3 Reasons Over-breathing is Killing You
It sounds so silly right? After all everybody knows how to breathe. We do it all day every day of our lives. From birth to death there isn’t a day goes by where we don’t breathe, in fact, there isn’t even an hour goes by without breathing. How then, can we over-breathe and does over-breathing really kill us? We’re going to dive into these questions and then give you 3 Ways Over-breathing is Killing You.
Over-breathing, more commonly known as chronic hyperventilation or hyperventilation for short, is defined as taking more air in than your body needs...”over a period of time”. I added the last part to the definition because there is a difference between hyperventilating purposely in the short-term vs doing it subconsciously for days, weeks, months and years.
The short term hyperventilation is performed in many breathing techniques such as Holotropic breathing, Coherent breathing and Wim Hof breathing. It has it’s place and can be beneficial to people in certain circumstances. We’re not talking about this type of breathing here. It is the later – hyperventilation – which I’m referring to here.
Slowly and insidiously hyperventilation kills you breath by breath, day by day, week by week, year by year.
Like a virus wreaking havoc in your computer system, over-breathing destroys your body one cell at a time, one organ at a time, one system at a time, until you are left with a multitude of chronic illness, pain & even death in some cases.
100+ years ago, Da Costa associated 150 different ailments with over-breathing. Some systems break down as a direct result of over-breathing, others are related to it (they are more downstream and less of a direct result).
But how exactly do we end up over-breathing?
150 years George Catlin did some research. He was trying to find out why the disease and death rate of children in London, UK was so much higher than tribal children’s death rate. After studying over 3000 people he found three things were contributing to the high disease and death rates:
3. Environmental toxins
4. Mouth breathing
Specifically he identified mouth breathing as the biggest cause. He even named his book after it – “Shut your mouth and Save Your Life”. But when we examine these factors a little closer, we see that they all affect the breathing.
More sugar and kcal’s -> mouth breathing and over-breathing
More toxins -> mouth and over-breathing
More alcohol -> mouth and over-breathing
Mouth breathing and over breathing are synonymous. With one comes the other. Mouth breathing is a sure fire sign that you’ve been over breathing for a long time and so I use it as a sign of dysfunctional breathing. Mouth breathing is not just a cause in and of itself but it can also be a result of other, dysfunctional, lifestyle habits. But when it does happen, we know it is a major sign of dysfunction in the body – the body is working damn hard even just to breathe.
And we all know the next step is an organ becoming dysfunction, a system or even the body itself is in survivor mode.
Because our world has progressed in the last 150 years, so have the causes for over-breathing. Added to Carlin’s list can also go:
5. Psycho-social stress
6. Sedentary lifestyles
In other words, with the advent of technology and modern society, we have become less active and we have higher levels of stress. Both of the lifestyle habits also contribute to the over-breathing epidemic.
So now that we know over-breathing is killing us and we know why we develop mouth breathing, let’s find out how its killing in three ways.
1. More toxins in
Breathing more air than we need increases the amount of oxygen in our lungs AND it increases the amount of toxins in our body.
Think of all the pollutants in our air – car fumes, cigarette smoke, paint, perfumes, deodorants, hairs-sprays, factory smoke, incinerators, sprayed chemicals from farms, airplane fuel....the list goes on and on. Our air quality is very poor these days, especially in the big cities. Just check out the Plume app to find out how much air pollution is in your area.
Now add the fact that we inhale on average 20,000-30,000 litres of air per day and you’ll see why breathing too much air can become poisonous for your body.
Just a few weeks ago I was walking in Battersea Park, London, England. This is a beautiful park with lots of trees, plants and shrubs. These are the living lungs of the earth. Like our own lungs they clean all the pollutants out of the air so the environment can survive and thrive. Well, within 15 meters of the edge of the park I got a strong whiff of fumes – the air quality changed noticeably from fresh air inside the park to smog filled city air on its borders. I was amazed to feel the difference clean and polluted air felt to my body in a matter of seconds. Our problem is that we are so used to polluted air that we don’t know what fresh air feels like anymore.
2. More CO2 out
CO2 is not just a waste gas, it is a critical rate limiting factor in oxygen delivery to the cells. When we breathe too much air as a way of life, we expel tons of carbon dioxide and upset the balance of CO2 and O2 in our system.
And we do breathe too much air. Studies have shown time and again that people with disease are also over-breathing:
Normal breathing rates 4-6 liters of air per minute
Breathing rates of people with:
Heart disease 15l/min
Panic disorder 12l/min
Without sufficient levels of CO2 dissolved in the blood, oxygen does not make its way as easily to the cell. A lack of oxygen in your cells results in cell death, organ dysfunction, system breakdown and disease.
This makes normalisation of breathing patterns a primary goal in any health intervention. Returning you breath to normal breathing volumes and nasal breathing will help the body return to a relaxed state and cope better with the demands of your life.
3. Systematic breakdown
Once a pattern of over-breathing has set in (for whatever reason) the body will do everything in its power to ensure you stay alive. This is why it is near impossible for someone to kill themselves by holding their breath consciously on-land.
**Please note, I am not recommending you to try holding your breath for a maximum time as you will blackout and possibly hurt yourself, but it is almost impossible to kill yourself. And definitely do not breath hold in water or you will kill yourself!**
Breathing is so fundamental to life the body will develop all sorts of compensation patterns to ensure survival. It will adapt and change your posture to ensure survival. And it will recruit other organs, such as the kidneys, to work extra hard to maintain homeostasis (or balance) in the body.
As more and more pressure is exerted on these other systems over time, your body begins to breakdown. You develop pain and dysfunction.
The lungs cope less with air pollutants.
The heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body.
The kidneys are recruited to maintain blood pH.
The gut can’t process food as well without the internal massage effect of the breath.
The brain becomes foggy and frustrated with poor oxygen supply.
And the muscles become overloaded and painful with mis-use over time.
As you can see there are many effects over-breathing and mouth breathing have on the body. It may not be the root cause of your issue but it certainly has a role to play in the health of your body. If you are seriously considering a change in your health, breathing must be addressed at some point.
Tagged as: Breathing
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