Blog 122 Blood Oxygen Level: What It is and How to Improve It
Blood oxygen (O2) level is a measurement of the percent of blood oxygen saturation. It is necessary to have a minimum level of blood O2 in order to maintain good health, and even to survive, since blood and oxygen support all the internal organs as well as the eyes and other sensory organs, including the skin. Oxygen comes in with the breath, goes to the lungs, from there travels to the bloodstream and then all over the body. The easiest way to measure blood O2 level, is with a small machine called a pulse oximeter, which gives information about both blood oxygen level and pulse rate. The tip of a finger or toe is inserted into the instrument to obtain a reading. Normal level is 95 to 100. Sometimes, when the value is lower than this, it may be due to temporary poor circulation or transient poor breathing due to stress, spinal or rib misalignments, sleep apnea or an upper respiratory tract infection. However, there are also more concerning causes, including but not limited to pneumonia, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, asthma, lung cancer, Covid-19, injury to the neck or head, smoke inhalation injury and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Symptoms of low blood oxygen include pallor, blue hue of lips or the rest of the skin, fatigue, headache, coughing, breathlessness or wheezing upon physical exertion, confusion, and red skin color, the last of which may be due to excess carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood. Generally, it is recommended that you consult a physician if your blood O2 level falls below 92 or 90 for more than several hours. If the O2 level falls below 88 or 85 for more than a few minutes, some physicians recommend you seek emergency or urgent care. When levels fall to 55 or below, heart and lung failure will ensue, followed by death, if not quickly addressed.
From observing myself and many patients over the past two and a fraction years, I have learned several things about how to interpret and address blood oxygen levels. Some of these are easy fixes, and can raise low blood O2 level quickly. Others may require the help of a health care provider. 1.Nail polish may interfere with reading, so don’t wear it on the finger or toe from which you are taking a reading. 2.Make sure your waistband or belt are not restricting breathing. 3.Make sure that you have sufficient circulation into your extremities by walking around the room, waving your hands in the air, doing jumping jacks, etc for at least 30 seconds prior to taking a reading. 4.Work on abdominal breathing, which may help you absorb more oxygen into the lungs. Here is a good link about this type of breathing. How to do abdominal (belly) breathing I also have published blogs about abdominal breathing in the past. 5.Check for sleep apnea. Do you snore? Are you aware that you stop breathing when you are dreaming or at other times? Changing sleep positions, losing some weight, especially belly fat, and getting a CPAP machine are some solutions to sleep apnea. So are hypnosis and self-hypnosis to address stress or inner conflicts. 6.Stop eating before you are full, and do not eat until you are hungry. 7.Stop smoking anything (not just cigarettes). 8.Spend daily time out of doors, preferably around trees or by a large body of water. 9.Visit your chiropractor, massage therapist or acupuncturist for an adjustment or other treatment. I have observed blood O2 rise from low 80’s to upper 90’s after a treatment more than once. And the results were maintained following the treatment. 10.Exercise regularly, gently to moderately challenging your heart and lungs. 11.Purchase and use a good quality air purifier in your home. 12.Stay hydrated with good water and other healthful fluids, and include lots of vegetables and fruit as well as anti-inflammatory herbs, like turmeric in your diet.
If your blood O2 does not improve, or if you are feeling dizzy or your skin color has grown blue or paler or redder, please go to the emergency room. Of course, if you have pneumonia, severe asthma or some other serious condition, you will need more than just the suggestions mentioned above. Medical testing, prescription medications, and other treatments may be necessary.
Using a pulse oximeter regularly is an interesting way to learn about what helps optimize your blood oxygen level, and therefore your health. It also is a good tool to use to make sure any symptoms you may have are not due to low blood O2. You can purchase a pulse oximeter at a pharmacy or over the internet for anywhere from $10 to $200.
This blog’s offer: call for a consultation or treatment if you have questions about blood oxygen level and how to improve it. After a consultation, history and exam, I will give you suggestions, offer you a treatment, or suggest you consult a medical doctor.