Researchers found with behavioral training like breathing exercises and meditation, people can learn to modulate their immune system, as the nervous system may exert influence on immune responses, according to a new study, which appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Inspired by Dutch celebrity daredevil Wim Hof who endured lengthy ice-water baths, hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts and made his mark in Guinness World Records with his ability to withstand cold, the research included participants undergoing training by Hof – including swimming in frigid water and lying bare-chested in snow, as well as breathing and meditation exercise.
When exposed to an inflammation test, the participants reported fewer flu-like symptoms than those who did not receive the training. Trained recruits also produced lower amounts of several proteins associated with inflammation, and higher levels of an inflammation-fighting protein called interleukin-10, according to the report.
The findings have raised hopes for patients who have chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, although the results are preliminary, according to Matthijs Kox, a researcher at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands.