Threshold for a Seizure Is Controlled by Brain CO2 and O2
A proper understanding of epilepsy, seizures, seizure threshold and brain abnormalities during seizures should be based on knowledge of what is going on in the nerve cells during their normal work. In normal conditions, all electrical signals that travel among nerve cells are related to objective and important processes, such as the work of the senses, memory, analysis, logic, decision making, voluntary and involuntary movements of muscles, etc. The electrical signal is transmitted from one nerve cell to another only when the voltage or strength of the signal is high enough. It should be no less than a certain threshold value: the threshold of excitability of the nerve cells that directly relates to seizure threshold. The normal value for the threshold of excitability in mammals is about 50 micro volts.
seizure threshold remains normal or high, the electrical signals are
transmitted as in the normal computer. Adaptation and
self-improvement (learning) are the normal final outcomes of these processes in living
Hence, in order to have a positive effect on the biological system
(learning, survival, self-defense, etc.), it is crucial that the
transmission of these neuronal signals satisfies 2 criteria:
1) These (real or objective) signals are transmitted and facilitated through the network of the nerve cells so that no important information is lost.
2) Accidental or irrelevant signals get hampered so that they cannot interfere with the normal work of the senses, memory storage, memory retrieval, comparison of experiences, solution making, execution of solutions, feedback, etc.
If for some reason this threshold becomes too low, accidental signals can be amplified causing disruption or even suppression in the normal work of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Consider what happens during abnormal changes in breathing. When the breathing pattern is disturbed (less than 5% of modern people, according to tens of published studies, have normal breathing parameters these days - see Homepage for studies), blood gases become abnormal. The most common abnormality is arterial hypocapnia (low CO2) and cell hypoxia (low O2 in tissues, the brain included), where overbreathing or hyperventilation (breathing more air than the medical norm) is the key cause for both effects. Let us consider how the seizure threshold depends on carbon dioxide and oxygen.
How CO2 and O2 influence threshold for a seizure
This excitability threshold of the nerve cells is highly dependent on, and sensitive to, both the O2 and CO2 concentration in nerve tissues. Low oxygen levels create tissue hypoxia and an acidic cellular environment. Low CO2 levels cause abnormal excitability of nerve cells, as discussed on this page CO2: Key Nutrient for Mental Health - Sedative and Tranquilizer. We also found that, according to professional neurologists, hyperventilation or low CO2 in the brain "leads to spontaneous and asynchronous firing of neurons". Hence, when we overbreathe or hyperventilate, CO2 and O2 levels in cells become abnormally low. As a result, accidental or weak electrical signals can be strengthened and relayed through some parts of the brain interfering with the normal signals. This causes a reduction in the seizure threshold.
Overbreathing and irregular breathing patterns cause seizures
What are the medical facts? Depending on particular details of the hyperventilation procedure and individual health state, somewhere between 70 to 100% of epileptics can lower their seizure threshold and trigger their seizures by voluntary hyperventilation (see the abstracts of numerous medical studies below). Many studies found that hyperventilation could cause seizures in all patients. However, modern medical and physiological research has failed to find the exact CO2 threshold that can induce seizures in susceptible individuals. This is logical since, apart from the key role of brain CO2 concentration, there are many other factors that influence the transmission of electrical signals in the brain, including surrounding neuronal activity, distribution of electrical firing within the brain, current metabolic rate (body position, posture, physical exercise, thermoregulation, etc.), oxygen tension, availability and types of calcium and magnesium ions present in tissues, changes in glia cells, concentrations of neurotransmitters, amino acids, and many other substances. Therefore, while hypocapnia is the crucial necessary background for the lowered seizure threshold and appearance of seizures (the prime cause of seizures and epilepsy), many other factors play their roles in experienced symptoms and a clinical picture for some particular seizures.
Indeed, numerous medical studies (see abstracts below) have proven that hyperventilation reliably induces seizures in epileptics and patients suffering from seizures, as an additional indication that seizure threshold is controlled by breathing with some (limited) contribution from other factors (stress, sleep deprivation, low blood sugar, overheating, alcohol, etc.).
Other factors influence threshold for a seizure
It is known to many epileptics that seizures can be triggered, prolonged, and worsened by low blood glucose levels. There is even a special category of seizures which has a label "hypoglycemic seizure" or "low blood sugar seizures". Chronic hyperventilation worsens general blood sugar control increasing symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia. In addition, hypocapnia-induced vasoconstriction (see CO2 vasodilation effect) causes stenosis or spasm of the carotid artery and is an essential aggravating factor. (Fainting due to voluntary hyperventilation is partially based on the same effect: overbreathing decreases glucose availability for the brain.) Whatever the case, low blood sugar level also lowers the seizure threshold.
What about the low brain oxygen effects? Reduced brain oxygenation (due to chest breathing, vasoconstriction, and suppressed Bohr effect) is an additional factor that increases acidity of brain cells (due to anaerobic cell respiration and elevated lactic acid production). This further intensifies abnormal electrical activity lowering the seizure threshold even more.
This web page (Cause of seizures) provides analysis of information about medical research on how western doctors treated seizures and epilepsy with application of carbon dioxide and breathing techniques.
In order to prevent approaching seizures (at the onset of the very first signs of seizures), the patient should apply the Emergency Procedure (or reduced breathing exercise), which increases brain CO2 and O2 levels and helps to prevent most seizures that take place during day-time (see How to Stop Seizures Naturally). For prevention of sleep seizures, visit How to Prevent Sleep Seizures: Lifestyle Changes.
Recent research suggests that grounding the human body (also called Earthing) helps to reduce (and often prevent all together) nearly all types of seizures and normalize the seizure threshold.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques can be useful to normalize the threshold of a seizure too, but more research is needed in these new areas.
How to provoke or stop seizures with breathing
There are more than 20 clinical studies (authored by over 80 medical doctors and research scientists from all other the world) that claim that seizures, CO2, and breathing are linked together with a very simple relationship. You can read amazing abstracts of these studies right below here as your bonus content.
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