Do You Over-breathe?
Surveys suggest that up to 60 percent of all ambulance calls in major US cities may be a direct result of the symptoms triggered by overbreathing! For every person who shows up in emergency, how many more show up in physician’s offices with unexplained symptoms? For every person who goes to see a physician, how many more simply go to work? And for everyone who reports a “medical symptom” how many more suffer with performance deficits?
Over-breathing means that too much CO2 is being excreted, hypocapnia, which may seriously disturb acid-base balance, immediately and dramatically. Like any behavior, over-breathing can be learned, resulting in behavioral hypocapnia. Its effects on body chemistry may mediate “unexplained symptoms,” misunderstood performance deficits, and acute and chronic “effects of stress,” all of which may be falsely attributed to other causes.
Over-breathing is perhaps the best example of how a learned behavior regulates placebo (nocebo) effects, that is, how it can cause, trigger, exacerbate, and perpetuate symptoms and deficits of all kinds.
These effects are real, not imagined, and may include:
• physical symptoms (e.g., asthma, fatigue, pain, hypertension)
• performance deficits (e.g., public speaking, test taking, carpal-tunnel)
• emotional reactivity (e.g., anger, anxiety, impatience)
• cognitive deficits (e.g., attention, learning, problem solving)
• psychological changes (e.g., personality shifts, self-esteem)
• stress symptoms, immediate and long-term
Some of the physiological changes include:
• reduced blood flow and volume in the brain (up to 50%)
• oxygen and glucose deficit in the brain
• alteration of hemoglobin chemistry
• educed supply of nitric oxide (vasoconstriction)
• reduced coronary artery blood volume and flow
• bronchial constriction in the lungs
• smooth muscle constriction in the gut
• electrolyte imbalance, including sodium, potassium, and calcium
• buffer system compromises, bicarbonates
• muscle fatigue, weakness, spasm, and pain
• Increased excitability and metabolism of brain cells
• Intracellular (lactic) acidosis in brain and other cells
Ask Anita about how you can train yourself to have a more mindful breath to create better physiology, reduce anxiety, and enhance athletic performance.