Health Benefits of CO2

In our Buteyko Breathing course we help you improve your body’s CO2 levels using the Buteyko Breathing approach. According to Professor Buteyko, bad breathing habits lead to excessive exhalation of CO2 and a low level of CO2 in the blood – because we breathe it all out.

So why is this even relevant? What are the benefits of CO2 and what role does it play in the body? Does it even have a purpose?

Carbon dioxide is the chief hormone of the entire body; it is the only one that is produced by every tissue and that probably acts on every organ.
Yandell Henderson, Ph.D. – Cyclopedia of Medicine (1940)

And this is just the beginning… CO2 has many important functions in the body; The most important ones are that CO2 is essential in maintaining blood pH and delivering oxygen to body cells. Read on:

Low CO2 content leads to many problems:

  1. CO2 determines the strength of the bond between oxygen and haemoglobin. Low CO2 content makes the bond between haemoglobin and oxygen too strong so that it is difficult for oxygen to leave the blood and body cells will experience a lack of oxygen. This principle is known as the Verigo-Bohr Effect. It was first discovered in 1892 by the Russian scientist Bronislav Verigo, and later in 1904 again by the Danish scientist Christian Bohr (the father of Niels Bohr).
  2. The organism may compensate for the lack of oxygen supply caused by low CO2 by raising blood pressure and raising the heart beat. Higher blood pressure helps oxygen leave the blood more easily, while a higher heart beat pumps the blood around more quickly so more oxygen can be distributed. But these 2 compensation mechanisms create other problems on the long term…
  3. A drop in CO2 content of the blood immediately causes a change of blood pH into the alkaline direction. This change in blood pH negatively influences the activities of all 1000+ enzymes and vitamins. When the blood pH reaches 8 or higher, the organism dies. We need CO2 to maintain a balanced blood pH, which works by using the bicarbonate buffering system of the blood.
  4. With low CO2 content, the airway passages and blood vessels constrict and become narrow. With higher CO2 content, these passages relax and increase in diameter, allowing for the improved flow of air and blood. CO2 acts as a relaxant for the smooth muscles of airway passages (bronchi) and blood vessels.
  5. A lack of CO2 negatively influences important metabolicprocesses that rely on CO2. For example, CO2 is required for the carboxylation of pyruvate and acetyl in the metabolic pathways of gluconeogenesis and lipogenesis. Also the synthesis of the essential aminoacid glucamine (and the non-essential asparagine) requires CO2 molecules. Many other biosynthetic reactions require the involvement of CO2 molecules and low CO2 levels makes it more difficult for them to take place. This will affect your energy-levels.
  6. Low CO2 levels increase the excitability of the nervous system. Smaller and subtle stimuli can then easily cause a big reaction by the nervous system, causing the nervous system to enter a state of permanent excitement characterized by high stress, low relaxation and low ability to focus (ADHD).
  7. Low CO2 content worsens brain function and intellect. For neurons to synapse with brain cells in an orderly and efficient manner, an ideal level of CO2 is needed. A lack of CO2 makes communication between brain cells more erratic and thus lowers your IQ and EQ.
  8. Low CO2 levels causean increase in respiratory center excitability. This means that your breathing will respond very quickly and strongly to an increase in physical activity, making you quickly feel exhausted and out of breath. With high CO2 levels, your respiratory center will allow the breathing to stay more normal during exercise, so you can do more exercise without feeling out of breath.
  9. Low CO2 content causes decreased uptake of glucose from the blood and raisesyour blood sugar levels. The rate and efficiency in which sugar is delivered to cells is regulated by the level of carbon dioxide. If CO2 levels are optimal, sugar can be burned more quickly and blood sugar levels are more stable.
  10. A low CO2 level also weakens your immune system by lowering the antibody-antigen affinity. This means that it becomes more difficult for your antibodies to attach to and disable viruses and bacteria.