Nasal Breathing

By Dr Janet Winter on June 13, 2011

Could breathing through your mouth be hazardous to your health?

The nose is a specialised organ for breathing, though it is often thought of as more of an optional appendage!

The benefits of breathing through your nose are many; I will just mention a few of them here.

1) Air inhaled through the nose is warmed and moistened.

2) Air exhaled through the nose reabsorbs moisture efficiently.

3) Air inhaled through the nose is filtered, spun (as it rushes round specially designed structures the concha or turbinates) so any particles (allergens, microbes) are flung onto the mucus coating where they are destroyed by enzymes and gases with anti- microbial properties.

4) Nasal breathing promotes oral health. Mouth breathing causes a drying out of the gums, increases the acidity in the mouth promoting both cavities and gum disease.

5) Breathing through the nose encourages good facial development and straight teeth. A closed mouth, with the tongue where is should be, in the roof of the mouth for most of the time, makes the jaw grow enough to accommodate all the teeth.

6) Nasal breathing helps cut down snoring and sleep apnoea and ensure a good night’s sleep. Mouth breathing and sleep apnoea are associated with many chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

7) Breathing through the nose helps regulate the volume of air breathed, so that it can effectively match the body’s oxygen needs.

Many modern people have developed the problem of over breathing or hyperventilation, often mouth breathing most of the time, and breathing predominantly from the upper chest rather than the diaphragm. Air inhaled through the mouth cools, dries and irritates the airways, causing coughing and worsening of asthma and hayfever and is bad for oral health.

Over breathing results in lower than normal CO2 levels which can result in narrowed airways and blood vessels, and less oxygen getting into the tissues (Bohr effect). Over breathing is associated snoring and sleep apnoea which can lead to many health problems, some devastating in the long term (diabetes and heart disease may be linked to sleep apnoea and most of these patients snore – so not just an annoyance for the bed-partner!)

Asthma is the condition most people will associate with Buteyko breathing, and the Buteyko method has been in the doctors’s asthma guidelines in the UK since 2008. Other breathing conditions are also helped, sinusitis and allergies such as hayfever, COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease such as emphysema as well as anxiety and panic and sleep problems.

Often people say they have to breathe through their mouth as their nose is blocked, but according to Dr Buteyko, the nose blocks as a response to the over breathing; correct the over breathing and the nose keeps clear. The first exercise taught on a Buteyko breathing method course is how to clear your nose, it only takes 5 minutes, then the rest of the course teaches how to gradually change you breathing so that your nose stays clear permanently. Learning to nose- breathe 24/7 is an essential first step in normalising your breathing. As you learn more effective breathing, your body gets more oxygen, and your other symptoms start to fade. Many people have more energy and a better quality of life.

So how can nose breathing benefit you? It could be your first step on the road to recovery.

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