Chronic Fatigue And Carbon Dioxide Depletion

chronicfatigueWe are all aware of the importance of dietary choices in a overall health plan. What we eat, when we eat and how much we eat all have an impact on how we manage our day to day affairs. But did you ever stop to think that it may be just as important to manage our breathing in the same manner we manage our food intake? Is it possible that over-breathing, like overeating will have detrimental health affects? We have a good understanding of what happen when we take in too much food for our metabolic needs, but do we have any understanding of what happens when we breathe too much for our metabolic needs? Given that we take in anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 breaths per day, how do we begin to manage a system that pretty much runs on its own?

We know that any type of long term stress will increase the rate of breathing. Chronically ill individuals on average will breathe 2 or 3 times more than healthy individuals, averaging about 20 to 36 breaths/minute as opposed to 12-15 breaths/minute for healthy individuals. And with the terminally ill, the rate will increase to 30-40 breaths/minute.

Under conditions of physical work or exercise, 30-40 breaths/minute may be appropriate to maintain metabolic efficiency just as it would be appropriate to consume 6000 calories per day with an intensive exercise program. But try consuming this many calories when you are not under a work load and it won’t take long before things are looking a little out of proportion.

But counting breaths is not like counting calories, nor are the detrimental effects as obvious to ascertain. In fact the problem of chronic hyperventilation goes undetected pretty much all the time because changes in the rate of breathing are so very subtle. Hyperventilation is a maladaptive response to stress that has now become the silent epidemic.

When we breathe too much to match the body’s metabolic needs the dynamic balance between oxygen we inhale and CO2 we exhale becomes disturbed and carbon dioxide levels begin to drop. Decreased levels of CO2 in the blood result in an increase in oxygen saturation of the hemoglobin, paradoxically resulting in oxygen starvation in the tissues themselves due to the Verigo-Bohr affect. Here the hemoglobin holds on to the oxygen due to higher PH levels in the blood resulting from hypocapnia (low CO2 levels).

It should be pointed out that a deficit of carbon dioxide can occur not only from over breathing, but also from the metabolic level. When the metabolism shifts from oxidation, that is the burning of glucose with oxygen (highly efficient) to the burning of glucose without oxygen as in fermentation, carbon dioxide is no longer produced as a byproduct. This loss of endogenous CO2 represents a adaptive crisis for the human organism with a wide range of detrimental effects. Carbon dioxide is a necessary substrate in the production of Krebs cycle intermediaries that are required steps toward ATP synthesis.

The loss of these intermediaries and the shift to fermentative metabolism results in a drastic loss of ATP efficiency. In the respiration cycle that utilizes oxygen to burn glucose, 36 molecules of ATP are produced for every molecule of glucose. Contrast this to the fermentation cycle where only 2 ATP are produced for every molecule of glucose. In this condition of your body is producing minimal energy it will ‘shut down’ those systems that are unnecessary to keep you alive. To say that you lack motivation to perform day to day tasks would be a gross understatement as you are now in serious slow down mode where even the simplest tasks become a monumental effort.

The blood alkalosis, increased PH that results from reduced levels of Co2 leads to migration of calcium ions into muscle tissue and higher lactate levels leading to extreme muscle fatigue. Further it can also result in spasm of smooth muscle tissue resulting in numerous complications in the cardio vascular and vasocerebral systems.

Dr. Paul Cheney who has pioneered clinical research with chronic fatigue patients for over 25 years and has outlined the pernicious effects of declining CO2 levels and subsequent problems with oxidative damage from peryoxynitrite. Dr. Cheney now believes that oxygen toxicity is the fundamental problem in ME/CFS due to reduced levels of CO2 that lead to run away free radical damage in the mitochondria. When the mitochondria become compromised the cell will revert to producing energy in the cytoplasm with all of the accompanying detrimental effects.

Peryoxynitrite is a deadly nitric oxide radical capable of inflicting severe damage to mitochondrial DNA and membranes. We die of old age due to peryoxynitrite. Nitric oxide is ubiquitous in the human body, acting as an important signaling compound. When energy processes are working normally in the mitochondria, peryoxynitrite formation is limited.

In the production of ATP, super-oxide is produced in the mitochondria. When this is combined with nitric oxide that is present outside the mitochondria, peryoxynitrite is formed. Super-oxide is normally broken down in the mitochondria via glutathione peroxidase, but when the mitochondria become stressed and glutathione reserves are depleted, the superoxide leaks out from the mitochondria and combines with nitric oxide to yield peryoxynitrite.

There is however, a backup system to glutathione depletion that leads to runaway peryoxynitrite damage. It turns out that it is carbon dioxide that is the chief scavenger of peryoxynitrite. But remember that carbon dioxide is generated as a byproduct only in oxidative metabolism and therefore when the cell reverts to the fermentative form of energy production you are not only sacrificing ATP output, but are suffering the loss of the protective benefits of CO2. This kick starts a downward spiral, a systemic crisis where oxidative and nitrosative free radicals continue to wreak havoc on cell membranes and mitochondrial DNA leaving you vulnerable to a host of chronic illnesses.

Breath Balance acts to restore proper levels of carbon dioxide. It allows oxygen to work more efficiently by reaching the cells and preventing conditions of hypoxia. The role of CO2 as one of the body’s chief anti-oxidants cannot be overstated and its depletion results in a compensatory response in the form of chronic illness. Primitive cells evolved in a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere and are still highly dependent today on adequate levels of CO2 to maintain overall homeostasis.

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