Breathe your cells to Vitality
In this edition our health detectives take a deep breath and look at how our breathing influences the energy factory in our cells.
One of our main requirements is getting fresh air into our lungs and to every cell in the body, because energy production in our cells is dependent on oxygen. A babbling brook in the spring forest is clear and clean and is full of oxygen, but deeper in the forest, where the tree branches prevent light reaching the forest floor we find bogs and marsh. The metabolism here is fermenting, acid and rotting, and while some species like algae live on fermentation, the human body is not designed to do that – light and oxygen is what we need.
Our body runs on fuel from the food we eat in the form of protein, fats and carbohydrates that have to be broken down to create cellular energy. The energy that runs the body is called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). If we pour oil into a petrol tank the engine will not work. The oil has to be refined into petrol to run a car, and it is the same with the food we eat. It needs to be broken down before it can be used, and can be done so using oxygen (aerobic), or without oxygen (anaerobic) but the energy gain is very small compared to aerobic activity, producing just two units of ATP per food unit compared to thirty two aerobically.
The chemistry of Life
Food is broken down through a series of chemical processes where oxygen plays the key role. Food is basically a collection of atoms, and these come together and share electrons to create molecules, which are the building blocks of life. One particular atom might lose an electron (oxidation), and another will gain one (Reduction), and this is called the REDOX processes. All molecular reactions in the human body are REDOX reactions, creating the flow of life. Food is transformed and gets into our cells through these reactions that create the ATP energy units, that run our body. Anything that interferes with the production of ATP can run us down, and the primary thing that interferes with it is food: the quantity, quality and combinations of food, fats, carbohydrates, proteins. Substances which cause oxidative stress like preservatives, artificial sweeteners, medical drugs or hydrogenated oils, influence the production of ATP. It has been discovered that these pollutants can affect the mitochondrial function, each cell’s power plant or energy generator, and therefore the ATP production. Our energy production units are totally dependent on how we maintain our intracellular terrain, and once again the pH balance is crucial. The most important element, though, for the mitochondria and for the ATP production is oxygen. The electron transport chain, the oxidation/reduction is an aerobic process, so oxygen is essential. In a previous article we saw when pH – the acid/alkaline balance – goes acidic, the oxygen delivery to the cells suffers.
Breathing is essential and economical
Let your cells breathe like the babbling brook of vitality and avoid getting stuck and rotten in the acidic bog. Breathing is automatic so we do not have to think about every breath, but some people breathe very superficially in the upper chest, not using the full lung capacity, and miss out on vital air for energy production. Pause for a movement and take a couple of deep breaths. Let the lungs fill up, your stomach is getting big and the air is going all the way down to your toes. Take a few more, and make this a habit, to pause at work, stand up and stretch, let go of tension and let vital air flow into every cell with a couple of deep breaths.
Another way of concentrating on the breathing is in the mornings. Open the window and breathe fresh air deep into your lungs 10 times. Repeat 3 times a day. This will do your cells good as will any movement like jumping, trampolining, tai chi, yoga, walking, jogging, or whatever you fancy – just breathe.
In yoga there is a whole discipline dedicated to breathing. Besides from getting vital air to the cells it also gives you peace of mind to sit for a while and only concentrate on your breathing. Practicing 10 – 15 minutes per day will not only give you more energy but also increase your ability to focus and to be calm and concentrated in a relaxed way.
To make sure oxygen reaches our cells we have a few other simple guidelines:
Alkaline food will balance the pH level in the body. Do not be a fanatic, but make sure that your food consist of more alkaline food, such as vegetables, greens, lentils, seeds, sprouts, some grains and rice, fatty fish and some fruit, and take less acidic items like coffee, black tea, fizzy drinks, alcohol, meat, sweets, white bread and white rice.
Hydration. All the metabolic processes in the body need water to run, including cell respiration. Start your day with a big glass of water before you start your breathing exercises. Make sure you get at least 2 litres of mineralized and preferable alkaline water per day – depending on your body weight.
Breathe for your vitality – next edition we go into more detail about the Energy Factory, how to become more energised and vital, preventing tiredness and sickness
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This post is also available in: Spanish