Air hunger Means Too Heavy Breathing and Low Body O2
By Dr. Artour Rakhimov - Last updated on August 9, 2018
Air hunger or breathlessness is caused by overbreathing or hyperventilation. Other causes of labored breathing are mouth- and chest-related respiratory problems.
Breathlessness is a sensation of air hunger
and an uncomfortable awareness of one's own breathing at rest or on
exertion due to low oxygenation of tissues and the negative feedback of the respiratory
receptors in the human brain. Other similar terms are "dyspnea" and
"shortness of breath". Breathlessness and heavy breathing are common in
people with chronic diseases, such as advanced diabetes, cancer, cystic
fibrosis, HIV-AIDS, heart disease, COPD, bronchitis, and many other
conditions. It can appear on exertion, after meals, during night sleep,
or during pregnancy.
Causes of breathlessness
There are many contributing reasons that can lead to breathlessness. However,
in cases of chronic diseases, there are 3 main causes of breathlessness that
relate to mouth breathing, chest breathing, and ineffective breathing patterns.
This last cause plays the central role since its elimination leads to the
disappearance of breathlessness. Consider these clinical results.
In all these cases, breathlessness is caused by chronic
hyperventilation (or an automatic deep breathing pattern) leading to
alveolar hypocapnia (lack of CO2) and cell hypoxia, which creates air
hunger and provokes the respiratory center to further intensify breathing.
Breathing of healthy people is small: only 500 ml of tidal
volume, 10-12 breaths/min for the respiratory rate, and 6 L/min for
minute ventilation for a 70-kg person). But patients with
breathlessness and heavy breathing have over 12 L/min (more than
double the norm) for their ventilation rates and over 18 breaths/min for
respiratory frequency. That causes constriction of airways and hypoxic
and tense respiratory muscles.
What causes breathlessness on exertion?
Exertion increases minute ventilation rates and this causes losses in alveolar
CO2. Hypocapnia either worsens ventilation-perfusion ratio (in case of
lung problems) or immediately constricts arterial blood vessels, causing
reduced oxygen delivery to all vital organs. In both cases, increased
breathing reduces oxygen transport to tissues. Breathlessness on
exertion is particularly strong in cases of mouth breathing that leads
to more losses in CO2 and additional losses in the absorption of nasal
Chest breathing is another crucial factor that leads to
chronic breathlessness due to the drastic reduction in blood oxygenation,
sometimes leading to hypoxemia.
What causes breathlessness after eating
The main physiological effect of meals and eating is also
increased ventilation due to biochemical stress caused by food
substances that require assimilation and redistribution. Increased
respiratory volumes cause the same effects as it is described above for
Why anxiety, night sleep, and pregnancy trigger breathlessness
Overbreathing is a normal physiological
reaction to stress. As a result of stress and anxiety, the human body
has reduced oxygenation of cells and diminished carbon dioxide in the
lungs. Transition into a horizontal position also results in lowered
alveolar CO2, leading to decreased cellular oxygen tensions. Numerous
studies proved that end-tidal CO2 is lowered in pregnancy, causing
the same effects as described above.
As a result, in all these cases, the main physiological
mechanism remains the same: all these factors increase minute
ventilation rates, causing reduced oxygen levels in body cells.
The main causes of breathlessness and heavy
breathing (why it is hard to breathe):
- constriction of airways due to hypocapnia in the airways
- reduced oxygen levels in the respiratory muscles
- tense chest muscles and the diaphragm due to low CO2 since CO2 is a potent muscle relaxant.
Exacerbation causes in the pathophysiology of labored respiration and
- chest breathing
- mouth breathing (that causes low absorption of nitric oxide and
reduced CO2 level in alveoli)
- inflammation and sputum or mucus in air passages causing additional
narrowing or even an obstruction of air and oxygen flow, as
in people with asthma or COPD.
Exertion, mouth breathing, physical exercise with mouth breathing,
chest breathing, heavy meals, overeating,
anxiety, stress, attempts to inhale deeply, deep breathing exercises
with CO2 losses, poor posture, night sleep and other lifestyle factors are
of hyperventilation. Hence, they worsen breathlessness and
Successful treatment of breathlessness
160 Russian medical doctors tested thousands of people with
breathlessness and heavy breathing and found that all of them had
less than a certain number X (in seconds) for the body-oxygen test. These doctors also
discovered that breathing normalization (achieving normal breathing
parameters) leads to complete elimination of breathlessness and heavy
breathing with air hunger.
As their clinical experience revealed, with over X s for the body-oxygen
test, patients do not experience these negative symptoms. This
result has been achieved in many clinical trials after the application
of various breathing therapies and devices (the Buteyko method, Frolov
breathing device therapy, and others).
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