Zach Bush MD is a physician specializing in internal medicine, endocrinology and hospice care. He is an internationally recognized educator and thought leader on the microbiome as it relates to health, disease, and food systems. Dr Zach founded Seraphic Group and the nonprofit Farmer’s Footprint to develop root-cause solutions for human and ecological health. His passion for education reaches across many disciplines, including topics such as the role of soil and water ecosystems in human genomics, immunity, and gut/brain health. His education has highlighted the need for a radical departure from chemical farming and pharmacy, and his ongoing efforts are providing a path for consumers, farmers, and mega-industries to work together for a healthy future for people and planet.
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.
From The Ben Greenfield Podcast:
Jay: "Hello, everybody. It's your beloved sidekick co-host of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast, or at least that's what I like to tell myself at night to help me sleep better. I'm Dr. Jay Wiles. And Ben actually decided to fully turn over the podcast in its entirety to me and rename this podcast to the Dr. Jay Wiles Awesome Extravaganza Podcast. While I am by and large kidding, you are actually stuck with me today as we take a deep dive into all things heart rate variability or HRV. In the health and wellness and longevity sector, HRV has become a metric that has been highly discussed but is still quite misunderstood by many.
So, I'm here to clear up the air and give you an in-depth explanation of HRV physiology, the metrics, and practical implications because it seems like every quantifying device nowadays has an HRV measure. And because of this and with my background, I'm constantly inundated with questions about this metric, and what it means, and how we can utilize it, and how we can actually implement it from a practical standpoint. Just so you know, you can find all today's shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/hrvpodcast.
With all that said, let me see if I can set the stage as to why you should even listen to me in regards to the science of HRV and its utilization. Let me give you a little bit of a background on my clinical experience and personal usage of biofeedback. So, when I'm not podcasting, my day job is working as a clinical health psychologist with a specialty in complementary and integrative health, and namely, in psychophysiology or biofeedback. You might already be asking yourself, what is biofeedback? Well, in short, biofeedback is the use of your physiology to enhance self-awareness in order to promote self-regulation.
Another way of putting this is that we become more mindfully aware of our physiological response via feedback so that we can inherently change our physiology through numerous techniques. My background is doing this with individuals who are suffering from physiological ailments such as chronic pain, tension-type headaches, migraines, hypertension, or other systemic problems of their physiology. I also see a large array of individuals for more psychological problems such as chronic and systemic stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other symptomology.
In the more growing body of research and in my own clinical practice, I'm working with individuals who are looking to enhance peak cognitive and physical performance. I've been working with numerous elite professional athletes and executives that have found HRV training to be the most effective behavioral intervention for enhancing performance. I'm board-certified in biofeedback and heart rate variability biofeedback and I have specialty training in the field of psychophysiology. This means that I've procured a specialized knowledge base alongside practical clinical skills in helping my patients through numerous biofeedback techniques, as well as an in-depth understanding of the bi-directional relationship between our psychological processes and physiological processes.
One way or another way to think of biofeedback is to think about it as a learning process, like learning to play a musical instrument, a sport, or even a video game. We perform an action, then we observe the results and then repeat this action throughout the day in an effort to continue to attain the positive result or enhance the result. I've also heard some individuals refer to biofeedback as a psychophysiological mirror that will teach the individual to monitor, understand, and change their physiology. If I had to boil biofeedback down to its most simple terms, we are trying to teach the concept of self-regulation, which would be learning how to control behavior efficiently and immediately without the feedback. I'll get back to this in just a bit, but I wanted to set the stage for the upcoming talk.
One of the key features of any biofeedback clinician will be through the teaching of self-regulatory skills and heart rate variability or HRV. Indeed, this is actually the most foundational skill to self-regulation in biofeedback. Within my company, which is called Thrive Wellness and Performance, I work with many different types of individuals ranging from those who are battling with significant stress and fatigue or burnout, or those who are looking to optimize peak performance like many elite athletes and executives. In this role, I provide a comprehensive HRV consultation and individual follow-up HRV coaching sessions to help individuals take back their health and improve overall health outcomes or peak performance.
I only have my clients using what I have found to be the top HRV measuring devices and data collection available, which I will talk about later. But after this podcast, you might consider what a biofeedback coach might look like for you on your own personal journey towards health and well-being, longevity, and peak performance. So, today, I want to take a deep dive into the field of psychophysiology, into the field of metrics of heart rate variability, in resonance frequency training, heart rate variability and well-being, performance and recovery, how we interpret data from the wearables that we buy, and some of the pitfalls to devices that provide us maybe with some inaccurate measurement and artefact inclusion. I want this to be a one-stop-shop for all things heart rate variability, a podcast that you come back to when you have a question about heart rate variability. But I must say that there are entire Ph.D. programs in the field of psychophysiology, so we are going to just barely scratch the surface. But for the most part, that will actually look like a deep dive. So, with that said, let's jump on in.
I feel like it is necessary to set the stage for why this even matters. In other words, I figured that you would all like some buy-in. From a consumer and a clinician standpoint, I'm normally bought into a topic area when there is vast robust research on that topic area. It's really interesting when you start to peruse the internet and PubMed for HRV studies. As you will see that there were actually minimal studies on this topic about 20 to 30 years ago. But from the '90s until especially the past decade, we have seen exponential advancements in how we practically utilize the important metric of HRV. Indeed, research has demonstrated some significant outcomes as to how we use HRV in predicting cardiac outcomes, especially after a myocardial infarction, which is a heart attack.
HRV, over the course of a 24-hour period, is actually the greatest predictor for future heart attacks and is one of the, if not, the most reliable predictors that cardiologists will use. We also see in research how HRV is correlated with increased risk for cerebral vascular accident, which is a stroke, especially after someone has already had a stroke. We can also see a direct link between HRV and sleep, HRV and stress and cortisol production, HRV and depression, HRV and cognitive performance and in sports performance. All of these links and much more have been identified in peer-reviewed journal articles. So, this is just not some unstudied woo-woo metric. We have a lot of confounding data to support our use of this metric for many things. However, I do not want you to think that this is some panacea metric and can be used for any and every outcome.
So, what have we found in research in regarding to how we can use HRV as a metric of our physiology? We have found that knowing our HRV and modifying our HRV can lead to improved mental health and well-being. It optimizes our ability to recover and adapt after exercise. It can lead to improved mental and cognitive performance, improved sleep insight into our nervous system and our nervous system-mediated pain, its insight into increased homeostasis of the nervous system that leads to improved stress outcomes, and can be a detection system of dysregulation in the central and peripheral nervous systems.
An example of this is that a group of researchers found that individuals with chronic stress-related neck pain had significantly lower HRV scores than the normative population, which was found due to autonomic dysregulation, which I will explain later what that means, after 10 weeks of HRV biofeedback, these individuals were able to significantly increase their HRV which resulted in improved perceived health, increased vitality alongside reduced pain outcomes and improved social functioning. A study performed with physically fit men and women that assessed HRV in the relationship between anxiety and stress and one's engagement in physical exercise found that both men and women that perceive themselves as having higher stress had lower HRV scores regardless of their physical activity.
So, while physical activity plays a significant role in HRV modulation, meaning that the more physically fit you are, the higher the HRV unless you are overtraining, emotional or psychological stress likely plays a more significant role in mediating HRV. A meta-analysis was performed in 2014 demonstrated that anxiety disorders are associated with significant reductions in HRV. From a sports performance perspective, an article in the Journal of Sport Science and Medicine in 2014 indicated that we are able to gain accurate insight into recovery via ultra-short-term HRV measurements, anything as low as 60 seconds.
HRV has also been found to be associated with aerobic capacity, as researchers have identified, that those with lower aerobic capacity tend to have lower HRV scores. Additionally, those who report as more sedentary have lower HRV when compared to a more active population. And numerous studies have also indicated that a high HRV is associated with better general health due to it allowing the person to better adjust to both internal and external stimuli and that a low HRV is a predictor of cardiovascular disease and metabolic diseases and increases the overall risk for mortality. This does not even begin to scratch the surface but should go to show you that this metric is both highly useful. And I would argue, it is imperative for us to know our numbers and make necessary modifications.
I also want to quickly highlight a few studies that demonstrate how we can use HRV biofeedback, which would be the use of strategies to enhance self-awareness and self-regulation of HRV. In the study of scientific literature on HRV, and more specifically on HRV biofeedback efficacy, we must turn to the most trusted organization for determining efficacy, which is the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback or AAPB. They provide a ranking system for HRV biofeedback efficacy from an analysis of outcome studies performed on HRV biofeedback for certain symptoms and disorders. The ranking system goes from level 1, which means that it is not empirically supported, all the way to level 5, which means that it is both efficacious and specific and has been statistically shown to be superior to credible sham therapy pill or alternative bona fide treatments in at least two independent study research settings.
From a clinical standards perspective, you really want to stay within the level 3 to level 5 range, which level 4 being kind of where most effective treatments lie. Think of level 5 as saying that there is clear evidence that this is the standard modality for that disorder for treatments. That should always be the first line of treatment. Therefore, this is not seen very frequently. An example of this in the biofeedback world is a neurofeedback for those with ADHD. This is considered a level 5 treatment. Now, what does the literature say about HRV biofeedback for certain disorder sets? Well, there is robust research to support HRV biofeedback as a level 4 practice indicating high efficacy outcomes for depression and anxiety, hypertension which is high blood pressure, pre-hypertension, preeclampsia, IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic muscle pain. In the performance world, we see HRV biofeedback as a level 3 for optimized performance in baseball, basketball, dance, and in golf. And this is not to say that it cannot be utilized for other performance avenues, but this is where we have the most robust research.
Another study in the Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback found that HRV biofeedback is an effective, safe, and easy to learn and apply method for both athletes and coaches in order to improve sports performance. In order to have an understanding of how we utilize HRV practically, we must understand the what and the why of our measurement. In order to gain an understanding of why HRV is important, we must take a dive into the field of psychophysiology. Like I alluded to earlier, psychophysiology is studying the interrelationship or the bi-directional relationship between psychological and physiological processes. We have to think of this relationship as both dynamic and bi-directional in nature. This means that it is constantly changing depending on the state of the organism and communicates in both directions. What I mean by this is that what happens within our psychological processes can influence our physiological processes and vice versa.
Let me give you an easy-to-understand example. Let's think about hypertension or high blood pressure. It has been long determined that psychological stress can influence hypertension and cardiovascular disease outcomes. This means that somebody's psychological stress experience can inherently increase blood pressure, which is associated with numerous negative health outcomes. The interesting thing about this process though is that it is bi-directional. This means that as someone experiences an increase in blood pressure, which may not be necessarily due to psychological stressors, this physiological change can increase the anxiety or stress response of the individual.
Basically, from an ancestral perspective, physiological changes in blood pressure send communication to the brain that there must be a threat. That is resulting in vascular constriction, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure. Therefore, our limbic system, and more specifically, our amygdala in the brain sends our body and our brain into an action-oriented response so that we can either fight or flee from the threat that's in front of us. This is both a conscious and an unconscious response. Another way that we can view this is through the lens of what is called the psychophysiological principle. This principle states that every change in the physiological state is accompanied by an appropriate change in the mental-emotional state, and this is again conscious or unconscious. And then conversely, every change in our emotional or mental state, both conscious or unconscious, is accompanied by an appropriate change in the physiological state. Again, these interconnected and bi-directional relationships.
Yet another example of this is when we think about the role that facial muscle contraction can have an influencing emotion and how emotion can influence facial muscle contraction. So, someone that may get a Botox injection, which would actually paralyze facial muscles to treat wrinkles can actually reduce the intensity of a person's emotional experience. Yes, we have a lot of interesting research on this topic. One thing to remember at the foundation of our physiology is that each and every human being is striving for homeostasis, which is the maintenance of the body's internal environment with healthy physiological limits. A state of homeostasis is synonymous with the body striving for a process called allostasis. So, allostasis is a state of maintenance of stability through change and is a process that complements homeostasis. We achieved this state of allostasis through different mechanisms that anticipate challenges and adapt through behavior, a process of learning and then a physiological change.
You can think of high HRV as evidence of our ability to adapt to stressors and maintain homeostasis. When we increase our HRV, this provides us with the ability to move in and out of a parasympathetic and sympathetic state as needed and as quickly and as efficiently as possible. I also refer to this as autonomic fortitude. The ability to shift in and out of a sympathetic and parasympathetic state demonstrates high HRV resilience or high heart rate variability resilience and is less likely to lead to things like adrenal fatigue, chronic stress, overtraining, and will yield better recovery.
Unfortunately, the state of homeostasis and allostasis is combated with what we call a state of allostatic load. This is when our physiological, psychological, and spiritual adaptations have been significantly taxed, and now we are experiencing the deleterious effects as a result. You can kind of think of this as a balanced scale. In a state of homeostasis, we are adapting to change and challenge effectively. As we experience stressors and challenges that are too taxing on our physiology such as things like chronic pain, stress, depression, overexertion in exercise, toxic relationships, work stress, financial strain, and so forth, the scales become unbalanced and we can have systemic physiological and psychological problems that will arise.
Let's think about this from an ancestral perspective. You may have heard of the comparison of how our ancestors may have experienced rapid, acute, and transient states of high stress such as being chased by a mountain lion while hunting and gathering. But when they return to their homelands, their stress response would come back down to baseline. Therefore, there was an activation of the HPA axis or the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and that resulted in an increase–I should say an acute release of adrenaline and cortisol and other glucocorticoids. These levels which can be highly inflammatory would typically come back down after the perceived threat was mitigated and an increased sense of safety was established.
However, in our modern society, one that has us entrenched and engulfed in our work and our perceived worth, we have found ourselves in a constant state of physiological arousal and stress, all of which turns on our fight-or-flight response to perceive threat. In a sense, it's almost like perceiving that the mountain lion is continuously chasing us in our modern society. When this occurs day after day, decade after decade, this is going to take a tremendous toll on our psychological, physiological, and spiritual well-being. That is why it is imperative for us to be continuously self-monitoring and mindful of what we have in our lives and how we live our lives and the potential detriment that this may be causing over time.
Physiological states of arousal or the state of fight-or-flight is there for our survival and is much needed. However, at some point in time, we begin to experience this imbalance, which tells our brain that a threat is always going to occur, never shutting off or blunting the fight-or-flight response. And this is why we need to take a deep dive into what helps us maintain balance or allostasis and homeostasis. I think the best framework of HRV training is always through the lens of autonomic balance and psychological and physiological resilience. This turns us to the topic of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
We cannot have a conversation on HRV without a conversation on the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The simple way to think about the two is that the central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system consists of all the nerves that run out of the central nervous system and innervate every area of our body. You can think of this as all of our organs, all of our limbs, and the skin. Therefore, these two are interconnected and have a bi-directional relationship. The peripheral nervous system has two distinct branches. These are the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. You can think of the somatic nervous system as being in control of the skeletal muscles and will transmit different somatosensory information back to the central nervous system.
Our autonomic nervous system regulates certain aspects of our physiology that occur automatically. These would be things like regulating our cardiac and smooth muscle or heart functioning and respiration. We can then divide the autonomic nervous system into three main systems or three main branches. These are the sympathetic division, the parasympathetic division, and the enteric division. In the study of biofeedback, and specifically heart rate variability, we are focused predominantly on the autonomic nervous system, and more specifically, the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches or divisions.
Now, let's break down both of these divisions as there tends to be some confusion in this area. I will start by discussing the sympathetic nervous system. This is the division of our nervous system that readies us for action, challenge, and will regulate the activities that expand or expend energy. The sympathetic nervous system is in direct connection with our endocrine system and regulates certain hormonal responses. This is what helps us to respond to threats to our safety through mobilization, the fight-or-flight response, or a process of active avoidance. In comparison to the parasympathetic response, which I'll speak about later, the sympathetic nervous system responds more slowly and for longer periods of time. For instance, it takes the parasympathetic vagus system less than a second to respond, while the sympathetic nervous system takes about five seconds or greater.
From a physiological standpoint, sympathetic nervous system cells are found in the gray matter of the thoracic and lumbar segments of the spinal cord. The sympathetic nervous system also directly innervates our adrenal medulla, which is the central portion of the adrenal gland. The adrenal medulla is actually responsible for the release of the neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine when they are stimulated. In response, this reinforces the sympathetic activation of our visceral organs. When we release these neurotransmitters due to a stimulated stress response, this will increase muscular blood flow and will convert stored nutrients into glucose to power skeletal muscle contraction. Basically, this causes the release of neurotransmitters that can put us into action.
When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, this can be considered a fight-or-flight response. When this happens on a short-term or acute or transient state, this can be quite effective in increasing performance, helping us to escape a threat, or helping us to fight a threat. There is common misperception and misconception that the sympathetic nervous system is detrimental due to the release of glucocorticoids and stress hormones. We have to keep in mind that while chronic states of glucocorticoid secretion and stress hormone secretion can be a detriment to the body. Transient and acute activation of glucocorticoids and stress hormones can be quite beneficial.
If you haven't done so already, I would highly encourage you to check out Dr. Craig Koniver's podcast that he did with Ben on cortisol and read one of the most–and I would also encourage you, I should say, to read one of the most thorough explanations on stress adaptation in a book called “Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers” by Dr. Robert Sapolsky. From a physiological standpoint, there are many things that occur in our biology when our sympathetic state is kicked into high gear. In this state, we see a dilation of the pupils, an increased heartbeat, relaxed airways, inhibition of activity with the enteric nervous system, which is our gut. Of course, there is the secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine, and then we also have a relaxed bladder. This is why someone might urinate on themselves if the sympathetic nervous system is activated extremely quickly in a tense situation.
Think about it this way. When we perceive a threat in our environment, our body and brain directly communicate with one another and can shut off certain systems depending on what we need to take on the perceived threat. For instance, in a stress response, we have no use for reproduction. So, our reproductive organs are shut down. We do not want to expend blood in the gut to break down food because we do not need it and we need it elsewhere, like in our lungs, in our heart, and in our brain. And therefore, we deactivate our digestive systems.
Now that we have a better understanding of the sympathetic nervous system, let's talk about the parasympathetic nervous system, which works in tandem with the sympathetic nervous system. I may need to also clarify that when we talk about the concept of autonomic balance, we are talking about a balancing of the two nervous systems. There's this notion that the sympathetic nervous system is the villain and the parasympathetic nervous system is the hero. This indeed is a fallacy and is a misunderstanding of the complex interrelationship between both divisions of our autonomic nervous system when in fact, it is a balance of these two divisions that is going to increase heart rate variability and demonstrate better overall health outcomes. You wouldn't want have an overly active parasympathetic nervous system just like you would not want to have a chronically activated sympathetic nervous system.
I will get back to more on this later, but for now, let's discuss the parasympathetic nervous system and division of the autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic division helps to regulate activities that will naturally increase the body's energy reserves. When you think about this branch of the nervous system, we might consider it like the inhibitory reactor, whose attendance is to pull us towards homeostasis. That's when we experience that state of allostatic load that I was talking about earlier.
The other thing that you might already be aware of that you will want to pair with the parasympathetic nervous system is with our tenth cranial nerve, which is referred to as the vagus nerve. The parasympathetic nervous system cell bodies are found in the nuclei of four of the cranial nerves, but also in the sacral region of the spinal cord. We see this in the vagus nerve, which innervates many of our primary organs such as our heart, our lungs, our esophagus, the stomach, pancreas, liver, and the intestines. This means that it has direct communication to affect change in these organ systems. Its main chemical messenger is a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.
While acetylcholine can act as an excitatory neurotransmitter in certain parts of the brain such as exciting the basal ganglia for movement, acetylcholine actually acts predominantly as an inhibitory neurotransmitter within the parasympathetic division. When I say that it acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, this means that it results in reduced firing of nerve cells, which is going to be in direct opposition to the sympathetic activation that may be occurring. The parasympathetic nervous system is primarily mediated by the vagus nerve and has been referred to as the rest and digest branch of the autonomic nervous system.
Some predominant researchers, particularly Dr. Stephen Porges, has found that the vagus nerve is mediated by a sense of safety and security. And I'll talk a lot more about this later. One way I like to think of this is that when we can intentionally create a safe space physically and psychologically, we are going to exhibit action in the vagus nerve. Another example of this would be how breathwork can modulate the parasympathetic nervous system and increase HRV on an acute level. If we take the time and we are able to take an intentional slow diaphragmatic breath, this is communicating to both our mind and body that we are in a safe place and we are able to engage in this behavior. This may not occur, let's say, if we are being chased by a mountain lion. For our survival, we do not want to pump the brakes and give our mind and body the message to relax in that case. It is a time where we need all of our resources and faculties to get out of the situation.
One more thing that I will say about the parasympathetic nervous system is that it indeed works as a brake to the sympathetic nervous system. You can think of it as working similarly to a car. When the car is put in park, it will–or I should say when the car is put into drive, it will automatically accelerate without you having to press the gas pedal. This natural acceleration is like your sympathetic nervous system. It's always on. You're never going to be able to turn it off completely, but that's a good thing. It is scanning the environment for threats, which keeps us vigilant and keeps us safe.
Now, you can floor the gas pedal and that would be like activating the sympathetic nervous system, and this is helpful in the immediate situations, but would be detrimental and result in a loss of fuel in a very long-term period. Whereas the parasympathetic nervous system works as that brake. It slows us down. The brake is leveraging the vagus nerve as the primary mediator. So, stimulating activation of the vagus nerve results in a cascade of beneficial psychophysiological outcomes when it's done at the right time. The last aspect of psychophysiology that is immensely important in the relationship between HRV is the process that we refer to as the baroreflex mechanism.
One of the ways we maintain homeostasis is through a fully functional baroreflex response or baroreflex mechanism. This is actually a negative feedback loop that helps us to maintain homeostatic or stable blood pressure. Not only is this paramount to our survival as a species, but is also one of the primary areas of focus for heart rate variability biofeedback. This is because the aim of HRV biofeedback, which again is self-regulation of HRV, is to exercise the baroreceptor reflex to enhance homeostatic regulation and executive functions. The pathway is to modify our physiology by exercising the baroreflex in order to restore the dynamic autonomic balance of our nervous system.
So, let me break it down in its most simplistic forms. Baroreflex or baroreceptors are these blood pressure receptors that are located in the aortic arch and the internal carotid arteries, which contribute to overall HRV. These receptors are referred to as stretch receptors or detection receptors. When you inhale, your heart rate is going to naturally increase. This will result in a rise in blood pressure about five seconds after this heart rate is increased. This increase in blood pressure will cause a stretch in the carotid arteries alongside the aortic arch causing the baroreceptors to fire action potentials at a very rapid rate.
This rapid firing is sent through your tenth cranial nerve which is the vagus nerve, and the ninth cranial nerve which is the glossopharyngeal nerve to a part of our hindbrain referred to as the medulla, and more specifically, the nucleus of the solitary tract. This area of our brain will receive the signaling from the baroreceptors and will then subsequently activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is, of course, our rest and digest branch of the nervous system. This process will also inhibit the sympathetic nervous system from signaling. The signaling of the parasympathetic nervous system will then result in a release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which I said is again an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which inhibits and works on our pacemaker cells found in the sinoatrial node or the SA node of the heart. This will result in vasodilation, which is the opening of blood vessels to allow the increase of blood flow and will result in subsequent decreased blood pressure. Because of this mechanism, the heart rate will be brought back down to stable functioning.
So, conversely, when someone has a sudden drop in blood pressure, the decreased blood pressure will then signal the medulla to inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system and will initiate action in the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system will begin to release norepinephrine and epinephrine, which will act again on that same area, the SA node of the heart to increase heart rate and will result in vasoconstriction, which will increase blood pressure.
So, all in all, the baroreflex response is a sudden response and is a response to sudden changes in blood pressure that helps our bodies to regulate the impact of everyday activities and changes in emotional states. If, for instance, these things are not well-managed and result in hypertension, what the body will do is it will actually adjust and begin to see these elevations as the new normal levels because the body is always looking to adapt and create a new set point and the thermostat that we call homeostasis. The end result is that yes, you have high blood pressure, but you also have lower HRV. This is why modulating HRV by exercising our baroreflex and signaling the parasympathetic nervous system has a vast importance.
Alright. So, now, it's time to link everything that we've discussed thus far into the topic of heart rate variability or HRV. In its most simplistic form, HRV or heart rate variability refers to the beat to beat variation in the time intervals between heart contractions. When we think about the oscillations of a healthy heart, they are actually quite complex. The healthy heart is typically seen as one that can rapidly adjust to sudden physical and psychological challenges. HRV is absolutely crucial to our overall health, resilience, and may be increased through different behavioral activations and practices like effortless breathing, exercise, compassion practices, and mindfulness practices.
Within the research field of HRV, we define HRV as the fluctuation in time intervals between each adjacent heartbeat. Like I mentioned earlier, this is referred to as an interbeat interval and is typically measured in milliseconds. If you have any device that measures heart rate variability, it is probably utilizing a software algorithm that is probably calculating the interbeat interval between successive R spikes or the peaks of blood volume pulse. An R wave or an R spike would be read via an ECG or an electrocardiogram output, and this is the spike in electrical activity due to the depolarization of the ventricles of the heart.
From an electrical standpoint, every heartbeat starts at what's called the SA node that I mentioned earlier, the sinoatrial node, which is also considered the heart's pacemaker. Interestingly enough, the natural pace of the heart without a fully functioning SA node is around 100 beats per minute, which by most standards, clinically, would be a form of tachycardia or a fast heartbeat. It is the SA node that helps to keep the heart on pace. The electrical signaling is what results in a cascade of complex events, which we call heartbeat. When we are measuring HRV on a majority of wearable devices, the algorithm is looking at peaks and blood volume through a device called photoplethysmography or PPG. These typically utilize infrared light sensors that shine through the skin and detect fluctuations in blood volume via the heart changes and pulse.
Either measure that you're examining, one of the things that we know about the heart is that it is not a metronome. Indeed, if we see a heart that has consistent times in the interbeat intervals, we know that something is incredibly wrong with this individual's cardiovascular or nervous system. This is because at the heart of HRV is resilience. What I mean by this is that HRV's highest representation as a metric is on how resilient your physiology is to change. We have to keep in mind that we have trillions, yes, trillions among trillions of physiological processes occurring every moment within our biology.
This means that the heart has a lot to keep up with. If the heart starts to regulate itself, kind of like a metronome, it is essentially the heart crying out for help, and sang aloud, I have no other choice but to regulate something amidst chaos. This sounds a little bit counterintuitive as it would seem like homeostasis would mean that the heart rate or heart rate variability would be consistent, but this is in fact very far from the truth. What we know from research is that heart rate variability is one of the most studied and highly accurate measurements and metrics for assessing the stress response, cardiovascular-related mortality and mobility and performance recovery.
So, what are the sources of HRV? So, HRV is produced by two distinct overlapping processes. First is the concept of autonomic balance, which we talked about earlier. But to remind you, that is the complex relationship between both the parasympathetic and sympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system. The other are the regulatory mechanisms that control heart rate via a few processes. These include a process called respiratory sinus arrhythmia, the baroreflex, and rhythmic changes in vascular tone. I've already discussed the baroreflex. So, now let's talk about respiratory sinus arrhythmia or RSA. So, RSA is an extremely important concept in HRV regulation and optimization. We can actually use this process to manipulate our overall heart rate variability. You can do this. Anyone can do this.
Respiratory sinus arrhythmia is the speeding and slowing of the heart across the breathing cycle. When we slow our breathing pattern down, we see a couple of things occurring physiologically. First, as we inhale, our heart rate will naturally incline to its peak. And when we exhale, and as we exhale, the heart will lower to its trough point. This makes sense if we think about it. As we are inhaling, the body is receiving usable oxygen to be delivered throughout the body into the brain. Therefore, the heart needs to utilize this immediately and will increase its cardiac output for the delivery of oxygen and gas exchange throughout the body. As we increase RSA, this rhythm, through low and slow breathing, we can actually stimulate vagal tone and, which again that's the vagus nerve, and we can lower blood pressure through the baroreflex mechanism.
So, now let's shift to the metrics of HRV. It's likely if you have any HRV measuring devices that you have seen that this device calculates HRV through a means of SDNN or RMSSD, or it may measure low-frequency or high-frequency, and it's likely that you have no idea what this means or have had to look it up and still do not understand what it means. I want to clarify these measurements and give you my opinion on what you should be looking for and how to base your numbers on the norms and your own baselines. First of all, we need to differentiate between the types of HRV measurement. There are two predominant types of measurements that I'm going to talk about today. One is the time domain measurement, and the other is a frequency band or frequency domain measurement. Both of these are looking at different metrics.
So, now, let's start with the time-domain measurement. When I speak about time-domain HRV measurements, I'm talking about a measurement that is calculated based on time intervals between each adjacent heartbeat. A little while ago, I mentioned how the heart does not function like a metronome. There are different time intervals in between each adjacent heartbeat where one heartbeat to another may be 800 milliseconds and the next adjacent heartbeat may only be 750 milliseconds. This shows variability in the time intervals. The difference between those two that I just mentioned is 50 milliseconds. And so therefore, we can say that there was 50 milliseconds of variability between the two sets of heartbeats.
Now, as with anything in science, we're not going to base our HRV score on two sets of interbeat intervals as this is much too small of a sample size to give us any relevant or usable data. You would never base it on that. This is why we have to assess HRV over a period of time intervals. The amount of time needed for different calculations is going to vary depending on the type of time domain index you are interested in examining. For instance, the two primary usable time domain indices that we see most commonly are SDNN and RMSSD, and I'm going to explain the difference in just a minute. These both require different time domains to get accurate measurement or usable data.
So, SDNN, for example, requires a minimum of five minutes, but in reality, it's really only clinically relevant if we assess over 24-hour period, and I'll explain more about what I mean about that in a second. While the RMSSD metric has actually been shown to provide valuable interpretations at as low as 10 seconds, 30 seconds, and 180 seconds. However, like SDNN, RMSSD is most accurate over a five-minute period. So, it will be important for you to know what you are calculating and what timeframe you need to measure or to provide or ensure accurate measurement.
So, let's dive into the primary time domains. We will start with what is considered the gold standard of HRV measurement, which is SDNN. So, SDNN stands for the standard deviation of the interbeat intervals of normal sinus beats, which is measured again in milliseconds. Remember that this is measuring normal sinus beats and not artifact. This is one of the things that really irks me more than others is that we have a lot of devices that use the SDNN algorithm but do not remove artifact beats, which are essentially like ectopic beats or false or error beats due to things like movement, electrical interference, or changes in lining. And when that happens, you have data that's fairly void and unusable. And actually, technically, you cannot say that you are calculating SDNN if you do not remove artifact. That would actually be another metric called SDRR.
So, unfortunately, many devices that calculate SDNN either do not have this artifacting built-in or it is based on very poor removal resulting in fairly inaccurate HRV data. I'd say that I'm quite the HRV snob, so it's something that I always look into. A similar measurement, which I just mentioned earlier, is SDRR, and that calculates all the sinus beats, even abnormal or false beats. The problem with this measurement though, which in a lot of our wearables, is that you can have abnormal beats that reflect cardiac dysfunction or even noise, but it will masquerade as HRV. So, I never use the SDRR data. But back to SDNN, when we talk about the standard deviation of interbeat intervals, what we are talking about is how much on average does each beat differ from the next. The reason this is considered the gold standard of HRV measurement is because it has been found to have contributions from both the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. So, we can get full insight into our autonomic response with this measurement.
Like I mentioned before, SDNN is most accurate when it is assessed over 24 hours than during short periods because the longer periods can provide data about cardiac reactions to a great range of environmental stimulation, or lack thereof in the case of sleep. It is also the 24-hour recordings that allow us to assess the sympathetic nervous system contribution to SDNN. For assessing cardiac risk, SDNN is almost always used and can be a valuable predictor of both morbidity and mortality. And looking at 24-hour recordings, an SDNN less than 50 milliseconds has been demonstrated in those classified as unhealthy. Those with 50 milliseconds to 100 milliseconds is a classification for compromised health, and 100 milliseconds and above is considered a healthy individual from a cardiac standpoint.
When we look at heart attack survivors, those who have had a higher classification had a greater risk of living–or sorry, I should say a greater probability of living during a 31-month follow-up period. One study demonstrated that individuals with an SDNN greater than 100 milliseconds had a 5.3 times lower risk of mortality at follow-up than those with values less than 50 milliseconds. We can actually correlate the SDNN metric with other frequency domains that I will discuss later. SDNN is correlated with the ultra-low-frequency band, the very low-frequency band, and the low-frequency band.
Now, let's turn to another time-domain index for HRV. And for short-term time-domain evaluation, it's probably my most preferred measure, which is the RMSSD metric. So, RMSSD is the root mean square of successive differences between normal heartbeats. And now that I have sufficed in spinning your heads, let me explain it. In order to calculate this value, we must calculate each successive time difference between adjacent interbeat intervals in terms of milliseconds. Then each of these values is squared and the result is then averaged before the square root of the total is obtained.
Now, that is a lot of what we do in research. So, I wanted to give you that equation, but for the sake of practicality, it may not be necessarily that important. The measurement is mediated or provides us insight into the workings of our parasympathetic nervous system and is highly correlated with the high-frequency band. We actually know that RMSSD is more influenced by the parasympathetic branch than SDNN. While a five-minute measurement is the gold standard for RMSSD, you can get usable data in ultra-short-term domains that I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast. This makes it really good as an on-the-go measurement.
One thing that I like about RMSSD is that it is not mediated by respiratory sinus arrhythmia like SDNN is. What I mean by this is that with SDNN, you can affect change in this number by taking those low and slow diaphragmatic breaths. Whereas RMSSD does not appear to be mediated by respiration or slow breathing and may provide more insight into recovery as it is primarily assessing tonic or relaxed or static HRV. So, if you want to gain insight into your recovery and remove the effects of respiration to assess non-manipulated HRV, RMSSD is the way to go. So, that's the one I use for recovery. This is one of the best measures of vagal tone due to the lack of manipulation of respiration. This is why I actually like the use of the Oura ring to assess HRV at night while I sleep, but more about that later.
Another one that is used quite frequently and is very easy to assess in the HRV time domains is something called HRV amplitude. This is a very simple measurement that is an average of the difference between the highest and lowest heart rate during each respiratory cycle. So, remember, RSA or respiratory sinus arrhythmia is the fluctuation of heart rate from the start to the finish of a breath cycle. Normal RSA occurs when you inhale and your heart rate increases, and when you exhale, your heart rate decreases. If you subtract the peak heart rate in the cycle and the lowest heart rate at the end of the cycle, this will provide HRV amplitude.
So, this is not a great index of vagal tone as it can be mediated by respiration. This measure normally depends on both age and fitness level. As we age, HRV, and especially amplitude, tends to go down. The more sedentary we are, the lower the amplitude we are likely to have. In elite athletes, I have seen amplitude as high as 50 to 60 beats per minute. This means that at the start of their exhale, their heart rate is at 50 beats per minute, and at the peak of their respiratory cycle, the heart rate gets up to about 100 beats per minute, and then comes back down to 50 beats per minute on the exhale. Whereas I've seen some patients with cardiovascular disease or chronic pain go from 70 beats per minute to 73 beats per minute, which would only be an amplitude or heart rate variability of 3 beats per minute, which is extremely low. This is where we might warrant some HRV biofeedback.
Now that we've talked about some of the predominant time-domain indices, let's move towards frequency domains as these have become quite popular in recent years. Let's first differentiate between time domain and frequency domain measurements of HRV. As a recap, when we think about time-domain indices, this quantifies the total amount of heart rate variability. Whereas frequency domain measurements will quantify the distribution of absolute or relative power into different frequency bands. Absolute power can be expressed in terms of millisecond square divided by cycles per second, and relative power is expressed as the percentage of total HRV, or we refer to this as normal units.
In frequency domain HRV measurement, power is expressed in normal units by dividing the absolute power for specific frequency band by the sum absolute power of the low-frequency and high-frequency bands. When we calculate power in normal units, this will also allow us to directly compare the spectral distribution of HRV bands for two different people. Now, all of this is referring to the algorithms that constitute frequency domains or power. But for the sake of our discussion, I want to see if I can now simplify all of this crazy complex information. Let's think about an EEG. So, this actually measures individual brainwave domains. For instance, when we have the slowest brainwave, which is associated with sleep, this is called delta waves. The next band or wave band would be theta, then alpha, and then beta. This is an example of how the process of something called a power spectral analysis can separate brainwaves into their own component rhythms that operate within different frequency ranges.
We can do the same actual thing–we can do the same thing, I should say, with HRV. A great way to think about this is to think about shining a light through a prism. The prism will reflect white light into its component wavelengths. So, through a mathematical process called the fast fourier power spectral analysis, we can break HRV when at time domain into its component wavelengths. And into each of these wavelengths, we can give a little bit more insight into our autonomic functioning. Before I begin talking about each of these wavelengths or frequency domains, I want to know that there is still some controversy regarding the autonomic contributions to some of these domains since these measurements will kind of profoundly vary with testing conditions.
One thing to note about HRV frequency bands similar to that of EEG bands is that we are predominantly concerned with the dominant band at the time of assessment. This is because we have activations of all bands at any given time, but we are concerned with what is mostly activated or is considered the dominant domain. Think about EEG again. If you are to hook yourself up to an EEG, you might have one band that is more dominant than the others. So, say, for instance, theta, but this does not mean that you are producing zero delta, zero alpha, or zero beta. Indeed, you are making all of them at once, but one may be more predominant as a wavelength at that time. It's a common mistake for many individuals to believe that we are only making one set of brainwave frequencies within the area of the brain that we are studying.
So, I hope that this helps to clarify that just because–like the brain, the heart is not simply making one frequency to the void of others. Yes, it may be presenting with one dominant frequency, but we are still able to measure all of the others as activated during this period. With all that said, there's still a lot of great data that we have gotten from studying frequency domains that I believe are very important for us to cover. We'll start off with the ultra-low-frequency band, which are oscillations less than 0.003 Hertz. This is a frequency band that can be only measured within a 24-hour period. For this band, there is no consensus regarding the mechanisms that generate its power, but we do know that it is indicative of very slow-acting biological processes.
Some researchers believe that circadian rhythms may be the primary driver of the ultra-low-frequency band. There's also belief that core body temperature, metabolism, and other bodily systems over a long period of time may contribute to this frequency. There is also disagreement about what branch of the nervous system contributes to the ultra-low-frequency band. So, for the sake of our discussion, until we learn more about this unique frequency band, there's not much more that I want to say about its utilization.
So, now, we move to the very low-frequency band, which is the frequency band that ranges from 0.003 Hertz to 0.04 Hertz. In order to record the very low-frequency band, we must record at least five minutes' worth of data. But 24 hours is actually considered the gold standard. Through research, we know that any low values on a 24 clinical HRV recording can predict greater risk or adverse outcomes. However, what we have found that is the very low power frequency is more strongly associated with all-cause mortality than the low-frequency or high-frequency domains. Therefore, as we gain more research on this band, we are finding that the very low-frequency bands may be quite fundamental to health.
When researchers have studied very low-frequency bands, band power, they have found that low power in this domain has been associated with rhythmic death, high levels of inflammation, and lower levels of testosterone. They've also found that parasympathetic nervous system activity may contribute to very low-frequency band power since parasympathetic blockade almost completely abolishes it. When researchers have blockaded the sympathetic nervous system, this does not appear to affect the very low-frequency power. So, from a practical standpoint, especially when measuring over 24 hours, this is not a band of the frequency domains that we want to have low.
This brings us to some of the more well-known frequency bands. And the first one I want to discuss is the low-frequency band, which ranges from 0.04 Hertz all the way up to 0.15 Hertz. This band requires a minimum recording of two minutes, while this is one of the more commonly used in many phone-based applications and biohacking wearables. Interestingly enough, there is actually disagreement regarding the sources of activity within this band. Formally, this region or frequency band was called the baroreceptor range because it does mainly reflect baroreceptor activity under resting conditions. It appears that low-frequency band power may be produced from both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system and is regulated via the baroreceptors that regulate blood pressure.
One of the things that we know about the low-frequency band is that the sympathetic nervous system does not appear to produce rhythms much above 0.1 Hertz, while the parasympathetic nervous system can be observed to affect heart rhythms down to 0.05 Hertz. When we engage in slow respiration rates and slow breathing, vagal activity can easily generate oscillations within the low-frequency band. This is why you hear a lot of individuals say, “To train within the low-frequency band.” Indeed, this can actually be quite simple for most individuals. Breathing at a rate of six breaths per minute has been found to put most people within this low-frequency domain. We might even say that this domain can be representative of autonomic balance.
There's a process of breathing, which we call resonance frequency, which is a common biofeedback tool that places the individual within this range. This is something that I'm going to talk about in a little bit when I get into common modalities for enhancing HRV. But for now, know that this is a common range to train autonomic balance in vagal tone. Within the Institute of HeartMath, they actually have identified the single high amplitude peak within this low-frequency domain, and more specifically, at the 0.1 Hertz mark to indicate what they call a state of high coherence. From this model standpoint, coherence is when the heart, mind, and emotions are energetically in alignment and in cooperation. They've identified coherence as when we increase synchronization and harmony between the cognitive emotional and physiological symptoms, which results in efficacious or efficient and harmonious functioning. The idea of the HeartMath Institute and their wearable technology such as their emWave2 and the Inner Balance is to increase heart rate variability and coherence through paced breathing and visualization.
The last frequency band and domain that I want to discuss today is the high-frequency band. This is found between the 0.15 to 0.40 Hertz and requires a recording of at least one minute. The high-frequency band can reflect parasympathetic activity, and we also refer to this as the respiratory band because it corresponds to the heart rate variations related to the respiratory cycle. As you may recall, these phasic heart rate changes are known as RSA and may be a pure index of cardiac vagal control. What I should say too, when you inhale, the heart rate is going to accelerate, when you exhale, the heart rate is going to slow. So, when we inhale, our cardiovascular centers will inhibit vagal outflow resulting in the speeding of the heart. And when we exhale, this will restore the vagal outflow and slow the heart due to the release of acetylcholine.
When there is total vagal blockage, this will virtually eliminate all of the oscillations found in the high-frequency band and will reduce the power range and the low-frequency band. We see a high correlation between the high-frequency band and the RMSSD time-domain band. When individuals have high-frequency band power, it's correlated with an increase in stress, in panic, in anxiety, and in worry. And it's still important for us to remember that high-frequency power and RSA does not represent vagal tone. Keep in mind that high-frequency power and RSA is very easy for us to manipulate by slowing our respiration rates. A study done in 2017 demonstrated that if you slow your breathing to six breaths per minute, you should observe increased heart rate fluctuations compared with 15 breaths per minute, which is the average human breath rate. It is during this time that the mean heart rate should not appreciably change because vagal tone did not decrease. This is an example of how high-frequency power can index vagal modulation of our heart rate, but it does not represent vagal tone.
Another common index for frequency-domain measurement and power is something called the low-frequency to high-frequency ratio. The intent here is to estimate the ratio between sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system activity. This measurement is seen typically in wearables like the Polar chest strap and the Elite HRV app. The assumption here for the low-frequency to high-frequency ratio is that low-frequency power may be generated by the parasympathetic nervous system, sympathetic nervous system, and baroreflex mechanisms while the high-power band is produced by the parasympathetic nervous system.
So, in this model, a low, low-frequency to high-frequency ratio will reflect parasympathetic dominance. This might be seen when we conserve energy and engage in the tend-and-befriend behaviors. You might consider yourself to have low autonomic arousal and be quite relaxed when this ratio is low. So, to contrast this, when we have a low-frequency to high-frequency ratio, this may indicate sympathetic dominance, which occurs when we engage in the fight-or-flight behaviors or form of parasympathetic withdrawal. One thing to keep in mind about this from a research perspective is that brief recordings of the low-frequency to high-frequency ratio are a little controversial as short-term measurements tend to be poorly correlated with 24-hour values. So, it's in my opinion that examining the research that a five-minute resting baseline of the low-frequency to high-frequency ratio may not be our best estimate of autonomic balance.
So, with all of this information on the different frequency bands, how might I use them both personally and clinically? Well, first, you must assess your intent on measuring the frequency domains. So, for instance, am I doing more meditative or resonance frequency training to, in a sense, manipulate HRV so that I can experience an increase in vagal tone or relaxation response? Or am I using it for examining recovery? Depending on my needs for the assessment, I may be examining these numbers from different lenses. Let's take the first example and break it down.
Again, I'm going to talk about the concept of resonance frequency training in a few minutes, but if I were utilizing heart rate variability for relaxation, reducing distress, or a way to enhance meditative practices, I would be looking to increase the low-frequency band and integrate what we refer to as coherence. Increased low-frequency band will indicate enhanced vagal activity and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and autonomic balance. Whereas I would not want to manipulate breathing and respiration such as breathing at my resonance frequency rate if I were assessing overall recovery. This is because manipulating breath rate will almost certainly change your HRV scores.
One of the things that I'm most consistently asked about are norms. So, it makes sense to ask this question as we want to be able to provide a basis for comparison for HRV numbers. If you look at any website where there is HRV discussion, there are always individuals posting their HRV data and asking, is this low? Is this normal? and so forth. I want to be able to answer some of these questions here, but please know that we never utilize HRV scores as a means to diagnose. Also, as you have also inferred, HRV changes quite frequently and should not be a metric that you take once and then try to make any type of conclusion. Also, like many other biometrics that we quantify, HRV is one that it's great to have a consistent baseline and then work on training that number in an upward direction.
Well, many questions come my way regarding low HRV. I'm also asked questions about high HRV and whether or not this can be problematic, and I'm going to speak about this as well. But let's turn to HRV norms to see if I can dispel some myths and highlight some potential goals. I've already mentioned before that when looking at the marker that is considered the gold standard, which is SDNN, from a cardiac functioning standpoint, we see that happening with a 24-hour recording. Those with less than 50 milliseconds of HRV are considered unhealthy, and those with an HRV from 50 to 100 milliseconds are considered to have compromised health, while those with HRV over 100 milliseconds are considered healthy from a cardiac standpoint.
A couple of things on this. First, please remember that these are just standards for cardiac outcomes and are not made to be used from a diagnostic standpoint. There are plenty of other pieces of information that we need in order to notate whether someone has a healthy cardiovascular system or an unhealthy one, not just HRV alone. While this is the gold standard metric, we are all about integrating data. So, second, if you already heard me mention these numbers and you're freaking out because your Oura ring is telling you that you're in the 30s or 20s, you're actually freaking out for no reason. The Oura ring uses the RMSSD data and not SDNN.
Lastly, I don't know many individuals who are recording 24 hours with the SDNN marker other than those who are wearing like Holter monitors for a long period of time. So, from a quantification standpoint such as the utilization of wearables, many of us are just really not collecting this data. And this is predominantly clinical. So, I just wanted to provide these numbers initially, as again these numbers are the gold standard for cardiovascular outcomes. Well, there are many different types of time-domain measurements that we mentioned before like the SDNN and SDRR and RMSSD. There are also other ones like the SDANN index. There's the NN50, the PNN50 and so on. But these are not typically ones that you're going to cross paths with unless you're doing clinical biofeedback with a specialist like myself.
A majority of these wearables or technology that you would utilize from a consumer standpoint are either going to be via SDNN or RMSSD. That is why I'm going to devote much more time to these. There have been numerous studies looking at identifying norms, but the largest study ever done on normalizing data was done compiling 44 selected studies, which examined over 21,000 adult participants. Some things to keep in mind. First, this analysis included three large populations with a minimum age of 40, which may actually end up explaining their comparatively low HRV scores and can't be generalized to yourself if you're under 40. Well, yeah, because that's the minimum age. And they also didn't factor in other types of variables, things like age, gender, socioeconomic status, and so forth. But here is what they found. The researchers of this large comparative study found the average mean SDNN score in milliseconds to be 50 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 16. They found the average RMSSD to be 42 milliseconds with an average standard deviation of 15. They found the low-frequency to high-frequency ratio in terms of millisecond squared to be 2.8 with a standard deviation of 2.6.
Another interesting study that was done in 2015 looked at 2,000 subjects between the ages of 25 to 74. Now, these were noted as healthy adults as they included anyone with cardiac arrhythmia, diseases, those who were on significant medications or pregnant. However, I tend to utilize this information as a basis for my own norm charting. I want to break it down in terms of age and gender and look at two distinctive time domains, both SDNN and RMSSD. I'm about to spit out a lot of data, so just bear with me and make sure that you listen for your own age norms.
So, let's start with ages 25 to 34. The study found that males in this age range had an average RMSSD of 39.7 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 19.9 milliseconds, and in SDNN of 50 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 20.9 milliseconds, they found that women had an average RMSSD of 42.9 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 22.8 milliseconds, and a standard deviation, or I should say SDNN, of 48.7 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 19.0 milliseconds.
In examining men and women in the age category of 35 to 44, they found that men had an average RMSSD of 32.0 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 16.5 milliseconds, and an SDNN of 14–sorry, 44.6 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 16.8 milliseconds. They found that women in this age category had a standard deviation–sorry, an RMSSD of 35.4 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 18.5 milliseconds and an SDNN of 44.5 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 20.5 milliseconds. In examining the age category of those 45 to 54, they found that men in this age category had an average RMSSD of 23.0 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 10.9 milliseconds and an SDNN of 36.8 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 14.6 milliseconds. They found women in this category to have an average RMSSD of 26.3 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 13.6 milliseconds and an SDNN of 36.9 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 13.8 milliseconds.
The next category were males and females ranging from 55 to 64 years of age. For males in this category, they found an average RMSSD of 19.9 milliseconds with the standard deviation of 11.1 milliseconds and an SDNN of 32.8 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 14.7 milliseconds. For women in this category, they found an average RMSSD of 21.4 milliseconds with an average standard deviation of 11.9 milliseconds and an SDNN of 30.6 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 12.4 milliseconds.
Lastly, in the oldest category that they studied, which were those aged 65 to 74, they found that males in this age category had an RMSSD of 19.1 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 10.7 seconds and a standard deviation or SDNN of 29.6 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 13.2 milliseconds. Lastly, they found that women in this age category had an RMSSD of 19.1 milliseconds and a standard deviation of 11.8 milliseconds and an SDNN of 27.8 milliseconds with a standard deviation of 11.8 milliseconds.
So, wow, there is a lot of information. I hope that this puts some people at ease as I get questions all the time about Oura ring measurements and whether they are too high or too low. And now, I highly encourage you to check out these numbers again if you have questions about how you compare with those within your age category and for your gender as well. What is great about the studies is that they do also show comparisons in the low-frequency and high-frequency bands, and then the low-frequency and the high-frequency ratio. This was a study performed by Voss and their colleagues in 2015.
The last thing that I want to say about HRV norms, something that I get quite a lot of questions about is in regards to high HRV scores. As I noted before, while it is important to modern HRV from a norm standpoint, it is equally if not more important to self-quantify in an effort to compare HRV scores to yourself. This means establishing a baseline and then making comparisons not just to norms, but making comparisons to your own baseline. Now, the research is not clear on whether or not there's a ceiling to HRV scores. In other words, there's no definitive research to demonstrate that having a high HRV score compared to a low HRV score or compared to the norm has negative effects. However, it has been proposed that individuals with significantly high HIV scores may not be pushing themselves as hard as they could. Again, this is quite a subjective statement, but it is something to note.
Some theorize that high HRV scores may be an indication that you could push yourself a little bit harder on your workouts, and I'm not sure I quite buy into this, but it's worth further exploring. My opinion in conclusion though is I would still, even from a personal standpoint and clinical standpoint, would like to see higher HRVs when compared to lower HRV scores. The only time that a high HRV score can be extremely problematic is if we find there is arrhythmia or some other cardiovascular problem that is contributing to long durations of time between the heartbeats. So, for example, if someone is having some arrhythmic heartbeats, they may end up skipping beats, which will result in what looks like an elevated HRV when in fact, this is more representative of dysfunction and a disorder. So, in instances like this, a high HRV can be problematic. Normally, with arrhythmias, there are going to be additional symptoms that the individual is experiencing that would warrant a stress test or an echocardiogram to determine dysfunction.
So, now that we've taken a deep dive into the HRV metrics and norms, I think that it's time for us to discuss specific techniques and tactics for HRV training. I like to split this into two sections. First would be specific HRV biofeedback techniques, and the second would be HRV hacks. Some people believe that the most important metric to change is their resting HRV score, which what I would argue is highly important. But something that I would argue that is much more important than your resting HRV would be your ability to quickly and efficiently tap into your parasympathetic response. The ability to modulate HRV quickly holds substantial benefits for the individual, especially when compared to resting HRV.
Well, resting HRV can be a great representation of overall health, recovery, and well-being. I'm not nearly as concerned with making substantial changes in that area as I am with parasympathetic efficiency. One thing I must say, and honestly, there is no easy way around this, in order to truly know what changes are taking place from an HRV perspective, you need to be quantifying it with some form of wearable or device. However, all the techniques that I'm going to share with you do not require HRV measuring devices in order for them to be effective. The greatest thing about biofeedback is that it's not a piece of equipment that is the change agent. Indeed, the change agent is inherently in the ways that we change our physiology.
I think that it's important for us to remember this because we get so caught up in all these really cool and expensive biohacking wearables, but in the end, this is just information and not the mediator of change itself. So, if you have some expendable income, I'm going to talk about a few devices that I really like and how I utilize them practically. Many of these are fairly reasonable in price. I don't expect you to go out and buy a $15,000 piece of biofeedback equipment as this is something I would use like clinically. So, you wouldn't want to go out and do that for yourself necessarily. You would have no clue what you're doing unless you had that training.
What I use on a day-to-day basis for my own personal HRV training are much less expensive devices, though I must say it is really nice to have the ability to practice on clinical biofeedback whenever I want. But trying to carry around all that equipment is a bit of a hassle when I can just throw on my Oura ring. So, the first tactic to HRV training and HRV biofeedback that I want to discuss is what I considered the most important or something that I believe each and every person who is doing HRV training should learn. And this is something called resonance frequency training, which is an assessment tool and technique created by Paul Lehrer. This entails you determining the exact resonance frequency of your cardiovascular system. This frequency is a manipulation of your respiration rate, which has a significant impact like we talked earlier on your heart rate due to the stimulation of the baroreflex. At this respiration rate, there is significant effects due to maximized respiratory sinus arrhythmia and baroreflex gain.
The idea behind resonance frequency training is to breathe at a rate that causes the heart rate to go up and down in phase with your own respiration rate. At this rate, respiratory gas exchange is efficiently maximized. And what researchers have determined is that when you engage in regular practice of resonance frequency techniques, it has been shown to provide clinically significant improvements in a variety of symptoms and disorders such as chronic pain, asthma, depression, COPD, food cravings, and hypertension, just to name a few.
What Dr. Paul Lehrer and his colleagues found is that when a person breathes at their resonance frequency rate, which is typically between four and a half and six and a half breaths per minute, the cardiovascular system will resonate, much like the sound of a vibrating string in a box above the violin, creating this big reverberating sound. Again, when breathing at this resonance frequency rate, the baroreflex system is stimulated and strengthened. Again, this is that blood control and emotional regulation control mechanism. And we find this to be at its most efficient rate when we're breathing at the resonance frequency rate. Remember too, when our blood pressure goes up, the baroreflex causes the heart rate to go down. And this is what causes that rhythm and that heart rate fluctuation.
From a clinical standpoint, there are a couple of things that we are looking at in assessing resonance frequency. First, we are looking at something called phase convergence with breathing. And what this means is that we want to see that the heart rate and respiration rate are in phase or in agreement with one another. Basically, do the lines trace the same pattern? Where you start breathing, the heart rate follows the breath all the way to the peak, and as you exhale, the heart rate should decline with this line pattern. The next thing is looking at heart rate amplitude. We're going to choose the resonance frequency rate that has the highest amplitude to remind you is the highest heart rate minus the lowest heart rate within a respiratory cycle.
Then we want to see which breath rate maximizes the low-frequency amplitude peak. Basically, which breath rate has the most power in the low-frequency domain? Given all these factors, we then calculate our own resonance frequency. Now, you are only going to really be able to do this if you have a more advanced HRV measuring device, such as a Polar chest strap with the Elite HRV or clinical biofeedback. The most accurate results are going to be by going to see a biofeedback practitioner. The good thing though is that we know through research that we all have, probably all have a resonance frequency in between four and a half to six and a half breaths per minute. As a safe bet, I will typically tell people to breathe at around six breaths per minute if they do not have access to this testing metric.
Research has indicated that this is the strongest way to coach and train vagal tone and increase HRV. The idea behind this is that the more frequently we train using our resonance frequency training, the more easily we can tap into the low-frequency band. Something interesting about this type of training is that elite athletes have utilized this in order to get into the zone before a serve, like in tennis, or before a golf swing, or before a pitch is thrown in Major League Baseball. If we train the style of breathing and pace of our breathing on a daily basis, our body is going to most easily adapt and we are going to be able to tap into the state and maximize HRV within two to three breaths. Again like anything, this is going to take consistent practice.
I might also mention that there are a few ways to practice this style of breathing. Of course we need to be able to pace our breathing, but also there are some suggestions on how we breathe mechanically. First is for us to exercise a diaphragmatic breath. This is where we inhale through our nose and allow our lungs and stomach to expand so that it can push the diaphragm towards the pelvic floor. I like to use some visual imagery to demonstrate this. When we inhale, I want you to think of your lungs and stomach like operating like a balloon would. As you bring air in through your inhalation, you will imagine that you are filling the balloon with air, allowing it to expand to about 80%. Don't overinflate the balloon. Once you're at this point, you will then exhale slowly and quietly and deflate the balloon.
Sometimes I like to think about myself gently pulling my belly button towards my spine. I'm not tugging or trying to allow the air to be pushed out, I want to allow this to feel as effortlessly as possible. When this occurs, we are able to stimulate the vagus nerve that innervates the posterior section of your lungs. This will also help to maximize respiratory gas exchange for an increased oxygen and nutrient delivery. Then depending on who you ask, you can either exhale through pursed lips like you're blowing through a straw, or you can simply just breathe back through your nose. That's typically my suggestion. It's imperative to breathe or inhale through your nose as this will actually maximize nitric oxide delivery and vasodilation, which are very important in increasing HRV.
One of the biggest training tools that I will use and that I find to be best is to breathe as quietly and as gently as you can. I do not want to try to see, or I should say–yeah, I do not want to try to see if I can inhale as much air as I can as possible. I will actually want to just focus more on the slow quiet diaphragmatic breaths. And sometimes I'll even create what feels more like a hypoxic environment in my body. And this is similar to the work of Patrick McKeown, who wrote “The Oxygen Advantage.” If you're breathing this way and training this way, the research suggests that you need to perform this for about 20 minutes two times a day. And I like to utilize this strategy when I'm engaging in meditation or just as a separate health strategy. So, that's resonant frequency training.
Now, of course, there are many other breathwork techniques that you can utilize, but I found this one to be quite effective both personally and clinically. The key features to this style of breathing is to remember to breathe low, to breathe slow, and to breathe quietly. Again Patrick McKeown, who, like I mentioned earlier, the author of “The Oxygen Advantage,” recommends to breathe so quietly as if you are not trying to move any hairs within your nostrils. So, have that visualization as you take a breath in.
Another way to maximize HRV is through the process of meditation. Indeed, numerous research studies have indicated that engaging in different meditative techniques such as visualization or guided imagery meditation and mindfulness meditation can significantly improve overall HRV. This is likely due to the fact in correlation of slow respiratory patterns when engaging in these exercises. But also that mediation, or meditation I should say, brings about a sense of calm and safety, which is likely due to vagal tone or vagal nerve stimulation. I tend to like to pair breathwork in meditation as I'm always looking to maximize efficiency and time in my day. These techniques, when I combine them with my utilization of biofeedback wearables, has been found to be the most effective way for me to enhance HRV.
If you're looking in the wearables and self-quantification scene, you likely already know of many wearables for determining HRV. I have found some to be really good and I have found some that have left me quite disappointed. I like checking HRV in different ways. So, first, I like checking the resting or that static HRV state. This is going to give me an HRV that is not manipulated by respiration and is a better representation of my overall nervous system recovery. Remember, it's actually quite easily–or I should say it's actually quite easy to manipulate HRV via breathing slowly and diaphragmatically. As such, I do like to measure HRV when I don't have the opportunity to manipulate the results, and the perfect place and time for that is sleep.
Now, I know that I've already mentioned the use of my Oura ring, which I found to be one of the most accurate ways to measure HRV non-invasively. There are also other devices such as the WHOOP band and the Biostrap that can provide accurate results. I tend to like something that's a little less invasive physically such as a ring over a wrist strap. However, you need to go with your own preference. Also, whatever device that you end up getting, you need to make sure that you're basing your norms on the metrics of the device that you're using. For instance, if you use your Apple watch, which Apple watch does calculate HRV, their measurement is SDNN, while the Oura ring uses the RMSSD metric.
So, each morning, I take off my ring and then put it on the charger to get it off airplane mode, and I'll check a few metrics in regard to sleep. I'll look at body temperature and then I'll look at heart rate variability. I'll always look at my HRV numbers in comparison to both my own, as well as the normative population. The great thing about self-quantification is that we can establish a baseline for ourselves and then make general comparisons to that baseline. While it's important for you to compare yourself to norms, it is equally, or maybe more important for you to have a baseline comparison for yourself. I utilize this number for my ring to give me a good representation as to my overall level of recovery.
Your nervous system is not going to lie. If your HRV is significant low, say one to two standard deviations below your average, then that may give you the information about whether or not you should train that day or how hard you should train. Let me give you a personal example of how I've utilized this. I typically play tennis two to three days a week. My average ring score is about 110 to 115 milliseconds. If my HRV score the following morning is 80 or below, I will typically take it a little bit easier on physical exertion that day. Interestingly enough, our autonomic nervous system recovers fairly quickly, but research has also indicated that HRV can be a great measurement of recovery in order to prevent injury or re-injury. I have used this as a reliable means to avoid injury. And I've also found that when I have overreached or overtrained and my HRV measurements told me I was already doing that, then this has resulted in me engaging in more injury or being more prone to injury.
One thing to also keep in mind is that decreased HRV is highly associated and correlated with increased heart rate. For instance, we know that a heavy night of drinking alcohol can cause the heart rate to go up. And in turn, this will end up resulting in a decreased HRV. So, if you notice that your HRV is significantly lower on nights that you consumed alcohol, that is why. Now, if I'm doing more HIV biofeedback training and to increase my HRV from an emotional or psychological or stress-based standpoint, then there are numerous devices that you can use for feedback for, in the moment, HRV scores.
Some popular ones include the emWave2 and Inner Balance by the HeartMath Institute. And as I indicated earlier, the intent behind these devices from HeartMath is increased coherence, which is very similarly associated to resonance frequency. Both of these devices utilize PPG or photoplethysmography, which I mentioned earlier, and our devices that typically go on the ear lobe or on the finger and look at overall blood volume fluctuations through infrared lights that shine through the muscular tissue. This is a great and accurate means of measurement, as well as easy and efficient to determine HRV.
The only way, or I should say the other way is through ECG or electrocardiogram, which is a little more complicated, but in my opinion, is the most reliable due to the minimization of artifact. You can use these devices to help coach you in different breathing techniques and meditative techniques to increase HRV. You can see HRV waveforms begin to establish after just a few minutes of breathing in a coached pattern. And what's going on here is a strengthening of your overall autonomic nervous system, an enhancement in autonomic balance and vagal stimulation that is increasing acetylcholine production that helps to regulate the speed of your heart.
Most people will say that they feel the effects of this HRV training within a matter of minutes. And because I've trained on these types of devices for so long, I can enhance my own HRV within a matter of about two or three breaths, and this demonstrates strong and specific and efficient control of my autonomic nervous system, something that you can do as well with training. And I like these devices because they are very accurate and user-friendly. There are other training devices such as the Biostrap and WHOOP that can be paired with their own app. But there are also devices that I found to be the most accurate and effective devices for HRV biofeedback. One of them is the highly popular and well-known Elite HRV app and the Polar chest strap. This isn't actually an ECG device that instead of measuring the blood flow and the blood volume pulse, such as the devices I mentioned earlier, this will actually measure the electrical output of the heart.
Now, these are a little bit more invasive, something that you can clip on your finger or your ear, but I like them because their accuracy and ability to reduce artifacts, and as you remember, artifacts are like those false beats. Many of the wearables do not remove false beats, which can lead to very inaccurate data. The Polar H7 chest strap with either the NatureBeat or the Elite HRV app is a great way to go, but I actually have one app or one device that is not as well-known, but I've found it to be without a doubt my favorite device that I've ever worn for heart rate variability training. The device that I'm talking about is by a company called Lief Therapeutics, L-I-E-F Therapeutics. This is a wearable ECG device that attaches to two separate electrodes and is placed right below the left chest, similar to the position where you would place a full ECG. This device is very lightweight and will track HRV throughout the day.
The great thing about this device is that it will help you to establish your own baseline, and then throughout the day, it will detect when your HRV has fallen significantly below your baseline. You will then receive haptic vibrating feedback in a vibrating pattern to let you know that your HRV is low. And once you fill this haptic feedback, it will then provide you with different vibrating patterns consistent with whatever breathing pattern you have indicated to the app that is your preferred respiratory rate. So, for instance, in my resonant frequency, it's five breaths per minute, which might actually is. On the phone application, I can tell it that when my HRV has fallen significantly lower than my baseline, to start a breathing pattern at that rate.
There will then be two distinct feedbacks from the haptic engine that I will experience at this time. When there is no vibration on the device, this is telling me to start my inhalation. When the device begins to vibrate, I will exhale until the vibration is complete. I will do this until I've gotten my HRV back up to baseline. After a period of time wearing the Lief device, I have found that I am able to increase my level of self-awareness and also my ability to more quickly regulate myself HRV that I have seen kind of multiple benefits with this thing. This is so much so that I'm able to pinpoint now when my advice will begin to vibrate even before it begins vibrating.
My level of self-awareness regarding my stress response in HRV has become so heightened due to this device that I don't even need it anymore, but I still use it because–well, I've found that it's just the best HRV biofeedback device I've ever used. The application also has multiple guided meditations, abilities to track HRV on a daily and weekly basis, the ability to train with paced breathing, the ability to feel your own heartbeat from the haptic feedback engine and much more. You can find more about this company if you go to getlief.com, L-I-E-F. But I cannot stress how much I've used this device and found benefit, as well as how many of my patients have utilized this device and found significant benefit as well. This is the device that I have all of my personal clients buy for coaching and the one that I personally use.
My last comment on HRV wearables is to gain–or I should say to again remind you to be aware of the potential inclusion of artifact data. This is something that can significantly skew your results and should be assessed and taken into consideration before assessing HRV. One way to help mitigate the effects of artifact collection is to make sure that you are sitting at a table or sitting in a stable position and that you are just completely still during readings, especially during short-term readings. I generally also check my HRV at the same time each day, and even in the same place each day to get readings that are as reliable and as consistent as possible.
There are plenty of other ways to increase your overall HRV. One of the ways that I have found to be the most effective increasing the resting HRV is through the use of cold exposure. So, cold exposure, as many of you know, is a hormetic stressor that results in acute sympathetic state arousal. As such, this is the perfect time for us to induce a parasympathetic state during the cold exposure and during cold recovery. What you may notice initially is a significant decrease in HRV immediately following the cold exposure, and this of course is common. However, because our body wants to reenter a state of homeostasis, the reparative process will result in higher HRV.
I have found that through the use of either cold plunges or hot to cold contrast showers, I've been able to modulate my HRV pretty significantly with these techniques. I also like the idea of cold exposure at night. So, quality sleep is also a way to increase HRV. And tracking HRV alongside sleep is a valuable system of this quantification. What you will find is that the lower your heart rate goes due to more deep and restorative sleep, the higher your HRV will be. And as I mentioned before, one of the things that helps me sleep immensely from a recovery standpoint and overall quality of sleep standpoint is by using a mechanism to cool my bed, such as the Ooler system or the chiliPAD. I've noticed significant enhancements in overall HRV when cooling my core temperature down with a cold shower as well before bed, and then I use the chiliPAD system at night when I sleep.
Hands-down, the most robust research for increasing overall HRV aside from HRV biofeedback for stress reduction is physical exercise. Now, given this audience, I know I do not need to go into the benefits of exercise, but many research studies have looked at how exercise can enhance each HRV both from a cardiac standpoint and from an autonomic balance standpoint. If you haven't already gathered, we have to remember that there is a dose-response curve with exercise. As Ben always says, we're looking for the minimal effective dose of exercise, and this is true for exercise effects on HRV. We indeed know that if we continually and consistently overtrain, this is going to lead to increased chance for injury and has a highly predictable correlation with low HRV. We can use both a low HRV to demonstrate overall recovery or lack thereof, but we also know that continued overtraining will result in the continued lowering of HRV.
For instance, in one study looking at the effects of moderate exercise versus heavy endurance exercise on nocturnal HRV, that's the resting HRV, researchers found that heavy endurance athletes such as marathon runners had significant low-frequency power during heavy training and after a marathon. In this study, we actually see decreased HRV during the nocturnal hours after both moderate exercise and marathon completion. But we see statistically significant reductions in HRV for those who are engaging in heavy endurance exercise when compared to those engaging in moderate exercise. This isn't surprising that we would see a reduction in HRV for those engaging in moderate exercise, but it does go to show that there is significant HRV reduction after heavy or intense exercising.
One strategy that I utilize personally is the uses of HIIT training or high-intensity interval training and Tabata sets. Because these are types of workouts that are more effective in stimulating our body's need to adapt, they can also increase HRV in the long run. Now, as a general rule of thumb, if my HRV is significantly lower on the day, I will never utilize this type of training. I will almost always avoid doing so in an effort to avoid overtaxing my nervous system. When they examined the usage of high-intensity interval training, this is researchers, versus moderate intensity continuous training on HRV, the individuals–I should say individuals who are considered physically inactive, they found that HIIT training was significantly superior to moderate intensity continuous training and improving HRV.
One study that really stood out to me was examining the effects of physical exercise on HRV in patients with cancer diagnosis. They found that these individuals with cancer diagnosis that engaged in exercise actually enhance their overall HRV and cardiac autonomic regulation. And it was concluded that because of the association of higher HRV parameters and prolonged survival in cancer patients, exercise to increase HRV in these individuals can be a highly effective treatment strategy. So, it's my guess that we're going to see more studies on the efficacy of exercise on HRV as time goes by.
Another tactic that I utilize on a daily basis for increasing HRV is compassion and meditative practices. So, numerous studies have indicated that engaging in a meditation practice can increase HRV by reducing the fight-or-flight response and increasing our safety response. I found this as a highly useful strategy for myself and for my patients and have seen demonstrable effects for increasing HRV with this type of practice. One study examined the use of gratitude journaling on HRV and other inflammatory biomarkers and individuals with heart failure. They found that these individuals that participated in gratitude interventions had reduced inflammatory biomarkers and increased parasympathetic HRV responses when they were engaging in the gratitude task. While the results did not indicate a significant difference in HRV after journaling, there were notable benefits during the time of journaling. And inflammation biomarkers were significantly changed and maintained after intervention, which is really cool. This is why I believe that it's important for us to engage in mindfulness-based exercises and gratitude exercises each and every day as this can have valuable benefits to our sense of safety and well-being.
The last thing that I will say that this could be a podcast in and of itself is that there are plenty of dietary considerations. Now, I could get into one diet over the other, whether it's carnivore versus omnivorous diet on HRV. And there's really not a lot of great data to support one or the other specifically for HRV. However, we do know that a whole foods anti-inflammatory dietary pattern is going to be significant benefit on HRV when compared to the standard American diet. As we know, there is a significant reduction in inflammatory markers and stress that can significantly enhance HRV.
So, the takeaway from this, which you may already know, is to find what dietary patterns work best for you and watch HRV scores as you manipulate what you're eating. One thing to note about fasting, as many individuals ask about what fasting does to HRV, interestingly enough, we have data to demonstrate that short-term fast or time-restricted eating can significantly enhance HRV in the long run. However, do not be surprised if you see significant reductions in HRV when you are engaging in an extended fast. You have to remember, a fast is a form of hormetic stress, and therefore, in the temporary, can reduce HRV scores. However, as the body repairs and returns to homeostasis, we tend to see HRV increase.
In the end, if we break HRV optimization down in its most simplistic form, we are truly looking to tell our brain in our body that we are safe. One of the most famous researchers on HRV modulation is Dr. Stephen Porges that I mentioned earlier, who created “The Polyvagal Theory.” In this theory, Dr. Porges proposes competing roles for the unmyelinated fibers in the vagus nerve and the newly more evolved myelinated nerves. Now, he theorized that the evolution of the autonomic nervous system was central to the development of emotional experience and effective processes involved in our social behavior.
As human beings, we are not limited to fight, flight, or freezing behavioral responses. We can self-regulate and initiate pro-social behaviors, which may be referred to as those tend-to-befriend behaviors when we do encounter stressors. This is what Dr. Porges calls the social engagement system. And the theory suggests that the system depends on the healthy functioning of the myelinated vagus nerve, which works like that vagal break. From this perspective, we can only activate the myelinated vagus when our nervous system perceives that we are safe. When we engage in social safety, we perceive this as a mutual process, one that involves eye contact, close proximity, and trust.
This myelinated vagus enables us to self-regulate, calm ourselves, and inhibits the sympathetic outflow of the heart. The myelinated vagus also allows us to engage the prefrontal cortex and executive functions where we can be attentive and mindful when we encounter daily stressors. This will inhibit the myelinated vagus and produce what is called vagal withdrawal. This will then interfere with our attentiveness and our level of social engagement. According to this theory, quality communication and pro-social behaviors can only be effectively engaged when our defense circuits are inhibited.
So, how do we increase HRV in the most consistent and effective manner? We must have a perceived sense of psychological and physiological safety. We are constantly evaluating our environment for threats as a way to maintain our safety both physically and psychologically. When this occurs for days, weeks, years, or decades, this can result in an overarching schema of continued concerns of our lack of safety or lack of trust and others, and ultimately, social disengagement or withdrawal. These isolated behaviors and distortions in our cognition have significant impact on our stress physiology, heart rate variability, and can directly play a role in our perceived sense of meaning and purpose in life.
This brings it all together. When our nervous system perceives safety, we activate the myelinated vagus nerve system, and this is a way to conserve and rebuild energy stores to socially bond with others and engage in executive functioning like self-regulation and planning. When our nervous system perceives danger, we activate the sympathetic nervous system and inhibit the unmyelinated vagus resulting in the fight, flight response or active avoidance. If we perceive that our life is at threat and that the fight, flight, or active avoidance response system will not succeed, then we'll actually activate our unmyelinated vagus, which will result in passive avoidance through behaviors like immobilization, feigning death, fainting or shutting down completely. This threat to our survival is what Dr. Stephen Porges believes activates the unmyelinated vagus and results and subsequent disorders like PTSD. This again is why safety security and trust is needed to maximize health outcomes from a mind, body, and spiritual perspective.
So, there you go. Man, we have taken a deep dive into all things HRV, but we've only scratched the surface. My hope is that this information was useful and resulted in you learning the ins and outs of why HRV and the self-regulation of HRV is of vast importance for physical and mental health. If this metric of quantification has not been of importance to you in the past, I sure hope that you now see why it should be. In my guess, like anything in the field of science, we're going to learn more and more about this metric and the usefulness of it as we expand the field of research. I hope this podcast has highlighted how important this metric of HRV is and why it should be important for us to consider finding a coach that can help you increase your parasympathetic efficiency quickly, as this is one of the strongest ways to mitigate stress, to improve recovery and enhance performance and longevity.
Thank you, Ben, for providing me with your platform to share my passion on heart rate variability and self-regulation. Like I mentioned earlier, you can also find all the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/hrvpodcast. And you can check me out at drjaywiles.com, or at my practice which is thrive-wellness.com. Take care, everybody, and have an awesome day."
Greenfield, B. (2020). [Transcript] - A Deep Dive Into HRV: How To Use Heart Rate Variability To Optimize Your Sleep, Stress, Recovery, Performance, Nervous System Balance & Much More! - Ben Greenfield Fitness - Diet, Fat Loss and Performance Advice. Retrieved 13 March 2020, from https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/transcripts/transcript-what-is-heart-rate-variability/
Dr. Rhonda Patrick discusses the differences between different forms of DHA in terms of bioavailability and transport into different cells. She talks about why a specific type of DHA (DHA in phosphatidylcholine) is more readily transported into the brain because it forms DHA-lysophsophatidylcholine. Krill oil and salmon roe both have a slightly higher concentration of DHA-lysophosphatidylcholine. She also talks about astaxanthin, a carotenoid that is unique to krill oil, and has potent antioxidant activity and prevents the oxidation of DHA and EPA.
As it turns out, researchers have observed that positive emotions influence endocrinological and immunological responses. In other words, experiencing stressful emotions, such as anger, depression, anxiety, or a state of unworthiness, has the potential to actually pull the genetic trigger, dysregulating cells and creating disease.
In 2005, a group of Japanese researchers conducted a study to examine what effect one's mental state might have on disease. The participants consisted of two groups of patients with type 2 diabetes, all of whom were dependent on insulin, a hormone that enables glucose to enter cells to be used as energy.
Fasting blood-sugar levels for each group was determined to establish a baseline. The researchers then exposed one of the groups to a comedy show for an hour, while the control group watched a boring lecture. Afterwards, both groups were instructed to consume food, after which their blood-sugar levels were checked again.
Of the groups, there was a significant difference between those who watched the comedy show compared to those who viewed the lecture. The researchers measured the blood-sugar levels of those who watched the lecture and observed an average of 123 mg/dl - high enough that they would be required to take insulin. In the group that watched the comedy show, their postprandial blood-sugar levels rose only about half of that amount.
The researchers set out to examine the mechanism for why this may be occurring. Initially, they hypothesized that the group experiencing laughter resulting in more time contracting their diaphragm and abdominal muscles, expending more energy, therefore resulting in the lower blood-glucose levels.
Upon greater examination, the researchers analyzed the changes in expression of 18,716 genes from blood cells in the patients with type 2 diabetes, which were induced by laughter. Of the 18,716 genes, 23 genes showed significantly different expression changes after listening to the comic story compared to the boring lecture. Eight were relatively upregulated and 15 were downregulated 1.5 hours after the laughter occurred. As it turns out, of the group that experienced laughter, their elevated mental states apparently triggered their brains to send new chemical signals to their cells, activating the genetic sequences to allow their bodies to naturally begin regulating the genes responsible for processing blood sugar.
In sum, the researchers demonstrated simply signaling the body with a positive emotion, such as laughter, is linked to gene expression. Emotions are capable of altering body chemistry and signaling new genes, altering their internal environment. And remember, we can create an emotion by thought alone.
Hayashi, T., Urayama, O., Kawai, K., Hayashi, K., Iwanaga, S., Ohta, M., Saito, T. and Murakami, K. (2005). Laughter Regulates Gene Expression in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 75(1), pp.62-65. https://doi.org/10.1159/000089228
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
Magnetite is one of the most magnetic substances on Earth. As you can probably guess, it has a diverse range of uses; from fridge magnets to generating electricity in power plants. But what you probably wouldn’t guess is that your brain actually synthesizes these crystals, and you have hundreds of millions of them inside your head. Much smaller ones of course.
Scientists are still unsure what role, if any, these crystals play in the brain’s function. Studies have inferred that it may play a role in long-term memory. In animals, like honey bees, homing pigeons, and dolphins, magnetite is believed to be associated with the ability to respond to the earth’s magnetic field.
While similar studies have yet to be performed on humans, we do know that earth’s magnetic fields affect everything from our mood to our ability to learn. Even stranger, research has begun to provide links between the electromagnetic field of our planet and psychic abilities. Could these crystals act like tiny antennas connecting our brains to each other and to the entire planet? It may sound far-fetched, but surprisingly, the evidence is there.
First, let’s look at what we know about the magnetite in our brains. To be honest, we don’t know much: In 1992, the first evidence of this mineral in the brain was published. It was shocking to uncover that this highly magnetic substance was actually synthesized by our bodies, and while we don’t know exactly what function it plays in brain activity, some interesting theories have emerged. A 2009 hypothesis proposed that magnetite plays a significant role in long-term memory. It suggests that cellular components of the brain communicate with each other through magnetic signals, with the magnetite particles acting as tiny antennas, simultaneously receiving information throughout the different parts of the brain.
Magnetite also acts as an antenna for external electromagnetic fields, including the geomagnetic field of the Earth itself. And this is where things start to get interesting. An enormous body of research is emerging that shows substantive links between magnetic fields and cognitive function.
Back in 1978, research physicist Dr. Robert C Beck published preliminary research on the effects of extremely low frequency magnetic fields on the moods of human subjects. ELF fields of 6.67 Hz, 6.26 Hz and lower tend to produce symptoms of confusion, anxiety, depression, tension, fear, mild nausea and headaches. On the other hand, oscillations of 7.8, 8.0, and 9.0 Hz produce anxiety-relieving and stress-reducing effects that mimic some meditative states.
More recently, magnetic fields have been used in successful clinical practices for eliminating depression and bipolar disorder, with over 1300 medical research papers published to date. The non-invasive treatment, known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, uses a wand-shaped gadget to zap away the effects of depression.
While all of this is interesting, and can pave the way for new therapies and treatments, a group of researchers at Canada’s Laurentian University are exploring the role of electromagnetic forces in more extreme cognitive functions. Dr. Michael Persinger is a neuroscientist who has argued that all phenomena, including consciousness, spiritual experiences, and even “paranormal events,” can be explained by physical mechanisms, and can be verified using the scientific method.
Since 1971, he has been researching electromagnetic field effects upon biological organisms, and some of his recent studies sound straight out of a sci-fi movie: Dr. Persinger has shown in the laboratory that magnetic brain stimulation can create metal states conducive to human telepathy. A recent experiment placed two people at a distance in different rooms, each surrounded by an identical, computer-controlled magnetic field. When a light was flashed in one subject’s eye, the person in the other room showed responses in their brain as if they saw the flash of light.
As Dr. Persinger stated:
“We think that’s tremendous because it may be the first macro demonstration of a quantum connection, or so-called quantum entanglement. If true, then there’s another way of potential communication that may have physical applications, for example, in space travel.”
On a much larger scale, correlation has been shown between the geomagnetic forces of the planet and a variety of effects spanning large populations. A 2003 study found “strong empirical support in favor of a geomagnetic-storm effect in stock returns” and “evidence of substantially higher returns around the world during periods of quiet geomagnetic activity.”
Other research has linked geomagnetic activity to suicide, heart-disease, and even birth rates. A particularly curious global effect is related to a standing electromagnetic wave that exists between the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere. Known as “The Schumann Resonance,” this wave has a frequency of 7.8 Hz, and is frequently referenced in alternative theories of consciousness. Measurements by Dr. Persinger have shown that the fundamental and harmonics of the Schumann Resonance were discernible in normal human brain activity, and in fact they correspond to Dr. Beck’s anxiety-reducing ELF fields.
Stranger still was Persinger’s study of the remote viewer Ingo Swann. “Remote viewing” refers to a technique used by “psychic spies” working for the CIA; they were able to see far off locations as if they were there; and they could even move through time. Ingo Swann was one of the first, and most accurate, viewers in this program. When Dr. Persinger measured his brain’s electromagnetic activity during viewing sessions, he found a spike in activity at 7 hZ which correlated with the most accurate viewings. Is it possible that Swann was able to project his consciousness by tuning into the standing geomagnetic waves of the Earth?
All of this adds up to a fascinating connection between our brains and the shared magnetic field not only of our planet, but potentially of the entire universe. It’s undeniable that the brain responds to magnetic forces on a local and a global scale. While no one has been able to prove the involvement of magnetite, it seems a likely suspect. If we learn to harness the power of these tiny antennas in our brain, who knows what kind of psychic superpowers we might unlock?
Woods, J. (2018). Tiny Crystals In Our Brain Could Unlock Psychic Powers. [online] Gaia. Available at: https://www.gaia.com/article/could-tiny-crystals-in-our-brain-unlock-psychic-powers [Accessed 24 Aug. 2019].
How would you like to build new neural connections so that you can align your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with what you ultimately want to achieve? You're in luck. You are innately endowed with the ability to train your brain to become an elite performer (if that's what you desire to do).
Your Mental World
For a moment, imagine your brain as if it is it's own planet. Your "neural planet" has a population of some 85 billion neurons. Just as people in close proximity interact with one another, neurons communicate to each other via synapses and neurotransmitters. A synapse is an electrochemical junction between two nerve cells, in which impulses pass by diffusion of chemicals, also referred to as neurotransmitters.
If you took a consensus of your mental world, neurons of different sizes would be visible all over. Neurons that fire together look somewhat like a social gathering occurring. From a bird's-eye view, you would be able to see "remote villages" variably exchanging conversation, "towns" making more connections, and "large metropolitan areas" continuously in contact.
Synapses vary in size because the frequency of neural communication dictates the size and efficiency of their pathway. Infrequently used trails can become freeways and vice versa.
This connection between neurons, and clusters of neurons, is the essential function of the brain. Every time you think, feel, act, emotionalize, or remember, you reinforce existing brain neural connections or create new ones. There are neural patterns for everything, from standing to reading this page. The innumerable patterns in which your brain cells connect and share information reflects your brain's capacity to perform.
Neuroplasticity: The Brain's Ability to Change Itself
The old scientific paradigm held that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Fortunately, the old paradigm has evolved and incorporated the science of neuroplasticity, which suggests the brain can change and it can happen at any time. Like plastic, neurons can mold into new forms, creating new connections. Any time you learn a new skill, the brain is changing by making new neural connections. Whether it is learning to play an instrument, speaking a new language, discovering a new route home, eating whole foods, and so much more, your brain begins to change itself.
Learning is forging new connections. Remembering is maintaining and sustaining those connections. And just like a relationship, the more communication that occurs, the more bondage that takes place. Neurons are the same way.
What is really fascinating, is that you can change your brain, not only by doing, but also by thinking. Researchers have demonstrated that the act of focusing and being present through meditation changes the brain in many ways.
Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change itself, and it's the innate ability that you can harness to help you attain your goals.
Continental Shift: Three Ways Neuroplasticity Works
You are able to reshape your brain using the same principles that your brain was built - neurons firing and wiring, syncing and linking together.
There are three ways that neuroplasticity can change your mind:
More neurons, more connections, and more efficient connections. These are the three ways to exponentially transform your life. But, there is a caveat. As an adult, some of your neuroplasticity is turned off. But once again, you're in luck, you can turn it back on.
Teaching Old Dogs New TRicks: Turning On Neuroplasticity
As an infant, the brain is a sponge, absorbing what it can in an effort increase the chances of survival. As you age, your neuroplasticity slows down as new memories and skills are created; habitual patterns begin to direct most of your daily activities, and novel ideas get pushed to the back burner.
As an adult, learning processes, beliefs, and behaviors become, more or less "fixed" within the neural pathways of the brain. This means the plasticity switch is predominately in the "off" position, to varying degrees in each individual. One person may be so set in their ways that to try to get them to see things from a new perspective is like talking to a brick wall. Whereas another person may be more flexible and is able to take all sides into consideration. In either case, neuroplasticity can work at any age, so in the case of that brick wall, the only thing holding them back is themselves. They're not old dogs who can't learn new tricks, they're just uninformed, or perhaps unwilling.
Here are six time-tested principles to turn on neuroplasticity:
Here are some more ways to activity neuroplasticity:
Clearly more is better. Neuroplasticity is a ongoing process, and if you are committed to being the best version of yourself, then it is a lifelong process.
Assaraf, J. (2018). Innercise. Cardiff, CA: Waterside Press.
Dr. Joe Dispenza is teaching the world how to empower and heal our mind through meditation and mindfulness. His studies have proven that when well practiced these tools can put us on the path to understanding and breaking deep-rooted bad habits and even heal illnesses. The author of Becoming Supernatural explains how to stop your mind from controlling you on this episode of Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu.
It's a scientific fact that the hormones of stress downregulate genes and create disease. Long-term effects. Human beings because of the size of the neocortex, we can turn on the stress response just by thought alone. As I think about our problems and turn on those chemicals. That means then our thoughts could make us sick. So if it's possible, that our thoughts could make us sick then it is possible then our thoughts could make us well? The answer is absolutely yes.
Everybody welcome to Impact Theory. Our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that will help you actually execute on your dreams. Alright today's guest is a New York Times bestselling author and one of the most sought-after speakers in the world. He's lectured and given advanced workshops in more than 30 countries across five continents all with the aim of helping people better understand and unlock the power of their mind. His expertise is the intersection of the fields of neuroscience, epigenetics and quantum physics and he's partnered with other scientists across multiple disciplines to perform extensive research on the effects of meditation using advanced technologies such as epigenetic testing brain mapping with EEG s and gas-discharge visualization technology. Through his work he is endeavouring to help advance both the scientific community and the public at large as understanding of mind derived health optimization, a topic he covered extensively in his groundbreaking book, You Are The Placebo. His teaching has had such a profound impact on the way that people perceive a wide range of brain related topics around mindfulness and well-being. [that] He's a faculty member at the quantum University in Hawaii the Omega Institute for holistic studies in New York and the Kerr Paulo Centre for yoga and health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He's also an invited chair of the research committee at life University in Atlanta, as well as a corporate consultant where he delivers his lectures and workshops for businesses. So, please help me in welcoming the man who has appeared in such films as Heal, People Versus the State of Illusion and Unleashing Creativity, the author of the recent book Becoming Supernatural, Dr. Joe Dispenza.
Thanks for being here. So, diving into your world and how you perceive the sense of self and the way that you marry science to - the way that we form memories the way that we live in a perpetual state of reliving our past and things like that. It's really, really incredible and I want to dive into the whole notion of you sort of being a habitual construct like what? What is that? What is the habit of you?
Well a habit is a redundant set of automatic unconscious thoughts, behaviors and emotions that's acquired through repetition. The habit is when you've done done something so many times that your body now knows how to do it better than your mind.
So if you think about it, people wake up in the morning, they begin to think about their problems. Those problems are circuits, memories in the brain, each one of those memories are connected to people and things at certain times and places. And, if the brain is a record of the past, the moment they start their day, they're already thinking in the past. Each one of those memories has an emotion. Emotions are the end product of past experiences. So the moment they recall those memories of their problems, they all of a sudden feel unhappy, they feel sad, they feel pain.
Now how you think and how you feel creates your state of being. So the person's entire state of being when they start their day is in the past. So what does that mean? The familiar past will sooner or later be predictable future. So, if you believe that your thoughts have something to do with your destiny and you can't think greater than how you feel, or feelings have become the means of thinking, by very definition of emotions you're thinking in the past. And for the most part you're going to keep creating the same life.
So then people grab their cell phone they check their WhatsApp. They check their texts. They check their emails. They check Facebook. They take a picture of their feet. They post it on Facebook. They tweet something, they do Instagram. They check the news and now they feel really connected to everything that's known in their life.
And then they go through a series of routine behaviors. They get out of bed on the same side. They go to the toilet. They get a cup of coffee. They take a shower, they get dressed, they drive to work the same way. They do the same things. They see the same people, that pushed the same emotional buttons, and that becomes the routine and it becomes like a program. So now they've lost their free will to a program, and there's no unseen hand doing it to them. So when it comes time to change the redundancy of that cycle becomes a subconscious program.
So now 95% of who we are by the time we're 35 years old is a memorized set of behaviors, emotional reactions, unconscious habits, hardwired attitudes, beliefs and perceptions that function like a computer program. So then person can say with their five percent of their conscious mind. I want to be healthy. I want to be happy. I want to be free, but the body's on a whole different program.
So then how do you begin to make those changes? Well, you have to get beyond the analytical mind because what separates the conscious mind from the subconscious mind is the analytical mind and that's where meditation comes in, because you can teach people through practice how to change their brainwaves, slow them down. And, when they do that properly they do enter the operating system where they can begin to make some really important changes.
So most people then wait for crisis or trauma or disease or diagnosis, you know, they wait for loss
some tragedy to make up their mind to change and my message is, "Why wait?" You can learn and change in a state of pain and suffering or you can learn and change in a state of joy and inspiration. I think right now the cool thing is that people are waking up.
That's really interesting. And where I found the the deepest hooks into how powerful this can be for somebody is when you talk about trauma and you've talked about how people experience a traumatic event, but they then basically rehearse it and how that then has this knock-on effect. So, what is that? Why do people find it so hard to get past trauma?
Well, the stronger the emotional reaction you have to some experience in your life, the higher the emotional quotient, the more you pay attention to the cause, and the moment the brain puts all of its attention on the cause, it takes a snapshot and that's called a memory. So long-term memories are created from very highly emotional experiences. So what happens then is that people think neurologically within the circuitry of that experience and they feel chemically within the boundaries of those emotions. And so when you have an emotional reaction to someone or something most people think that they can't control their emotional reaction.
Well, it turns out if you allow that emotional reaction, it's called a refractory period to last for hours or days, that's called the mood. I say to someone, "Hey, what's up think?" "I'm in a mood," "Well, why are you in a mood?" "Well I had this thing happen to me five days ago and I'm having one long emotional reaction." If you keep that same emotional reaction going on for weeks or months that's called temperament. Why is he so bitter? I don't know. Let's ask him. Why is he so bitter? "Why are you bitter?" "Well, I had this thing happened to me nine months ago." And if you keep that same emotional reaction going on for years on end that's called a personality trait. And so learning how to shorten your refractory period of emotional reactions is really where that work starts.
So then people when they have an event what they do is they keep recalling the event because the
emotions of stress hormones the survival emotions are saying pay attention to what happened, because you want to be prepared if it happens again.
Turns out most people spend 70% of their life living in survival and living in stress. So they're they're always anticipating the worst-case scenario based on a past experience and they're literally, out of the infinite potentials in the quantum field, they're selecting the worst possible outcome and they're beginning to emotionally embrace it with fear and their conditioning their body into a state of fear. Do that enough times, the body has a panic attack without you. You can't even predict it because it's programmed subconsciously.
So then you say to the person, "Why are you this way?" And they'll say, "I am this way because of this event that happened to me 15 or 20 years ago," and what that means from biological standpoint is that they haven't been able to change since that event. So then the emotions from the experience tend to give the body and the brain a rush of energy. So people become addicted to the rush of those emotions and they use the problems and conditions in their life to reaffirm their limitation, so at least they can feel something. So now when it comes time to change you say the person, "Why are you this way?" Well, every time they recall the event they're producing the same chemistry in their brain and body as if the event is occurring, firing and wiring the same circuits and sending the same emotional signature to the body.
Well, what's the revelant behind that? Well, your body is the unconscious mind. It doesn't know the difference between the experience that's creating the emotion and the emotion that you're creating by thought alone. So the body's believing it's living in the same past experience 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And so then when those emotions influence certain thoughts, and they do, and then those thoughts create the same emotions, and those same emotions influence the same thoughts, now the entire person's state of being is in the past.
So then the hardest part about change is not making the same choice as you did the day before a period. And the moment you decide to make a different choice get ready because it's going to feel uncomfortable, it's going to feel unfamiliar.
So why does it feel so uncomfortable? Is it because of the neurons that fire together wire together?
So there's like an easiness to that loop. (Just because, literally, and you've talked very eloquently about this the way that the neurons connect in the brain how rapidly. I've seen you show footage of how rapidly those connections happen, which is pretty incredible." Is that what makes it so discomforting for people?
I think that the bigger thing is that as we keep firing and wiring those circuits, they become more hardwired. So there you have a thought and then the program runs but it's the emotion that follows the thought. If you have a fearful thought you're gonna feel anxiety, the moment you feel anxiety your brains checking in with your body and saying, " Yeah, you're pretty anxious." So then you start thinking more corresponding thoughts equaled how you feel.
Well, the redundancy of that cycle conditions the body to become the mind. So now when it comes time to change, a person steps into that river of change and they make a different choice in all of a sudden they don't they don't feel the same way. So the body says, "Well, you've been doing this for 35 years." Well, you're gonna just stop feel suffering and stop feeling guilty and stop feeling shameful and you're not gonna complain, or blame, or make excuses, or feel sorry for yourself.
The body's in the unknown. So the body says I want to return back to familiar territory. So the body starts influencing the mind then it says, "Start tomorrow, you're too much like your mother. You'll never change. This isn't gonna work for you. This doesn't feel right."
And so if you respond to that thought as if it's true, that same thought will lead to the same choice, which will lead to the same behavior, which will create the same experience, which produce the same emotion.
I want to talk about that notion. Give me a little more detail. We mean by the body becomes the mind or the unconscious mind. What do you mean by that exactly?
Well, those are two different things. Your body is your unconscious mind. In a sense, if you're sitting down and you start thinking about some future worst-case scenario that you're conjuring up in your mind and you begin to feel the emotion of that event, your body doesn't know the difference between the event that's taking place in your world, outer world, and what you're creating by emotion or thought alone.
So most people then, they're constantly reaffirming their emotional states. So when it comes time to give up that emotion they can say, "I really want to do it," but really the body is stronger than the mind because it's been conditioned that way. So, the servant now has become the master and the person all of a sudden once they step into that unknown, they'd rather feel guilt and suffering because at least they can predict it. Being in the unknown is a scary place for most people because the unknown is uncertain.
People say to me, "Well, I can't predict my future. I'm in the unknown." And I always say, "The best way to predict your future is to create it. Not from the known but from the unknown. What thoughts do you want to fire and wire in your brain? What behaviors do you want to demonstrate in one day?
The act of rehearsing mentally, closing your eyes and rehearsing the action.
The rehearsing the reaction of what you want.
The action of what you want by closing your eyes and mentally rehearsing some action. If you're truly present, the brain does not know the difference between what you're imaging and what you're experiencing in 3D world.
So then you begin to install the neurological hardware in your brain to look like the event has already occurred. Now your brain is no longer a record of the past. Now, it's a map to the future. And if you keep doing it, priming it that way, the hardware becomes a software program and who knows you just may start acting like a happy person. And then I think the hardest part is to teach our body emotionally what the future will feel like ahead of the actual experience.
So, what does that mean? You can't wait for your success to feel empowered. You can't wait for your wealth to feel abundant. You can't wait for your your new relationship to feel love, or your healing to feel whole. I mean that's the old model of reality of cause and effect, you know waiting for something outside of us to change how we feel inside of us and when we feel better inside of us. We pay attention to whatever caused it. But what that means then is that from the Newtonian world that most people spend their whole life living in lack, waiting for something to change out there.
What do you mean the Newtonian world?
Newtonian world is all about the predictable. It's all about predicting the future. But the quantum model of reality isn't is about causing an effect. The moment you start feeling abundant and worthy you are generating wealth. The moment you're empowered and feel it, you're beginning to step towards your success the moment. You start feeling whole, your healing begins. And when you love yourself and you love all of life, you'll create an equal. And now you're causing and effect and I think that's that the difference between living as a victim - In your world saying "I am this way because of this person or that thing or this experience. They made me think and feel this way." When you switch that around you become a creator of your world and you start saying, "My thinking and my feeling is changing an outcome in my life." And now that's a whole different game and we start believing more that were creators of reality.
So, how do we go from, "Okay, I have this negative emotion. It's controlling my life. It's got me in this cycle of I think about this emotion, which triggers a chemical reaction, which trains my body to feel that way, which makes it easier more likely I will do it again, and so now I'm in this vicious cycle." And it's unconscious right.
You said, "Does your thinking create your environment, or does your environment create your thinking," which I thought was really, really interesting. So, how do we then go from that, like mechanistically, to begin this visualization process of something that's empowering, its me in a different state, it's my future self. Is it meditation? What does that look like?
If you're not being defined by a vision of the future, then you're left with the old memories of the past and you will be predictable in your life. And, if you wake up in the morning and you're not being defined by a vision in the future as you see the same people and you go to the same places and you do the exact same thing at the exact same time, it's no longer that your personality is creating your personal reality. Now your personal reality is affecting or creating your personality. Your environment is really controlling how you think and feel unconsciously, because every person every thing every place every experience has a neurological network in your brain.
Every experience that you have with every person produces an emotion. So some people will use their boss to reaffirm their addiction to judgment. They'll use their enemy to reaffirm their addiction to hatred. They'll use their friends to reaffirm their addiction to suffering. So now they need the outer world to feel something.
So, to change them is to be greater than your environment, to be greater than the conditions in your world and the environment is that seductive. So then why is meditation the tool?
Well, let's sit down. Let's close our eyes. Let's disconnect from your outer environment. So if you're seeing less things is less stimulation going to your brain if you're playing soft music or you have earplugs in, less sensory information coming to your brain. So you're disconnecting from environment if you can sit your body down and tell it to stay like an animal stay right here. I'm gonna feed you when we're done. You can get up and check your emails. You can do all your texts, but right now you're gonna sit there and obey me.
So then, when you do that properly and the you're not eating anything or smelling anything or tasting anything, you're not up experiencing and feeling anything, you would have to agree with me that you're being defined by a thought, right? So when the body wants to go back to its emotional past, and you become aware that your attention is on that emotion, and where you place your attention is where you place your energy, you're siphoning your energy out of the present moment into the past and you become aware of that. And, you settle your body back down in the present moment because it's saying "Well, it's eight o'clock. You normally get upset because you're in traffic around this time and here you are sitting and we're used to feeling anger and you're off schedule. Oh, it's 11 o'clock and usually check your emails and judge everybody."
Well, the body is looking for that that predictable chemical state every time you become aware that you're doing that and your body is craving those emotions and you settle it back down into the present moment, you're telling the body it's no longer the mind, that you're the mind. And now your will is getting greater than the program. And if you keep doing this over and over again, over and over again, over and over again, just like training a stallion or a dog, it's just gonna say, "I'm gonna sit." And the moment that happens, when the body's no longer the mind, when it finally surrenders, there's a liberation of energy. We go from particle to wave, from matter to energy, and we free ourselves from the chains of those emotions that keep us in the in the familiar past and we've seen this thousands of times. In fact, we can actually predict it now on a brain scan.
That's so interesting. Let's go a little bit harder on metacognition, the notion that you don't have to believe everything you think. I love the way that you talk about that.
Hmm. Yeah, and we have a huge frontal lobe. It's 40% of our entire brain, and most people when they have a thought they just think that that's the truth. And, I think one of my greatest realizations in my own journey was just because you have a thought, it doesn't necessarily mean it's true.
So if you think 60 to 70 thousand thoughts in one day, and we do, and 90% of those thoughts are the same thoughts as the day before and you believe that your thoughts have something to do with your destiny, your life's not gonna change very much. Because the same thought leads to the same choice, the same choice leads to the same behavior, the same behavior creates the same experience, and the same experience produces the same emotion.
And so then, the act of becoming conscious of this process, to begin to become more aware of how you think, how you act, and how you feel, it's called metacognition.
And so then, why is that important? Because the more conscious you become of those unconscious states of mind and body, the less likely you're gonna go unconscious during the day. And that thought is not gonna slip by your awareness unchecked. It means to know thyself. And the word meditation means to become familiar with. So as you become familiar with the thoughts the behaviors and the emotions of the old self, you're retiring that old self as you fire and wire new thoughts and condition the body into a new emotional state. If you do that enough times, it'll begin to become familiar to you.
So it's so important. Just like a garden, if you're planting a garden, you've got to get rid of the weeds. You got to take the plants from the past year and you got to pull them out. The rocks that sift to the top that are like our emotional blocks, they have to be removed that soil has to be tenderized and broken down. We have to we have to make room to plant the new garden.
So primarily, we learn the most about ourselves and others when we're uncomfortable, because the moment you move into that uncomfortable state, normally a program jumps in. When that program jumps in, it's because the person doesn't want to be in the present moment and engage it consciously.
So when you teach people how to do that with a meditative process, turns out that when they're in their life, they're less likely to emotionally react. They're less likely to be so rigid and believe the thoughts they were thinking. They're more aware of when they go unconscious back into a habit, and that is what starts the process of change.
And, so we have to unlearn before we relearn. We have to break the habit of the old self before we reinvent a new self. We have to pre-synaptic connections and sprout new connections. We have to unfire and unwire and refire and rewire. We have to unmemorize emotions that are stored and then recondition the body that to a new mind into a new emotion. Like the deprogram and reprogram, that's the act, and it's a two-step process.
Yeah, I like the way that you call that out as an action. There was another thing that you said that I thought was really powerful, about how insights themselves are essentially inert, they don't do anything. What what then do we do with an insight? How do we take a breakthrough moment and make sure that it's not just a breakthrough moment? Like I guarantee people watching right now are having like a hundred aha moments. For sure, that was definitely the case for me as I was researching you and when you said that I was like and that's the danger that you have the aha and then nothing.
Yeah, and it is a danger, because then people will will shrink back into mediocracy and they'll use the insight to excuse them from taking a leap. They'll say, "Yeah, you know, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain. Yeah, my father was really overbearing, he was a perfectionist. That's why I am the way I am."
You know people, they come up with stuff to excuse themselves. The insight is actually giving them permission to stay limited. And it's an amazing idea because they'll say to you that they really want to get over their anxiety. But let's ok. Let's take your ex-husband. Let's put him in a straitjacket. Let's duct tape them and shoot them to the moon know what I mean. What are you gonna do now? You still have to make those changes. And so then the person's enemy dies or they're something shifts in their life and that person's gone, they'll find another person to hate. This is just how we function as human beings. We just slide another reason to feel those emotions.
So I think I think when people start to understand this, you know, I think knowledge is power. But knowledge about yourself is self empowerment.
So how much of this is really learning to just bifurcate the world into (there's) negative emotions that have negative neurochemistry - associated with, and you said that in those states if you're living in a perpetual state of stress hormones and things like that illness is like a step away and then just the other side of that is understanding - (but there's) [and] this whole other side of positive energy, which happiness, joy, empowerment - whatever that you know neurochemical cocktail is, but that when you're on that side your immune system is more likely to function well. Is that just sort of bringing it down to like a really base level. Yeah, that's sort of one of the biggies.
Well, let's talk about it in terms of survival or creation
As I said 70% of the time people live in stress and living in stress is living in survival. Now, all organisms in nature can tolerate short-term stress, you know a deer gets chased by a pack of coyotes, when it out runs the Coyotes it goes back to grazing and the event is over. And the definition of stress is when your brain and body are knocked out of balance, out of homeostasis.
The stress response is what the body innately does to return itself back to order. So you're driving down the road, someone cuts you off, you jam on the brakes, you may give them the finger and then you settle back down and the event is over and boom now everything's back back to normal.
But what if it's not a predator that's waiting for you outside the cave, but what if it's your coworker sitting right next to you and all day long you're turning on those chemicals because they're pushing all your emotional buttons. When you turn on the stress response, and you can't turn it off, now you're headed for a disease because no organism in nature can live an emergency mode for that extended period of time. It's a scientific fact that the hormones of stress down regulate genes and create disease, long term effects.
Human beings, because of the size of the neocortex, we can turn on the stress response just by thought alone, I can think about our problems and turn on those chemicals. That means then our thoughts could make us sick. So if it's possible that our thoughts could make us sick, is it possible that our thoughts could make us well? The answer is absolutely, yes.
So then what are the emotions that are connected to survival? Let's name them, anger, aggression, hostility, hatred, competition, fear, anxiety, worry, pain, suffering, guilt, shame, unworthiness, envy jealousy. Those are all created by the hormones of stress. And psychology calls them normal human states of consciousness, I call those altered states of consciousness.
So then we tend to remember those traumatic events more because in survival, you better be ready if it happens again. And in one's survival gene is switched on you could have ten really great things that happen to you in your day and you just have one bad thing that happens and you cannot take your attention off that unhappy thing because the survival gene is switched on.
It's really interesting. How does epigenetics come into play in all this. What's actually happening? You've talked pretty profoundly about proteins and like really at a deep level how we're signalling to our genetics to create these kinds of changes. What does that actually look like?
Well, epigenetics. Epi means above the gene. And many years ago after the DNA helix was discovered by Watson and Crick, they said the blueprints of life, you know, all diseases are created from genes. It turns out less than 5%, more like 1%. of people on the planet are born with a genetic condition like type 1 diabetes or Tay-sachs disease or sickle cell anemia. The other 95 to 99 percent are created by lifestyle and by choices. You can take to identical twins with the exact same genome, one dies at 51, the other one dies at 85, same gene different environment.
So, all of a sudden they said, "We lied. That was wrong. It's not genes that create disease. It's the environment that signals the gene that creates disease."
Well, ok, but that's not the whole truth too because you could have two people working side by side in the same factory, one gets cancer after being exposed to a carcinogenic for 25 years, both working for 25 years, he other one has no cancer at all. So there must be some internal order that would cause one person to not get it while another one does.
So is it possible then, if the environment signals the gene, and it does, and the end product of an experience in the environment is called an emotion, can you signal the gene ahead of the environment by embracing an elevated emotion?
We've done the research on this where we measured 7,500 different gene expressions in a group of people. It came to an advanced event for four days. And we had them doing a seated meditation, a walking meditation, a laying down meditation, a standing meditation. And at the end of four days, just four days, the common eight genes that were upregulated, two genes to suppress cancer cells and tumor growth; two genes for neurogenesis the growth of new neurons in response to novel experiences; and learning the gene that signals stem cells to go to damaged areas and repair them; the gene for oxidative stress was upregulated.
We started seeing all these genes that are very, very healthy to cause the body to flourish. Imagine if people were doing that for three months. We also measured telomeres - the little shoestrings on the end of DNA that tell us our biological age. We asked people to do the work meditation five out of seven days for 60 days. Measure their telomeres that determine their biological age. sixty days later, seventy four percent of the people lengthen their telomeres, 40 percent significant change, twenty percent a very remarkable change. That means that they got a little bit of their life back if it lengthened by ten percent. They got 10% of their life back.
Before I ask my last question tell these guys where they can find you online.
Sure. My website is just https://drjoedispenza.com. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, we're all over.
And then my final question. What's the impact that you want to have on the world?
I think that the end game for me is to empower people to such a degree that they realize that they need less things outside of them to make them happy, less things outside of them to regulate their moods and their behaviors, and that they begin to use the kind of the power that we all have access to, and into really, and to change the world, to make a difference so that there's more peace, here's more wholeness, there's more connection. That we support and love each other, and we serve better. And I think that we have to start for the most part if everybody's working on themselves. And trying doing their best to present the greatest ideal of themselves to the world, I think the world would be a better place. And so, that's my passion and I'm witnessing it happening now the more than I ever thought I would.
That was incredible Joe. Thank you so much for being here and amazing having you.
Remember that time Ron believed that Harry gave him Liquid Luck?
Felix Felicis, known in the wizarding world as Liquid Luck, is a magical potion that gives it’s drinker good fortune. For a period of time, everything the drinker attempts will be successful. So in the following scene we see Ron dominate the quidditch match, and become Gryffindor’s latest hero. But of course there’s a catch, Harry didn’t actually put the potion in Ron’s drink at all. This is a prime example of the placebo effect.
A placebo is a treatment with no active therapeutic properties. And it’s often used as the control in clinical trials to test the effectiveness of new pharmaceutical drugs. But the effect refers to the physiological phenomenon that usually happens to the control group who was given the placebo treatment.
Their condition improves in a way that is often comparable and sometimes even better than the control group, even though they weren’t given any drugs at all. In cases where the placebo outperforms the drug, researchers come to the conclusion that the pharmaceutical should be deemed ineffective.
But why aren’t they more interested in the fact that these people are getting better with no medicine at all?
It’s no secret that the healthcare industry needs sick people in order to turn over a profit. In a 2018 report, the investment banking company Goldman Sachs looked into the investment potential of biotech research companies who are attempting to create “one shot cures.”
Their conclusion? Cures could be bad for business.
They stated “While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.” So should we really be surprised that nobody’s putting money behind self-healing research? You can’t exactly put “belief” in tablet form and sell it to patients. But that’s sort of what placebos are.
The examples of miraculous placebo effect results are pretty much endless, so we’ll just look at a few.
In 2001, Irving Kirsch from Harvard Medical School used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain data of clinical trials of top antidepressants. He found that in over half of these trials, the drugs didn’t outperform the placebos, and concluded that 80% of the success in those trials was due to the placebo effect.
Several studies have shown that the placebo effect can also affect physical performance. In one of these studies, a group of weight lifters were told that they were being given a legal anabolic steroid. Each of those athletes set all-time personal records in every exercise tested after being administered the fake steroid.
So we have the ability to improve mental conditions and physical performance with our mind, but can the placebo effect go as far as surgery? According to this study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, yes.
A group of 180 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were split into three groups. One group underwent an operation that shaves down the damaged cartilage, one group received a flushing of the knee joint, and one group received a faux surgery. Complete with pre-op, post-op, small incisions on the knee to produce scars, and audio cues that an operation was taking place.
And the results were startling, the patients were followed up with at various times throughout recovery with the last check-in being 24 months after surgery. The data showed that “At no point did either of the intervention groups report less pain or better function than the placebo group.”
And they concluded, “Finally, health care researchers should not underestimate the placebo effect, regardless of its mechanism.”
Some have argued that the placebo effect boils down to good old fashioned bedside manner. In fact, the Senior Medical Fellow at the American Council on Science and health has claimed that it really just goes back to the soul of medicine — ritual, symbolism, trust, hope, and compassion.
And it’s true that the doctor-patient relationship plays a large role in the effectiveness of treatment. Patients with optimistic and compassionate doctors tend to fare better than those who receive treatment from unenthusiastic ones.
But it’s doubtful that this can explain the magic of the placebo effect entirely. After all, there’s something going on physiologically. And to get a better understanding of just what that is, we’re going to have to dive a little deeper.
Bruce Lipton is a cellular biologist who’s research gives us some insight into the mechanism that allows us to heal ourselves. Once upon a time, the planet was populated with single-celled organisms. They did alright for themselves, the protein building blocks of the cells acted as receptors and effectors that took in environmental information and responded accordingly. But after some time these cells started to join together, forming communities that acted as units.
As a means of survival, special cells were tasked with acting as a centralized info processing system or what we would call a brain. In this way, highly evolved animals were able to take in even more information from the environment and relay it to all of the cells throughout the body.
This was great for organizing the flow of signal molecules that regulate the cells’ behaviors.But it also meant that individual cells had to relinquish control to the brain.
And as proud owners of these brains, we can all attest that sometimes our mind generates emotions that are unrelated to our environment and definitely not necessary or conducive to our survival. And these emotion are so strong that they have the ability to override the system.
So that’s great news, right? We can just think happy, healthy, positive thoughts to override the system and cure ourselves of any disease.
Well, not exactly. There’s an important distinction to be made about the instructions that our mind is sending to the rest of our body. Some are coming from our conscious mind, but most are coming from our subconscious mind. And unfortunately, the one that we have control over is only driving the bus about 5% of the time.
Our conscious mind is where we generate thoughts, but our subconscious mind is actually where most of our instructions are coming from whether we realize it or not.
Our subconscious mind acts out of habits and experiences that are formed over a lifetime, but most of which are programmed before we even reach adolescence. It’s where we store all of our fears and past traumas, so it’s no surprise that it might be operating under disempowering programs which conflict with the best intentions of our conscious mind.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Dr. Lipton believes that these programs can be easily overwritten through things like meditation, hypnotherapy, and various other forms of energy psychologies.
But how could these woo woo sounding modalities possibly work better than the chemicals that directly alter the functions and behaviors of particular cells? It turns out that cells respond much better to energy signals than they do to chemical signals.
When a chemical bond is made, most of the cell’s energy is wasted through chemical coupling. So very little energy is left to take in information and respond to the signal. On the other hand, energy signals link with a cell’s available energy to relay environmental information which according to Oxford biologist C.W.F. McLare makes them 100% more efficient at receiving and responding to signals.
So now the placebo effect results aren’t such a mystery. We see why simply thinking our health will improve can be just as, if not more powerful than a chemical telling our cells to do something different. After all, thoughts are just energetic vibrations.
Now all of this isn’t to say that pharmaceuticals shouldn’t have a place in modern medicine or that every disease can be cured simply by positive thinking. But it is important to recognize that we have powerful internal resources to call upon and integrate into our overall health.
Humans have an innate desire to believe in magic. That’s why it’s so tempting to turn to magical pills and potions when something in our life isn’t going the way we want it to. But just like we saw before, magic doesn’t necessarily require wands and spells. We’re the drivers of our biology, and we have the ability to rewrite our data. The magic is already within us.
Rapé is a legal sacred shamanic medicine that has been used by healers of the Amazon basin for thousands of years. It is pronounced ‘ha-peh’ in English, but is also referred to as ‘hape’, ‘hapi’, or ‘rapay’ by Westerners. These medicines are very rare, sacred, powerful, and profoundly healing and cleansing, and are made in a very sacred and labor intensive process. Rapé is a complex herbal snuff composed of a blend of pulverized Amazonian medicinal plants, trees, leaves, seeds, and other sacred ingredients, often with a tabacco base.
Traditionally, Rapé is applied by using a pipe made from bamboo, which is blow through each nostril on both sides. It can be self-administered using a "kuripe", a V-shaped self-applicator pipe which connects the mouth to the nostrils. It can also be administered by another person using a "tepi", a blow pipe which connects the blower’s mouth to the other person’s nostrils.
As the blend is blown high up into the nostrils, it immediately focuses the mind, stops the chattering, and opens the entire freed mindspace for your intentions. Furthermore, rapé helps releasing emotional, physical, and spiritual illnesses and eases negativity and confusion, enabling a thorough grounding of your mind. Likewise, rapé is used to re-align the user with their energy channels and with their higher self, and to intensify their connection with the world and the universe. In addition, rapé paves the way for detoxifying the body and cleans out all excess mucus, toxins, and bacteria, thereby, assisting in fighting colds, sniffles and certain kinds can even help with the flu. Blowing the Tepi involves an intimate connection between the rapé giver and receiver. Both are closely connected by mouth, nose and by breath, and both need to open and allow the other spirit and intention to enter, permitting the healing to take place. After blowing, it is recommended to sit with the medicine and meditate for about a half hour or so. It is best to remain with the eyes closed, while inhaling and exhaling slowly (more effective through the nose), enabling a thorough grounding and maintenance of focus.
Today, indigenous tribes in the Amazon basin continue to use rapé in all aspects of life, from formal ritual use in rites of puberty, initiation, cashiri drinkings festivals, social gatherings and healing ceremonies, to simply tuning into Nature and the healing power of sacred plant medicines alone or with friends.
Traditionally, rapé is applied by using a pipe made from bamboo or bone, which is blown through each nostril on both sides. You always blow into the left nostril first to represent a metaphorical death, and then into the right nostril to represent rebirth. You always put the shorter end of either pipe in your mouth to blow, and the longer end goes inside the nostril.
According to the Brazilian Yawanawa Tribe, there are three different ways to blow rapé:
Some recommend working with rapé twice per day to begin with – once in the morning and once in the evening. However, this depends on each person’s tolerance levels and also their personal situation. If you are going through a particularly stressful and sick period, you may decide to use it more regularly. For some people several times a week is fine, or only during Ayahuasca or other medicine ceremonies. For others, they may need to work intensively with these medicines to do some very deep work, purging, and intensive healing. Please listen to your body, intuition, and the spirit of these sacred medicines – they will guide you, as to what’s best for you personally.
A half a pea-sized amount of rapé for each nostril for beginners, and then increasing the dosage after prolonged use of one type of rapé. However, everyone has naturally difference tolerance levels, so some people may require larger doses, and others smaller doses. Please experiment to see what works for you personally.
If you have a lot of phlegm or mucous in the back of your throat, dripping down your throat, or in your mouth, then spit it out immediately, as it’s toxic or negative energy that is being released and expelled. You do not want to swallow it back inside. In order to prevent the rapé from dripping into your throat, you will want to keep your head down so it will drip down through your nose and not in your throat.
You should try to keep the rapé in your nostrils for as long as comfortably possible so the medicine can be absorbed through the bloodstream. It is best to breathe in through the nose if possible for this. Then, you can blow your nose with tissue as many times as it’s necessary for you.
Chakra Openings. (2019). How to use Rapé. [online] Available at: https://chakraopenings.com/pages/what-is-rape [Accessed 4 May 2019].
Liana, L. (2017). Rapé - the Sacred Amazonian Snuff You Blow Up Your Nose. [online] EntheoNation. Available at: https://entheonation.com/blog/rape-amazonian-snuff/ [Accessed 4 May 2019].
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:
Ayurveda offers insight into the earlier stages and enables those monitoring their health to take care of any small imbalances well before developing any serious illness. The length of the each stage may vary from weeks, to months, even years, depending on the person and the degree of aggravation.
The six stages of disease development are:
The first stage, accumulation, represents imbalance, a build up or collection of something in the body. Being exposed to and acquiring a pathogen via the external environment is an example of accumulation. This stage can also be caused by the internal environment, such as from eating an imbalanced diet leading to excess inflammation or mucous. Accumulation in the body leads to the the next stage, aggravation.
As the imbalanced elements continue to increase, the symptoms become more aggravated and will begin to be noticed throughout the body. This stage is a sign of continued accumulation. This stage can manifest, as seen in the Kapha state, as loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, excess saliva, oversleeping, sluggishness; or as seen in the Pitta state, as increased acidity, burning sensations in the abdomen, lowered vitality, or insomnia; or as seen in the Vata state, as pain in the lower abdomen, excess flatulence, and light-headedness.
Once the site of origin is full with excess accumulation and is aggravated, it will begin to overflow into or disseminate throughout the rest of the body using different channels of transportation. Overflow typically begins in the GI tract, then spilling into the circulating plasma and blood, allowing the accumulation to spread systemically, and eventually seeping into the organs and tissues (dhātus). Simultaneously, the symptoms at the site of origin will grow worse.
The excess accumulation will then move to wherever a weak site exists in the body. This is where and when diseases begin to develop. This stage is also where genetics matter; the weak spots are determined by genetics - as the saying goes, genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger. This stage can manifest, as seen in the Vata state, as arthritis. In a Pitta state, this can be seen as an ulcer, and in the Kapha state, manifestation may begin in the lungs. At this stage, healing is still regarded as simple.
This is the first state of the development of illness for which modern Western medicine can detect signs of disease. It is at this stage where diseases progress and become fully developed, showing signs of clinical features. Manifested imbalances are given names at this stage, such as arthrosclerosis, cancer, colitis, etc. It is at this stage where conventional medicine attempts to mask the symptoms by offering pharmaceutical drugs.
Complications of the dis-ease begin at this final stage. Often times, conventional medicine attempts to solve the problem by simply removing the affected tissue (e.g., small intenstine, colon, thyroid, etc.) from the body. The symptoms become clear enough so that the elemental cause (i.e., dosha constitution such as Vata, Kapha, Pitta) may be determined. Some medical professionals describe this stage as the chronic phase of development. For example, if one develops inflammation in the manifestation stage, in this stage, complications set in, and the inflammation may grow worse into a chronic problem.
Being aware of the stages of the dis-ease process is helpful because one can gain a better understanding in how prevent, and perhaps even reverse, it. To be clear, the information provided here is not claiming to treat, cure or diagnose disease.
Cabral, S. (2018). The 6 Stages of the Disease Process (Ayurvedic Principle). [podcast] The Cabral Concept. Available at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cabral-concept-by-stephen/id1071469441?mt=2
Tirtha, S. (2007). The Āyuveda encyclopedia. Bayville, NY. Ayurveda Holistic Center Press.
The environment that we live in is toxic. It is worrisome to think that the status quo has occurred with the help of corporations knowingly dumping harmful chemicals into the environment.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has studied the current state of our world in great detail and has discovered that before a child is even born they already have approximately 287 toxins in their blood and tissues. These results came from 10 newborns whose parents gave permission to have their toxins measured at birth.
The results of this study indicate that an average of 200 chemicals was found in each newborn. Of the toxins tested, 47 were consumer ingredients such as cosmetics, 212 were industrial and pesticide byproducts. In this study, only around 400 total chemicals were actually tested for - thousands of others may have been found if larger parameters were used.
Many of the toxins measured in the newborns included plastics, flame retardants, and other chemicals that disrupt brain function, IQ, hormones, and the nervous system of the child. Some of the toxins observed like DDT, have actually been banned since 1972 (over 3 decades ago), but are still being measured in laboratory samples. Certain chemicals never fully degrade in the environment.
So, there is not question about it, the environment we live in is toxic. All of us have disease-creating toxins inside of our bodies, the question boils down to which ones and how much.
But there are some solutions: lab tests and detoxification.
What causes addiction? Easy, right? Drugs cause addiction. But maybe it is not that simple.
Research from Bruce K. Alexander indicates that addiction is not caused by the chemical, it is caused by the environment. The answer to addiction is not sobriety, it is connection.
Welcome to the first episode of our brand new docuseries - Remedy: Ancient Medicine for Modern Illness.
(If you are not registered for the full Remedy docuseries yet, click this link to join us for all 9 episodes - https://remedy.thesacredscience.com/r... )
Episode 1 is called “The Quest For Lost Medicine” and it lays the groundwork for the entire series - some of what you will witness may shock you… Over the 9-part Remedy series, we’ll be uncovering powerful herbal remedies for major diseases - but first, we need to understand why this vital healing information has been kept from us.
Here’s some of what we will reveal in this first episode…
This eye-opening episode sets the stage for everything else we cover in the Remedy docuseries. Again, if you are not registered for the full series, click here - https://remedy.thesacredscience.com/r...
What is the fastest way to health? It's simply honesty being honest with yourself. We each have four doctors within ourselves: Dr. Happiness, which is what is our concept of what makes us happy (what am you living for?); Dr. Quiet which is how do you create adequate rest to regenerate yourself to have a clear mind and to let my body recover from any stress; Dr. Diet (how do you tune into your body's particular nutritional needs?); and Dr. Movement, which is the difference between Working Out and Working In and putting those movement types to use in your life.
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.
People’s first experience of the system is often profoundly alienating. This is not the fault of their teachers but of the system itself, which assesses us for a particular kind of intelligence. We pass or fail on ridiculously narrow criteria.
I was lucky at school because I had the kind of intelligence that they were looking for - linear, analytical, hyperlexic. It was only after leaving school that I realized that in other respects I was a complete dummy. Give me any spatial task and I fall to pieces. I stumble over cognitive tasks that other people can perform in their sleep.
I have a close friend who can diagnose almost any engine fault just by listening. In this respect he is a genius: he has a spatial, navigational intelligence that is off the scale. But he was deemed a total failure at school. He was confronted with tests that did not fit the way his mind worked.
I expect you’ve come across plenty of people like this: people you know are bright, but they are bright in the wrong way. In other words, they are bright in a way that isn’t being assessed. The truth is that there are lots of different intelligences. And we shouldn’t be surprised. During the evolutionary phase of our history, a group of people would be more likely to survive if its different members saw the world in different ways. Some people could make excellent tools. Some people could hunt very well. Some people were good at looking out for danger. Some people could tell the stories that would inform the next generation. Some people were good at strategizing how to get through a long winter. We needed a load of different intelligences in order to survive. But nowadays we are treated as if only one kind of intelligence is valid. Anyone with a different intelligence is deemed stupid.
The way we are schooled compounds this alienation. How did we get to the point that we believe the best way of schooling children is to sit them behind a desk and insist they keep still. Children? Keeping still? That’s difficult for anyone, but especially for kids with a roaming, navigational mind.
I’ve done some volunteering with an adventure learning charity. The first time I took one of these groups out, we were rock pooling on the shore. Most of the kids had never seen the sea before, never visited the countryside before. And there was one kid who stood out. He was brilliant. He was there at my shoulder all the time. Whenever I said, “what’s this?” or “why is it this color?”, he would hazard a guess. And they were always interesting answers. He was finding things, catching things, picking things up. And after a couple of hours, I said to his teacher, “That kid is a genius.” She said “him? He’s bottom of the class.”
If a kid like that is failing, it’s not the kid’s fault. The fault is with the system. As I say, I don’t blame the teachers because they have to teach to the system. Plenty of teachers desperately want to do creative things with the children, to discover their different intelligences, but they are forbidden to do so. That child in the rockpools: if the system has failed to recognize his intelligence, the system has failed.
If an intelligent child fails the tests designed to assess a different kind of intelligence, they become alienated. Not just from school, but from the system as a whole. The danger is that they then become alienated from public life, alienated from society. Eventually alienated from themselves.
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.
Suggested dosage for nature exposure
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
Kotera, Y., Richardson, M. & Sheffield, D. (2022). Effects of Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy on Mental Health: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Int J Ment Health Addiction 20, 337–361. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00363-4
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
Li Q. (2022). Effects of forest environment (Shinrin-yoku/Forest bathing) on health promotion and disease prevention -the Establishment of "Forest Medicine". Environ Health Prev Med. doi: 10.1265/ehpm.22-00160. PMID: 36328581; PMCID: PMC9665958.
Louv, R. (2012). The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. Algonquin Books.
We are moving into a higher state of consciousness. However, we have all been limited by our subconscious programming. Everyone of us has been programmed. While these subconscious programs are a requirement to life, they are not inherently negative. The negative part of subconscious programming is the deleterious programs.
Life requires programs for a very simple reason - before humans can be conscious, we require the programs to operate consciousness. As an infant is born into a family and has to become a member of the community, there are rules that must be followed; every culture has rules. Rules cannot be genetic, since rules change all the time from culture to culture. So as we come into the world, we must first download behavior to learn how to be a member of the family and community in order to participate collectively. During the first seven years of a child's life, the brain is operating as a lower vibrational frequency (as measured by EEGs) and is essentially in a state of hypnosis. Thus, during these first seven years, we observe, record, and download other people's behaviors in our subconscious mind in order to participate.
Unfortunately, psychologists today have discovered that 70% or more of our programs are disempowering, self-sabotaging, and limiting. Most of the programs that we have downloaded are critical of ourselves. This was due to the behavior of parents criticizing their children in an effort to goad them to be better off when they grow up. In the first seven years, when the recording and downloading is occurring, consciousness is not at full capacity, and the child does not understand the good intentions behind the parents' criticism. The child is in a state of hypnosis and records these self-limiting programs. The function of the mind is to take the programs that we downloaded and create reality using those programs. Thus, we are all operating from various programs. The problem is that many of the programs are negative and self-destructive.
The relevance of this relates to the health status of the entire planet. Only 1% of all disease is associated with genetics. Over 90% of the health care issues that people around world face today have nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with lifestyle and their perception of the world.
Via the growing field of epigenetics, researchers have discovered that genes do not control health. There is a ubiquitous misconception, or program is you will, that genes turn off and on, and give us our characteristics, be they physical, emotional, behavioral. The genes do not control anything - the environment in which the cells are placed controls the expression of the cell. Epigenetic researchers have discovered this conclusion by various experiments, one of which includes placing genetically identical cells in three different petri dishes. The cells were identical in each of the dishes but what changed was the environment in which the cells were placed, that is the composition of the culture medium serum. In the end, each of the genetically identical cells ends with a different fate; one becomes a muscle cell, one becomes a bone cell, and one becomes a fat cell. The perplexing conclusion is that the genes are not controlling the fate of the cell (they all have the same genes) - it's the environment.
The phenomena of the cell in a petri dish responding to various types of culture mediums can be extrapolated and applied to the entire human body. When you look at your body and see a single entity, there is a misconception, because the human body is composed of trillions of cells. The cells in the body are the living entity. You, the name in which you go by, are a gigantic community made up of trillions of cells, that live in and on your skin working in harmony to create your life. Thus, in essence, the body is akin to a skin-covered petri dish with trillions of cells. When researchers recreate the petri dish experiment, the growth medium is synthesized to be similar to the blood of the organelle. Therefore, the growth medium, in terms of the human body, is the equivalent of blood.
So, in the petri dish experiment, the genetics of the cell are controlled by the composition of the culture medium, which is the equivalent of blood. In the body, which is a collection of trillions of cells in a skin-covered petri dish, the genetics of the cells are controlled by the composition of the culture medium, which is the blood. Thus, the chemistry of the blood, the culture medium, is controlling the genetics of the cells.
So what is it that controls the chemistry of the blood? The nervous system is the conductor, synthesizing chemicals to coordinate all the functions, and sending those chemicals to the body through the blood. Well what controls the nervous system? Here's the astonishing conclusion...
Whatever paradigm, or picture, you have in your mind about yourself, your life, and the world, is read by the brain, and that picture is broken up and translated into a variety of chemicals which are released to the body. Your body becomes a complement, or a reflection of the picture created in the mind.
In other words, life starts with the picture, or paradigm, in one's mind. The brain analyzes that picture and converts it into a panoply of chemicals, known as neuropeptides, which will complement that picture. That vast array of chemicals is released into the body to control your genetics, behavior, and the overall outcome of your life.
Researchers can and have observed the change of circulating levels of hormones in various individuals believing different paradigms. For example, if a person begins to see and feel the world with the experience and perspective of love, the nervous system releases wonderful chemicals into the body such as dopamine, perceived as pleasure, oxytocin, perceived as the bondage between two individuals, and growth hormone, perceived as an overall healthy, vibrant glow. This is because the chemistry of the culture medium is affected by the picture of love in the mind of the individual. Conversely, if we take another individual and that person creates an image of fear and hate about themselves and the world, researchers observe elevated levels of cortisol, perceived as stress, and inflammatory agents, which are released by the brain, resulting in compromised biological adaptations and genetics.
The way we see the world in our mind is the how we create our reality.
Now it is up to us to change the subconscious programs to be in line with our conscious beliefs, in order to create the reality we desire. Easier said than done.
Lipton, B. (2016). The biology of belief. Hay House, Inc.
Myss, C. and Shealy, C. (1998). The creation of health: The emotional, psychological, and spiritual responses that promote health and healing. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Shapiro, D. (2007). Your body speaks your mind: understanding how your emotions and thoughts affect you physically. London: Piatkus 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
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.