Capnometry and Heart Rate Variance
One of the unique diagnostic and treatment tools used at The Health Equation is non-invasive capnometry and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) monitoring.
Capnometry is one way that is scientifically accurate in measuring CO2 levels, which also measures heart rate variability (HRV) and can be used to help breathing retraining, capnotraining. HRV is the variance between our heart rate at rest and at exertion. When at rest, when we breathe in, heart rate increases, and when we breathe out, heart rate decreases. This variance is HRV. It is an excellent measurement of our autonomic nervous system response (the subconscious nervous system).
A low HRV is a predictor of all causes of death, and from a scale of 0 (dead) – 30 (elite athlete), the average person will range somewhere between 8 – 12. A low HRV will often combine with negative emotions and poor health, with the converse also holding true. The role good breathing physiology plays in maximising HRV is not to be underestimated.
Breath and life are obviously intertwined, as are breath and thought. It is by means of breath that we remain physically alive. We are born with the inherent knowledge to breathe correctly through our diaphragm. However, our own unique breathing patterns are influenced by many life events, especially during childhood. Our emotions influence our breathing patterns and just as importantly, our breathing affects our emotions.
It is estimated that 70% of patients who consult The Health Equation do not breathe properly and most of them do not know it. At first this may seem strange, as breathing is a subconscious activity. Unless we have an obvious breathing problem (asthma, lung disease etc) we do not usually notice our breathing. You may notice, in other people or indeed yourselves, that we may sigh a lot, find it difficult to catch our breath or talk very fast, which are all signs of not breathing properly.
You will probably know that when we breathe in, we breathe in oxygen (O2) and when we breathe out, we breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2). However, it is not as simple as that! Whilst the main aim of respiration is to get O2 into cells to help with energy production and the many cellular reactions that our bodies need to survive, this action is dependent on an adequate level of CO2 being present in our bodies. Almost always, when people are not breathing properly, the issue is one of overbreathing (although this doe NOT necessarily mean breathing too fast).
The effect of this is to breathe out too much CO2 and so the levels of CO2 in our body drop (hypocapnia) and so reduce the level of O2 delivered to the cells of the body (hypoxia).
Ironically trying to breathe more O2 in DOES NOT necessarily help this situation.
Somebody, who is classically hyperventilating (deep and fast breathing), often with symptoms of breathlessness and panic, is breathing in lots of O2 but is actually expelling more CO2, then they should. So the treatment for acute hyperventilation is to hold a brown paper bag over their mouth and nose, so that they re-breath their own breath (mostly CO2) and they return to normal because cellular O2 increases. Whilst most of us do not classically hyperventilate, our pain, anxiety/panic, depression, insomnia, OCD, hyperactivity, asthma, gut problems, increased blood pressure etc can at least be partly caused by not breathing well.