Chronic hyperventilation unbalances the blood gases; one of the important changes can be low body carbon dioxide (CO2) or hypocapnia. CO2 is not just a waste gas; you need a certain amount for healthy body function.
Part 1 focused on low CO2 and tightening of the airways and how hyperventilation, or over-breathing, can cause respiratory issues.
In part 2 we turn the spotlight on blood vessels and circulation: hyperventilation-induced hypocapnia can lead not only to the airways narrowing but also constricts certain blood vessels and affects the blood supply to many organs, leading to diverse symptoms from IBS to brain fog to cold hands and palpitations (fuller list of hyperventilation related symptoms). One example of reduced blood flow/low O2 supply is shown in the figure of a brain scanned before and after just one minute of voluntary hyperventilation. The reduction in cerebral blood flow can lead in turn to poor oxygen (O2) supply to the brain, and may contribute to brain fog, poor concentration and anxiety.
Fight or flight- reduces blood supply
Breathing rapidly and an increased heart rate can be part of an adrenalin fueled fight or flight, fear or threat response, (sympathetic nervous system) which can be useful when blood is diverted to the big leg muscles to enable a fast exit from danger! In the meantime, it does not matter if digestion is put on hold or rational thought decreases though temporary reduction of 02 supply to the brain; the priority is to save your life!
However if your body is in fight or flight (sympathetic response) all the time, and when there is no danger, expect poor concentration, anxiety, IBS, palpitations and cold hands and possibly many other seemingly unrelated symptoms as every cell in your body can lack O2. To have these chronic symptoms can have a big negative impact on quality of life.
Luckily there is a way to get back control naturally by gently retraining breathing (Buteyko breathing method) to more healthy patterns and levels -decreasing flight or flight and increasing increase the parasympathetic rest relax and restore response- getting to the root of the problem and improving circulation.
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