Finally, We Can All Take a Deep Breath…

Posted: November 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

In honor of this year’s election and coupled with the fact I’ve been working on a post about proper breathing that just doesn’t want to write itself, I will be exercising my right to say whatever the hell I want in a public forum.  That’s still a freedom right?  Kinda?  Ok.  I can work with “kinda.”  And being the bit of a conspiracy theorist that I am, why not give the whole thing a cloak and dagger type of feel?  As the soon to be VP of Common Sense would say, done and done*. FOR THE RECORD:  I can neither prove nor disprove any connections between the events that I am about to describe.  The ‘conspiracy’ is all in good fun people.  It’s complete nonsense.  It’s fictional and all made up in my own head based on some anecdotal evidence, a lot of sheer guessing, and some convoluted logic.  Darts and post-its with random words on them may or may not have also been involved.  I don’t know, I’m already lost in my own conspiracy.  Anyway.  I know this may sound like a pretty stupid disclaimer, but you never know these days.

The real purpose of this post  (like all my others) is to slightly alter that box you’ve been thinking in and urge you to find your own answers.  Should I have leaked some of my sources?  Probably.  Well, here’s one I guess:  lmgtfy.com

Moving on.

Let’s start this whole thing with the USDA Food Pyramid recommended back in the late 1980’s early 1990’s.  First off, this thing was borrowed from the Swedish version.  Why?  I don’t know.  Supposedly, they also had a higher rate of heart disease than the U.S. at the time.  Maybe something to take note of.  Maybe not.   What we ended up with was this food pyramid with a boatload of grains and cereals and breads and pastas at it’s base and a minimal amount of fats at the top.  Even though modern man evolved with none of the grain and agriculture related things and ate way more animal fats, someone saw it fit to add a lot of carbs to the modern-modern man’s diet and all but take out the animal fats.  Possibly because processed carbohydrate products are cheaper and easier to make than whatever they used to scavenge and hunt for back in the day.  That’s just one theory I absolutely cannot prove.  I would still like to maintain that this may be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, causes of the health problems we see today.  But again, no real proof of that, so we’ll move on.

Around this time, the mass media stumbled onto one of its greatest discoveries of all.  Michael Jordan.  Now to their credit, I’m sure the powers that be at Nike knew how easily the public could be manipulated using social icons, MJ just confirmed and/or exceeded their wildest dreams.  They could now tell you shoes cost $100 and you needed to do whatever you had to do in order to get them, but you wouldn’t bat an eyelash because the greatest player of all time wore them.  The greatest basketball player of all time also played a game against imaginary cartoon aliens.  Anyone else does that and they get locked up in a padded room with a sleeveless robe.  By the way, has anyone seen Bill Murray since that movie?

Unfortunately, what this also showed ‘other’ powers that be was that they could now bombard you with all the crap they decided to put into the food pyramid.  And we took all of it.  Happily.  And this went on.  And it still goes on to this day.

Fast forward to the present.  More and more research has shown that high carb, low fat diets just don’t work.  Even more shocking, cholesterol may not even be linked to heart disease like we originally thought.  Oh wait no no… this just in, the LACK of fat and cholesterol (from good sources, of course) from your diet may actually CAUSE heart disease.  Whoops.  We were on the right track, just going in the opposite direction.  Our bad.  So, then the obvious question would be…  why hasn’t the food pyramid changed?

I’ll let an imaginary USDA guy answer this question:  “Great question!  I’m glad you asked!  See, we figured out that we don’t actually have to change that crap diet we recommended back in the day.  You see, we invented these things called Pharmaceutical Companies, instead.  What they do is manufacture compounds to treat your ailments that our shitty diet may or may not have given you.  But uh oh!  Sometimes those compounds give you weird side effects somewhere down the line.  Fret not, dear science experiment, we have other man made substances that we can give you to bandage those side effects and any others that may pop up, too.  So we can still cash in on advocate the same crappy diet we have been, but now we can do it completely guilt free.”

So when all that ridiculousness has settled, this is where we stand:  We have a nation of people with health

problems, possibly stemming from years of poor dietary advice.  We also have a nation of very stressed out people.  We work day and night and more hours a week than ever before, all in hopes that we can someday “be like Mike” in some way, shape, or form.  And the response from the powers that be?  Let’s get them all on medication that we invented. It may or may not be a coincidence that a nutrition plan adopted from a country with a less than stellar track record of heart disease caused a pharmaceutical explosion.  I’m not here to debate the efficacy of that statement, just to point out that this is exactly what exists as we speak.  And even if the Swedish heart disease statistics aren’t accurate, we still have scientific studies that show the poor performance of low fat, high carb diets.  Yet, the food pyramid remains mostly unchanged.

I’ll even admit that our evolutionary path as a species may have led to modern medicine being our only means of survival at this point.  But even if thats the case, until we get like, Star Trek, good at it, I think we can still benefit from finding less invasive ways to improve our health.

So this is usually where the whole proper diet and exercise shtick comes in.  But what if thats not actually where we need to start?  What if it’s simpler than that?  What if it comes down to us not knowing how to do the most basic of human functions?  What if some of us just don’t know how to breathe?

And I don’t mean that relaxing, just breathe, woo-sah thing.  I’m talking about technically knowing how to breathe and how that affects the body.

Enter Doctor Konstantin Buteyko.  His research has suggested that a lot of people suffer from either breathing too shallow or breathing too deep.  But wait, isn’t breathing regulated by our bodies so we don’t have to think about it?  Yup.  But like any other computer program, the file can become corrupted.  In a very loose sense, that’s what breathing actually is.  A programed designed by your nervous system to be executed automatically by the body when we stop consciously thinking about it.  So what Dr. Buteyko suggests is that somewhere along the line, our breathing ‘program’ becomes corrupted.  There are a number of factors that can contribute to this ranging from air quality to poor posture.

For the sake of time and simplicity, his theory is this:  The key to optimal breathing is not actually oxygen, but carbon dioxide.  Don’t misunderstand him though, oxygen is absolutely vital, but carbon dioxide is what determines how much oxygen our bodies absorb.  During normal breathing (diaphragmatic, through the nose and lasting about 4 seconds total) oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged at an optimal ratio.  When we breath into our chests instead of using our diaphragm, we run the risk of messing with this delicate balance.  Chest breathing can be identified by putting one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.  When the hand on your chest moves, you are chest breathing.  The ideal breath involves no chest movement and the expansion of the abdomen in all directions.

You’re wondering how this can make any sense, right?  I don’t blame you, the logic is pretty counterintuitive.  Here’s what the good doctor thinks happens:  During the aforementioned, normal breath, about 98% of all the oxygen you inhale is absorbed. In other words, you’ve already all but maxed out your ability to absorb oxygen.

But in this day in age, we like to think more is better, so we are encouraged to breathe deeper. Seeing as how you can’t really absorb more oxygen if you take a bigger breath, the only thing that really happens is that massive amounts  of carbon dioxide are being offloaded from your bloodstream when you exhale the big breath.  When the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood is lowered, the amount of oxygen that is absorbed is also lowered.  This leads to less oxygen to muscles, organs and your brain.  So yes, you read that right, deep breathing left unchecked can lead to less oxygen in your brain.  For more head over to normalbreathing.com.  Try the DIY test and see where you’re currently at.  See if you can improve your score and learn how it affects your body and mind.

I honestly don’t know how we got to this point with our current health problems.  As you can see, my account of how it all supposedly happened looks like a slice of swiss cheese when held to the light.  Regardless of the cause, the reality is that we’re here and something needs to be done.  While the miracles of modern medicine have extended our life expectancy, less invasive approaches may improve quality of life even further in those extended years.

This is probably not the end all be all solution, but if any of that made sense to you, try it.  How does being aware of your breathing patterns affect you? Becoming more aware of our bodies in such ways are key steps to improving quality of life.   But if you find that it’s a little difficult to learn, try something else.  There are other forms of meditation and breathing exercises that are out there, and if any of them positively affect the amount of oxygen your body can absorb, then I say job well done.

Sorry this one was pretty lengthy, but I figured I owed you guys for taking a little longer than usual with this one.  We’ll get you back to your regularly scheduled programming soon.

*I am the soon to be VP of Common Sense and I absolutely, positively, did not approve this statement.  What is this?  Someone sue this asshole!  Russell Freeman for President!  Khan Out!

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