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A new way to look at heart health

Reading time: 13 minutes

Medicine has been hard put to explain why infrared sauna treatments can benefit patients with heart failure or high blood pressure. A new theory about water and the heart might explain it, says Dr Stephen Hussey.

Most of us think that the heart pumps blood, and this pumping is the way blood moves through the body.

It is thought that with some help from one-way valves in our veins and the contraction of skeletal muscle, the human heart can contract with enough force to pump blood through our arteries, all the way to the tips of our toes, back through the veins, and to our heart again. This is the conventional wisdom, and it is taught in medical schools all over the world. But what if it’s not correct? 

In the mid-1800s, a German physician and researcher named Johann Thudichum doubted the ability of the heart to move the blood through the entire body and declared, “If there were no other force promoting circulation than the heart, the heart of a whale would be required in the human chest, to affect even a very slow and languid circulation.”1 

Another German physician, E. H. Weber, constructed a model of the vascular system using a section of small intestines and a pressure-propulsion pump for a heart. He found that no matter how forcefully the pump operated, he could not maintain pressure in the venous side of his model. 

He concluded that “the mean pressure does not depend on the action of the heart, but on the amount of fluid in the model.”2

In addition to these early doubters, some modern research also questions our understanding of the heart as the main mover of the blood through the body. For example, in 2003, researchers studied the efficiency of heart cardiac muscle. When they examined how much energy heart muscle cells use compared to the amount of pumping the heart actually does, they found that the heart is about 30 percent effective as a pressure-propulsion pump.3

Indeed, some research shows that a functioning heart is not necessary for normal blood flow. 

In the 1940s, researchers used artificial ventilation to provoke “mechanical circulation” in a dead dog. After the dog died and oxygen levels dropped, the researchers injected a tracer into the femoral artery. Then they induced breathing with an artificial ventilator. 

Not only did the trace substance make its way to other parts of the body, but the oxygen saturation of the blood increased throughout the body as blood continued to cycle through the lungs.4

The researchers concluded that the movement of the lungs was sufficient to create blood flow, and indeed it has been shown that when someone suffers a collapsed lung, cardiac output drops 66 percent, bronchial blood flow drops 84 percent, and right pulmonary artery flow drops 80 percent.5

In the 1960s, however, the experiments were repeated with results suggestive of a more complex mechanism at play. A Polish surgeon named Leon Manteuffel-Szoege dedicated his career to investigating blood flow in the cardiovascular system, and he repeated the dog experiments with a twist.

First, he replicated the original experiment and found that postmortem mechanical ventilation eventually produced oxygen saturation of 100 percent. Next, he insufflated (blew in) oxygen rather than mechanically ventilating the lungs, which removed the variable of lung expansion and contraction as a possible mechanism of blood flow. 

In this experiment, the blood’s oxygen saturation increased from 20–30 percent to 85 percent. 

Finally, Manteuffel-Szoege administered no oxygen in any way. Instead, he simply injected a tracer. He found that the blood continued moving for up to two hours after the heart stopped beating. Manteuffel-Szoege concluded that the blood had its “own motor energy.”6

How is this possible? 

That answer—which also explains the postmortem blood flow in the dog experiments—has to do with some unique and little-understood properties of water. 

The fourth phase of water 

Water is the most abundant molecule on Earth, and it is up to 70 percent of what makes up humans. In school, most people learn that water—H2O—has three phases: solid (ice), liquid (water) and gas (water vapor), depending on temperature. 

But researchers—notably, Nobel prize-nominated physiologist and cell biochemist Dr Gilbert Ling and University of Washington professor of bioengineering Dr Gerald Pollack—claim to have found a fourth phase, and this fourth phase can help us understand phenomena we see around us every day, including the way the blood moves through the body. 

Water has the ability to hold energy—radiant energy, to be specific. It gets this energy from the Sun, from the Earth, even from living organisms such as humans. When water is next to a hydrophilic (water-loving) surface and radiant energy is applied, the energy breaks one of the oxygen–hydrogen (O–H) bonds and cleaves off a hydrogen atom. 

The O–H molecules then combine to form a hexagonal structure, link up with other hexagonal structures, and form a flat lattice-like plane. These planes stack themselves neatly next to the hydrophilic surface.7

This structured water is neither solid like ice nor liquid like water. It is more of a gel, like Jell-O. It has a few different names: structured water, exclusion zone water and, Dr Pollack’s preferred term, fourth phase water. 

While Dr Pollack has artificially created this in his lab, he also found it happening naturally. In The Fourth Phase of Water (Ebner and Sons, 2013), he wrote, “We also found exclusion zones next to natural biological surfaces; they included vascular endothelia, regions of plant roots, and muscle.”8

According to this theory, then, arteries are a hydrophilic surface, and because our blood is about half water, this phenomenon occurs on the lining of our arteries. 

Dr Pollack also found that the formation of structured water on the inner surface of a tube can create flow on its own. 

When he placed a tube made of hydrophilic material in a tub of water and applied radiant energy, the water began to move through the tube without any other outside force of an energy gradient.

Planes of structured water stack on top of one another creating thicker and thicker areas of structured water. The O–H molecules that form the lattice are negatively charged, but the hydrogen atoms that get cleaved off make the fluid in the tube hold a positive charge. 

When enough lattice-like layers of structured water form on the lining of the tube, the space in the middle gets cramped. Since the hydrogens are all positively charged, and like charges repel each other, they start to move, creating flow. 

Dr Pollack found that “flow of this nature could persist indefinitely if the protons and water were continually replenished . . .  sustained water flow occurs inevitably in almost any scenario involving EZs [exclusion zones] and radiant energy.”9

Could this be the mechanism by which Manteuffel-Szoege observed blood moving through the arteries of dead dogs after their hearts stopped pumping? 

Recent work by a graduate student in Pollack’s lab at the University of Washington in Seattle named Zheng Li suggests that the answer is yes. After stopping the heart in chick embryos, Li discovered that blood can flow independently. “When the heart was stopped, blood continued to flow, albeit at a lower velocity. When IR [infrared] was introduced, flow increased, by ~300 percent.”10

While there are multiple mechanisms that assist in the movement of blood in the body, including the heart pumping and contraction of skeletal muscles, the work coming out of Pollack’s lab strongly suggests that the primary way blood moves through the body (or water travels upward to the tops of trees) is due to the energy gradient that is created with the formation of fourth phase water following exposure to radiant energy. 

The implications of this research are huge in figuring out the purpose of the heart. Some evidence suggests that the heart is not a very effective pressure-propulsion pump. Nor does the heart have to be an effective pressure-propulsion pump in order for blood to circulate through the body. 

If that’s the case, what is the heart? The work of Dr Manteuffel-Szoege offers some insight. In one paper he wrote, “A pump sucks in fluid from a reservoir, which is a hydrostatic system and not a hydrodynamic one. The heart is a mechanism inserted into the blood circuit, and so it is a very peculiar kind of pump.”11

What he means is that a pressure-propulsion pump is one that takes water from a standstill, like a lake or reservoir, and forcefully pumps it to another location. 

But if the blood moves on its own and is therefore not at a standstill, the heart would be situated in the midst of a system in which liquid is already flowing. Instead of comparing the heart to a pressure-propulsion pump, it may be more accurate to think of a “pump” system that works when liquid flows into it on its own. 

Rudolf Steiner, the late-nineteenth-century Austrian philosopher, argued throughout his life that the heart actually serves as a “damming” organ whose function could be compared to a flow-activated hydraulic ram. 

When enough water fills the chamber and pressure builds, the spill valve closes. Water then pushes up through the one-way valve at the top. 

Perhaps the most accurate analogy is that the heart is like two side-by-side hydraulic rams. You may be thinking that this sounds like a pump, except that as a pressure-propulsion pump, the heart is only 30 percent efficient. 

While the chambers of the heart do contract and move blood through, they only do so enough to help blood navigate through the heart, not enough to propel blood through the entire body. 

A pressure-propulsion pump would be forcefully sucking blood in one side and forcefully pushing it out the other. This is not what the heart does. 

If the blood moves mainly on its own, then why do we even need this contracting muscular organ right in the middle of the whole system? The answer presents itself when we observe people during exercise. In fact, one purpose of the heart is to restrain—rather than pump—the flow of blood. 

In his recent book, The Heart and Circulation: An Integrative Model (Springer, 2019), Dr Branko Furst of Albany Medical College stated, “The existence of muscle pump serves the same purpose as the heart, namely, to ‘restrain’ the massive increase in venous return, with venous valves protecting against the backflow and peripheral congestion. Performance of the heart during exercise is perhaps the best example of the fact that the heart sets itself against the flow of the blood and impedes rather than propels it.”12

When we exercise, the body needs more blood flow to meet tissue demands for oxygen and nutrients. If we think of the heart as a pressure-propulsion pump, then the heart beating more quickly is what would forcefully push that essential flow. But that is not what increases blood flow. 

Blood flow increases because when we exercise, the tissues’ increased demand causes our fourth phase blood flow to kick into overdrive. The increase in heart rate is the heart reacting to the increase in flow, not causing it. During exercise, the blood is needed in the tissues so that our body can perform—or get away from a threat, in evolutionary terms. 

However, when there is that much metabolic demand in the tissues, blood rushes to the arterial side of the system to deliver; at least, that’s what would happen if the heart wasn’t there. If all the blood went to the arterial side of the system, the venous side would collapse, causing a system-wide breakdown. 

The heart’s placement directly between the arterial and venous systems prevents this breakdown by slowing the flow of blood, or damming it up, in Steiner’s words. The heart helps maintain equal pressure, in the same way a hydraulic ram has the ability to slow flow and direct fluid. 

Think of a pitcher, catcher and batter in baseball. The pitcher throws a strike that the batter swings at and misses. The catcher is the heart, and the pitcher throwing the ball (the blood) is the blood flow. The ball from the pitcher (blood flow) is coming into the heart forcefully, especially during exercise, and the catcher (the heart) stops that momentum. 

But the catcher doesn’t just catch it and keep it, he stands up and throws the ball with much less force back to the pitcher, just like the heart dams up the blood and then tosses it back into circulation with much less force than it came in. 

The batter swinging and missing the ball (the blood) is the vortexing the heart does as the blood passes through. But it doesn’t just make sense theoretically; research also confirms it. 

In 2004, the study of heart hemodynamics during exercise led a group of researchers to conclude that “the combined maximal vascular conductance of arms and legs outweighs the maximal pumping capacity of the heart, implying that the muscular vasodilatory response [widening of the blood vessels] during maximal exercise must be restrained to maintain perfusion pressure.”13

Translation? This means that the blood flow created by exercise surpasses any pumping capacity the heart could create. Instead, the heart moderates blood flow to make sure the system can maintain pressure and not collapse. 

Another research group found that during exercise, the increase of cardiac output of blood flow they observed was a result of increased venous return to the heart. No matter how much they tried to manipulate heart rate, they could not affect the flow of blood. Venous return was the only variable that increased heart rate.14

Endurance athletes are known to have larger, more muscular hearts. You might think that this is because the heart pumps harder and more often for these well-trained individuals, but a study of professional soccer players found that they had a reduced angle of left ventricular twist and torsion velocities at rest, suggesting that the larger hearts of these athletes had more inertia, interrupting the flow of blood more efficiently.15

This finding means that these athletes have more muscle in their hearts not because the heart needs to be more forceful due to their exertion, but because extended durations of exercise demand the heart to be effective at slowing the flow of blood in order to maintain pressure in the cardiovascular system. 

Larger heart musculature allows this to happen. Dr Furst summed it up: “Only when seen as an organ of impedance can the heart place itself effectively against the ‘runaway train’ of oncoming blood to generate only moderately increased mean arterial pressure even during maximal exercise . . . this mechanism allows the heart to maintain normal dimensions and protect it from overdistention in the face of greatly increased blood flow (‘cardiac throughput’).” 

Spiral dynamics

Regulating pressure is only one of the heart’s jobs. If you look at the shape of the heart, the side that contains all the muscle is shaped like one end of a football. A football is best thrown in a tight spiral; it is more efficient and travels farther. 

If we look at the way the heart contracts, it does so in a spiral-like fashion. This is because the heart consists of a band of muscle, called the “ventricular band,” that is wrapped around itself in a sort of spiral knot. When a contraction signal is sent to the heart, it starts at one end of the band and travels through the heart in a linear fashion. Because of the wrapping around of the muscle on itself, when this contraction signal is sent, the heart contracts
in a twisting motion.

When Dr Gerald Pollack studied how water can hold energy, he also discovered that vortexing (or swirling) water in the presence of oxygen (air) can energize it. 

As long ago as the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first to notice the spiral of blood as it flows through the heart.2 The blood, in fact, gets swirled many times as it moves through the chambers of the heart. First, when the blood flows from the superior and inferior vena cava, the separate flows do not collide but flow past one another, creating a vortex. 

Once the ventricle is full, the muscles contract it in a spiral formation, further vortexing the blood. Last, a small amount of vortexing happens as the blood goes through the pulmonary valve exiting the ventricle. 

Since the blood is never fully depleted of oxygen, even in venous blood, the blood is always spiraled when oxygen is present. This spiraling energizes the water in the blood so that it can become structured on the lining of our arteries. 

In this sense, I suppose you could say the heart is responsible for the movement of blood . . . just not as a pump. Once we understand the heart through this lens, we have a much better foundation for understanding heart failure.

Instead of blaming the heart for failing to pump blood well enough, it would be more accurate to say the water in the body is not energized enough to build structured water and keep blood, lymphatic fluid and other fluids moving. 

In an unhealthy body, blood collects in the chambers more than it should, and the contracting chambers have to pump more forcefully than they are designed to. This slow transit of blood through the heart creates excess pressure in the chambers.

Let there be light

Dr Pollack has found that infrared light, especially the 3,000 nanometer (nm) wavelength, is the most effective light for energizing and structuring water. If a breakdown of structured water decreases blood flow, puts stress on the heart and leads to heart failure, then therapy that exposes the body to infrared light, builds up structured water and improves blood flow is well worth further investigation. 

In fact, a study of 188 heart failure patients who underwent two weeks of infrared sauna therapy showed that all markers of cardiac function significantly improved in the treatment group, with no improvement in the control group.1 

Further research has shown that infrared sauna use in people with heart failure is effective for reducing arrhythmias and improving endothelial function, exercise tolerance and hemodynamic performance. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Cardiology found that the use of infrared sauna in patients with previous heart disease provided improvements in endothelial function—the efficiency with which the cells that line the blood vessels relax and contract.2 

If the goal is to take pressure and workload off the heart while it is healing, then the best way to do this is to optimize the self-flow mechanisms of the blood in the body. Infrared sauna is demonstrated to do so. 

Lightening up blood pressure

A 2012 study in rats found that exposure to artificial infrared light resulted in “significant decreases in heart rates and systolic and mean blood pressure.”1 In humans, the use of an infrared sauna for only 20 minutes three times a week over three months has been shown to decrease blood pressure.2 Sunlight, the original source of infrared, has also been shown to decrease blood pressure.3 One study examined whether vitamin D from sunlight exposure could explain the decreases in blood pressure, and concluded it couldn’t.4 Vitamin D is not what causes the drop in blood pressure; the drop is caused by radiant energy boosting the self-propel mechanism of the blood. By applying infrared light, we improve blood flow through fourth phase water production, so the body can relax the constriction of the blood vessels and decrease arterial pressure. 


Excerpted from Understanding the Heart:  Surprising Insights into the Evolutionary Origins of Heart Diseases—and Why It Matters by Dr Stephen Hussey (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2022)


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