Breathing Through Your Nose is Essential
Benefits of Nose Breathing & Nitric Oxide
Did you know that breathing through the nose creates an avenue of air that is:
- and even somewhat filtered?
Furthermore, when we breathe through our nose, the air passing through the nasal airway and contacting the turbinates — shelf-like bony structures — is slowed down. This allows the proper mixing of the air with an amazing gas produced in the nasal sinuses called nitric oxide (NO).
Nitric oxide is secreted into the nasal passages and is inhaled through the nose. It is a potent vasodilator (dilatation of the blood vessels), and in the lungs it enhances the uptake of oxygen. NO is also produced in the walls of blood vessels and is critical to all organs in the body.
Let’s evaluate the differences in mouth breathers and nose breathers. The consequences of mouth breathing can occur from the moment of birth because all infants are obligate nose breathers. That is the mechanism by which breast feeding and breathing can occur simultaneously. If a baby has obstructed airways, he may turn away from the breast due to lack of air and prefer a bottle, which allows him to consume his food more quickly.
A mouth breather will not be humidifying the air, or slowing it down to allow the proper mixing of NO with it. The lungs will have difficulty providing maximum oxygenation for the body with this dry, unhumidified, unfiltered and, most importantly, NO-lacking air.
This constant and chronic condition affects the cardiovascular system and the heart because the smooth muscles that line all of the arteries react to this poorly oxygenated air with a kind of tightness, a kind of permanent tension, which can be very stressful and depleting to the body. Furthermore it has been clinically shown that blocking NO product in health individuals results in moderate hypertension and reduced heart output as well as shortened bleeding times by activation of platelet blood-clotting factors.
Due to the lack of proper oxygenation, the ability to deliver fully oxygenated blood to the cells is also much reduced. Thus mouth breathing has a negative effect on every cell in the body as it deprives them of oxygen. Overall wellness and health requires proper oxygen as every particle of our being requires oxygen. Cancer cells, by the way, are anaerobic (living in the absence of oxygen) by design.
Other manifestations of mouth breathing include snoring and cessation of breathing (also know as sleep apnea), some types of headaches, hypertension without other known clinical causes, bed wetting, chronic ear or sinus infections, TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint pain — see definition*), sleep disorders and dark patches under the eyes.
Sympathetic Nervous System Overload
There are two types of autonomic nerves, sympathetic and parasympathetic. The parasympathetic nervous system works to calm us down and to heal. The sympathetic nervous system is the part used when one needs to get out of a dangerous situation. It operates when we are under a lot of stress, and we are not meant to be under constant physical stress. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated it places the body and mind in an alert mode and this mode and the constant stress depletes the bodily reserves and nutrients.
Sympathetic nervous system overload also occurs when the airway is obstructed and the input or sense to the nervous system is akin to a hand or choker around the neck. What type of response do you think the nervous system will have? It’s on high alert at all times. This is why kids who are mouth breathers have a strong gag reflex, for example. For them, the mouth is the source of air as well as the source of food, and the mouth was not designed to perform both of these functions. So kids and adults who are mouth breathers have strong gag reflexes.
Mouth-breathers tend to have amped-up sympathetic nervous systems, always on alert, and they have a hard time getting their physical or mental bodies to relax. Many have found an avenue of dealing with this subconsciously, namely exercise and physical exertion. This is because during physical exertion large volumes of air are inhaled, which may give the body the input it needs to make up for the lack of proper oxygenation during rest periods.
*TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint pain) – The pain associated with TMJ is thought to be caused by displacement of the cartilage where the lower jaw connects to the skull causing pressure and stretching of the associated sensory nerves.
Humming May Help Relieve Sinus Blockage
If you suffer from sinus problems, there may be something that you can do to relieve your symptoms and prevent sinusitis absolutely free — hum.
Scientists in Sweden have discovered that humming — producing a tune without opening the lips or forming words — is an extremely effective way to increase ventilation in your sinuses. They found that humming increased the nitric oxide levels by 15-fold compared with quiet exhalation. Nitric oxide concentrations in healthy sinuses are very high.
Jon Lundberg, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, along with an associate, tested 10 healthy males, ages 34 to 48, who had no history of allergy or airway disease.
"In our study, we hypothesized that the oscillating (vibrating) airflow produced by humming would speed up the exchange of air between the sinuses and the nasal cavity and increase nasal nitric oxide output," wrote Dr.Lundberg.
Nitric oxide was measured in the 10 subjects in oral and single breath exhalations using a tight-fitting mask covering the nose for nasal measurements and a mouthpiece for exhaling by mouth. The subjects exhaled at a fixed flow rate for five seconds either quietly or with humming.
Not only did nitric oxide increase 15-fold during humming, the researchers found that in a mechanical two-compartment model of the nose and sinus, oscillating airflow caused a dramatic increase in gas exchange between the cavities.
Lundberg said proper ventilation is essential for the maintenance of sinus integrity, and that blockage of the openings between the two cavities is a central event in the development of sinusitis.
Lundberg hopes to show with further studies, that the technique developed in this research can offer an easy, non-invasive way of identifying persons who are at risk of developing sinusitis. The method might be used to monitor the effects of surgical or medical interventions aimed at the prevention of sinusitis, he said.
Sinusitis is the inflammation of nasal sinuses, usually as a result of upper respiratory infection [or candida overgrowth]. About 14 percent of people in the U.S. suffer from chronic sinusitis.
Full Chest and Abdominal Breathing – This method is simply a deepening of the breath.
- Take slow, deep, rhythmic breaths through the nose.
- When the diaphragm drops down, the abdomen is expanded allowing the air to rush into the vacuum created in the lungs. Then the chest cavity is expanded, allowing the lungs to fill completely.
- This is followed by a slow, even exhalation which empties the lungs completely.
This simple breath practice done slowly and fully, with intention, concentration and relaxation activates all of the primary benefits of therapeutic breath practice. In Qigong and Pranayama the breath is retained for additional benefit.
Health maintenance: 6 to 10 repetitions, 2 to 3 sessions per day.
Health enhancement: 6 to 10 repetitions, 4 to 6 sessions per day.
Disease intervention: Start slowly and build up to 15 to 20 repetitions, in 10 to 15 sessions per day. Getting started: 2 to 3 repetitions, once or twice per day.
Remember to keep it easy and fun.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Using your thumb on your right nostril and your pinky and third finger (the finger right next to your pinky finger), hold your right nostril closed and inhale up your left nostril.
- Pause, and while your lungs are full of air, switch your fingers so that your left nostril is closed.
- Then exhale out your right nostril.
- Then inhale up your right nostril, pause, and again while your lungs are full of air, switch your fingers so that your right nostril is closed. Exhale.
- Repeat this process about 12 times. This breath is often done in preparation for deep relaxation or meditation.
You will notice that usually one or the other of the nostrils is more open. If you breathe on a small hand mirror, the patch of mist from one nostril will be larger than from the other.
The ancient practitioners of Yoga in India were aware of the significance of this and employed this knowledge to enhance health and consciousness. Western science did not notice this phenomena until the 1800’s. It has been found recently, through the application of current neuroscience, that the practice of alternate nostril breathing helps to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Health maintenance: 10 to 12 repetitions, 2 to 3 sessions per day.
Health enhancement: 10 to 12 repetitions, 4 to 6 sessions per day.
Disease intervention: Start slowly and build up to 15 to 20 repetitions, 8 to 10 sessions per day or up to even 100 repetitions in a single session.
Getting started: 10 to 12 repetitions, once or twice per day. Notice that this method is very quieting.
- Raymond Silkman, DDS, "Is it Mental or is it Dental?," Wise Traditions, Volume 7, Number One, Winter2005/Spring 2006, pg. 18 & 19.
- Roger Jahnke, O.M.D, "Breathing Exercises and Self Healing"