Lab Rats R Us: Carbon dioxide challenges

Carbon dioxide gets little respect.  Yet is plays a central role in many aspects of metabolism, regulates breathing, and controls blood flow in the cerebral cortex.

You can self-test your carbon dioxide in several ways.

1.  The breath-holding test.  Can you hold your breath for more than a minute or less than 30 seconds.  High CO2 producers tend to have shorter breath-holding times and low CO2 producers have longer breath-holding times.

2. Are you affected by lowering your CO2?  If you over-breathe for many minutes, do you experience symptoms?  Rapid, shallow, chest breathing (panting) drives off more CO2 that regular breathing.  This is a good thing when you are trying to outrun a bear, and a bad thing when you want to speak to a large group of people in public.

3.  Are you affected by raising your CO2?  If you under-breathe for many minutes, to you experience changes in your symptoms?  Slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing conserves CO2.  The best under-breathing technique is: breathe in slowly for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and exhale slowly through pursed lips (or through your vocal cords) for 16 seconds.  If you have problems doing the 4-4-16 pattern, do a 3-3-10 pattern until you can extend it to 4-4-16.

If your symptoms get worse with over-breathing and better with under-breathing, or vice versa, then you may have a CO2 dependency for your condition.  If neither, then your CO2 may be stable and sufficient.

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