Most people don’t realize how vital oxygen is for their overall health. In fact, oxygen is the main catalyst in your body that provides you with energy and keeps your body functioning at its best. Oxygen not only helps you breathe and keeps your lungs functioning, but it controls the metabolic processes throughout your body. To generate healthy cells in your body, you need oxygen. And, when cells in your body aren’t provided with adequate oxygen, they can actually experience cell death and decay. On the contrary, foreign cells can experience cell death or apoptosis from an increase in oxygen which can help the overall health of your body.
How Your Body Uses Oxygen
Oxygen is utilized in a highly specialized process throughout the body. Basically, when you inhale, you take in oxygen. That oxygen is then diffused and distributed through the red blood cells and membranes. As your blood becomes enriched with oxygen, it circulates throughout the body, located organs and tissues that are oxygen deprived and regenerates them.
There are also enzymes in your body that use oxygenated molecules to initiate your body’s metabolism. Without this metabolic process, your body wouldn’t be able to expel the carbon dioxide from the oxygen.
Oxygen Helps Detoxify Your Body
Your body relies on oxygen in many ways, including detoxification. In order for nutrients to be absorbed into the body and utilized by your cells and tissues, it needs oxygen. Also, your blood relies on oxygen to help carry its waste out of the body. Cellular waste, for example, is removed from your body through the water in the kidneys, urine and bowels. Toxins are also excreted when you sweat.
But, these toxins can only be removed from your body with ample oxygenation in the blood. Your oxygenated red blood cells are what circulate throughout the body and reach deep within your organs. So, if you don’t have ample oxygenation, your body cannot naturally detox.
What Happens When You Have Low Blood Oxygen?
Low blood oxygenation, also known as hypoxemia, occurs when lower than normal levels of oxygen are found in the blood. When this occurs, you could suffer from shortness of breath as well as other assorted symptoms. Only a doctor can determine if you have low blood oxygenation, which is usually done by measuring you oxygen saturation and blood oxygen levels. Normal blood saturation levels are 95 to 100; therefore, anything under that level is considered low, while anything under 90 is considered hypoxic.
When you are hypoxic, you can disrupt your body’s normal functions and even damage tissues. In some extreme cases, hypoxemia can be fatal.
The most common symptom of hypoxemia is shortness of breath. But you may also suffer from fatigue, feeling of weakness, and confusion.
What Causes Low Blood Oxygenation?
Low oxygen in the blood can usually cause shortness of breath, but it can also lead to headaches, difficulty retaining fluids, and even insomnia. But, when low oxygenation gets out of control, it can also be fatal. There are some reasons a person can be more prone to low oxygen levels in their blood, and it is important to know what causes these low levels so that it can be avoided.
As your body metabolizes food, it creates carbon dioxide — and a relatively fast rate too. If your body isn’t functioning properly, it can prevent your body from getting rid of that carbon dioxide and decrease the level of oxygen in your blood. Hypoventilation, caused by shallow breathing or abnormal lung function, can lead to low oxygenation levels. Some people hyperventilate while they have a panic attack, while others suffer from hypoventilation because of a lung abnormality or illness.
Improper Lung Ventilation
When your lungs do not properly ventilate, it can lead to lower oxygen levels in the blood. This is especially true if your lung’s alveoli are not functioning properly. This can happen when your alveoli function is disrupted or uncoordinated. When they don’t function together in harmony, the gas exchanges in your lungs can lead to low levels of oxygen throughout the body. This, however, is a very rare condition that most people do not suffer from.
Diffusion Capacity Issues
When you exercise, your body’s diffusion capacity can be affected. But, also, higher altitudes can lead to a diffusion capacity issues. Diffusion capacity refers to the amount of airflow (and how smoothly) the alveoli in the lungs distributes oxygen to the blood. When your diffusion capacity lowers, so will your blood oxygenation. This condition is easily corrected with respiratory therapy.
Some chronic health conditions can lead to lower levels of blood oxygenation. For example, anemia (low levels of iron in the blood) can decrease your blood oxygenation levels. Other chronic conditions that can cause low blood oxygen include, but are not limited to:
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Congenital heart disease
Some medications can make it difficult for your body to oxygenate the blood. Medications, especially narcotics and anesthetics, depress your breathing, which leads to lower oxygenation in the blood.
How to Raise Your Blood Oxygenation Levels
Luckily, there are plenty of natural ways to raise the levels of oxygen in your blood. Of course, you should see a doctor if you are worried about your body’s oxygenation levels to rule out any chronic conditions or underlying reasons for your hypoxemia. But, you can also implement these methods for increasing blood oxygenation.
Exercise Every Day
A sedimentary lifestyle can lead to lower levels of oxygen in the blood. Aerobic exercise, such as swimming, walking or even jogging, can help your body utilize oxygen and remove the wastes stuck in your body’s lymphatic system. All it takes is 15 minutes per day of aerobic exercise to help increase the healthy oxygen levels in your blood (and two to three times per week).
Hydrate Your Body Properly
Your body needs adequate hydration for most of its functions. In order for your blood to use the oxygen your body takes in, and transport that oxygen throughout your blood, it needs fluid. Without adequate hydration, bodily functions are diminished, and cellular respiration suffers. It is best to rehydrate using filtered water, because filtered water is ionized, which naturally promotes hydration.
Stop Smoking — or Stay Away from Smoke
Smoking naturally causes a shortness of breath, which can lead to low oxygenation of the blood. If you are a smoker, now is the time to stop smoking. Also, if you have been diagnosed with COPD or other forms of lung disease, quit smoking right away, because these conditions already lead to low oxygenation of the blood. It is also important to avoid second-hand smoke. Second hand smoke can cause shortness of breath just as much as firsthand smoke.
Start Using an Alkaline Diet
It has been theorized that a diet with higher alkalinity can help increase blood oxygenation. This is possible by increasing the amount of plant-based foods in your diet. Even just adding more dark leafy greens can help you increase blood oxygenation, such as kale, sprouts, collard greens, Swiss chard, and spinach.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
To metabolize and remove drugs and alcohol from your system, your body has to work twice as hard. This can lead to lower oxygen levels in your blood. Therefore, avoid alcohol and drugs as much as possible.
Eat More Fatty Acids
Fatty acids are essential nutrients that promote a healthier body, and especially a healthy oxygen level in the body. Because your body cannot produce fatty acids, it relies on you eating them in your daily diet. Good sources of fatty acids include nuts, flax seeds and fish.
Eat More Antioxidants
Antioxidants help your body use oxygen more efficiently and allows more oxygen to enter the bloodstream. Antioxidants that promote healthier oxygen levels include vitamin A, C, E and coenzyme Q10.
Your body needs adequate oxygenation to remain healthy and vital. All it takes is understanding what oxygen does and increasing your body’s natural oxygenation levels so that you can have more energy, lose weight and even sleep better at night.
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