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CNS/Diseases of the Brain Are Caused by Low Brain O2/CO2 Levels

Brain hypoxia caused by over breathingNumerous medical studies have discovered that brain diseases (or disorders of the central nervous system - CNS) are possible only in conditions of chronic hyperventilation (the most likely scenario) or chest breathing and mouth breathing. All these respiratory deviations result in decreased levels of oxygen in the brain.

It is beyond doubt that low oxygen levels in brain cells have a profound negative effects on function of nerve cells of the CNS. Brain hypoxia leads to anaerobic cellular respiration, generation of lactic acid and free radicals, acidic pH cellular environment, chronic inflammation, inability of the immune system to heal injuries and many other negative effects (see the links to medical research below), that include possible formation of tumors.

Well over 90% of modern people have abnormally low brain O2 and CO2 levels 24/7 due to chronic overbreathing. Here are historical changes related to a large increase in breathing.

Breathing changes during last 80 years

People with health problemsFurthermore, since most brain diseases are characterized by chronic hyperventilation, there are additional effects due to low CO2 levels in the CNS. For example, hypocapnia is devastating since CO2 is a powerful relaxant or stabilizer of the nerve cells. Hyperventilation leads to "spontaneous and asynchronous firing of neurons", as we learned in the section devoted to CO2 effects related to the nerve cells.

People with panic attacks, seizures, sleeping problems, anxiety breathing disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, senile dementia, Parkinson, Alzheimer disease, and many other chronic and degenerative health conditions (see this link for other brain disorders) have ineffective, or heavy or irregular breathing patterns often accompanied by habitual thoracic and mouth breathing.

Brain-CNS disorders and minute ventilation studies

*One row corresponds to one medical study/publication
Condition Minute
Number of
All references or
click below for abstracts
Healthy Subjects 6-7 l/min >400 Results of 14 studies
Normal breathing 6 l/min - Medical textbooks
Epilepsy 13 l/min 12 Esquivel et al, 1991
Panic disorder 12 (+-5) l/min 12 Pain et al, 1991
Bipolar disorder 11 (+-) l/min 16 MacKinnon et al, 2007

Patients and doctorsAll these and many other studies testify about classical chronic hyperventilation syndrome. For example, in 1990, American psychiatrists from Hunter College (City University of New York) reported results from several groups of subjects with anxiety, panic phobia, depression, migraine, and idiopathic seizures. The abstract states “virtually all the non-control subjects were found to show moderate to severe hyperventilation and accompanying EEG dysrhythmia”. In addition, it notes that hyperventilation and abnormal electrical signals in the brain took place simultaneously.

The parameters in the sick are usually much worse during early morning hours due to sleep heavy breathing effects (often caused by mouth breathing and supine sleep), after meals, during and after exercise with mouth breathing, during and after stress, and in many other situations.

Diseases of the CNS and brain disorders and CO2 levels

CO2 model above oceanIn 1976 the British Journal of Psychiatry published a study of CO2 measurements in 60 patients with neurotic depression and non-retarded endogenous depression (Mora et al, 1976). All patients had abnormally low carbon dioxide values.

Canadian scientists from the Department of Psychiatry (University of Manitoba, Winnipeg) measured carbon dioxide concentrations in over 20 patients with panic disorder. Their average CO2 was also below the medical norm (Stein & Asmundson, 1994). There are many other studies that report abnormally low CO2 values for people with various psychological and neurological problems. 

Chest and mouth breathing as causes of diseases of the brain and disorders

Medical students smilingWhile these Western studies suggest the possible role of over breathing in the appearance and development of various neurological and psychological diseases, it is also known that low oxygen levels in the brain and body tissues can occur due to habitual chest and/or mouth breathing. Chest breathing results in drastic reduction of blood oxygenation since lower parts of the lungs get 6-7 times richer blood supply, while adverse biochemical and immune effects of mouth breathing are too numerous to mention here (see Mouth Breathing web page for details).

Successful treatment of brain/CNS diseases

At the same time, there is no any evidence showing that people with normal breathing parameters can suffer from neurological or psychological problems. Furthermore, clinical experience of more than 170 Russian and Soviet MDs practicing the Buteyko breathing technique indicates that people with brain diseases and CNS disorders always have less than 30 s for the body-oxygen test. Therefore, breathing normalization should always be a key element (if not the key element) in the treatment of brain diseases.


Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1990;602:67-96.
Effect of diaphragmatic respiration with end-tidal CO2 biofeedback on respiration, EEG, and seizure frequency in idiopathic epilepsy.
Fried R, Fox MC, Carlton RM.
Hunter College, City University of New York, New York 10021.
Breathing rate (RR), end-tidal percent CO2, and EEG were obtained in three groups: psychiatric referral subjects presenting with anxiety, panic phobia, depression and migraine... Virtually all the noncontrol subjects were found to show moderate to severe hyperventilation and the accompanying EEG dysrhythmia...

Biol Psychiatry. 1994 Oct 15;36(8):548-58.
Autonomic function in panic disorder: cardiorespiratory and plasma catecholamine responsivity to multiple challenges of the autonomic nervous system.
Stein MB, Asmundson GJ.

The British Journal of Psychiatry 129: 457-464 (1976)
Respiratory ventilation and carbon dioxide levels in syndromes of depression
JD Mora, L Grant, P Kenyon, MK Patel and FA Jenner
The breathing rate and PCO2 in end-tidal air have been studied in controls and in patients with endogenous depression (retarded and non- retarded), with neurotic depression, and with schizophrenia. It has been shown that breathing rate goes up and PCO2 down in non-retarded and neurotic depression. Schizophrenia gives more anomalous results...

Europsychopharmacol Hung. 2009 Sep;11(3):161-73.
The role of carbon dioxide (and intracellular pH) in the pathomechanism of several mental disorders. Are the diseases of civilization caused by learnt behaviour, not the stress itself?
Sikter A, Faludi G, Rihmer Z.
Municipal Clinic of Szentendre, Section of Internal Medicine, Hungary.
The role of carbon dioxide (CO2) is underestimated in the pathomechanism of neuropsychiatric disorders, though it is an important link between psyche and corpus.

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