep more elusive. Electronics will also disrupt your sleep and deteriorate your health by exposing you to unnecessary microwaves, discussed in this recent article on depression.
3. Cook: If you cook, you’re likely going to increase your tryptophan, reduce your refined sugar intake, and increase your omega-3 fats (anti-inflammatory) and fiber. Overall, this will result in improved gut health, which has tremendous impact on your mood and mental health.
“Numerous investigators … have shown that your gastrointestinal flora tell your brain what they want through signals that go through the bloodstream, and potentially even neural ones as well. If you do not feed your bacteria, you cannot get happy. Eating real food you prepare yourself is super important,” Lustig says.
The High Cost of Added Sugar
Processed fructose, mostly in the form of corn syrup, has become a major contributor to the $3 trillion health care budget in the United States, and there’s clear data linking sugar consumption to de novo lipogenesis — a disease process associated with fat accumulation in the liver, causing insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, metabolic syndrome and associated diseases. That includes Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia.
“We have the mechanism by which this occurs. In fact, our paper in Gastroenterology1 demonstrates that if you take sugar out of the diet of children with metabolic syndrome and substitute starch — calorie for calorie exchange, glucose for fructose exchange with no change in calories … — in 10 days, you can reverse metabolic syndrome.
You can reverse the insulin resistance. You can reverse the liver fat. You can reverse the burden on the pancreas. Basically, all of the metabolic perturbations go away. This is the smoking gun,” Lustig says. “In addition, we have a paper in BMJ Open2 which models what could happen in terms of health care expenditures and disease rates if we reduced our sugar consumption by 20 percent, which is what taxes would do.
Or if we reduce sugar consumption by 50 percent (which is what the United States Department of Agriculture suggested we do), for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease alone … the United States, over the next 20 years, could save $103 billion, just on that disease alone. Ultimately, this is where the money goes. This is why health care will be defunct. This is why Medicare will be broke by the year 2026 …
We have to deal with health. Health is going down the tubes. There’s no amount of health care that can fix what’s wrong with our diet, unless we fix the diet first … The bottom line is we are in trouble. But you can’t fix a problem until you recognize what the problem is. This book, ‘The Hacking of the American Mind,’ demonstrates how the science, how the biology, ultimately has influenced not just our health, but in fact, our policy.”
A Solution: Eat Real Food
As mentioned, a big part of the happiness equation is to increase serotonin by optimizing tryptophan. However, the dilemma is that most of the serotonin produced in the gut is used there locally. It does not enter your brain. Lustig explains:
“There are many diversions for tryptophan away from the brain. It can be metabolized in the intestine itself. It can be metabolized in the platelets. It can be turned into kynurenine, which is a secondary metabolite in the liver. It may not be transported across the blood-brain barrier because of phenylalanine and tyrosine taking up the aromatic amino acid transporter.
In addition, of course, your serotonin neurons must be functional. There are things that will kill off serotonin neurons, including party drugs. For instance, MDMA, or Ecstasy, is a famous dopamine and serotonin killer … Once you’ve lost those serotonin neurons, it’s pretty hard to get any sort of happiness signal.”
So, how do you boost systemic tryptophan? One of the keys is to eat real food, and to make sure you include high-tryptophan foods, the highest of which is egg whites. You also need omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, which is a component of every cell in your body. More than 90 percent of the omega-3 fat found in brain tissue is DHA.
“Omega-3s are probably the single most beneficial thing you can put in your body. They are anti-inflammatory. They are anti-Alzheimer’s. They increase membrane fluidity. Therefore, they increase neuronal distensibility, which means it’s less likely that any given neuron will die,” Lustig says.
“The problem, of course, is that when we took the fat out of the food, we took ALL the fat out of the food. It’s been a real chore to get the medical cognoscenti to turn around on this. I do want to do a shoutout to the American Heart Association, because they have now debunked their long-standing cholesterol-fat hypothesis.
They now recognize that saturated fat was not the demon they made it out to be, and that there are seven classes of fats, and that you actually have to consume omega-3s. You have to consume monounsaturated fats. In fact, you do have to consume some saturated fat because it’s a major component of membranes.”
Mercola, J. (2017). How Corporations Took Over Our Bodies and Brains. [online] Mercola.com. Available at: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/09/10/processed-foods-health-effects.aspx [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
The Awareness domain contains research, news, information, observations, and ideas at the level of self in an effort to intellectualize health concepts.
The Lifestyle domain builds off intellectual concepts and offers practical applications.
Taking care of yourself is at the core of the other domains because the others depend on your health and wellness.