The Wim Hof Diaries . . . Translating The Study To Plain Speak
Have you ever read a document and thought; what the hell does that mean?! The chances are you have, and you were possibly reading some terms and conditions, or some medical notes from your doctor. Or perhaps you had some kind of legal contract that you had to look over.
The point is, that once an area becomes specialised, then so too does the language. Whether it is medicalese in the medical profession, or legalise or sciencese, the language is often confusing and impenetrable to anyone who does not work in those industries.
The Plain English Campaign, which I believe was set up by Professor Steven Pinker, exists to make things clear, where otherwise they are not.
I am particularly interested in the language of science, because I believe more people would engage with the scientific process if only the language wasn't so oblique and confusing.
Therefore I've decided to combine my newfound enthusiasm for the Wim Hof method and my desire to see the general public engage with science.
Below I have copied an extract from one of the clinical trials done around the Wim Hof method.
I have put the original in quotation boxes, and their translations directly below. You can read the original then the translation. Or you can just stick with the plain speak version
Wim Hof Study In Plain English
Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans
A study to test whether it is possible to consciously control our immune systems.
Hitherto, both the autonomic nervous system and innate immune system were regarded as systems that cannot be voluntarily influenced.
Up until now scientists believed that the human nervous system, along with the immune system worked automatically.
The present study demonstrates that, through practicing techniques learned in a short-term training program, the sympathetic nervous system and immune system can indeed be voluntarily influenced.
The study discussed here shows that if you practise certain techniques over a short time, it is possible to consciously influence your immune system.
Healthy volunteers practicing the learned techniques exhibited profound increases in the release of epinephrine, which in turn led to increased production of anti-inflammatory mediators and subsequent dampening of the proinflammatory cytokine response elicited by intravenous administration of bacterial endotoxin.
A group of healthy volunteers were shown the techniques and were monitored whilst they practised each day.
Epinephrine is more commonly known as adrenaline, it is a hormone secreted by the medulla of the adrenal glands.
Epinephrine injection is used along with emergency medical treatment to treat life-threatening allergic reactions caused by insect bites or stings, foods, medications, latex, and other causes. Therefore naturally occurring epinephrine is extremely important to the workings of the immune and nervous systems.
The bodies of the volunteers in the study showed increased levels epinephrine, which in turn led to anti-inflammatory hormones being released within them.
The increase of anti-inflammatory hormones within the bodies of the volunteers also helped to stop the effects of a mild toxin, that was intravenously fed into the volunteers' blood stream.
This study could have important implications for the treatment of a variety of conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation, especially autoimmune diseases in which therapies that antagonize proinflammatory cytokines have shown great benefit.
This study could have important implications for the treatment of a variety of conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation. Especially in diseases that have responded in the past to conventional anti-inflamatory treatments and that are also immune to our body's natural defences.
Excessive or persistent proinflammatory cytokine production plays a central role in autoimmune diseases.
Cytokine is a protein that is naturally produced by cells within our immune system. Sometimes too much cytokine can be produced within your body, which can lead to swelling both inside and outside of the body.
Therefore cytokine plays a central role in diseases that cannot be naturally fought off by your body's natural responses.
Acute activation of the sympathetic nervous system attenuates the innate immune response. However, both the autonomic nervous system and innate immune system are regarded as systems that cannot be voluntarily influenced.
In normal circumstances your sympathetic nervous system is activated when you feel ill. This then triggers your immune system to fight off the infection.
However both of these systems act automatically and it is believed that they cannot be manually influenced.
Herein, we evaluated the effects of a training program on the autonomic nervous system and innate immune response.
In this study we tested the effects of a particular training program to see if the autonomic nervous system and the innate immune response can be influenced by conscious actions.
Healthy volunteers were randomized to either the intervention (n = 12) or control group (n = 12).
We placed healthy volunteers into two groups of twelve. The first group was called the intervention group, as they were to be taught the training method. We called the other group the control, as they would carry on as normal with no training.
Subjects in the intervention group were trained for 10 d in meditation (third eye meditation), breathing techniques (i.a., cyclic hyperventilation followed by breath retention), and exposure to cold (i.a., immersions in ice cold water).
The volunteers in the intervention group were trained for ten days in third eye meditation (mindfulness) and a particular breathing technique.
The technique is called cyclic hyperventilation, which is whereby you fill your lungs to maximum capacity. Then instead of breathing out, you simply let go allowing some but not all of the air you just breathed in, to escape.
This is repeated for around forty times, and then after the last letting go of your breath, you start the retention phase. Which simply involves holding your breath for as long as possible, before breathing in one last time, and letting go.
The volunteers then immersed themselves in baths of ice cold water.
The control group was not trained.
The control group was not trained so that we could compare any results from the intervention group. This is to see whether the volunteers practising the method gained any benefits over the ones that were just doing nothing.
Subsequently, all subjects underwent experimental endotoxemia (i.v. administration of 2 ng/kg Escherichia coli endotoxin).
Once we had trained the intervention group for ten days, we hooked up all the volunteers from both groups, to an IV drip.
Through the drip we gave them an endotoxin called Escherichia coli.
In the intervention group, practicing the learned techniques resulted in intermittent respiratory alkalosis and hypoxia resulting in profoundly increased plasma epinephrine levels.
The volunteers in the intervention group were monitored and found to have alkalosis, which is a situation whereby the cells of the body obtain increased alkalinity levels.
The intervention group also experienced hypoxia, or lack of sufficient oxygen, which led to an increase of blood plasma and also epinephrine levels.
In the intervention group, plasma levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 increased more rapidly after endotoxin administration, correlated strongly with preceding epinephrine levels, and were higher.
When we injected the intervention group with the previously mentioned endotoxin, the levels of anti-inflamatory protein cytokine IL-10 increased. This happened alongside the higher epinephrine levels experienced by the subjects.
Levels of proinflammatory mediators TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-8 were lower in the intervention group and correlated negatively with IL-10 levels.
Levels of proteins that increase inflammation, particularly TNF-a, IL-6 and IL-8 were lower in the intervention group and decreased as the (anti-inflammatory) IL-10 protein went up.
Finally, flu-like symptoms were lower in the intervention group.
Other symptoms of the endotoxin include flu-like reactions. However these were also lowered in the intervention group.
In conclusion, we demonstrate that voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system results in epinephrine release and subsequent suppression of the innate immune response in humans in vivo.
In conclusion, with this study we have shown that it is possible to manually control the sympathetic nervous system. When this happens epinephrine is released, and (in the face of an introduced poison) a suppression of the built in immune response in living human tissue.
These results could have important implications for the treatment of conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation, such as autoimmune diseases.
These results could have important implications when it comes to giving out treatments to sufferers of conditions with excessive or persistent inflammation.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE WIM HOF STUDY IN PARTICULAR? ALSO WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE PLAIN SPEECH MOVEMENT? WHAT INDUSTRY IS THE WORST OFFENDER FOR SPEAKING IN HIGHLY SPECIALISED LANGUAGE THAT FEW CAN UNDERSTAND?
PERHAPS YOU THINK I COULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB ON THE PLAIN SPEAK TRANSLATION? AS EVER, LET ME KNOW BELOW!