The Oxygen Paradox: “Why Take A Deep Breath is Incomplete Advice at Best”

Working with myself and other people to re-train our breathing through the Buteyko Institute has been an incredibly valuable experience.

Many people are feeling more grounded and focused, overcoming anxiety, allergies, chronic fatigue, hypertension and more by re-training their breathing pattern.

It’s amazing just how far we’ve come from the natural way of walking, eating and even breathing. Primal Fitness Project is about recovering best practices for human health from the past and bringing them into the information age. The health human beings will have in the future or lack thereof is in our hands at this present moment. Certainly our own health is..

Consider breathing, it is the most fundamental need of the human being. We can only survive about 4 minutes without air. Everything in our body relies on ATP, the molecule our body uses for energy. Since generation of ATP works best with Oxygen, we are in constant need of air.

Interestingly enough, the process of generating ATP in the mitochondria is actually the primary source of free radicals inside the body, even more than a toxic environment. This is important to understand because by taking control of the way we breathe and the foods we metabolize, we can control excessive free radical production, a factor in aging and disease. 

Before oxygen can make it into the Mitochondria it must travel from the lungs to the blood, then into the tissue. Some oxygen will be dissolved into the blood, about 2%.. The other 98% will be carried by Hemoglobin. This is where things go wrong for many of us and making the adjustment can give us huge gains. 

The Oxygen Paradox summarizes one of the major issues going on right now in our culture. It is Chronic Hyperventilation. The paradox is that the more we breathe, the less oxygenated our tissues actually become.

This is breathing in excess of metabolic demands resulting in several physiological responses which can cause issues to our health. Common issues associated with Chronic Hyperventilation are Anxiety, Sleep Apnea, Hypertension, Asthma, Allergies, and Obesity. A multitude of causes exist for chronic hyperventilation which will explore later in the writing.

To understand exactly what happens, I’ll show you the Oxygen-Hemoglobin Dissociation curve as a visual representation of what’s happening. Then we’ll dive deeper into the physiology of what’s happening. Knowing this information will give you a huge boost in your ability to control your breathing and understand what is happening inside your body better at any given moment. You will become much more resourceful as the mind behind the body.

Chronic Hyperventilation and Acute Hyperventilation both involve breathing in excess of metabolic demands although the acute version tends to happen in isolated incidents where chronic hyperventilation happens regularly.

Acute Hyperventilation might happen in Panic Attacks or certain respiratory disorders. It generally tends to be more intense and obvious. Chronic hyperventilation is more subtle and can easily go undetected. Both will drive the blood pH up, causing respiratory alkalosis. This is a left shift of the curve where Oxygen and Hemoglobin have greater affinity and peripheral oxygen decreases.

We cannot see the drop in oxygenation on a pulse oximeter because that measures blood oxygen. Our blood is full of oxygen but our tissues are starving for it.

The Issues

One issue that comes up here is vasoconstriction. The increase in blood pH causes blood vessels to close off which can lead to muscle cramping, tension but most importantly inhibits circulation. Our ability to nourish our body decreases. Since our blood vessels are smaller, the blood pressure increases. In this way chronic hyperventilation is tied to hypertension.

Oxygen and Hemoglobin cannot dissociate from each other meaning oxygen will stay in the blood with hemoglobin instead of being released into the tissues where it is needed.

Chronic Hyperventilation becomes a negative cycle because as our body becomes accustomed to lower levels of Carbon Dioxide our breathing pattern is altered. Since Carbon Dioxide drives the urge to breath, the urge to breath comes at the lower levels our body is accustomed to. This is altered Chemosensitivity. Now we’ve completed the loop and will continue hyperventilating until intervention.

The nervous system becomes more reactive in the alkaline environment. This may play a role in allergies. Some individuals will be predisposed to bronchial-constriction as a response to hyperventilation and exhibit asthma symptoms like myself. 

A Happy Ending

My own personal struggle with Asthma and Allergies was brought to a happy ending using the Buteyko Method. (read my story here: coming soon) It’s been amazing to feel how these factors play a role in our health moment by moment. Understanding that my nose is congested because of how I’ve been breathing and seeing for myself that I can de-congest using simple techniques was truly mind opening.

Our baseline breathing patterns are altered. They are compromised in a similar way our posture is compromised by our modern lifestyle. The mechanical tensions surrounding our lifestyle are important. Breathing is a mechanical tension and a huge influence on our physiology. Taking control of our breath brings us one step closer to taking control of our health. 

Breathing is the connection between the conscious mind and the autonomic nervous system. Through gaining awareness then control over our breath, we can influence other systems in our body. We can slow our heart down, dilate our blood vessels and much more. Let’s take control of our breathing!

Reminding You to Live Intentionally, Not Habitually


Published by Primal Fitness Project

Hello and welcome to the Primal Fitness Project. I’m a Personal Trainer with a deep interest in the body/mind. I believe it’s coming to light there is much more overlap between body and mind; physiology and psychology. In the context of evolution, the conditions we are experiencing are quite new and surprisingly unpleasant to our genetics. Major environmental conditions like lighting, temperature, food and stress are having negative impacts on our genetic expression. Negative impacts on our very human blueprint. I’m not suggesting we run off into the woods or abandon the progress that benefits us. I am suggesting that we begin to ask questions about where our culture has lost balance with the human blueprint. In an industry oriented purely the physical and worse still, dominated by dissection mentality. Disconnecting the body instead of training it as a whole. Isolating muscle groups is being shown to have negative impacts on our Fascia, the organ of form which integrates all systems of the body. The rates of injury and degeneration are fire alarms signaling our straying from the path. This BIG! It means we are unintentionally limiting ourselves in the quality of our movement and psychology. On top of that there are the environmental challenges of diet, distraction and sleep. It’s fair to say we’ve hit a low point in health and happiness with the epidemic of diseases both mental and physical. This space represents our resurgence. We’re building a community conscious of these challenges and prepared to take action back towards balance. Our weapons are information and practice. Here you will find information from people looking to empower you to take control of the six major points in our Hexagon of Health: Mentality, Movement, Breath, Sleep, Nutrition and Community. Let us put this information into practice and become stronger together.

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