Are you breathing properly?

holistic-breathingBreathing is something we do every minute of every day we are alive. Mostly we don’t even think about it and it is on automatic.

Sometimes our bodies can get into a state of hyperventilation or breathing through our mouth and over-breathing – blowing off too much carbon dioxide and leaving the body in an out of balance state of oxygen relative to carbon dioxide for the body systems.

If your body has lower levels of carbon dioxide than normal due to breathing it out of your system too fast this can lead to problems with your haemoglobin or red blood cells letting go of oxygen. Up to 80% of the oxygen will simply go back to the lungs unused if you have low carbon dioxide. Oxygen needs to be released from haemoglobin in the blood so it can go into the cells and be used.

Interestingly sparkling mineral waters are rich in carbon dioxide and often make people feel better!

Even though you are breathing more and faster through your mouth you actually get less oxygen delivered to your cells. This is known as the Bohr effect. The haemoglobin can’t release the oxygen due to low carbon dioxide in the blood.

Most of the oxygen in the body is used in the “mitochondria” or “small energy batteries” in each cell. 85-90% of the body’s oxygen is used by these mitochondria for energy production. The brain is rich in these energy batteries and needs and uses 20% of the body’s oxygen intake.

So if you are over-breathing or hyperventilating or snoring at night and mouth breathing you can see why you would start to feel tired and wacked out in the morning – like your battery is flat and there is no energy in the body. The oxygen just isn’t getting to the cells.

There are places you can train to help you with your breathing.

Glenn White runs the Buteyko clinic in Ponsonby with excellent training on the nasal breathing method that helps some asthmatics and those with chronic hyperventilation. Buteyko is named after the Ukranian/Russian doctor with the same name.

On his website you can read about the principles. Cellular hypoxia or low oxygen can mean the blood vessels and airways can stay in a constricted state and you can get headaches, tiredness, asthma type symptoms, nasal congestion problems.

This can extend to global problems throughout the body as wherever you have blood vessels constricting due to the lack of oxygen you can get problems – bowel, kidney, pelvic area and so on.

Professor Buteyko noted that as a consequence over 200 conditions can be attributed to being from this chronic hypoxic state. Here is the list from Glenn’s website of problems people often experience:

Over-breathing can trigger asthma attacks, panic attacks, migraines and exacerbate a range of disorders including: breathlessness, shortness of breath, asthma, hypertension, heart palpitations, irregular heart beat, dizziness, spacey feelings, tingling in hands and feet, numbness, light headedness, fatigue, sleep apnoea, cold hands and feet, digestive disorders including gastric reflux, bloatedness, irritable bowel and stress disorders.

If you snore or have sleep apnoea or make loud breathing noises at night due to mouth breathing you may like to see about this Buteyko breath re-training.

The other aspect to consider is that if you are overweight - as you lose considerable weight the tendency to snore decreases. Some people find if they lose weight they don’t snore as much or snoring disappears and they sleep better. The neck area and “soft palate” that is the area at the back of the throat cause less problems with breathing and you can feel more alive when you wake up.

Mouth breathing or snoring all night can really impact on your energy the next day. Glenn White at Buteyko has some great techniques to help night time sleeping habits and retraining to help nose breathing.

Vitamin E is also a very good nutrient to take each day if you want to oxygenate the blood.

Green drinks of chlorophyll can help replenish your haemoglobin and magnesium. If you have problems with chronic low iron or low energy then drinking a regular green chlorophyll rich drink can help. The green colour in plants is the same as our haemoglobin except it carries a magnesium molecule rather than an iron molecule.

Breathing is important and anything we can do to make us breathe better will lead to more energy, better brain function and better mitochondrial – cellular energy.