We are all essentially born with the understanding that oxygen is required for us to survive. Some of us become hyper aware of this fact after falling off of boat docks when we were kids or show off this fact by seeing who can hold their breath the longest before passing out (kids, right?). What many of us fail to understand, however, is exactly WHY we need oxygen to survive. Why do we get lightheaded when deprived of oxygen? What exactly is going on inside of our bodies that makes oxygen such a vital part of the puzzle?
In order to understand the role of oxygen in the body, you must first understand how the body creates the energy it needs to function. You’ve probably heard the acronym ATP, but what is it? ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the body’s biochemical method for storing, transporting, and using energy. Every cell in your body relies on ATP for life and will begin to die if deprived of it. The body is able to synthesize ATP through a process wherein ADP (one byproduct of using ATP energy) is paired with another phosphate group in order to form new ATP. The body can add phosphate groups to ADP using a variety of systems, but we’ll be focusing on the one dependant on oxygen: aerobic respiration. During this process, electrons stripped from glucose must continue to flow through the electron transport chain. If they do not, the entire ATP production process comes to a halt because it has nothing energizing it. This is where oxygen comes in.
Molecular oxygen is the last receptor on the electron transport chain, and oxygen loves electrons. By accepting the electrons, the oxygen allows the ATP synthesis process to continue to be energized and function properly.
Keep an eye out for part two on this topic to learn how increased oxygen can help you heal, and contact us online to learn about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.