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Sue Reynolds, Master Herbalist
Sue Reynolds, M.S.W.
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Master Herbalist

Updated February 15, 2020
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The information provided on this site is for educational purposes and not for diagnosing or treating disease. If you are experiencing a serious health condition, please consult a qualified health professional.


Oxygen - It’s a Real Gas!

February 16th, 2020

by Michael Reynolds  (1994)

What is colorless, odorless, invisible, and essential to our daily life? Love! Okay, that may be true, but oxygen is the real focus of this article. Oxygen is extremely important to our survival, however many people do not pay much attention to it.

When we inhale, oxygen is transferred from the lungs to the bloodstream and carried, with other nutrients, to the millions of cells throughout the body. Oxygen is needed in the cells to break down carbohydrates and fats into energy. Carbon-dioxide is a by-product of metabolism in the cells and gets released into the blood where it is carried back to lungs to be exhaled.

There is something very interesting about carbon-dioxide. The body considers it a poison, which is why it needs to be exhaled. However, millions of people drink soda every day which is made from carbonated water---carbon-dioxide mixed with water. I am not saying to completely cut out soda, but why not reach for a glass of regular water (hopefully purified) instead, sometimes?

Breathing is normally done unconsciously, and automatically, but we become very aware of it during “heavy-duty” exercise, such as running. We may start gasping for air as if there were not enough to go around. When our heart beat and metabolic rate increase, our body demands more oxygen to keep going. Whenever people become suddenly scared or startled, they almost immediately start breathing heavily. The body knows that it needs more oxygen to maintain the energy level during exercise and to calm and relax the body during times of stress.

However, during stressful conditions, many people become tense and hardly breathe at all. This tends to increase stress on the body. This, in turn, can make it more difficult to manage the stressful situation. During this time, your body is probably begging for more oxygen. Why not take time to give it some? If you find yourself under heavy stress, spend a few minutes doing some deep breathing.

I have noticed two different forms of breathing. Upper chest breathing seems to increase energy, which is usually the type of breathing occurring during exercise. It is relatively fast, depending on the body’s activity. Abdominal, or stomach, breathing seems to increase relaxation. It works best when it is slow and deep. I have found that I can quickly, and easily, relax myself by taking a very deep breath, holding it for a few moments, and then s-l-o-w-l-y exhaling.

Concerning exhaling, since most people have a tendency to breathe shallowly, it may be a good idea to completely empty the lungs occasionally. Shallow breathing causes air to sit around in the lungs for an extended period of time and it can become stale. Blowing out this air will allow it to be replaced by a batch of fresh air.

Smoking tobacco limits the quantity and quality of oxygen being inhaled. The result can be a lack in endurance and difficulty with breathing. Some people may feel that they are not getting enough air during exercise. One reason is that the tar from tobacco smoke can clog the passages within the lung's bronchioles. This is where the gas exchange takes place between the lungs and the bloodstream. If this process is limited, the body will not get enough oxygen in its bloodstream to function at peak efficiency.

Oxygen is vital to our existence. We need to make sure we are getting a good, clean, supply of it. Give the body a chance to fully utilize it. Take time to relax, get outdoors more often, and remember to BREATHE!

 


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