Researchers John A. Chavez and Mauro Zappaterra have shared a very promising theory in the journal Medical Hypotheses.
Based on existing corroborative research, they suggest that Wim Hof Method breathing could accelerate the clearing of waste that builds up in the brain. If their hypothesis is proven true, it would have huge implications for medical treatment of people with neurodegenerative conditions.
Just like the space behind your fridge, your brain slowly accumulates gunk. But instead of dust caked into old coffee, the spaces between your neurons fill up with things called “beta amyloid plaques” and “tau protein tangles”. These dudes are trouble because over time, they create all sorts of nasty neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Don’t panic— most all of this waste gets cleaned out when we sleep, via something called cerebrospinal fluid. However not everyone sleeps soundly, and there is a strong relationship between conditions such as insomnia and neurodegeneration.
We’ve known for a very long time that this waste clearance is upregulated during bedtime hours. However only in the last decade have we learned that cerebrospinal fluid movement is primarily governed by respiration.
This is of course massively interesting. Wim Hof previously upended the notion that the autonomic nervous system cannot be consciously influenced, and now this new hypothesis suggests that yet another biological mechanism currently thought to be involuntary can in fact be consciously throttled.
So how would this work, physiologically speaking? During the retention phase of WHM breathing, the arteries in your brain dilate, causing more blood to come in. This in turn forces the cerebrospinal fluid out, carrying the waste with it. So by doing WHM breathing, you would be actively sweeping out the cobwebs of your brain.
It has already been established that deep breathing increases the influx of cerebrospinal fluid into the brain, and that subsequently holding your breath increases cerebral blood volume. All the clues point in the right direction. What’s needed now is to get a study going that puts the final pieces of the puzzle into place.
Sirs Chavez and Zappaterra posit a study that would monitor individuals doing WHM breathing, with fMRI and PET instruments imaging the cerebrospinal fluid clearance. Once the theorized mechanism has been established, the protocol could be tested on people who suffer from cognitive impairment, to see if it reverses their symptoms.
Eventually and hopefully, Wim Hof Method breathing could be added to the treatment package for people who suffer from neurodegenerative conditions, alongside the current measures. A big added benefit of the Wim Hof Method is of course that it comes at much lower cost than drug treatments, and has no side effects.
A recent study into pain perception showed similar promise for Wim Hof Method practice to be added to existing medical interventions. We are incredibly excited to see the Wim Hof Method slowly but surely be considered as valid and effective medical treatment, so that people worldwide can get happy, strong and healthy.