deep breathing

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Well, the other day I was going to my bank to do a transaction when I was asked to swipe my card to confirm my pin number, I realized I lost my ATM card. In the process of talking to my banker, she asked me what I did, and I answered that I thought breathing by conserving carbon dioxide and HRV variation. This caught her attention. So I gave a little explanation given that it is carbon dioxide levels in the brain that actually regulates the breathing if we allow it, by triggering the diaphragm. Then she asks me an interesting question; can you lose weight by breathing? This intrigued me because I only have a hypothesis at this time, I answered yes, and that it was possible given what I understood of physiology.

That is, overbreathing can cause vasoconstriction to blood vessels and impede blood flow to the all of the organs of the body including the brain. As I understood it, the brain consumes about 20-25% of the body’s oxygenation and a good amount of blood sugar. If that is compromised, I suppose one could feel hunger and still have plenty blood sugar, except that the brain does not perceive it that way. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons, like hormones, exercise, sleep cycles, the types of food being eaten, etc…

Then she proceeded to tell me that she had watched an infomercial where this one lady was selling a program which she bought. It was teaching very deep breathing for minutes at time saying that you needed more oxygen to burn of the fat. Then my banker went on to explain some of signs and symptoms of overbreathing (blowing off too much carbon dioxide) like tingling in the hands, lightheadedness, dizziness, inability to focus, and was wondering if such a program would actually work, according to what I knew. Judging on her physical appearance she still seemed overweight to me, so I said I didn’t think that severe overbreathing would be that helpful for controlling weight problems if anything perhaps making it worst. Then she said she had seen on TV for many years….so the programs must have been successful, to which I said “financially” yes perhaps but the result she got, didn’t look so good. I explained that if she conserved her carbon dioxide, she might feel less hungry because there was more blood flood going to the brain and as a result she would have more blood sugar and oxygen with the right amount of carbon dioxide to regulate the blood PH. Which would help regulate cellular oxygenation. Well anyway that is my hypothesis for the moment…until I find a better one.

John Kelly RN

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Breathe Deeply?

8 breathing2 150x150 Breathe Deeply?

Is it healthy?

Why was I so often drowsy when doing the deep breathing that I had been taught in meditation, yoga, and biofeedback? I wondered this for over 3o years.  I didn’t find out why until I measured my ETCO₂ (my breathing chemistry) with a CapnoTrainer while breathing deeply. Wow, was I surprised when I saw that my CO₂  significantly dropped then.  This means that I was actually shorting myself of oxygen.  What I mistook for a relaxed meditative state was actually a lethargic, hypoxic state where I was taking in too much air and not letting it all back out.  The Easterners had it right.  It’s not about TAKING a breath, it’s about finishing a breath, completing the exhale. That’s what get’s the oxygen to the bloodstream and brain.

Yes, the deep breath feels relaxing to many, and probably for several reasons:  1. That is what we are told to do when stressed, so we expect it to help.  2. It takes our awareness inward.  3. When we take deeper breaths, we usually slow our breathing, which slows our heart rate and calms the system.  BUT, if your deep breath is one that actually shorts your oxygen supply, that is definitely not good because it means everything will start to constrict due to loss of oxygen.

SO, if a deep breath isn’t a guarantee of getting more oxygen from your lungs to your bloodstream and brain, then HOW DO YOU KNOW if your breathing is giving you the right amount of oxygen?  There is one way that is scientifically accurate and one way that is a best guess.  The sure way is the use of a capnometer (the more scientific oriented method is to use a capnometer which measures carbon dioxide such as the “CapnoTrainer” which also measures Heart Rate Variability, HRV).  The best guess is not by pulse ox (oximeter) but by noticing the symptoms that accompany lowered ETCO₂ and lowered oxygen, like feeling light-headed or short of breath (see symptom checklist on our website

When I first jogged regularly,  around the same time I started meditation and yoga, I wore one of the first heart rate monitors and was baffled by how much my heart rate was jumping around.  I wasn’t sure whether the there was something wrong with the heart rate monitor or me, so I checked both out.  For myself, I found I had a few PVCs, which can be very dangerous and cause sudden heart attacks. I overcame those working with breathing and heart rate monitoring and exercise moderation.  Only later did I find out that our heart rate is supposed to vary rhythmically, both at rest and while being active. For example, when at rest, when we breathe in our heart rate (HR) increases and when we breathe out it decreases.   How much it varies is called HRV. The least healthy is to have a steady or irregular heart rate, with not much rhythmic variability.  In fact regularly low HRV is a predictor of all causes of death and a correlate of negative emotions and poor health.  And the converse is true also—greater HRV is a correlate of good cardiovascular health and of more positive emotional states, better cognitive and physical performance, greater intuition, and much more.  For more.

Now, I am happy to BreatheHeartfully as we go into the Art and Science of Better Breathing and Greater Heart Rate Variability for your health and enjoyment and for your very BEST. My motto is OPT for the BEST, my acronym for: Optimal Performance Training for the Body, Emotions, Spirit, & Thoughts.

I look forward to being of help and service. Well come and see our programs, biofeedback instruments, trainings, presentation and resources.

Till we connect again,

Bob Whitehouse, EdD  7/19/2010

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