Breathing Pattern Disorders

So in view of the fact today is National Asthma Awareness day in the UK, I thought I’d write a little on Breathing Pattern Disorders (BPD) and how they affect people and the human organism.

There are a few misconceptions about oxygen, carbon dioxide and their relationship with the human body. When we breathe, we expel CO2, and breathe in O2. However, this does not necessarily mean that CO2 is poisonous to humans. No, we cannot live from breathing in CO2, but yes, we can have big issues from not having enough of it in our system.

When a person overbreathes – or, at the extreme of this, hyperventilates, the effect on the body is to reduce the amount of CO2 in the system, and the concentration of CO2 in the blood drops. This lowering of concentration of CO2 results in respiratory alkalosis- it causes the bloods pH levels to rise, from an average of about 7.4 up into potentially alkaline levels. (The body will attempt to respond to this by releasing bicarbonate from the kidneys, but this is only a short term buffering attempt).

Symptoms that are generally associated with increased alkalosis are fatigue, increased pain sensitivity, decreased cognitive function, anxiety and so on.

BPD can be seen in people who actually have no specific cause for an issue. There are myriad symptoms ranging from digestive to cardiovascular, emotional and musculoskeletal which can be a result of a disorder associated with breathing. The most common physical symptoms are abdominal pain, chest pain, headache and back pain- these combined are responsible for over half of primary care visits in the UK per year. Only 10-15% are caused by organic illness. Indeed, a patient with chest pain, on average sees at least 10 doctors prior to a diagnosis being made.

The causes of BPD can be wide ranging. Women have shown an historic prevalence for Hyperventilation – and studies have shown this may be due to progesterone in their bodies which is absent from men. As previously mentioned, it may have no obvious specific cause – but it brought on through accumulated stress. It may be biomechanical – the fascia in the body becomes used to sitting and relaxing in a certain manner, which may be comfortable for a person, but it sub-optimal when it comes to breathing.

No matter where you look, there are connections with pain, with dysfunction, with biomechanical issues, with physiology because people are not (for any number of reasons) breathing optimally.

I am not saying don’t go to a doctor if you have chest pains. By all means, go! Get it sorted. However, if there appears to be no good reason for an issue you are having – if there has been no discernable cause for pain, for a disorder that may be cropping up or general disaffection and brain fog, think about the way in which you are breathing. Think about your posture. Think about whether you are breathing more or less than you need to.
This may perhaps be the root of it.

(I must acknowledge Leon Chaitow in this post, without whose work, this entry would be significantly shorter, this is not an in depth look at BPD, I am merely scraping the surface with a fingernail, it’s a fascinating and deep subject matter – oh, and any mistakes are my own- don’t go shouting at Leon).


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