Could you have disordered breathing?

Breathing. It's something we do naturally without giving a second thought, but could we be suffering a range of symptoms due to not doing it right?

According to regenerative medicine expert Dr Frances Pitsilis, disordered breathing, or hyperventilation syndrome, is becoming increasingly common.

The problem can come on as part of a range of symptoms tied to a chronic illness, or can be triggered to one of the most common complaints of our modern lives - stress.

"These days, when people are living a more stressful life, its easy for them to slip in in to the sort of breathing that you do when you're feeling at risk," says Dr Pitsilis.

What is disordered breathing?

It is characterised by breathing into the upper chest, rather than taking deep breaths into the abdomen.

Shallow breathing causes biochemical changes in the body that can lead to a range of symptoms.

The condition was first discovered by American physician, Dr de Costa. He initially called it "irritable heart", after seeing young soldiers in the American Civil War suffering chest pain due to hyperventilation.

What are the symptoms?

Hyperventilation syndrome can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, including:

• shortness of breath
• tingling in the hands
• headaches
• nightmares
• irritable bowel
• sudden episodes of fatigue

The condition is more common in women, and affects roughly one in 12 people.

Get it checked

If you suspect you may have hyperventilation syndrome, it is essential to get it thoroughly checked by a doctor, says Dr Pitsilis.

"Disordered breathing or hyperventilation syndrome can be part of a collection of symptoms linked to chronic illness," she says.

"It is important to make sure that it isn't in fact a serious disorder, and to get other factors checked off first."

If you do fit the criteria for hyperventilation syndrome, the next steps are to get advice from your GP or a breathing therapist, and focus on strategies for stress management.

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