It is amazing how when a TV actor hyperventilates, someone has a brown paper lunchbag for them to inhale into ready in a back pocket. It does have science to back it up. The paper bag breathing technique can help to calm the person. However, biochemistry is the real reason behind this maneuver. Let’s begin with anxiety attacks. A panic attack is often referred to as an anxiety attack. It’s the sudden appearance of symptoms that are associated with fear, even though normally there is no real present danger. Hyperventilating, which is rapid, uncontrolled breathing, is one of the most distressing and disturbing symptoms of panic attacks. This can quickly cause blood concentrations of carbon dioxide and oxygen to drop out of balance.
Hyperventilation, also known by C02, causes an excess of oxygen and deficit of carbon dioxide. This is unlike controlled breathing which allows the respiratory system take in oxygen and expel carbon in optimal amounts. C02, a metabolic byproduct sometimes referred to as “a waste product”, may not seem like a problem. C02 can cause dizziness, dizziness and confusion, as well as heart arrhythmias and seizures. Too much C02 can also be a problem.
Why is the right amount of CO2 the key to oxygen absorption? The optimal pH of our blood is determined by the right ratio of carbon dioxide and dissolved oxygen. Hyperventilating can cause this ratio to be disturbed. Too much oxygen can cause the pH to rise, causing the blood to become too acidic. This is called respiratory alkalosis. Anxiety, dizziness and dry mouth can all be symptoms. Research has shown that panic disorders may be linked to poor blood pH regulation.
All this brings us back to the individual now breathing in a paper bag. They are inhaling higher amounts of C02 with every breath. They make sure that their blood is oxygenated with every inhale. Rebreathing is when you inhale your exhaled air. Rebreathing CO2 is believed to help stabilize your blood pH and ease symptoms.
It is important to remember that rebreathing can be dangerous for some people, especially those who have heart or lung issues. Hypoxemia (a condition that results in too low blood oxygen) can cause anxiety attacks. These symptoms include rapid breathing, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Hypoxic patients who rebreathe with a paper bag are not only making their condition worse but also putting themselves at risk. You can try to use a paper bag when you start to feel anxiety building up or we suggest start practicing breathing exercise that help normalize CO2 and O2 levels.