The Oxygen – Inflammation Connection

The last post covered three inflammatory triggers to tackle in order to get your autoimmune disease into remission. Here we talk about another significant trigger that you may not be aware of. By the way, why should you get in remission? Learn about this here.

Lack of oxygen!

inflammation, autoimmune, oxygen, apnea, altitude, amemia

Lack of oxygen is called hypoxia, and yes it directly causes inflammation. Remember, it’s important to control inflammation when you have autoimmunity. Uncontrolled inflammation increases your risk of a flare, as well as your chances of developing even more autoimmune processes.

These are the most common causes of hypoxia:

  • Your lungs don’t work efficiently because of asthma or chronic bronchitis.
  • You don’t exercise.
  • High altitude.
  • Poor circulation.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Anemia.

Let’s dig into each one of these…

Respiratory insufficiency

1. Assess

It’s likely you already know if you have respiratory insufficiency. If you have chronic asthma or bronchitis, chances are high. With any doubt, you can test with a peak flow meter.

2. Best DIY fix

Buteyko breathing! I can attest that I fixed my asthma and got off an inhaler with this technique. At the time you could only learn it from private trainers and they were hard to find. Now Patrick McKeown offers many ways to easily learn this.

3. Treat

Get medical care. Some people need antibiotics for infections or inhalers for wheezing. If you have chronic asthma or bronchitis and there is no infection, your immune system may be stuck in what’s known as Th2 dominance. Consult a practitioner for help to get unstuck.

Lack of exercise

There is not a whole lot to say about this except for… Go exercise! Just make it a priority. If you don’t exercise because of a physical injury or disability, get help from a trainer or physical therapist.

Just to be clear, we are talking about exercise that tones your lungs and cardiovascular system. This means you increase your heart rate. If you are training in the Buteyko method, you want to breathe through your nose and not pant through your mouth.

High altitude

You get less oxygen when you travel to or live at an altitude of 1500-2000+ meters. If you have autoimmunity or inflammation, this may not the best environment for you. If you have no choice about it, develop a plan to prevent low oxygen side effects.

One thing you can do is oxygen therapy: You can get your own oxygen tank under prescription, purchase your own oxygen bar, or go to oxygen bars or spas. Also, consider increasing your anti-inflammatory protocol (more on this later in the series) during and after your trip.

Poor circulation

Most of you are aware of poor circulation because your extremities get cold easily. Other signs of poor circulation include swelling, numbness, tingling, and skin color changes. Sometimes poor circulation is systemic, and sometimes it affects just a part of your body.

There are many reasons for poor circulation, and it’s best to get help from your medical provider on this one. Causes range from hypothyroidism, diabetes, artery disease, lymphedema, Raynaud’s disease, obesity, varicose veins, and blood clots. Each of these requires a different approach.

Sometimes there is no obvious conventional diagnosis for your poor circulation, and that is when an integrative approach can be useful. Here are some examples:

1. You may be stuck in a sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system state.

To put this simply, stress hormones move blood away from your extremities. With prolonged stress, your nervous system pendulum can get stuck in stress and not swing back to relaxed hormones, when blood flow returns to your extremities.

DIY fix: meditate! Check out an app such as Set aside time each day, even 10 minutes can make a huge difference. Want to feel the difference immediately? Get a finger thermometer, check your temperature before and after meditation. See if your temperature goes up. If it does, you are on the right track.

2. You may have impaired circulation because of an injury.

Pay attention to injuries, and get some help to restore blood and lymph circulation. Acupuncture is a great modality for this.

3. You may fit the Chinese medical diagnosis of “yang deficiency”

If so you may be a candidate for an herbal formula that actually warms you up and improves circulation.


Anemia will definitely cause hypoxia! Don’t jump to the conclusion that anemia is caused by low iron without testing. There are many kinds of anemia, including B12 or folate deficiency.

Anemia will show up on a basic comprehensive blood panel (CBC). It’s useful to use functional rather than conventional lab ranges because you can detect simmering anemia that is not yet full-blown. Assessing anemia is not a DIY thing, nor is treating it.


You may think sleep apnea is something that middle-aged or older heavyset people get. However, young and thin people can have apnea for all sorts of reasons. Under age 50, apnea is more common for guys, but after age 50, women have it just as frequently as men.

People tend to ignore this issue. They suspect it but don’t get assessed. They may know they have it but they don’t treat it. Sleep apnea is epidemic and people have no idea how serious the repercussions are. This goes way beyond inflammation! Read my apnea blog here.

One of the reasons people ignore it is because they don’t want to do a sleep study. However, you can do a sleep study at home! Another reason people ignore it is because they think very are going to end up with the CPAP machine and they don’t want to sleep like Darth Vader. Understandable! But honestly, there are many new and innovative treatments for sleep apnea. There is a range of devices, laser techniques, and even tongue therapy – All with promising results.

Get oxygen on board!

I hope this sheds light on the importance of oxygen. Perhaps something from this post rings a bell for you. If anything from these categories sounds like you, and you have autoimmunity, investigate!

Read the next post about your gut and autoimmunity.

I welcome your questions and comments below,

paris healing arts, doctor laura paris, dr. laura paris, dr laura paris

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  1. Laura – great work. Included in this discussion is hypotension (neurogenic or otherwise). It is rarely caught by medical pros because a hypotensive person has elevated pressure when visiting a clinic (white coat syndrome) which is usually remarked by the pros “WOW, you have great blood pressure!” Well, our great blood pressure is high for us and thus the chronic low BP is missed. We go home with the same undiagnosed draining feeling, cognitive fog, impaired vision, cramping feet and/or hands, cold extremities. Our thyroid gets checked, we fear we have lymphoma (I have every illness except hypochondria!). Hypotensives have certain patterns and vague complaints that can tip pros off — crossing legs even while standing, folding arms across chest (the typical postural stance for hypotension), wiggling while sitting, worse after lying down, hyperverbal and intrusive or interruptive speaking style. All of these “tells” or maneuvers are cures to get the BP up a few points. Crossing extremities keeps blood in core; wiggling raises a few points; and talking raises the most (which is why we uncross legs, don’t wiggle and don’t talk while taking BP). If we stand too long (crucifixtion response), have to listen without talking too long especially if standing – we tank. We can keel over. So we get out of small talk quickly – we move on. Not because we are rude, because we feel a panic that we will faint BUT none of this is conscious because we don’t know we have low BP. And a neurogenic hypotensive will sink farther under stress (we don’t go up – we tank more). Cures are protein with every meal, hydrate with lemonade/tea (water just serves to dilute us and make kidneys work too hard and they already have a low grade ache to them on a good day due to low BP). And one more thing – undiagnosed chronic pericarditis should be on your list — surprising how many people have this response to emotional stressors. Chest pressure lying flat, cramping feet/hands, cold extremities, low BP, irritability, fatigue not fixed with sleep, tanked after eating meals (stomach touches apex of heart), mild depression. If interested, I can tell you how I diagnosed and fixed my pericarditis, having been baffled by the symptoms and missed by everyone for a year.

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