2
$\begingroup$

The Wim Hof Method claims, that it is beneficial to have alkaline blood.

On the other site there is the medical claim that if the pH-value is not within the range of 7.36 – 7.42, enzyms are not functioning properly and their 3D structure could be broken (denaturation). The correct pH-value is also invaluable for exchange of gases/O2/CO2, proper function of muscle contraction and nerve conductivity.

So: What is this all about and how can this method be so good? After all, they also have conducted medical studies, so there must be some truth in it?! Thanks!

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Before anyone raises this flag: This is not spam (I've checked it). $\endgroup$ – Chris Dec 22 '18 at 15:02
3
$\begingroup$

The Wim Hof method unfolds its health effects by hormetic stressors, respiratory alkalosis is one of them (a minor one). The WHM does not follow the pH theory, even though Wim himself gave ambiguous statements in older interviews about this. The primary mediators of the health effects are considered hormetic stressors such as intermittent hypoxia (via HIF1a signaling and related catecholamine responses - adrenaline) and cold exposure (again releasing catecholamines - noradrenaline and dopamine). There are many people who misinterpret the WHM breath work as plain hyperventilation, which is very wrong. It involves a hyperventilation phase in preparation of a hypoventilation phase, to induce intermittent hypoxia. This is similar to apnea protocols. The hyperventilation phase itself can mediate minor health effects. As it is not a chronic practice but relates to a few minutes per day, the stress of respiratory alkalosis is very likely within the hormetic range, hence beneficial. The WHM does NOT advocate continuous hyperventilation, which is known to be linked to chronic disease (exceeding the hormetic window).

The clinical trials of the WHM are peer reviewed and well conducted. However, people tend to mix Wim's interviews with the clinical evidence, which is obviously bad. The major paper (group study with control group) is this one: https://www.pnas.org/content/111/20/7379.full.pdf

It clearly shows the anti-inflammatory effects and increased leukocytosis of the breath work (intermittent hypoxia) and also shows that blood pH correlates to the respiratory rate, more precisely blood CO2 levels as expected. Those are normal blood gas dynamics, nothing woo woo pH stuff and no serious scientist would attribute the health effects of the method to the temporary blood pH fluctuations seen from a short hyperventilation phase, especially not when far more dominant and better documented effects on hormonal adaptations can be discussed instead. Some practitioners get quite enthusiastic about urine pH measurements, which are VERY high after the breath work, however all this indicates is normal kidney function in response to temporary respiratory alkalosis, nothing fancy at all. The body increases bicarbonate outlet via the kidneys (renal compensation) when blood CO2 gets too low (hyperventilation) to maintain blood pH homeostasis. the pH strips measure this bicarbonate. Another misconception is that the reading would correlate to progress or health, while it actually just correlates with hyperventilation intensity/duration. It is quite annoying how many misconceptions about simple physiological details float around the web, primarily due to the success of the pseudoscientific pH theory and alkaline diet. I guess some people just got rich with that crap...

Understanding the WHM means understanding hormesis and the stress response in the first place. The whole idea is comparable to physical exercise: stress the body enough to become stronger but not so much to take damage.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

It is true that the pH of blood does not normally vary very much and is near neutral pH, 7.36 – 7.42 is a good estimate. It is also true that very different pHs from this would denature proteins, slow down gas exchange and kill cells. The Wim Hof method has not passed peer-review and has common red flags of pseudoscience, such as claims of the method being a panacea and being promoted through pop-health sources instead of medical ones. That's not to say it's absolutely proven to be wrong, but the onus is definitely on them to prove their claims true to the greater scientific community, not the other way around.

After all, they also have conducted medical studies, so there must be some truth in it?!

No, that's not how scientific and medical testing works, we distinguish good medical science from bad by testing against placebos, blinding, repeating the studies, (to mitigate the effect of bias) and meta analysis of multiple studies, and if the studies can pass peer review they are considered scientific evidence. (though not proof, science is provisional.) Simply conducting studies doesn't mean the subject is scientifically sound.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.