Updated: Apr 23, 2020
How do you breathe? Do you wake up with a stuffy nose or dry mouth? It might not be something you’ve given much thought to, but mouth breathing can aggravate or cause many symptoms that mimic: Hypertension, Sleep Apnea, Chronic Fatigue, Asthma, Bronchitis, Diabetes, Snoring, Irritable Bowel, Migraines, Depression, Panic Attack, Eczema, Arthritis, Angina, Hypoglycemia, Rhinitis, Palpitations, and Epilepsy. When you breathe through the mouth, you stimulate the “fight or flight” response inside the body. Being in this fight or flight response isn’t bad when you go for a hike or exercise, it becomes a problem when you do it constantly, day after day, year after year, without even noticing. When you put yourself in this stressed state (fight or flight) through improper breathing, the body continues to elevate stress hormones that deteriorate the metabolism. That is why many symptoms listed above can be affected by improper breathing. When our metabolism gets destroyed, every process of human health will be affected. If you have read our other blog posts, we keep it simple by reducing stress-causing factors/habits, while implementing anti-stressful habits to bring the body back to optimal human function.
The mouth performs absolutely 0 functions in breathing. The human nose is responsible for 30+ functions within the human body. The only time animals breathe through their mouths is when they get sick. When you breathe through the nose, you actively target the diaphragm breathing muscle and many other processes that allow your body to perform optimally. Your nose is a specifically designed organ and a part of our respiratory system. Below we will go more in detail the benefits of nasal breathing, techniques to apply daily, and more solutions to unlock your body’s potential.
Mouth Breathing Weakens Your Lungs, Heart, and More
Researchers have pointed out how mouth breathing and associated hyperventilation causes and exacerbates asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical problems. Breathing through your mouth causes depleted carbon dioxide levels, reduces blood circulation, slows down your brain and reflexes and even can cause spells of dizziness and unconsciousness. Chronic mouth breathing also causes the muscles that open the sidewalls of the nose to weaken causing narrowing of airways.
When you breathe in the mouth or over-breath, the lungs get overstimulated with oxygen, but the airways become dried and vasoconstrictor, so an inefficient amount of oxygen is actually absorbed through the alveoli in the lungs. By breathing through your mouth, you are failing your heart, brain, and all other organ systems by denying optimal oxygenation. Even though you may have no cardiac disease symptoms, you may develop arrhythmias and heart ailments down the road.
Nose Breathing Ensures Better Blood Flow and Lung Volumes
When we nose breath, the vasodilation by nitric oxide increases the surface area of alveoli, where oxygen is absorbed in the very end of bronchial tubes, which means more oxygen is absorbed more efficiently. ‘Nasal breathing (opposed to mouth breathing), increases blood oxygen, circulation, carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes’ (Swift, Campbell, McKown 1988 Oronasal obstruction, lung volumes, and arterial oxygenation - Lancet 1, 73-75).
Nose Breathing Helps Fight Infections and Viruses
When you breathe in through the nose, the air is warmed, moistened, conditioned and mixed with nitric oxide, which does two important functions; it kills deadly bacteria/viruses and works as a vasodilator on the airways, arteries, and capillaries. Our body has a gene - T2R38, that stimulates the nose's receptors when you breathe through your nose, which reacts with the chemicals that bacteria in the air use to communicate. It stimulates nitric oxide that kills the viruses so you breathe in a relatively less infectious air.
Your nose is the only organ that is enabled to properly “prepare” the air you breathe. If you bypass your nose and breathe through your mouth, there is no stopping the bad bacteria to reach inside your body. The mucous membrane lining the nose extends all the way from the inner linings of the nostrils down the trachea to the bronchi, that directly enters the lungs. Germs get caught and die in the mucus. Mouth breathing will make you more susceptible to common cold and infections.
Mouth Breathing is an Open Invitation to Sleep Apnea and Snoring
Our nasal passages have afferent stimuli the nerves that regulate breathing. When inhaled air passes through the nose, nasal mucosa carries the stimuli to reflex nerves that control breathing. When you breathe through the mouth, you bypass nasal mucosa and it predisposes you to loud snoring and irregular breathing. Snoring is a precursor to sleep apnea, apnea is a precursor to low cellular oxygen, almost any illness including heart attacks and death in one’s sleep.
Sleep apnea is just a term used to describe Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome. This new medical description for what most of us call snoring is a problem for about 90 million Americans every day.
Nasal Breathing Helps The Brain & Oxygen Absorption
The hypothalamus (known as the Brain’s brain) is responsible for many functions in our bodies, particularly the automatic response of heartbeat, thirst, appetite, blood pressure, and cycles of sleep/waking. The hypothalamus is also responsible for generating chemicals that influence memory and emotion. Your breath is directly correlated to the emotions you experience.
The lungs are a primary source of our energy levels. They extract oxygen from the air we breathe primarily on the exhale. When you exhale through small nostrils compared to your mouth, a back-pressure is created and exhaled air is restricted and slowed down, which is exactly the time lungs use to absorb more oxygen. It slows the air escape so the lungs have more time to extract oxygen from them. When there is proper oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, the blood will maintain a balanced pH. Our oxygen uptake happens mostly during the restricted exhale through the nose.
If carbon dioxide is lost too quickly (as in mouth breathing), oxygen absorption is decreased. If you want better performance, more energy, or better sleep, you have to stop over-breathing - a.k.a. Mouth breathing (even when you sleep).
Mouth Breathing Can Affect Your Mouth, Jaw, & Facial Development
Mouth breathing can produce an anterior open bite, a longer face and accelerates water loss increases the risk of dehydration. Improper breathing (through the mouth) can cause an overbite, crooked teeth, and TMJ.
Where to Start/Solutions?
1. Start being aware of how you breathe when you are awake. Train yourself to breathe softly in and out through the nose with a slight pause after you exhale, until you get a light urge to breathe again, repeat. Slow down your breathing! Keep your neck, shoulders, and chest relaxed while breathing deeply into the diaphragm.
2. The ultimate goal is to get 2-6 breaths/minute (10-30s per breath). Have the tongue rest at the top roof of the mouth when breathing through the nose to help assist in opening the nostrils airways.
3. Taping your mouth during sleep is a very powerful tool to use to retrain the body to regain its optimal function (here is what we use), Somnifix is also another great company for mouth-taping. Doing it during waking hours is a great way to begin training/prepping the body for sleep.
4. Practice control holds. Breathe normally for a minute and hold your breath after a normal exhale. Time yourself and see how long you can get when you have to breathe slowly through the nose for the next minute and repeat 4-5x. Best to use when you are stressed or before bed.
5. Focus on reducing other stress-causing factors and increasing the metabolic rate (read through our many other blogs).
6. Invest in an air purifier to constantly kill viruses and bacteria in your living quarters (here is what we recommend).
Download our free anti-stress starter guide where we teach and educate you on the basics of rebuilding a foundation to health while mitigating many unknown stressors that could be present in your current lifestyle. Follow us on Instagram: Mitigate Stress and Colonna_Fitness, Youtube: Mitigatestress.com & Mitigate Stress 2.0 where we are constantly providing more in-depth content.
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