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Breathing the Forgotten Pillar of Health - Part 1 Nose Vs Mouth Breathing

Your breath is something you have access to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it's free! And I'll be bold and say that your breath holds the key to your health physically and mentally. We all know that good nutrition, movement and exercise, sleep and stress impact our health, but how often do we really look at how we are breathing and how that impacts us on a day to day basis.

When we are not breathing optimally it can be really damaging to our bodies and our brains. Studies are now showing that how we breathe may be a contributing factor to diabetes, asthma, metabolic and autoimmune issues, anxiety and even ADHD. But we can all become better breathers

Lets start with where you are breathing, is it through the nose, or through the mouth? Our nose was made for breathing and lucky enough for us we have a back up, our mouth. The mouth is just that though, it's a back up and should be used as such. If you are a mouth breather it will take some practice to shift back to nose breathing but the benefits you will feel will be significant. How do you know if you are a mouth breather? It may be something you are only doing at night so here are a few ways to tell if you are mouth breathing while you sleep; dry mouth, snoring, bad breath, hoarseness, brain fog and feeling tired when you wake up.

I recently listened to the book Breath by James Nestor, he conducted an experiment (it was self funded at Stanford University, because no one would ethically do a bigger study because they knew the damage it could do) where for 10 days they only mouth breathed and then for another 10 days they only breathed through their nose. If you really are interested in this you should get the book it's fascinating, but here are the Coles notes. For the first 10 days while breathing through their mouth both individuals had significant increase in the amount of time they spent snoring at night. They also had increased events of sleep apnea (where you stop breathing in sleep). Mouth breathing also impacts the soft tissue at the back of the mouth, which becomes loose and can make breathing more difficult, leading to more mouth breathing and more apnea events. Even their workout performance decreased when mouth breathing.

Nose breathing is how we were designed to breath, air comes in our nostrils, it's filtered by our nose hairs and moistened as it passes down the nasal cavity and in to the lungs. in this experiment when the two individuals switched from mouth breathing to nose breathing they found significant changes. The sleep apnea events nearly completely disappeared, and snoring also reduced significantly if not completely. Energy improved and so did their performance in the gym. There were improvements in their nasal cavity and throat where the damage from mouth breathing had occurred.

So how do we change our breathing if we are breathing through our mouth more often than our nose? Simply practicing awareness of the breath can have huge impacts on your unconscious breathing. Take a few moments a few times per day to just notice the breath. Notice how you are breathing, whether it's shallow or deep, fast or slow. Don't change it, just notice it. Once you are able to really tune into the breath you can start conscious breathing a few times per day. This is where you actively change and control the breath. You can do what is called the "perfect breath" where you inhale for 5.5 seconds, you exhale for 5.5 seconds and this will add up to 5.5 breaths per minute. If 5.5 seconds is too long when you first start you can go for 3 or 4 seconds and increase as you practice. You will be amazed at the changes it makes in your unconscious breathing.

Practicing deep breathing can help you reset your automatic breathing response.

How great that we breath without thinking, but conscious breathing can help improve your unconscious breath. Stay tuned for my next post where we look at how dysfunctional breathing is keeping you in fight or flight and how you can shift that.

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