Myths about Breathing. How to Get More Oxygen, and Over Oxygenation
Myth #1. Breathing is regulated by want for oxygen
If you open any medical or physiological textbook to the section describing the factors controlling respiration, you will find that under normal conditions, breathing is regulated by the CO2 concentration in the arterial blood and the brain. Whatever we do (sit, walk, eat, run, sleep, etc.), arterial CO2 concentration is kept within a narrow range (0.1% accuracy) by the breathing centre located in the medulla oblongata of the brain.
Myth #2. CO2 is a poisonous or toxic waste gas and a waste product to get rid off
When a healthy person tries to hyperventilate or is forced to breathe deeply and fast, they experience “hypocapnia” (CO2 deficiency) in the blood and other fluids, tissues, and cells. The immediate effects are: constriction of blood vessels (CO2 is a powerful vasodilator) and reduced blood and oxygen supply to the brain, heart and all other vital organs. This is the reason why it is so easy to faint or pass out after 2-3 minutes of forceful hyperventilation. Another CO2 effect is the suppressed Bohr effect or diminished release of oxygen from the blood in the tissues due to the same hypocapnia. Apart from these phenomena, there are many other vital functions of CO2 in the human body (see links to medical studies below). Meanwhile, reduced tissue oxygenation is sufficient to promote cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic conditions.
Myth #3. When a person is healthy, they can feel how they breathe
If people with normal breathing are asked what they feel about their breathing, they will say that they feel nothing at all (as if they are barely breathing). “The perfect man breathes as if he is not breathing” Lao-Tzu, circa 4th century BC. Indeed, if you have any healthy people around you and observe their breathing for 20-30 seconds, you will see and hear nothing. The medical norm for breathing is tiny. It is only 6 L/min or only 12 breaths/min with tiny 500 mL for one breath, while most modern people have about 700 mL. They are deep breathers.
Myth #4. My breathing is OK and I know how to breathe
Less than 10% of people have normal breathing parameters and body oxygen stores these days. While breathing 2-3 times more than the norm, most people believe that they are "barely breathing", as in a popular music album. You can check the Homepage for 24 medical and physiological respiratory studies done on ordinary or normal subjects during last 80 years.
It is a fact that the medical norm established about a century ago is not the norm anymore. Modern people breathe about two times more air than we did 100 years ago. Hyperventilation results in tissue hypoxia and many other biochemical abnormalities. Your breathing is normal, if and only if you have normal body oxygenation. How can you check it? You should be able to easily hold your breath for at least 40 s after your usual exhalation and with no stress at the end of the test. This test is described in detail below.
Myth about deep breathing and over oxygenation
Myth #5. If I hyperventilate, I ll pass out due to over oxygenation
During miniscule normal breathing, oxygenation of the arterial blood is about 98-99%. Over oxygenation, while breathing normal air, is impossible. (Blood over oxygenation is possible with breathing pure oxygen or hyperbatic breathing 100% pure oxygen.) Note that normal breathing is invisible and inaudible. It is so light that most people do not feel it.
As a result, breathing more air cannot get much more oxygen in the blood. It follows that, no matter how deep and fast one breathes, he or she cannot get over oxygenated blood using normal air, while pure oxygen is toxic for the lungs tissue.
Hundreds of published studies have clearly shown that hyperventilation (or breathing more than the tiny medical norm) REDUCES oxygen supply to the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and all other vital organs due to losses in CO2. (There are hundreds of studies presented on this website that proved this fact.)
You can pass out, due to hyperventilation, because of too low brain oxygenation (see the brain image above).
Nevertheless, on TV, radio, and in everyday life situations, people who have little knowledge of physiology say, “Take a deep breath, get more oxygen”, or “Breathe deeper for better oxygenation”, "Over breathing is good" etc.
Myth #6. Sick people notice when their breathing becomes abnormal
100% prevalence of hyperventilation at rest for the sick people is confirmed by over 40 published western studies (see the Homepage of this site). These sick patients breathe about 2-3 times more than the norm (see this Table with Minute Ventilation Rates for Chronic Diseases), and usually do not complain or even notice that their breathing is heavy or too deep. Why? This is because air is weightless and the main breathing muscles (diaphragm and chest) are very powerful: we can pump 25 times more air during maximum exercise (or about 150 liters of air in one minute), than we require for normal breathing at rest (only about 6 L/min). People may notice that their breathing is heavy during heart attacks, stroke, asthma attacks, or morning hyperventilation (between 4 and 7 am), when they breathe 4-5 times more than normal.
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.
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