Pushing Our Limits to Achieve Health
Pushing Our Limits to Achieve Health
The human body is an absolute marvel. The more I learn and experience, the greater my sense of awe. It’s incredible that we have studied our anatomy for years and there are still organs and functions we don’t fully understand. We have yet to create any piece of technology that rivals the body’s efficiency and complexity. This fact is illustrated by those among us who choose to test the perceived limits of our bodies’ capabilities. The account of one such individual has forever altered my life and transformed my view of our innate abilities.
The man’s name is Wim Hof. He has developed the ability to control his autonomic nervous and immune system. This allows him to perform feats such as withstanding extreme cold and avoiding the sequelae of exposure to endotoxin. I initially thought that he was born with a genetic variant that provided him with these abilities. However, extensive studies and examinations of him and his twin brother have proved otherwise. Furthermore, Mr. Hof has shown that he can teach others to do the same. Check out a documentary on the subject here.
The more I learned about Mr. Hof, the more I wondered, could I use his methods to tap into the human body’s innate ability to persevere and heal?
Pushing my limits
I decided to test my own limits of cold tolerance. Over the past year, I have been experimenting with cold showers. I had heard about the possible benefits of reducing inflammation, improving mood, and strengthening personal mindsets by promoting tolerance to uncomfortable situations.
In winter, I started gradually by wearing a sport coat instead of a heavy winter coat when outdoors. Eventually, I was able to comfortably go out in a short sleeved polo shirt with scrub pants regardless of the temperature or weather, even in heavy snow. The experience was exhilarating and empowering.
I had been taught and grew to believe that I needed to protect myself from the cold in order to avoid illness. Though many of us are aware of the fact that cold exposure is not directly associated with respiratory ailments such as the common cold or flu, we still choose to adhere to the habits we learned as children that support comfort rather than health. I echo the sentiment expressed by Wim Hof that our pursuit of comfort and our modern day obsession with it is limiting the resilience of our bodies and our ability to overcome and prevent disease. My experiences, to date, corroborate this.
Harnessing natural abilities
As discussed by Dr. Lissa Rankin in multiple TED Talks, Dr. Ranjan Chattergee in his book, The Stress Solution, and Dr. Joe Dispenza in his book, Evolve Your Brain, our bodies have the natural ability to deal with essentially every disease and ailment we know of. We simply have to figure out what is interfering with the intrinsic processes and/or develop the ability to maximize their effectiveness.
Pain management is one I investigated for myself. As I learn more about the shortcomings of pharmaceuticals, I look to minimize or eliminate my reliance on them. Thankfully, the only medication I have taken consistently for most of my life is over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. However, after reviewing the nature of pain and the body’s response to it, I have changed this habit as well.
As many of you may remember, pain is a neural impulse that the brain receives, signifying an abnormal condition involving the tissue adjacent to the nerves (for example, irritation or injury). Feeling uncomfortable or upset about pain is a learned behavior that actually perpetuates the discomfort. Research shows that neurotransmitters and hormones that promote negative moods slow healing and promote upregulation of pain receptors. In individuals with chronic pain, this cycle gains strength and efficiency to the point that it actually becomes their homeostasis.
The opposite is true of endorphins and other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, associated with euphoria and bliss. They are natural opioids and are more potent than their prescribed counterparts. Therefore, they are the best option for pain management and elimination.
Moving beyond pain
I can attest to this. Over the last six months, I have successfully eliminated severe back and calf pains without medication. Instead, I expressed gratitude for the pain and committed to regular exercise and stretching of the affected areas in order to release endorphins and train my body to do this effectively and efficiently. I believe many of us are capable of this through dedication and discipline. We can use similar habits and practices to manage and eliminate conditions such as hypertension, glucose intolerance and diabetes, depression, and arthritis. The potential benefit is significant. Why remain dependent on medications when the superior therapeutic processes of our bodies can be bolstered and utilized?
For those of you who are not already convinced or lack the personal experience of the benefits of these methods, I recommend practicing them first for yourself before making suggestions to patients and others. Once you discover the power and wide ranging ability of the incredible machines we call our bodies, you will want to share the knowledge. Let’s stop underestimating and dismissing its ability to self-regulate and maintain in most instances. The might of the body’s internal forces can do without the interference and often unnecessary assistance of many external tools we choose to employ.
Emeka Onyedika, MD, is a physician evaluator conducting in-home health evaluations. To contact him, please send messages to: firstname.lastname@example.org