Dr Peter Litchfield, a breathing expert notes that “Overbreathing can be a dangerous behaviour immediately triggering and/or exacerbating a wide variety of serious physical and mental symptoms, complaints, and deficits in health and human performance.”
So does overbreathing or hyperventilation play a part in ME/CFS/SEID?
1) Hyperventilation symptoms are very like those of ME/CFS/SEID
“Hyperventilation syndrome (HVS) can show itself in different ways. Most people with HVS will experience some, or many, of the following symptoms:
Respiratory: breathlessness tightness around the chest fast breathing frequent sighing
Tetanic: tingling (e.g. in fingers, arms, mouth) muscle stiffness trembling in hands
Cerebral: dizziness blurred vision faintness headaches
Cardiac: palpitations tachycardia (rapid heart beat)
Temperature: cold hands or feet shivering warm feeling in the head Gastrointestinal: sickness abdominal pain
General: tension anxiety fatigue and lethargy insomnia”
(this information was taken from my local Derbyshire NHS Community Health info on Hyperventilation Syndrome, and it is great that they recognise it).
Any and every system in the body can be affected. Here is a more detailed list, not everyone has the same symptoms, genetics also plays a part.
2) Hyperventilation depletes the tissues of oxygen
a. Low levels of CO2 stop release of oxygen from the blood
Short of breath? Breathe less! Says Dr Myhill, well known CFS expert.
“Many patients, particularly asthma patients, but also CFS patients, have a sensation that they are not getting enough oxygen to their tissues. Their response to this is to breathe more deeply. However blood cannot become more than 100% saturated with oxygen. All that happens is that more carbon dioxide is washed out of the blood. This makes oxygen cling more fiercely to haemoglobin in red blood cells and therefore oxygen delivery to the tissues is made worse! Paradoxically, to improve oxygen supply to the tissues you have to breathe less! Breathing less increases carbon dioxide levels and improves oxygen delivery.”
b) Low levels of CO2 reduce blood flow to the brain
Dr Medows researches orthostasis (feel worse when standing) and ME/CFS “Some of those with ME/CFS and orthostasis (feel worse when standing) also experience very rapid, deep breathing during an orthostatic challenge, like trying to catch your breath after strenuous exercise. This hyperventilation, in turn, leads to reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, or affecting the pH of the body. And, guess what? One of the most powerful modulators of brain blood flow happens to be CO2. The lower the CO2, the lower the cerebral blood flow.”
Dr. Medow’s hypothesis: that the reduced cerebral blood flow and brain fog occurs, at least in part, because of impaired control mechanisms for regulating C02 and/or blood pressure.
3) Learning to breathe less can help ME/CFS/SEID symptoms
Breathing normalization by re-education can help; you can find some success stories here.
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