We all take a breath somewhere between 15,000 – 25,000 times per day, but an interesting question is whether we breathe properly ?
Are you a mouth breather? or do you breathe with your mouth closed most of the time?
Watch a sleeping baby – without any learned pattern – the baby breathes on pure instinct.
The mouth of the baby is closed (unless there is a pacifier in it) and you only see the belly moving. It is inflated into a ball and then collapses, exhaling through the nose. Then it takes a while without activity as the belly inflates again.
Think about how you breathe most of the time – maybe with short breaths up your chest? With an open mouth and a chest and shoulders moving?
– and the belly – we’ll be focused on keeping it flat. Flat belly is important – or so we think!!
Try counting the number of breaths you take during one minute (count on inhalation or exhalation – not both). Did you get more than 6 breaths? open or closed mouth ? in the chest or down in the belly?
If we are stressed, there will be automatic rapid breathing in the upper part of the the chest and certainly also with an open mouth – unless we forget to breathe completely because something else has kidnapped our focus.
When we breathe that way, we over-breathe – which is also known in extreme cases as hyperventilation. However, hyperventilation is activated much earlier than when we are hysterically breathing so we faint…
What happens in the body when we hyperventilate through the mouth?
- You breathe “raw” air with all the microbes, viruses and contaminants straight down your lungs – with an increased risk of respiratory infections (not the least something to remember in these CV-19 times
- The body gets too much oxygen which in turn disturbs the body’s acid/base balance
- To the benefit of headache, fatigue, muscle/joint pain, swelling.
- The body reacts as if you are in mortal danger and should escape resulting in adrenaline boosts and initially elevated cortisol – the body ends up in stress.
- Less bloodcirculation in your skin (if you are escaping from the saber-toothed tiger, you should not bleed to death if it manages to hurt you)
- Nutrient uptake in the intestine is switched off (you should not eat anyway when fleeing for life)
- Body fluids decrease (everything from saliva and stomach acid to glands and mucous membranes)
- Sexual drive decreases (you should not have sex when fleeing for life)
- Adrenaline releases blood sugar to gain fast energy
- Energy is instead focused on the peripheral system – muscles, hands and feet – muscle tension – NOW you should get away from the danger…
When we don’t run for our lives because the tiger isn’t real – the stress is maybe because you can’t keep up with pressure at work, the kids are at home sick and/or someone around you sighs and rolls their eyes, and instead of running – i.e change direction – you end up on the couch in front of the TV and eat for comfort because you feel sorry for yourself.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THIS STRESS RELEASE IF THE BODY DOES NOT GET THE OUTLET THAT THE BODY EXPECTS ?
- Desired weight loss will not happen
- Blood pressure increases – risk of cardiovascular disease
- Decreased body fluids create dryness in the mucous membranes and mouth and decreased stomach acid. Reduced stomach acid means that proteins and fats do not dissolve properly and therefore cannot be absorbed by the gut.
- Reduced nutrient uptake in the gut – and if this goes on for a long time, you will have nutritional deficiencies – resulting in a reduced metabolism. This then results in weight gain even though you may be eating as you have always done!
- Bad libido for both men and women
- Poor blood flow produces dry skin that ages prematurely.
BREATHING THROUGH THE NOSE
Instead, if you breathe calmly (less than 6 breaths per minute) – through your nose and deep into your belly, a lot of other exciting things happen.
- Through the nose
- Down in the stomach
- Closed relaxed mouth
Through the NOSE, the inhaled air is prepared and tempered before it lands in the lungs. During the passage through the nose, nitrogen monoxide (chemical designation NO) is formed in small quantities and mixed with the inhaled air.
- NO is virus and bactericidal – thus helps the immune system kill intruders and reduces the risk of respiratory infections. it neutralizes up-to 75% of all virus and bactieras in the air.
- NO is vascular dilatory – the best blood pressure medication. In healthcare, nitroglycerin is used, which also images NO when ingested. read more here (in swedish)
- NO helps energizing the the cells and thus gives the body more energy (link also in swedish)
Less than 6 natural breaths per minute “force” the body over into the parasympathetic nervous system – i.e. we now end up in the relaxed system where we
- Get access to our bodily fluids (stomach acid, saliva, mucous membranes and glands)
- The intestine is activated for nutrient uptake
- The sex drive is turned on
- The skin gets proper blood supply
Into the belly
Deep breathing “down into the belly” instead of keeping it up in the chest exercises our diaphragm, which in turn, exercises the intestine so that the conditions for good nutrient uptake are better. Apart from that, the diaphragm is also central to the body for other functions and helps us stay upright, so keeping this central muscle well functioning is of the utmost importance.
Last but not least – closed mouth when inhaling where the tongue ends up in the palate causes the tongue to help shape the jaw and face, which is especially important when the children’s future teeth grow out. (also in swedish)
And this is just a selection of all the good things that happen when you breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. So – if you’re going to change one thing in your life – make sure you do at least some of the 15,000 – 25,000 breaths a day right.
You can try taping your mouth at night, during your sleep, to force yourself breathing through your nose when you are not aware of what you are doing. It doesn’t have to be duct tape across your mouth. You can take a small piece of surgical tape and place it under your nose and across your relaxed closed mouth to the chin. If your body craves it during your sleep, you can still breathe through your mouth in your sleep. After 2 – 4 weeks, the body has learned this new behavior and you can sleep with your mouth closed (can even reduce snoring and you do not have to wake up with a dry mouth in the morning).
When you are awake – practice keeping your mouth closed when you are not talking or eating.
Instructional video here on how to do the breathing minute. (also in swedish)