Are you a mouth breather? Here are the surprising benefits of making the switch to breathing through your nose
(NaturalHealth365) Recently, we’ve all become acutely aware of how important respiratory health is. With this in mind, the growing trend of conversation about the health benefits of nasal breathing could not have come at a better time.
And while breathing through your nose appears to explicitly beneficial, the alternative — being a chronic mouth breather — could actually be harmful to your health.
Increase oxygen uptake in your body by 20 percent with this simple trick
According to a 2015 clinical review published in the peer-reviewed Irish journal Nursing in General Practice, breathing through the nose creates an increase in airway resistance by up to 50 percent. Since airflow resistance during inhalation helps maintain the elasticity and volume of the lungs, the result is a net 10 to 20 percent increase in oxygen uptake in the body. Breathing through the nose is also likely to improve oxygenation in the body because once inside the nasal passageway, the air is exposed to a network of arteries, veins, capillaries, and lymphatic vessels.
Breathing through the nose also naturally slows the respiratory rate. It’s exactly this sort of slow deep breathing that can stimulate the vagus nerve, which plays a central role in facilitating the parasympathetic nervous system-mediated relaxation response, as noted by a 2018 paper in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. (No wonder people tell you to take slow deep breaths to calm down.)
Another interesting benefit of nose breathing is the way in which it promotes the production of nitric oxide, a compound produced by almost every cell in your body and a “potent bronchodilator and vasodilator. Therefore,” explains the author of the 2015 clinical review, “it helps lower blood pressure and significantly increases the lungs’ oxygen-absorbing capacity. It is also known to be antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial.”
Nasal breathing has also been shown to:
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- Improve air moisture
- Provide a natural filtration system by trapping airborne debris in nose hairs and mucous
- Potentially prevent or alleviate common colds, allergies, and hay fever
- Support appropriate action of the diaphragm
- Promotes the correct alignment of the tongue against the upper palate, which supports the formation of dental arches and straight teeth
As for the alternative, predominantly breathing through the mouth — done by about 30 to 50 percent of the population — is suggested to be linked to an increased risk of gum disease, bad breath, dental decay, snoring, sleep apnea, jaw joint dysfunction, inefficient upper-chest breathing, teeth malocclusion, speech and swallowing problems, and enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
Break the mouth-breathing habit with these three tips
Not everyone can breathe through their noses easily, including people with a deviated septum, a history of facial trauma, or any other issue leading to restriction of their nasal passages. But to the extent that you’re able to breathe through your nose, a growing number of health experts say that you should make an effort to create a habit out of it. The benefits of nasal breathing over mouth breathing have also been championed by traditional cultures from around the world.
Here are three simple strategies to become a more practiced nose breather:
- Set reminders (such as a periodic alarm on your phone) that you can use to check your breathing pattern.
- Set aside a few minutes per day to practice a breathing exercise, such as alternate nostril breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.
- Consider taping your mouth at night while you sleep. You can buy tape made especially for this purpose — but please be aware that this technique is not appropriate for some people, including people who struggle to breathe through their nose, have severely chapped lips, are obese, consume alcohol or sedatives before bed, have heart or blood pressure problems, or are currently affected by a cold, allergy, or sinus problem.
And, finally, if you have chronic congestion (making it difficult to breathe) … you should look into changing your diet to reduce mucous buildup. Things to consider are the eliminate of dairy products (especially conventional brands), simple sugars and flour products. Talk to an integrative healthcare provider for extra help, as needed.
Just know that better breathing is quite possible when you make healthy changes to your lifestyle.
Sources for this article include: