In this podcast I am going to discover ways in which breathing can help us optimize our sport abilities, stress, focus, sleep and even healing our own bodies. Every episode I talk to an expert and dive deeper into the fascinating world of breathing. The first step of the journey starts with Liesbeth vander Elst. I travel to Ghent to interview her about her own journey.

In 2015, at the age of 28 she was diagnosed with spondylitis arthritis, a rheumatic disorder and the doctors gave her a pretty grim outlook on life and basically told her that at one point she wouldn’t even be able to walk anymore.

We talk about overcoming that disease, breathwork, cold exposure and taking back control of your own health and life.

Facts about Liesbeth



10 minutes

Longest ice bath

One breath break

favorite breath

More about rheumatic diseases

Liesbeth mentions one of the studies that has been done on the effects of breathwork and cold exposure on rheumatic diseases. I found this video that explains very thoroughly how inflammation in the body actually works:

The nitty gritty science explained

The research was set-up as a proof of concept, with a test - and control group. The test group followed the Wim Hof method, including cold showers, breathwork,* meditation (15 - 20 minutes) and an ice bath every week (under supervision).
This study shows that several values improved. Such as ESR (from 16 - 9 mm/h), ASDAS-CRP from 3.1 - 2.3 and also an increase in calprotectin.  No difference was found in the control group. several values didn't change: for example the CRP-hs value, nor did the degree of anxiety and depression change among patients. (The explanation of the medical terms is below).
Keep in mind that the aim of the study was to determine whether patients with rheumatism could safely perform this protocol, which was confirmed.
The benefits have not yet been scientifically proven, the test group was too small for that and - because there is a clear difference between the test and control group - there is a chance of a placebo effect.
Placebo or not, if the quality of life of a patient with rheumatism can be improved by these exercises and the exercises are found to be safe, why not give it a try?

The definitions explained:

ESR: The rate at which red blood cells settle to the bottom of a test tube in a blood test. Normally red blood cells sink relatively slowly to the bottom, a fast sinking time can indicate inflammation in the body. People who suffer from rheumatism have high inflammatory values, therefore their ESR is also relatively high.

Another index that is used in rheumatism is ASDAS-CRP
ASDAS-CRP is an index to measure the disease activity in AS (Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic disease in which there is inflammation at the level of the spine and joints.

ASDAS_ESR is a more subjective index. The values are expressed on a scale of 1 - 10 by the patient itself.
ASDAS-ESR = 0.08 x Back Pain + 0.07 x Duration of Morning Stiffness + 0.11 x Patient Global + 0.09 x Peripheral Pain/Swelling + 0.29 x √(ESR)

Calprotectin is an anti-inflammatory protein found in white blood cells

CRP-hs adds prognostic value to the total chol/HDL ratio in predicting the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease.

* The patients were asked to inhale and exhale deeply 30 times (hyperventilation), then they exhaled and held their unforced breath until they felt the respiratory impulse (need to breathe)
After the last breath, patients were also asked to do strength exercises such as push-ups.

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