Medical Studies of Hyperventilation

- Updated on December 15, 2021

Medical Studies of Hyperventilation 1By Dr. Artour Rakhimov, Alternative Health Educator and Author

The previous section described some effects (there are many more as we are going to see later) of hyperventilation on healthy people. While these effects are normal for any human organism, the degree of particular negative changes and the location of the most affected organs are various in different individuals. Therefore, the individual problems created by over-breathing are going to be different. To investigate this issue, let us turn our attention to medical studies.

Medical doctors and professors have written extensive reviews of professional literature and described their own case histories of hyperventilation (Bass, 1990; Brasher, 1983; Lum, 1975; Magarian, 1982, 1983; Morgan, 1983; Tavel, 1990). These studies showed the symptoms of over-breathing and the profound negative influence of both acute and chronic hyperventilation on the whole biochemistry of the human organism.

people notice hyperventilationThe first medical article containing a description of the symptoms of hyperventilation, but without understanding their cause, was published by DaCosta (DaCosta, 1871). One group of researchers described the biochemical mechanism by which hyperventilation can gradually cause problems with high cholesterol (hypertension) and high blood sugar levels (diabetes) (Lavrent’ev, 1993).

Acute and, especially, chronic hyperventilation, according to these and many other references, affects every system and organ of the human body causing a wide variety of symptoms. Many medical doctors have mentioned that the physiological response to hyperventilation is individual. Thus, individual genetic predisposition and certain other factors define which system or organ is the most affected by hyperventilation. It can be the heart, brain, kidneys, liver, intestines, stomach, lungs or one of many others. Additional references on the negative effects of hyperventilation can be found in the previously cited works. Magarian (1982), for example, quoted over 180 other scientific articles to back up his conclusions about the physiological consequences of hyperventilation.

Since hyperventilation is an important part of our fight-or-flight response, the blood is generally diverted from vital organs to large skeletal muscles. Studies found decreased perfusion of the heart (Okazaki et al, 1991), brain (discussed above), liver (Hughes et al, 1979; Okazaki, 1989), kidneys (Okazaki, 1989), and colon (Gilmour et al, 1980). Moreover, investigations of blood flow in muscles were not consistent in relation to changes in perfusion, while oxygenation of muscles in some studies is even reduced (Thorborg et al, 1988). That could happen probably due to vasoconstriction and the suppressed Bohr effect. Normally, hyperventilation also compromises oxygenation of vital organs (e.g., Hughes et al, 1979; Hashimoto et al, 1989; Okazaki et al, 1991).

Typically, the blood flow to vital organs is directly proportional to aCO2. Such a linear relationship (between brain blood flow and carbon dioxide concentration) can be found, for example, in Handbook of Physiology (Santiago & Edelman, 1986).

Chronic hyperventilation interferes with normal digestion. Decreased perfusion and oxygenation of GI organs can lead to lack of digestive enzymes, accumulation of metabolic waste products, slow digestion, putrefaction of certain nutrients, and mal-absorption. That should cause problems with protein metabolism (which usually appear before problems with fat and carbohydrate metabolism), thus adversely affecting the normal repair of the body (especially the GI tract, the largest consumer of amino acids) and the immune system.

To experience the effects of breathing on digestion, one may voluntarily hyperventilate after a meal. While normal digestion can take 2 hours, hyperventilation may extend this time up to 5-8 hours or more, depending on the degree of hyperventilation.

Warning. By mild voluntary hyperventilation, you may almost halt digestion. For many people that can cause GI distress and aggravation of existing gastrointestinal problems. Breathing less (or voluntary hypoventilation) can also make some digestive problems worse.

It would be normal to expect that the degree of all these negative effects may vary from individual to individual.

Similarly, according to the article entitled “The effects of hyperventilation; individual variability and its relation to personality” (Clark, 1982), not only negative cardiovascular changes but also psychological effects of hyperventilation had individual variability.

Thus, when we over-breathe, there are certain factors (both, genetic and environmental) that create our specific physiological responses to hyperventilation. While the above-mentioned negative consequences of deep breathing are typically found in a normal human organism, genetic predisposition, and some other factors (previous events which influenced the organism) probably define the organs, their parts, and the systems which are going to suffer most from low carbon dioxide stores and other effects of chronic hyperventilation. More research is required to find the effects of hyperventilation and individual differences.


Bass C, The hyperventilation syndrome, Respiratory Diseases in Practice 1990 Oct/Nov: p. 13-16.

Brasher RE, Hyperventilation syndrome, Lung 1983; 161: p. 257-273.

DaCosta JM, On irritable heart: a clinical study of a form of functional cardiac disorder and its consequences, Am J Med Sci 1871; 61: p. 17-53.

Hashimoto K, Okazaki K, Okutsu Y, The effects of hypocapnia and hypercapnia on tissue surface PO2 in hemorrhaged dogs [Article in Japanese], Masui 1989 Oct; 38(10): p. 1271-1274.

Hughes RL, Mathie RT, Fitch W, Campbell D, Liver blood flow and oxygen consumption during hypocapnia and IPPV in the greyhound, J Appl Physiol. 1979 Aug; 47(2): p. 290-295.

Lum LC, Hyperventilation: The tip and the iceberg, J Psychosom Res 1975; 19: p. 375-383.

Magarian GJ, Hyperventilation syndrome: infrequently recognized common expressions of anxiety and stress, Medicine 1982; 61: p. 219-236.

Morgan WP, Hyperventilation syndrome: a review, Am Ind Hyg Assoc J 1983; 44(9): p. 685-689.

Okazaki K, Okutsu Y, Fukunaga A, Effect of carbon dioxide (hypocapnia and hypercapnia) on tissue blood flow and oxygenation of liver, kidneys and skeletal muscle in the dog, Masui 1989 Apr, 38 (4): p. 457-464.

Santiago TV & Edelman NH, Brain blood flow and control of breathing, in Handbook of Physiology, Section 3: The respiratory system, vol. II, ed. by AP Fishman. American Physiological Society, Betheda, Maryland, 1986, p. 163-179.

Tavel ME, Hyperventilation syndrome – Hiding behind pseudonyms? Chest 1990; 97: p. 1285-1288.

Thorborg P, Jorfeldt L, Lofstrom JB, Lund N, Striated muscle tissue oxygenation and lactate levels during normo-, hyper- and hypocapnia. A study in the rabbit, Microcirc Endothelium Lymphatics 1988 Jun; 4(3): p. 205-229.

Extract from Dr. Artour Rakhimov's Amazon book "Normal Breathing: The Key to Vital Health", also available in PDF.