Why Do We Breathe
This is a very fundamental question. We eat food which is basically complex molecule of hydrocarbon which upon digestion gets converted into sugar. The energy is supplied to entire cellular structure by conversion of this sugar to energy utilizing oxygen we breathe from respiration. This phenomenon occurs in every living cell –dead cell cannot generate energy. The cells are kept alive by life energy in cosmos which is tapped by entire cellular structure through breathing process. Thus breathing process supplies oxygen to each cell while cell remains alive from the life energy we take through breathing process. The cell then uses oxygen to convert food into sugar energy
What Happens When We Breathe? – Oxygen Metabolism in Ideal Case
It is very important to note the following effects associated with breathing:
Bohr Effect: Haemoglobin’s oxygen binding capacity is inversely related to carbon dioxide concentrations, meaning that without CO2 oxygen cannot be released into tissues, as it cannot be released from the haemoglobin molecule.
Haldane effect: Deoxygenation of the blood increases its capacity for carbon dioxide.
Interactions in cellular processes take place in mitochondria of the cell.
Mitochondria: Cellular organelle, often considered the “energy factory” / “power plant” of the cell.
This is extremely important to understand the basic process of oxygen metabolism. We, now discuss it as follows:
O2 picked up by the blood in small blood vessels is used by body cells to generate energy. The process also generates H2O and CO2 as per the aerobic reaction known as oxygen metabolism reaction:
6O2 (from breath) + C6H12O6 (glucose in blood) + BMR (basal metabolic rate) = ergs/ATP (energy) +6CO2 +6H2O (pure water). Perfect reaction
The water generated in this reaction is used for making lymph which is a very important part of immune system of the body. Any problem in correctly achieving the above reaction causes dramatic lowering of the energy generation and most importantly, generation of water required to make lymph which is a very important component of our immune system.
A part of CO2 dissolves in water making carbonic acid which is returned to blood. This makes the blood relatively acidic (in comparison with tissue) in character.This is the key to disease free body is oxygen metabolism, generation and propulsion of lymph and precise pH value of blood (7.3-7.45)
Breathing defects derail the basic oxygen metabolism process to a great extent causing complex diseases in the body. One of the most easily identified mechanisms underlying these observations is
inhibition of the Bohr Effect, in which, haemoglobin’s oxygen binding capacity is inversely related to carbon dioxide concentrations. This means that high carbon dioxide concentrations produced as a result of efficient oxidative metabolism allows for oxygen release where it is needed (for example, in heart), at least when the system is functioning in an organised manner. When someone hyperventilates he/she breathes out large amounts of carbon dioxide and inhibits the Bohr Effect. Thus paradoxically over breathing results in decreased cellular respiration, even though the blood may be carrying significant quantities of oxygen. This results in increased rates of glycolysis – an inefficient form of energy (ATP) production, resulting in the formation of lactic acid. This further exacerbates the situation as lactic acid appears to compete with carbon dioxide in the blood resulting in increased losses of carbon dioxide, whereas carbon dioxide inhibits lactate production, some of these effects are likely mediated through acid-base homeostasis. This is in many respects the respiratory pathology that Otto Warburg noted as the defining feature of cancer, aerobic glycolysis – the production of lactate in presence of oxygen. This aerobic glycolysis is claimed to be a fundamental respiratory defect. I am not inclined to not accept this theory. If it is so, all the people who hyperventilate while breathing should develop cancer. It also does not explain why cancers originate in particular region of the body and not in whole body at a time, although once it originates, it can spread to other regions if not treated. Obviously there are some other issues which are not purely biochemical in nature. The other very important issue is the electrical potential of the cell which is a measure of cell’s capacity to carry out biochemical reactions required for generating CO2 as a by-product. The healthy cells have electrical potential of the order of 120 mV whereas cancers cells have less than 60 mV electrical potential.
Aerobic glycolysis as per present theory occurs whenever the mitochondrial oxidation of pyruvate is inhibited. There are, as per modern theory, multiple chemical agents capable of inhibiting this efficient energy production by combustion of sugar. They however all appear to function in fairly common manner that is they stimulate inflammation, or cellular swelling and oedema. These agents include estrogen, histamine, bacterial endotoxin, polyunsaturated fatty acids, serotonin, and lactate itself. In my humble opinion this phenomenon will not happen if the entire cellular structure is adequately energised. Such energization is possible with correct breathing process. Pranayama practice sets the correct breathing process when done properly.
Anaerobic glycolysis occurring as a result of short term intense physical exertion as well as in some of the Pranayama kriyas such as Kapal bhati, Bhastrika etc is adaptive with those actions of lactate that assist in the organism’s adaptation to the stress. For example, lactate’s stimulation of angiogenesis can be seen as a functional signal assisting in bringing increased blood (through creation of new blood vessels) to an area undergoing adaptive growth. In Pranayama breathing a deliberate pause in breathing is given. It is called the Kumbhak. When done properly, Kumbhak gives extraordinary benefits to the practioners of Pranayama. Of course in other circumstances, the signals involved are vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), transforming growth factor beta (TGF beta), interleukin-1 (IL-1), and hypoxia-inducible factor (hif-1alpha), which are all associated with pathological conditions as that of cancer if exposure is for long term and repeated. In long terms these represent a fundamentally out of control situation. In a state of health these signals of inflammation and dedifferentiation are inevitably calmed by the overall coherence of the organism and its environment. This coherence exists if the entire cellular is energised. The fact that so many chronic inflammatory conditions have become so common today, should, if people were paying attention serve as a warning that our “civilization” is dangerously incoherent.
Majority of people incorrectly consider CO2 as the major threat to health and overly consider only O2 as the major protector of our health. This is grossly untrue and misleading. Ray Peat suggests that the effect carbon dioxide has on haemoglobin, in allowing the release of oxygen into tissues is a general electronic effect, and that carbon dioxide is capable of acting to structure water in the cell eliminating swelling and oedema, restoring order and coherence to the excited cell.
Evidence for carbon dioxide’s capacity to act in way that restores order and coherence to the cellular structure can be seen in its capacity to protect the brain from hypoxia (Vannucci et al. 1995), inhibit formation of reactive oxygen species ROS (Kogan et al. 1997), stabilise mast cells inhibiting histamine release (Strider et al. 2010), stabilising nerve cells (Krnjevic et al. 1965), its inhibition of lactate formation (Cohen et al. 1990). These attributes (especially the inhibition of ROS and lactate) suggest that carbon dioxide is acting to optimize energy production, preventing electron leakage during redox reactions, favouring efficient coherent mitochondrial oxidative metabolism. The use of carbonic anhydrase inhibitors in reducing tumour growth supports the importance of carbon dioxide as a fundamental regulator of metabolism (Supuran and Scozzafava 2000).
Carbon dioxide has many other physiological actions including, vasodilatation. It is thus obvious that chronic hyperventilation would lead to hypertension and other circulatory diseases because of less generation of cellular CO2. It also plays a crucial role in the aetiology of neurodegenerative diseases. This is made possible both through its promotion of circulation (being vasodilator), and optimizing mitochondrial function. Both of these are inhibited by hyperventilation. CO2 is also involved in bronco dilation (van den Elshout et al. 1991), and muscle relaxation (Hoyle 1960). Carbon dioxide appears to play a role in bone mineralization, and whilst metabolic acidosis has some associations with bone loss, respiratory acidosis (high CO2) does not show the same associations and may be protective (Bushinsky et al. 1993). Perhaps this would explain the stories of yogis and internal martial artists having strong bones. Carbon dioxide seems to play a key role in the secretion of hydrochloric acid by the stomach (Davies 1951). This supports the assertion that Pranayama increases ‘the digestive fire’ of the Pranayama practioners. Carbon dioxide protects against lung injury both prophylactically and therapeutically (Laffey et al. 2003, Salmon and Hotchkiss 2007).
If the cancer cell is used as an illustrative example of a cell in a disordered chaotic condition, wherein the swelling characteristic of this disorder is produced by its overly reduced state (having an excess of electrons, and hence being alkaline), carbon dioxide is capable of acting as a Lewis acid and withdrawing electrons from the excited proteins, the oxygen delivery facilitated by carbon dioxide further resolves this condition by restoring healthy oxidative metabolism
Serious Breathing Defects
• Hyperventilation – rapid and deep breathing
• Shallow breathing
• These are significantly dependent upon our state of mind. In the stressed condition of mind, the breathing rate goes up significantly which does not allow oxygen metabolism to take place correctly. Shallow breathing is associated with lethargic mind. In this case sufficient oxygen does not reach the cellular structure.
• Long term exposure to these defects do cause serious health issues and thus it is very important to know about these defects and methods to overcome them