‘The simplest and most powerful technique for protecting your health is absolutely free – and literally right under your nose. ‘ – Andrew Weil, MD, author of Spontaneous Healing
In the last newsletter, I spoke about the importance of your hydration levels. This week I want to tackle the next link in the wellness chain, breathing!
Breathing is something we do without thinking and it is one of the few functions in the body that can be done consciously (like during singing or specific exercise and sports) or unconsciously as it is part of our autonomic nervous system, so it is done without thought.
Did you know that most people breathe incorrectly (from the mouth) instead of breathing through the nose (like we were born to do) and using the diaphragm and belly to breathe as opposed to the chest? It sounds complicated but if you watch a baby they do it automatically, they inhale and their belly expands instead of their chest.
By breathing through the nose, your diaphragm is pulled down by your core muscles, the lower abdomen rises instead of your chest and your lungs fill properly and empty well, getting rid of all the stale air and optimizing oxygen uptake. All in all, nose breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing) has a massive impact on wellness. According to Dr. Mercola, your nose directs 30 different functions in your body. Nerves in your nasal passages (which connect to your hypothalamus) sense everything about your breathing and use that information to regulate your bodily functions.
Imagine that, and we thought the nose was just an odd addition to our faces.
Over time people develop dysfunctions in their breathing, causing them to use their mouths to breathe instead of their noses. A lot of dysfunction has to do with air pollution, smoke, allergen foods (like dairy and wheat) all clogging up the nasal cavity, forcing us to use our mouths to breathe. Mouth breathing results in heavy breathing which causes a loss of the balance in our gases we need (including carbon dioxide in the correct ratios).
In the case of asthmatics, the breathing rate is increased to get more oxygen in but in turn, the balance of gases is thrown out and this causes the muscles in the airway to tighten up, making breathing even more difficult! Deep breathing in a panic situation (as with asthma or stress) tends to make you feel a bit light-headed, and this is because too much carbon dioxide is leaving the body, which causes your blood vessels to constrict. So, the heavier you breathe, the less oxygen is delivered throughout your body. Counterproductive!
Working out your Carbon dioxide tolerance also gives you a good indication of the body’s tolerance.Dr. Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko, a Russian physician, discovered that the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in your lungs correlates to your ability to hold your breath after normal exhalation. You can use a stopwatch or simply count the number of seconds to yourself. Here is the process:
- Sit straight without crossing your legs and breathe comfortably and steadily.
- Take a small, silent breath in and out through your nose. After exhaling, pinch your nose to keep air from entering.
- Start your stopwatch and hold your breath until you feel the first definite desire to breathe.
- When you feel the first urge to breathe, resume breathing, and note the time. The urge to breathe may come in the form of involuntary movements of your breathing muscles, or your tummy may jerk or your throat may contract.
- Your inhalation should be calm and controlled, through your nose. If you feel like you must take a big breath, then you held your breath too long.
The time you just measured is called the “control pause” or CP, which shows your tolerance to carbon dioxide. Here are the criteria for evaluating your CP:
•CP 40 to 60 seconds — Indicates a normal, healthy breathing pattern and excellent physical endurance.
•CP 20 to 40 seconds — Indicates mild breathing impairment, moderate tolerance to physical exercise, and potential for health problems in the future (most folks fall into this category).
To increase your CP from 20 to 40, physical exercise is necessary. You might begin by simply walking with one nostril occluded. As your CP increases, begin incorporating jogging, cycling, swimming, weightlifting or anything else to build up an air shortage.
•CP 10 to 20 seconds — Indicates significant breathing impairment and poor tolerance to physical exercise; nasal breath training and lifestyle modifications are recommended. If your CP is less than 20 seconds, never have your mouth open during exercise, as your breathing is too unstable. This is particularly important if you have asthma.
•CP under 10 seconds — Serious breathing impairment, very poor exercise tolerance, and chronic health problems.
Short CP times correlate with low tolerance to CO2 and chronically depleted CO2 levels. As a result, the shorter your CP, the more easily you’ll get breathless. The good news is that you will feel better and improve your exercise endurance with each five-second increase in your CP.
So what now? Now we learn to nose breathe.
The excerpt is taken from Dr. Mercola’s top breathing technique:
The first step to increase your CP is to learn how to unblock your nose with the following breath hold exercise. (if you have any cardiac problems,
, are pregnant, have
, panic attacks or any serious health concern, then do not hold your breath beyond the first urges to breathe).
- Sitting up straight, take a small breath in through your nose and a small breath out. If your nose is quite blocked, take a tiny breath in through the corner of your mouth.
- Pinch your nose with your fingers and hold your breath. Keep your mouth closed.
- Gently nod your head or sway your body until you feel that you cannot hold your breath any longer.
- When you need to breathe in, let go of your nose and breathe gently through it, in and out, with your mouth closed.
- Calm your breathing as soon as possible. Repeat this exercise several times in succession, waiting 30 to 60 seconds between rounds.
Try doing this daily. It takes a bit of practice but once you get the hang of it you will benefit in so many ways, including:
– improved digestion and control of IBS symptoms. Using the diaphragm to breathe creates a massaging action felt by intestines and stomach, which can reduce abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and constipation.”
– improves energy and stamina as well as cardiovascular fitness because each breath is more efficient
– helps control asthma symptoms by controlling the Carbon dioxide levels and keeping the airways from constricting
– helps manage stress and anxiety by counteracting the ‘fight or flight’ response during stressful times.
– helps deal with muscular tension and pain, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, indigestion, headaches, mood, and concentration.
– Nose breathing protects us from various harmful external particles like dust, bacteria, and microbes via tiny little hairs called cilia. These hairs clean, warm, and humidify the incoming air and guard us against as many as 20 billion outside particles daily. (20)
Spend a few minutes watching this TED talk by Patrick Mckeown
”Shut your mouth and change your life!’ – the title had me already. He teaches the benefits of correct breathing using the BUTEYKO technique.
So don’t waste time, INHALE!
On the products front this week its ESSENTIAL OILS for the win.
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Now take a breathe, in and out through the nose and have a happy day!