Breathing pure oxygen kills you because it destroys the normal gas balance with CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the lungs required for effective oxygenation on the cellular level. That’s why the most modern lifesaving techniques use Carbogen instead of pure Oxygen. Carbogen is a 95:5 mixture of O2 and CO2.
When the level of CO2 in the lung’s alveoli and the arterial blood drops from normal 5.5%-6.5% down to 3% the oxygenation of muscle fibers of the heart stops and we die.
3% CO2 corresponds to the partial pressure (PCO2) of 20 mmHg. We need higher percentage (partial pressure) of carbon dioxide to let the haemoglobin (Hgb) molecules release the oxygen (O2) molecules to all of our body cells – from brain cells to internal organ and the muscle cells. These Hgb and O2 molecules are traveling in the bloodstream inside the red blood cells (RBC). Haemoglobin and oxygen molecules are attracted to each other, which is called affinity. When the affinity is strong the oxygen is not allowed to slip to the cell. When the affinity is diminishing, haemoglobin allows oxygen to slip to the cell. These very basics of cellular respiration are one of the laws of human health, described in the physiology books as Bohr effect. Danish physiologist Christian Bohr was father to famous physicist Niels Bohr, that received Nobel Prize for explaining atomic structure and quantum physics.
Normal ratio between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs and alveolar blood as cited in the modern physiology books is 21% O2 to 5.5% CO2 (40 mmHg). When we are sick or have any lifestyle disease or conditions as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, neuro-degenerative disease or cancer, the CO2 percentage is abnormally low. The life-giving rate of cellular oxygenation is diminished.
One interesting fact here is that the normality, according to physiological books 100 years ago was established at 6.5% CO2. This level corresponds to normal blood pH between 7.35-7.45. The newer physiological books say the normal level is 5.5% CO2. So the span between life and death is slowly diminishing for us humans, a kind of degenerative development. For hundred years ago the CO2 span was between 3.5%-6.5%. Nowadays the span is between 3.5%-5.5%. This very narrow range of one of the strongest descriptors of human health is diminished by 30% during the last 100 years. This happens because of prevalence of chronic hyperventilation (CHVS syndrome) which is very common condition in Western world. The scientific studies show that about 85% of the Western population suffer from different degrees of chronic hyperventilation. This explains the epidemic (actually close to pandemic rates) of lifestyle disease galloping all over the world in the last 50 years. Because CHVS triggers ventilatory alkalosis (abnormally high blood pH) which in turn tend to shift the tissue cells to metabolic acidosis (abnormally low tissue cell pH).
The next question is – what triggers chronic hyperventilation (CHVS)? The answer is – chronic stress, both mental/social, nutritional, environmental and physical/immune (impaired movement patterns, wrong exercise).
Now back to breathing. The automatical breathing patterns are regulated by Medulla Oblongata, the breathing center of the brain. Interesting aspect here is that the breathing is not controlled by oxygen levels – but by levels of carbon dioxide. The brain is about 10 times more sensitive to changes in CO2 compared to O2.
Our breathing center in the brain can actually be retrained to tolerate higher levels of CO2. This method is established and described by groundbreaking research of Russian physiologist MD Konstantin Buteyko. There is a strong body of evidence proving that when we acquire the ability to tolerate higher levels of CO2 from 5.5% to 7.5% (super endurance) chronic hyperventilation CHVS stops and the lifestyle disease disappears. Buteyko breathing normalisation techniques are used to optimise breathing effectiveness of soviet astronauts and and top athletes, among them several olympic gold winners. Optimisation of automatic breathing patterns let the top performers achieve high levels of physical and mental resilience.
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Scientific research: Case 1: