Do you suffer from constant headaches? Are you short of breath all the time? Odds are your blood oxygen level is too low. It can lead to many health complications. Some of them are even serious—all the more reason to address this deficiency.
If you wish to increase the blood oxygen level in your body, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll tell you how to supplement it immediately and increase the blood oxygen level in your body.
What is a blood oxygen level?
Also known as blood oxygen saturation, your blood oxygen level denotes how much oxygen your blood carries. We measured it in percentages. The higher it is, the more oxygen your tissues receive.
Your blood oxygen level is incredibly important. Every organ in your body needs this life-giving gas to function. When your cells process food into energy, they can’t do so without this gas. Your brain is especially sensitive to it. Long periods of deprivation might permanently damage it.
When you inhale air, tiny sacs in your lungs called the alveoli absorb oxygen directly into your bloodstream. At the same time, they expel carbon dioxide into the air in your lungs. It is a waste product that your body can’t process further. It leaves your lungs together with your breath.
Oxygen travels in your blood via red blood cells. These contain hemoglobin, a protein that can bind both oxygen and carbon dioxide. You’ll develop hypoxemia if your red blood cells can’t carry enough oxygen. This term refers to the condition where your oxygen levels drop below the standard value.
This deficiency can be very serious and manifests itself in several ways. We’re going to discuss these symptoms in the following sections.
How can you measure your oxygen level?
You can measure its level in two ways.
The first method is via a blood test, or more specifically, the arterial blood gas test. Experts also refer to it as ABG for short. Since it is a blood test, you obviously can’t perform it at home. However, it provides an exhaustive evaluation of your blood oxygen level. It tests everything from its saturation to your blood acidity.
The second method is more accessible, and you can use it at home too. It’s called pulse oximetry. To perform it, you need a device called an oximeter. You then attach a small clip to your finer or toe and let it work its magic. The device then reads your blood oxygen saturation, also known as SpO2. Apart from this information, it also measures your heart rate.
Both methods have their pros and cons. While the ABG test provides a much more thorough examination, it isn’t readily available. Only a doctor can perform it. On the other hand, an oximeter only displays the percentage. This percentage isn’t always very precise. Still, it’s a very accessible method. You can buy a pulse oximeter at most pharmacies.
What should your oxygen level be?
Your body needs large amounts of oxygen to function. Ideally, your saturation should be 100%. The lowest acceptable pulse oximeter reading is 95%. If it falls below this percentage, you might suffer from hypoxemia.
However, people with certain complications can have lower normal oxygen levels. These complications include chronic lung diseases and sleep apnea. People who suffer from such conditions often have oxygen levels of 90%. It is still considered normal, though.
Why are blood oxygen levels important?
They are important because your body needs a certain amount of this gas to function properly. If it falls below the standard threshold, you’ll experience several unpleasant symptoms ranging from headaches to blueish skin.
Additionally, measuring your saturation can be a good way to diagnose potential respiratory diseases. These include asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
It’s also a good way to detect pneumonia and carbon monoxide poisoning.
6 common symptoms of low oxygen levels in the blood
Now that you understand hypoxemia, you might wonder what it looks like in real life. Below are the 6 most common symptoms of hypoxemia. But keep in mind that this list isn’t a diagnosis. Only your doctor can perform one safely.
Your brain depends on oxygen. Without it, it won’t have enough energy to function. Thus, it’s no surprise that hypoxemia can lead to frequent headaches.
But keep in mind that headaches are very general symptoms. Unless they occur together with the other ones, they might point to a completely different condition altogether.
Dizziness happens for the same reasons as headaches do. Hypoxemia will hit your brain the hardest, often resulting from the blow.
Shortness of breath
When your oxygen levels drop, you might feel short of breath all the time.
When your red blood cells don’t carry enough oxygen, your heart might beat faster. This response increases your blood circulation in an attempt to compensate for the low oxygen saturation.
Hypoxemia worsens the brain’s functioning. As a result, you might struggle with coordinating your movements.
Cyanosis is a fancy term for blueish discoloration of the skin and lips. It is a very frequent symptom of low oxygen levels.
How to increase oxygen level at home? 8 simple ways to combat your hypoxemia
Knowing the symptoms is one thing but fighting them is another. Luckily, you can combat your hypoxemia in 8 simple ways. These often return your blood oxygen level to a normal value.
Lie down on your stomach
Lying down on your stomach can quickly boost your blood oxygen level. Many scientists claim this is one of the quickest short-term remedies for hypoxemia. All you need to do is lie on your belly and elevate your chest. You can stuff some pillows under your chest to achieve this.
If you dislike lying on your belly, you can also lie down on one of your sides. Keep in mind that this might be less effective.
You should remain in this position for at least 2 hours for maximum benefits.
Improve your diet
No matter where you look, you always see people endorsing a healthy diet. Just eat healthy food and your problems will go away. Although a cliché, it’s still very true.
A good diet can be an invaluable asset in your fight against hypoxemia. Your primary focus should be antioxidants. These substances have many benefits, including boosting your saturation.
Other nutrients to look for are fatty acids and iron.
We’ll discuss which foods contain these nutrients in the next section.
Try breathing exercises
Poor breathing habits can worsen your hypoxemia. For example, you should avoid inhaling through your mouth. Your nose has evolved to filter the air you breathe, making it rich in oxygen and clear of dirt. Your mouth lacks these features.
However, exhaling through your mouth is fine.
Next, you try to breathe slowly and deeply. Fast and rapid breaths don’t allow for a sufficient exchange of breathing gases in your lungs. What’s more, they quickly exhaust. Focus instead on steady and deep inhales and exhales. Though it might feel awkward initially, you’ll get used to it soon enough.
And lastly, don’t breathe using your chest. Use your diaphragm instead. It will further boost your oxygen saturation.
Drink a lot of water
Drinking a lot of fluids will hydrate your lungs. It allows them to exchange respiratory gases between the air and your blood. As a result, your oxygen level will rise.
But what exactly is proper hydration? In general, men should drink at least 3 liters each day. On the other hand, women do fine with just a bit over 2 liters.
Exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. Although it has many benefits, we mention it because it improves blood circulation and exercises your lung.
Better blood circulation will help your body deliver oxygen to each organ faster. At the same time, your lungs will adapt to higher demand for this life-giving gas.
Aerobic exercises work the best, although you can choose to do any activity you like.
Just keep in mind this might be counterproductive if you’re sick. In this case, begin exercising only once your condition improves.
Smoking is very detrimental to your health. Apart from potentially causing cancer, it also leads to many breathing problems. One such problem can be low saturation. And even if it didn’t cause your hypoxemia, it certainly won’t improve it.
To avoid any further complications, you should quit smoking altogether.
Spend time outside
Staying inside all the time can make your hypoxemia worse. The air inside buildings is often stale and even dry. Spending just a few hours outside every day can therefore improve the quality of your breathing.
Get green plants
If you don’t have time to stay outside for a bit every day, you can bring it into your room. House plants are very effective air filters. They use up carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Thus, they can be very effective against your hypoxemia.
What foods increase oxygen in the blood?
We mention that a proper diet can help you deal with your hypoxemia. But what does such a diet look like?
If you wish to improve your oxygen level, you need to focus on the following three food categories:
Antioxidants perform two vital functions in your body. Firstly, they protect it against free radicals. These free radicals could otherwise lead to cancer. And secondly, they improve your oxygen level. They allow your body to use this gas as efficiently as possible.
Some good antioxidants include lemons, spinach, avocados, grapes, plums, and nuts. Many berries are also rich in antioxidants. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries are all great options.
Your red blood cells bind respiratory gases via hemoglobin. An essential part of hemoglobin is iron. Without an iron-rich diet, your red blood cells won’t be able to do their job effectively.
Red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, and eggs are all great sources of iron. If you are vegan, you might opt for nuts, legumes, tofu, or leafy vegetables.
Fatty acids further boost the efficiency of hemoglobin.
You can find them in avocados, fish, walnuts, and chia seeds. They are also abundant in sunflower, canola, or flaxseed oils.
Herbs that increase oxygen in the blood
Apart from food, you can also reach for certain herbs. Most of these improve your levels by boosting your blood circulation. You can use them either as an herbal infusion or as food spices to get the desired benefits.
Ginkgo, ginger, turmeric, Rhodiola, cayenne, and motherwort are the best herbs that can boost your saturation.
How to increase oxygen in blood with supplements
While changing your lifestyle is a great way to fight hypoxemia, it isn’t always an option. Moreover, it takes too much time before you see any effects.
Luckily, the following supplements help provide immediate relief:
The air is not as dense at higher altitudes. It means you breathe in much less than you normally would. If you’re about to go hiking, consider bringing these capsules with you. The combination of fatty acids and ginkgo will improve your saturation. The pack comes with 60 capsules, so it should last a while.
|Brand||Altitude Rx OxyBoost Complex|
|Package Dimensions||4.41 x 2.36 x 2.28 inches|
- When you look at the per-tablet cost, it’s very reasonable.
- These were user-tested in Peru and definitely helped.
- We were skeptical going in but confidence as we were coming out.
- Other users reported great effects from them also.
- When we tested them, we couldn’t know for sure if it wasn’t a placebo effect.
Capsule supplements take a while to kick in. If you seek immediate improvement, look no further than this canister. All you have to do is place the mask on your face and inhale pure oxygen. However, a bit pricier, this pack comes with 6 canisters.
|Packaging Benefits||Portable + Lightweight|
|Size||11 Fl Oz (Pack of 6)|
|Usage||Press the trigger and inhale|
- It definitely makes it easier to breathe after coughing.
- We thought it improved our sleep vastly.
- They worked great going to Colorado.
- They’re good to take skiing.
- One of the canisters arrived defective.
This concentrate is easily our favorite product on the list. Just a few drops in your drink can deliver quick relief. Apart from dealing with your hypoxemia, it might even boost your energy levels. This supplement also acts as an antioxidant.
|Brand||Cellfood Liquid Concentrate|
|Diet Type||Gluten-free, Kosher|
|Unit Count||1 Fl Oz|
- It has a refreshing acidic feel to it.
- It was great for a hangover, also.
- It’s supposed to be great for your immune system.
- People rave about it having changed their health in the reviews section.
- It was pretty expensive.
The concentrate comes with 60 chlorophyll soft gels. You simply take one together with water whenever you want to improve your saturation. Though not as effective as the previous product, it’s more affordable.
- It’s great against altitude sickness.
- You feel very energized using this product.
- Other reviewers loved it as well.
- Some describe it as a “miracle in a bottle.”
- Some people did not feel benefits from it.
What is the lowest oxygen level before death?
At the moment of death, our saturation always drops to 0%.
But as far as our tolerance goes, it depends. Most people experience serious problems when their levels drop below 80%. Some symptoms are obvious, such as dizziness and headaches.
However, it is the unseen symptoms that are the most dangerous. Such low amounts can severely harm your organs. This damage can be permanent. And if it happens to your vital organs, such as the heart or brain, it can also be lethal.
Hypoxemia can often lead to loss of consciousness or even total respiratory failure. If your pulse oximeter shows a reading below 80%, seek medical attention immediately.
Does deep breathing increase blood oxygen?
Yes, deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to increase it. When you breathe deeply and slowly, your lungs have more time to absorb oxygen into the bloodstream. At the same time, they can release more carbon dioxide back into the blood.
Shallow and rapid breaths don’t give your lungs enough time to facilitate this exchange.
But breathing deeply isn’t enough. You should also breathe using your diaphragm instead of your chest. Experts claim that this can help you achieve an even higher saturation.
Never inhale through your mouth, either. It doesn’t filter the air as effectively as the nose does. It can make your hypoxemia even worse.
Saturations below 80 can be life-threatening. If it gets as low as 70, you should immediately seek medical attention.
You will likely experience severe headaches, dizziness, and even breathlessness. In some cases, you might even lose consciousness.
Anxiety affects many systems of your body, including the respiratory one. People with severe anxiety often breathe shallowly and rapidly. As a result, their blood doesn’t oxygenate enough.
Actively slowing down your breath is often enough to restore normal saturation. However, it might be difficult to focus and think rationally when anxious.
The perfect saturation is 100%. A good one is any number above 95%. But if you suffer from a chronic lung disease, readings as low as 90% can still be considered normal.
Anything below these values indicates hypoxemia.
Final thoughts on the blood oxygen level
Your blood oxygen level represents how much of this gas your blood carries. It is represented by a percentage. Optimal levels should fall above 95%. Lower values suggest possible hypoxemia.
You can measure this saturation by using a blood test or pulse oximetry. A blood test provides more comprehensive information but requires medical knowledge to perform. Pulse oximetry only measures the saturation but is much more accessible.
Common signs of hypoxemia are headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, fast heartbeat, and blueish skin. You can combat these symptoms by breathing long and deep, exercising, improving your diet, or using special supplements.