Air Hunger: Top Causes and Solutions

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 10/16/2023

Air hunger, or dyspnea, is a symptom commonly associated with several health conditions. Dyspnea can be a harmless side effect of anxiety, or it can signify something more serious like a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot in your lungs. 

Let’s take a look at the top causes of air hunger and the best solutions. 

Breathing problems

What is air hunger?

People who experience air hunger often feel as if they just can’t get enough air. Air hunger can be described as shortness of breath and is known clinically as dyspnea. 

Clinical dyspnea has various causes, some of which require medical attention. Acute dyspnea comes on suddenly, while chronic dyspnea occurs for longer periods of time.

Environmental pollutants often make breathing discomfort worse. 

Causes of air hunger

Some of the most common causes of air hunger are the following:

  • Asthma

  • COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

  • Pneumonia

  • Tuberculosis

  • Anxiety 

  • Allergies

  • Anemia

  • Congested gallbladder

  • Pulmonary embolism

  • Heart failure/heart attack

  • Respiratory failure

Another lesser-known cause of air hunger is related to pH issues in your body. A pH imbalance like acidosis and alkalosis can cause air hunger.

If you have acidosis, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Tremors

  • Sleepiness

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

Along with air hunger, alkalosis can cause the following symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness/pain/cramping

  • Hypocalcemia

  • Tetany (twitching)

Alkalosis is typically caused by high levels of cortisol or stress. It can be caused by a high-carb diet or a potassium deficiency. Too much calcium in your blood can raise your pH, also causing alkalosis. 

Vitamin B1 deficiency can inhibit your heart's ability to pump oxygen effectively, contributing to air hunger. It can also contribute to lactic acidosis—a condition where your body starts to accumulate lactate and becomes too acidic.

Lactic acidosis can occur as a side effect of the drug Metformin or as a symptom of diabetes. Biotin deficiency, liver and kidney problems, strenuous exercise, and excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to lactic acidosis.

Watch this video to learn more about the causes of air hunger. 

Remedy for pH-related air hunger 

“Based solely on the symptom of shortness of breath, you can’t really tell if you’re dealing with acidosis or alkalosis,” Dr. Berg explains. “You have to know the other symptoms that are associated with either pH problem.”

Pay attention to the symptoms that accompany air hunger. This can help you determine the underlying cause and appropriate remedy.

Calcium, magnesium, and potassium can help relieve dyspnea if your air hunger is related to acidosis. You can diminish air hunger related to lactic acidosis by increasing your vitamin B1 intake.

Apple cider vinegar or betaine hydrochloride can help if your air hunger is due to alkalosis. Low stomach acid and digestive issues like bloating also contribute to alkalosis, so dietary changes can be very beneficial.

electrolytes to breathe better

Other air hunger solutions

Anxiety-related air hunger

People with anxiety often have irregular breathing patterns and experience dyspnea. According to this study published in the National Library of Medicine, people who experience dyspnea associated with anxiety do not actually have lung problems at all.

If anxiety is causing you to feel like you can’t get enough air, try to slow down your breathing. Focus on breathing in for 4 to 5 seconds and then exhaling for 4 to 5 seconds. This can also help improve your mood.

Asthma and pneumonia

If asthma is leading to chronic dyspnea, try a vitamin D supplement or try getting more vitamin D from the sun

Vitamin D is one of the best remedies for inflammatory conditions of the respiratory system. Zinc is also helpful if pneumonia is causing dyspnea. 


COPD is a chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs that is often associated with shortness of breath. If left untreated, COPD can lead to pulmonary hypertension or high blood pressure in the lungs. 

Vitamin C and vitamin E are vital when dealing with lung problems like COPD. Vitamins C and E can also prevent the development of interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. 

Ventilation and medication strategies

When to see a doctor

Sudden acute dyspnea is a medical emergency. If you are experiencing air hunger, especially severe breathlessness, always consult with a healthcare professional. This will ensure that your symptoms are not due to a serious underlying condition.

Shortness of breath is associated with liver disease, kidney disease, lung disease, congestive heart failure, COPD, and more, so it’s important to ensure that your symptoms are not a sign of something serious. 

Acidosis and difficulty breathing are associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A healthcare professional can rule out this condition.

air hunger relief

Key takeaways

Air hunger is a worrisome condition that may or may not be serious. Generally speaking, there are several natural ways to relieve shortness of breath.

Electrolytes and vitamin B1 can bring relief if dyspnea is pH-related. Switching to a Healthy Keto® diet can also help.

Untreated air hunger related to a chronic illness can lead to several health problems. Check with a doctor to ensure that your symptoms are not a sign of something serious.


1. What is air hunger (dyspnea)?

Air hunger can be described as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Air hunger is typically a symptom of a condition rather than a condition itself.

2. What is air hunger a symptom of?

Air hunger is a symptom of several conditions. It’s important to identify other symptoms that accompany air hunger to determine the cause. 

Air hunger can be caused by anxiety, heart problems, liver problems, respiratory issues, COPD, asthma, pneumonia, pH-related issues, and more. If you’re experiencing air hunger, especially severe breathlessness or acute air hunger, consult with a healthcare professional.

3. What does anxiety air hunger feel like? 

Anxiety air hunger feels like you just can’t get enough air. People with anxiety-related air hunger often have irregular breathing patterns and gulp or yawn for more air. 

Anxiety-related air hunger does not signify a problem with the lungs. Focused breathing and other mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety can help. 

4. How do you relieve air hunger? 

Depending on the severity of the problem and the underlying cause, there are several different methods to relieve air hunger. 

Increasing electrolyte intake or vitamin B1 intake can improve your symptoms if they’re related to acidosis. Apple cider vinegar and betaine hydrochloride can help if you’re dealing with alkalosis. 

5. Is air hunger painful?

Air hunger isn’t typically painful, but it can be accompanied by chest pain if you’re dealing with a serious underlying condition like lung disease or congestive heart failure. 

6. Is air hunger the same as shortness of breath?

Yes. Air hunger, shortness of breath, and dyspnea all describe the same problem. 

7. How does pH cause air hunger?         

If your body’s pH becomes too high or too low, you may experience air hunger. Significant pH changes in your body lead to acidosis or alkalosis, which affect blood flow, breathing, and many other bodily functions.  

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