Oxygen The most essential-neglected human need 
By Walter Sorochan
[From Walter Sorochan,  Book Whole Body Wellness, Chapter 4]

Posted December 17, 2018.  Disclaimer Disclaimer The information presented here is for informative and educational purposes only and is not intended as curative or prescriptive advice.

oxygen bannister You walk up a flight of stairs and you begin to gasp for some much needed oxygen! But didn't you also inhale oxygen while watching TV? Yes you did but much less than when you walked up the stairs. So, you inhale less oxygen when you are sitting and using your computer as compared to when you are more physically active. Or perhaps you are running in a race like Roger Bannister, who ran the first sub-4-minute mile and was gasping for oxygen at the finish line.

How important is oxygen to your wellbeing? Oxygen is your most important nutrient. You can live weeks to months without food, days without water, but only minutes without the oxygen in the air. Oxygen is one of the most important keys to good health, but since breathing occurs automatically, no one pays attention to oxygen. Scientists are slow in examining the role that oxygen starvation plays in the development of diseases. This chapter helps you become informed about how to get more oxygen and the importance of oxygen in everyday life.

With the help of nutrients from your food, oxygen provides the energy to all cells and the immune system, growth, maintenance, repair, and all the other functions of your body. Adequate oxygen allows your body to successfully combat all micro-organisms that are harmful to your body, including minimizing pneumonia in bronchial tubes. Yes, oxygen in proper amount kills bacteria and viruses. It also allows you to detoxify chemical pollutants. All functions of our body are regulated by oxygen. It must be replaced on a moment-to-moment basis because you cannot stor it for a long time and 90% of our life energy depends on it.

What are the normal oxygen levels in humans?

Mayo Clinic defines the normal human blood oxygen level as 95 percent to 100 percent. [1] This is about 4 times higher than the oxygen level in air at sea level ...  which is about 21%. Levels below 90 percent are considered low. [ Oxygen levels are usually measured with a pulse oximeter device attached to the finger; this device measures the amount of oxygen saturating the blood. ]

Does your doctor ever tell you what your oxygen reading is?

We breathe air that has oxygen, the spark of life. Just as a fire can’t burn without oxygen, our cells can’t produce heat and energy without oxygen. Oxygen is extracted from the air we breathe by the lungs. It passes into the blood vessels that surround the lungs and is carried to all the cells of the body by the blood. So important is oxygen, that even where optimum water, protein, vitamin and mineral intake is plentiful, ill health will still exist if there is an oxygen deficiency. [2]

Humans have a major problem getting enough oxygen, as with shallow breathing? Some readers may ask what is shallow breathing and why is it a danger? Answer: Shallow breathing is really resting or minimum level breathing; the level is at least 50 % less oxygen than the body needs for optimal performance.

Time-out to explain under-breathing: The mechanics of breathing determine oxygen supply. Shallow chest breathing gives rise to oxygen deficiencies. When you breath shallow, you connect with surrounding upper lobes of the lungs that have very few blood vessels to absorb or store oxygen. Shallow breathing not only results in less oxygen to the body .... it also allows pools of dead air to remain in the bronchial tubes and lungs and provide a home for dangerous bacteria that can cause pneumonia. This is especially true for those recovering from surgery and seniors. On the other hand, deep breathing connects with the blood vessels that surround the lower lobes of the lung and allows deeper oxygen intake.

The OSHA table below points out that although one can function with less oxygen, slightly less oxygen to the brain may affect one's judgment. But less oxygen causes a survival reaction in the lungs and heart as well. The more important affect of slightly less oxygen may be on the respiratory system, where shallow inhalation does not move the dead air, where bacteria can thrive, that may cause pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Such situations can become more complicated for everyone, especially children and older persons living in polluted air regions.

Oxygen Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, determined the optimal air breathing range to be about 19.5 percent oxygen. [4]

We can get a better idea of how important oxygen is for us by viewing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] standards for work places in United States. [chart below] The OSHA standards for workers sets the oxygen tone

oxygen def table

for the rest of us normal persons. Human beings must breathe oxygen or suffer adverse health effects when the oxygen level of their breathing air drops below 19.5 percent oxygen. Below 19.5 percent oxygen, air is considered oxygen-deficient. [ view chart above ] At concentrations of 15 to 19 percent, workers engaged in any form of exertion can rapidly become symptomatic as their tissues fail to obtain the oxygen necessary to function. Increased breathing rates, accelerated heartbeat, and impaired thinking and coordination occur more quickly in an oxygen-deficient environment. Even a momentary loss of potentially dangerous activity, such as climbing a ladder. [3] A good example of how less oxygen in the air at high altitude affects us is altitude sickness. Most people afflicted with altitude sickness experience nausea, headache and fatigue. [4]

The OSHA standard for workers in the chart above implies that the oxygen intake for those of us who sit behind a desk or watch TV for many hours may be below 19%. Even slight oxygen depletion, as in shallow breathing, can impact on those leading a sedentary lifestyle, or working indoors behind a desk.

Besides shallow breathing, there are many theories as to what causes our body to be deficient in oxygen. One such theory is oxygen depletion in the earth's atmosphere.

Climate change and increasing air pollution due to burning of coal and fossil fuels to generate electricity is a controversial theory and reason. [4] [5] [6] Today, the average oxygen content of our air is approximately 20 to 21%. In some larger, more polluted cities in China, India and South Korea, oxygen content in the air has been measured at dangerously low levels of 12 - 15%. Anything less than 7% is not able to support human life. [2]

At oxygen depleted levels, it is difficult for people to get sufficient oxygen to maintain bodily health and function effectively. At the sedentary levels that many are living in today, cancers and other degenerative diseases may be incubating.

Another critical factor is body pH or acidity. Acidic liquids including water, have fewer oxygen molecules than alkaline water and liquids. Usually, our body systems are much too acidic overall. Excess acidity, as well as increased oxygen depletion, is worsened by our high stress lifestyles and poor food choices. [2]

But in spite of all these possible contributing causes, the real major neglected cause today is under-breathing of most persons, resulting in a shortage of oxygen supply to the body. Under-breathing is an unrecognized, epidemic.

Yes, we all have less oxygen in the air than 50 or 100 years ago. But this is a minor issue for most North Americans. The real issue is the habit of shallow breathing and the risk of respiratory infections!

Danger of shallow breathing: Hospital patients and seniors not exercising are in danger of respiratory infections like pneumonia and pleurisy. Dead air in the bronchial tubes and lungs is a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. Deep breathing removes the infectious pathogens and minimizes the risk of respiratory infections. This is especially important for seniors and bed-ridden persons who get very little exercise.

Although scientists have been examining the role oxygen starvation plays in the development of diseases, scientists and medical doctors have swept the importance of shallow breathing and oxygen under the carpet, so to speak.

Symptoms of possible oxygen deficiency:

    17dot1a  overall body weakness
    17dot1a  fatigue
    17dot1a  circulation problems
    17dot1a  poor digestion
    17dot1a  muscle aches and pains
    17dot1a  dizziness
    17dot1a  depression
    17dot1a  memory loss
    17dot1a  irrational behavior
    17dot1a  irritability
    17dot1a  acid stomach
    17dot1a  lung problems
    17dot1a  increased unhealthy bacteria, germs, viruses and parasites

Lifestyle breathing problem: Shallow breathing most of the day is a silent habit that results in less oxygen delivery to the body. You may not be aware of this inadvertent habit, but your lifestyle has created it. Tight clothing and a lifetime spent rushing, sitting hunched over desk doing paperwork, studying, working on computers and getting stressed out produces the bad habits of shallow breathing.

Lack of sufficient oxygen is linked to cancer: Dr. Yang points out that " As tumors rapidly grow and expand, the network of blood vessels bringing oxygen to their cells can’t keep up, leaving some cells starving for oxygen. This would kill normal cells, but cancer cells have evolved to beat these lack of oxygen conditions by switching on a protein called Hypoxia-inducible-factors which in turn switches on other 'more energy' molecules inside the cell. This lack of an oxygen switch, called the HIF response, encourages new blood vessels to grow around and into the tumor to bring more food such as sugar that is fermented to make energy for tumor survival." [7] Practicing deep inhalation several times a day should bolster the immune system to prevent tumors.

Benefits of Deep breathing

The problem most of us have is that our lifestyles, such as sitting down behind a desk or watching TV, cause us to breath slowly and shallow. Shallow breathing inhales much less oxygen compared to deep breathing.

Deep breathing brings more oxygen into all the body. This creates more white blood cells, helping to speed up exhaling dead air in the bronchial tubes and inhaling oxygen that kills anaerobic microbes that may cause influenza, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Equally important, more oxygen makes us more mentally alert. Natural detoxification also takes place when you inhale deeply. Deep breathing is a form of movement exercise that also stimulates the lymphatic system to move the dead microbes or toxins from the lymphatic system into the veins and eventually out of the body. [2]

Prevention: There are things you can do to improve your oxygen intake:

Do deep breathing exercises several times, like five reps, in the morning, same in the afternoon and evening. Inhale deeply to initiate deep breathing. You do not need to go to the gym to do this, although gym exercise would be good. Swimming forces deep breathing in a natural way. Skipping a rope at home, or going for a mile walk are also helpful options.

The kind of exercise is not critical. Instead it is willingness to take time out to exercise and inhale deeply. It is more of a mental attitude than physical. Do not be lazy! Use your lungs or lose them!

Contact all government agencies and politicians to support climate change and removal of fossil fuel pollution. Insist on clear air. 

You can also improve the oxygen inside your home in several ways: [5] Open your windows periodically to freshen up the stale air inside your home.

    108   Use house plants to reduce indoor air pollution. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen.
    108   Minimum use of air conditioners in buildings and autos.

Your feedback is most appreciated: E-mail to author: wsorochan@gmail.com

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1 Mayo Clinic Staff, "Hypoxemia[low blood oxygen]," December. 25, 2015.  Mayo Clinic 2015

2 McVea Normal, "Oxygen supplementation most important for health," Oxymax. March 27, 2016.   McVea: 2016

3 OSHA, "The minimum % of oxygen required to sustain human life?"   OSHA: Oxygen standards

4 Malesky Mallory, "Minimum Oxygen Concentration for Human Breathing," Synonym.   Malesky: Human breathing

5 Tatchell Peter, "The oxygen crisis," The Guardian, August 13, 2008.   Tatchell: 2008

6 "Oxygen and Air Pollution," The Natural Health Place.   Oxygen and air pollution

7 Yang, J. et al., "Human CHCHD4 mitochondrial proteins regulate cellular oxygen consumption rate and metabolism and provide a critical role in hypoxia signaling and tumor progression," Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2012,122 (2), 600-611.  Yang: 2008