CO2: The Best Natural Muscle Relaxant
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is most likely the best natural muscle relaxant since it also provides O2 for the muscles and other body cells. When people have normal breathing parameters during their basal or automatic breathing, they effortlessly maintain correct posture with a straight spine. It is easy for them to have diaphragmatic (vs. chest) breathing 24/7. There are no signs of stress in their gait.
What happens with muscles and posture in modern people?
Since ordinary modern people, breathe about twice more than the medical norm, they suffer from the effects of chronic hyperventilation. One of them is cellular CO2 deficiency (hypocapnia), which makes muscle cells tense and irritable since CO2 is a muscle relaxant.
Physiological science accumulated evidence of the adverse effects of low carbon dioxide levels on muscle cells. In his research review paper, "Physiological effects of hyperventilation" Dr. Brown from the Department of Physiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center (USA) analyzed almost 300 professional studies. He stated, “Studies designed to determine the effects produced by hyperventilation on nerve and muscle have been consistent in their finding on increased irritability” (Brown, 1953). Muscles cells become irritated or abnormally sensitive and predisposed to spasms and twitching.
That was also an experimental observation of Dr. Hurlock from the Department of Physiology (University of Birmingham Medical School, UK) in his book Muscle blood flow (Hurlock, 1973). Many other published research studies found that CO2 is a natural muscle relaxant (Lamont , 1987; Gencarelli, 1983; Hoylea, 1960).
This fact, together with the properties of CO2 mentioned previously, will help us to understand the mechanism by which normal carbon dioxide concentrations can restore the harmonious work of different muscular groups (such as all smooth muscles of arteries and arterioles, the heart, respiratory muscles, muscles of the digestive tract, etc.) in order to eliminate muscular spasms (e.g., heart attacks, asthma attacks, constipation, etc.). In fact, there are separate web pages that consider how CO2 deficiency contributes or even creates chest breathing, vasoconstriction, and bronchoconstriction.
Moreover, since skeletal muscles also get irritated it is normal to expect that when people breathe too much, they are more likely to be tense, anxious, stressed, aggressive, and violent. Together with the abnormally excited state of the nervous system, this muscular effect can create conditions of tension and irritability. A slight provocation can create various problems for a hyperventilating person (and for those who are around!) since the muscles are irritated and the brain cells are abnormally excited.
Vice versa, normal carbon dioxide concentrations would result in muscular relaxation. Hence, the relief or treatment of chronic problems with muscular tension should be based on breathing exercises or breathing retraining therapies.
The best muscle relaxant influences feelings and emotions
Studies have found that people become duller and less able to concentrate because of chronic overbreathing. In addition, because of “spontaneous and asynchronous firing of cortical neurons”, people can become impulsive, moody, inconsistent, anxious, irritated, intolerant, disrespectful, depressed, hyperactive, verbally abusive, jealous, envious, greedy, and addicted to various unnatural substances and activities due to abnormal effects of CO2 deficiency on the human nerve cells. During overbreathing, it becomes more and more difficult to control irrational emotions. Confusion is another common result of overbreathing.
(Note that normal breathing does not guarantee a complete absence of irrational emotions. Upbringing and environmental factors are also important. However, for most people, destructive or self-defeating behavior is possible or more likely in conditions of hyperventilation.)
Due to tense muscles, CO2-deficient people can easily become poorly coordinated, over-active, aggressive, or even violent (see right). This often leads to destructive behavior, which requires self-justification on the part of the perpetrators. How is that possible? Physiology has proved that the nerve cells become irritable during hyperventilation or cell hypocapnia. As a result, the brain, instead of being a tool for the exploration of the world and the analysis of one’s own behavior, often becomes a tool for the invention of excuses.
In other situations hyperventilating people can suffer themselves. CO2-related physiological mechanisms (muscular spasms and abnormally excited states of the nerve cells) help us to understand and prevent (treat) epilepsy and other types of seizures; many, but not all black-outs; febrile seizures; cases of eclampsia; and twitches. In many life-threatening situations, when breathing is very heavy and people can have heart attacks, strokes, or epilepsy attacks, their body can become very stiff with decisive or significant contribution due to CO2 deficiency.
For clinical studies with abstracts related to CO2 effects, visit this page: muscle relaxers.
Reference pages: Breathing norms and medical facts:
- Breathing norms: Parameters, graph, and description of the normal breathing pattern
- 6 breathing myths: Myths and superstitions about breathing and body oxygenation (prevalence: over 90%)
- Hyperventilation: Definitions of hyperventilation: their advantages and weak points
- Hyperventilation syndrome: Western scientific evidence about prevalence of chronic hyperventilation in patients with chronic conditions (37 medical studies)
- Normal minute ventilation: Small and slow breathing at rest is enjoyed by healthy subjects (14 studies)
- Hyperventilation prevalence: Present in over 90% of normal people (24 medical studies)
- HV and hypoxia: How and why deep breathing reduces oxygenation of cells and tissues of all vital organs
- Body-oxygen test (CP test) : How to measure your own breathing and body oxygenation (two in one) using a simple DIY test
- Body oxygen in healthy: Results for the body-oxygen test for healthy people (27 medical studies)
- Body oxygen in sick : Results for the body-oxygen test for sick people (14 medical studies)
- Buteyko Table of Health Zones: Clinical description and ranges for breathing zones: from the critically ill (severely sick) up to super healthy people with maximum possible body oxygenation
- Morning hyperventilation: Why people feel worse and critically ill people are most likely to die during early morning hours
References: pages about CO2 effect:
- Vasodilation: CO2 expands arteries and arterioles facilitating perfusion (or blood supply) to all vital organs
- The Bohr effect: How and why oxygen is released by red blood cells in tissues
- Cell oxygen levels: How alveolar CO2 influences oxygen transport
- Oxygen transport: O2 transport is controlled by vasoconstriction-vasodilation and the Bohr effects, both of which rely on CO2
- Free radical generation: Reactive oxygen species are produced within cells due to anaerobic cell respiration caused by cell hypoxia
- Inflammatory response: Chronic inflammation in fueled by the hypoxia-inducible factor 1, while normal breathing reduces and eliminates inflammation
- Nerve stabilization: People remain calm due to calmative or sedative effects of carbon dioxide in neurons or nerve cells
- Muscle relaxation: Relaxation of muscle cells is normal at high CO2, while hypocapnia causes muscular tension, poor posture and, sometimes, aggression and violence
- Bronchodilation: Dilation of airways (bronchi and bronchioles) is caused by carbon dioxide, and their constriction by hypocapnia (low CO2)
- Blood pH: Regulation of blood pH due to breathing and regulation of other bodily fluids
- CO2: lung damage: Elevated carbon dioxide prevents lung injury and promotes healing of lung tissues
- CO2: Topical carbon dioxide can heal skin and tissues
- Synthesis of glutamine in the brain, CO2 fixation, and other chemical reactions
- Deep breathing myth: Ignorant and naive people promote the idea that deep breathing and breathing more air at rest is beneficial for health
- Breathing control: How is our breathing regulated? Why hypocapnia makes breathing uneven, irregular and erratic.
* Illustrations by Victor Lunn-Rockliffe
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