How to Increase oxygen in blood and How Not to

How to increase oxygen in blood cover image

In the trying times of COVID-19, a major concern for many people is the decreased level of oxygen in their blood. Not just for COVID, having a lower level of oxygen ranges from being tired, unable to concentrate on going into shock, fainting, etc. This article will explore in detail, how to increase oxygen in the blood. But to give you proper information, we have to look at some basics. 

There are two processes that involve the act of uptake and intake of oxygen; breathing and respiration. Breathing is the physical process of taking the air inside. Respiration is using oxygen to produce energy. To increase the oxygen level, we can work on both physical and physiological levels to increase the amount of oxygen we take in from the lungs and blood. 

How to increase blood oxygen with breathing 

Breathing is the intake and exhalation of air from your nose, executed by the lungs. It is an automatic process, happening without your conscious effort. The problem is we never pay attention to the process of it. I am sure you just noticed your breathing. By practicing some easy steps, you can drastically improve the way you breathe and the quality of air you breathe in. Here are the steps;

  1. Practice deep breathing – Deep breathing is when you use your lungs to its full potential, taking in as much air as possible. Do it for just 10 minutes and you’ll realize how tiring it is. But it helps a lot with increasing your lungs’ capacity of taking in air. 
  2. Practice Yoga – There are many exercises in Yoga that help with strengthening your diaphragm, lungs, and chest. This allows your lungs to effortlessly take in more air and hence, more oxygen. Trying the Wim Hoff’s breathing method is also helpful.(https://www.wimhofmethod.com)
  3. Make your house/room airy and properly ventilated. A closed house/room, especially in an urban environment can drastically bring down oxygen levels, making you dizzy, confused, and tired. Make sure to open windows and have a proper ventilation system to let in fresh, clean air. If there’s too much pollution outside, consider buying an air purifier. 
  4. Keep green plants such as ferns, etc. These plants usually don’t require too much oxygen and survive well indoors. Having a desk plant or a plant near your workstation also increases oxygen availability in your proximity.
  5. Exercise is one of the most effective and long-lasting ways of improving oxygen intake. People keep looking for “superfoods” or “wonder drugs”. It exists. It is exercising regularly to maintain a healthy body. Doing cardio, stretching, and jogging/running in an open environment is great for your lungs and oxygen level in your blood. 
infographic showing how to breathe better and take in more oxygen

That was about increasing your air intake with breathing. It involved lungs, muscles, alveoli, etc to suck in more air and transfer it to the blood. But the blood also creates limitations in the amount of oxygen that can be carried. So how to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood? 

Measuring oxygen levels

There are two ways to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood. The two tests are called the ABG test and the SPO2 test. ABG stands for Arterial Blood Gases test and the SPO2 is a measure of oxygen in the capillaries (where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged). 

The ABG test requires expensive equipments and blood samples to analyze. But it gives a more accurate result than the SPO2 test. The SPO2 test uses light to detect the oxygen saturation in the body’s extremities (fingers). This can be done at home and many smartphones come with SPO2 measuring features.

But SPO2 is not very accurate as it depends on the type of SPO2 analyzer used, how clean the fingers are and other light sources possibly interfering with the analyzing light.

How blood is transported

Just a brief explanation to understand it better. Oxygen is carried by red blood cells. They are red because of hemoglobin. Hemo because it has iron and globulin is a protein. Iron carries four molecules of oxygen. So, the bottom line is, iron is crucial for oxygen transport.

So increasing hemoglobin, having good blood flow, and having abundant essential nutrients is the key to achieving higher oxygen levels in the blood.

representation of blood cells and oxygen molecule

Here are some ways you can, naturally increase oxygen levels in your blood without using any chemicals or supplements.

  1. Excercise, both breathing and physical exercise. Breathing exercises not only strengthen muscles and increase oxygen intake, but it also increases the efficiency of the alveolus. Physical exercises cause muscle contraction. This presses the veins and stimulates blood flow (which is why stretching makes you feel so good after long hours of sitting). Exercise also improves blood flow in arteries and makes the heart more efficient in pumping blood. 
  2. Avoid junk food and eat green veggies. Eating junk food not only makes you suffer from hidden hunger (where it fills your stomach, but nutrients are absent). Iron, vitamins like vitamins A, B6, and B12 are necessary for better oxygen intake. Eating healthy, fibrous food keeps your digestive system healthy as well.
  3. Avoid too much salt and processed sugar. Sugar is bad for your health, no matter how sweet it may be. Excess of salt causes dehydration and this affects the blood oxygen level. Try sticking to low sodium, unprocessed food.
  4. Stay hydrated. Drink the appropriate amount of water per day. Blood is 55% blood plasma and blood plasma is 90% water. But what’s the appropriate amount of water? It’s about 3.7 liters (125 oz) for men and 2.7 liters (91 oz) for women, per day. Stay hydrated, stay oxygenated.
  5. Stop smoking, either actively or passively. This one is a no-brainer. If you are inhaling smoke that has carcinogenic particles, metals that can cause serious harm to your air-sucking sponges. Don’t smoke or stand near someone who’s smoking. Smoking can cause COPD, disrupting the airflow inside your lungs. Make sure you avoid pollution by wearing masks.
  6. Meditate, relax, and laugh whenever you can. Laughing and meditating not only increases air intake but also reduces blood pressure and stress levels. It is the perfect detox. 

Herbs that increase blood oxygen levels 

There are some herbs that are believed to increase blood oxygen levels in the body. While the appropriate research is lacking to support these claims, anecdotal evidence has been positive so far. And since these are herbs, the side-effects are very minimal. 

Herbs such as turmeric, ginger, Withania somnifera, Tinospora cordifolia, basil extracts, gooseberry extracts, black pepper, etc all help in immunity and blood flow. Do note that if you have any auto-immune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis

Illustration showing the lungs and alveoli

Why avoid supplements?

Many websites suggest the use of supplements to increase blood levels in oxygen. These supplements range from drinking chlorophyll to Glutathione and even Ubiquinone! Remember, there is a difference in increasing your oxygen level by exercising, yoga and eating healthy, and by taking supplements and chemicals. 

I am not suggesting that these chemicals are dangerous (chlorophyll is usually harmless and has a good effect on your body). But, taking these supplements without knowing your body and consulting your doctor is dangerous. These supplements might work but disrupt the functioning of some other process. And if that other process is crucial, it can be fatal.

So before you read some supplement name and rush to buy it, ask your doctor first, know what that supplement does, and the possible side-effects. Remember, no article in the internet can be a replacement for a doctor who observes you. So try the natural methods mentioned above and please avoid using supplements (or consult a doctor before going for the pills). 

Summary

Oxygen levels in your blood can be increased by some simple, natural steps. These steps include exercises, eating healthy, and nutritious and environmental improvements. These steps are;

Exercise, both stretchings, and cardio

Do Yoga, breathing exercises, strengthen your lungs, and practice deep breathing. 

Keep your room ventilated, try getting in as much fresh air as possible. If the air is polluted, try getting an air purifier.

Keeping indoor plants in your room and desk can improve the quality of air. 

Eat healthily. Get unprocessed, low-sodium, low-sugar food to ensure maximum nutrition. 

Keep an eye on your vitamins and minerals levels to avoid hidden hunger. 

Stay hydrated, drink at least 2.7 liters (91 oz) of water every day. 

Keep stress out of your body, try laughing, smiling, and meditating. 

Try and avoid supplements that claim to be superfoods, etc. Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements, pills, etc. 

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