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Found My Fitness Podcast: Dr. Pierre Capel on the Power of the Mind & the Science of Wim Hof


www.foundmyfitness.com @foundmyfitness

Dr. Pierre Capel is a professor emeritus in experimental immunology, but also studies how humans was withstand extreme cold, including Wim Hof (previous guest who was able to site in an ice bath for almost 2 hours.

In short, thermo-pain receptors are affected by blood level pH which mediates the body’s cold reaction. Meditation affects gene expression and molecular activity in the body.

  • Cold Therapy:A group of people trained to submerge themselves in ice cold water by meditating and using breathing techniques that lowered blood pH by reducing CO2. This response results in a thermosensor protein uncoupling from a pain receptor and so pain is no longer felt in response to the cold.
  • Rhonda has become interest in how temperatures affect the body. Mice put in very cold environments were shown to develop new brain cells and to repair cell pathways once they were removed from the extreme temperature. This may explain similar mechanisms in response to hybernation.
  • Spicy peppers cause the body’s normal temperature to drop, and so indigenous people in tropical climates can stay cooler despite the harsh sun by eating them.
  • Menthol or Eucalyptus are sometimes rubbed into a person’s chest when they are cold. This increases the blood flow by dilating the blood vessels. This allows for the amount of chemicals from the immune system to increase, lowering the chances of catching a cold. Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s mom rubbed it on her when she was a kid, but she never knew why.
  • People are attracted to each other based on smell. Everyone’s immune system is better at protecting against different diseases. Chemicals from the immune system are released in sweat, and so we can smell who has a different immune system than us.


  • Rhonda Patrick agrees and noted that stress has negative effects on health and ages the brain. Natural stress, though, has a big influence on survival, like how animals run and fight.
    • Adrenaline affects the heartbeat, sweating, and power.
      • This is a good response, but has a strong effect on the body.
    • Extended stress is not good.
      • Chronic stress is extended stress.
        • Worry is a chronic stress.
        • Stress from diseases [and/or injuries], such as leukemia, are chronic stressors.
        • Some stress is outside of a person’s competence to cope, but the effect that stress has on the body can be mediated.
          • You may not be able to control the stressor, what is causing the stress, but you can control how you respond to the stressor.
        • Anxiety and negative thoughts are natural, but spending a portion of time in the day to clear the mind (i.e. meditating) can change the use of hundreds of genes in the body.
          • Negative stress can be buffered with meditation and exercise.
            • Physical work has a direct effect on psychological problems.
              • Staying active and having time to be mindful of the present are important.
  • Question to the Audience: You are busy with obligations, but where in your agenda is your daily half hour for yourself (sleep doesn’t count)?
  • If no, you should find a way to say yes
    • Sleep is important, without it for 7 days, you will die, and memories and emotions are effected by sleep inactively.
    • Meditation is active. DNA repair and gene regulation are an active process.
      • Genes can be turned on and off during meditation.
        • Brain scans and blood flow measurements show that activity in the brain changes within 30 seconds and blood flow changeswithin 5-10 minutes.
          • Meditation resets many basic functions.

DNA Is Dynamic, Note Static:

  • There is a common misconception that DNA is static, but that is not true.
    • 20,000 genes are used in a dynamic way.
    • DNA chips can be purchased commercially and tested in labs. These chips determine which gene is on or off in a cell.
      • When this test is done on people who are sad and alone, there were 209 elementary changes in the immune system, homrones, and the metabolism, etc.
        • Feeling happy or unhappy changes the use of hundreds of genes.
          • Actively trying to be happy and to enjoy life, striving for internal ease, switches on and off genes.
        • Rats are normally social animals, so when they are isolated, even under the best of living conditions, tumor growth rates spike from 20% to 80%, tumors are 84 times larger and they metastasize.
          • Loneliness affects tumor development.
          • Happiness reduced tumor growth by 60%.
          • On a biochemical level, a growth factor necessary for blood vessels in and maintenance of a tumor can actively reproduce if it is unregulated by a transcription factor that responds to loneliness.
            • Harmony reduces the growth factor of the tumor and it shrinks.

Stress, Isolation and the Immune System:

  • There is empirical evidence that social isolation increases the inflammatory immune response.
  • Being happy and positive makes a statistical difference in how people cope with disease and what their life expectancy is.
  • When animals are wounded, stress affects the speed of healing.
    • A study was done that showed faster wound healing in animals when they were given extra nest material in their habitats.
    • There was a boy who is often ill when he was young, so he spent a lot of time resting alone in his room. He was able to see a beautiful tree outside through his window, this helped him to feel better. He later became a surgeon and noticed that patients with better views did better overall.
      • They took less pain medication and had short stays in the hospital.
    • Another study that found that people who walked in nature had less clinical symptoms of depression and anxiety than people who primarily walked in an urban setting.
    • Animal studies have shown that stress raises cortisol levels and dampens the immune response.
      • Pierre Capal said this may be why the wound healing response is delayed.
        • Cortisol has its own circadian rhythms, higher during the day and lower at night. Almost every cell has a cortisol receptor and 1/5th of genes are under the control of cortisol.
        • Stress responses are more than a cortisol or adrenaline response, it is a complex mechanism, or chain of biochemical events.
          • These stress hormones affect heartbeat, sweating, anxiety, and the immune system, mood, depression, and psychosis are also influenced.
        • Gamma interferon is used to treat cancer, but it also causes psychosis while influencing the immune system and the central nervous system
          • Inflammatory reactions affect the mind and the mind affects the immune system.
          • The central nervous system may trigger an immune or inflammatory response. A person can get a disease from a psychological stress factor.
            • Mental problems give rise to physical problems.
            • Physical problems give rise to mental problems.
          • Gamma Interferon led people to depression, but those treated with Gamma Interferon and with EPA did not get symptoms of depression.


  • Meditation influences the response to a stressful event affect wound healing and the limbic system’s regulation of emotions.
  • In the immune system, the inflammatory response goes down in response to meditation.
  • We are affected by the world via our senses, but these senses are handled by the limbic system in the brain, which reacts immediately. This system is responsible for emotions.
    • The limbic system requires hundreds of areas to work together, including pain and fear in the amygdala, motor movements in the cortex, and conscious thinking.
      • Emotions are not easily rewired. If someone is afraid of a spider, telling them not to be won’t get rid of their fear. Emotion and conscious thinking are controlled by separate areas of the brain.
        • Meditation disconnects emotions from cognitive thought. This is important because thinking almost always disturbs the balance of emotions. Negative thoughts about the future may never come true.
        • Meditation results in a normal balance of neurotransmitters in the limbic system.
        • Meditation disconnects the ego, “I” am afraid: Stop thinking and start being.
        • Focusing on breathing doesn’t leave room to focus on problems.
        • The limbic system controls a lot of stress. Meditation affects the immune system and stress response. Meditating regularly causes a positive, constant, and fundamental change.
      • A study trained people to meditate for 8 weeks. 5 regions of the brain changed, including a decreased fear response in the amygdala.
      • Pierre Capal meditates everyday for about 20 minutes to music. Meditation isn’t hocus pocus, it is a type of mental concentration by which you do not think.
        • When he was younger, stress caused him to gain weight and get gray hair. He developed metabolic syndrome. To fix this, he went to a museum in Holland where he spent time in nature and looked at beautiful things.

More information can be seen at meditationtogo.nl.

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