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Take a Deep Breath? Is it healthy?


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I ran across this and wondered about it, seeing we often give this as advice. Maybe it's not good advice for people suffering from an obstructive disorder (like LC). But I always thought shallow breathing was bad.

Anyway, this is the excerpt:


'TAKE A DEEP BREATH.' HOW OFTEN ARE YOU URGED TO DO JUST that, by teachers, sports coaches, even doctors? It is now widely documented that any form of deep respiration can do nothing but harm, yet the misconceptions continue, firstly that deep breathing increases oxygenation and secondly that it is relaxing and therefore healthy. To see the flaws in these two assumptions you must first of all look at what occurs when you take a deep breath. In the alveoli (gas pockets) of the lung, the human organism regulates an atmosphere completely different to the gaseous composition of the air we breathe. Here the body requires definite concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Deep breathing disturbs this 'internal atmosphere' by causing a 'blowing off', or excessive loss, of carbon dioxide from the body.

Carbon dioxide plays a vital role in the body's oxygenation process through its role of facilitating the release of oxygen from the red blood cells and into the tissues Therefore lowering of the body's carbon dioxide level equates directly to less oxygen reaching the tissues. Simply put, deep breathing results in less oxygen reaching the organs of the body, including the brain.

Oxygen depletion of the brain gives a sensation of light-headedness which is often interpreted as relaxing. In numerous studies, hyperventilation has been shown to rapidly (within the first 30 seconds) slow down the functioning ability of the brain. It is also shown to reduce blood flow to the brain through vasoconstriction (cell spasm). These factors are also linked to this 'relaxing' effect. Most of us are aware of the schoolyard trick of causing yourself to faint by breathing deeply tor an extended period of time - this is only a continuance of this situation.

Carbon dioxide, through its conversion into dissolved carbon dioxide gas, carbonic acid, bicarbonates, carbonates and carbamates, plays many varied roles in our biological processes. Apart from its function as a regulator of the respiratory system, carbon dioxide is also a vital player in the vascular, nervous, hormonal and digestive systems of the human body.

Yet probably carbon dioxide's most important function is (through its conversion to carbonic acid) as the number one buffer (regulator) in our acid-base balance. If our bodies are depleted of this 'acid base' then alkalaemia (over-alkaline pH) develops which is known to impair immune function. Hyperventilation leads to weaker immunity and therefore poor health generally.

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Hi Elaine,

Interesting article. A few big breaths every once in a while will not disturb the acid-base balance of the body, but hyperventilation will (continuous big breaths). After surgery (abdominal or thoracic) we encourage our patients to take big breaths every once in a while to open up the lungs (some of the alveoli in the lungs collapse, and big breaths open them up). Some of you may have had to use an incentive spirometer post surgery to monitor how big you breaths were, and to try and increase them to pre-op levels. It seems everything in moderation is good, too much of anything is a bad thing! :lol:


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Agreed, theres a big difference between taking some deep breaths, which you would do if you walked up a flight of stairs, ran a block, etc and hyperventilating, in which you deep breath repeatedly for emotional reasons not physical need. Donna G

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