What if I told you there is an amazing new pill on the market that will change your life. This pill, if taken regularly will reduce stress, improve your sleep, lower your blood pressure, and even revitalize your sex life.
If you are suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions, this pill will reduce or even eliminate your symptoms. In a short time, you will experience less breathlessness, coughing, and wheezing.
As if that were not enough, this pill will help you lose weight, increase daily energy, and improve athletic performance. When taken day and night you will feel more revitalized, refreshed, and energetic all day long.
When taken as directed this pill will end snoring and dry mouth in the morning. It will calm your mind, release tension in your body, and improve your mood.
There are no adverse side effects. You can take this pill as often as you like with no risk of overdose. You don’t even need a prescription. And the best part…this pill is absolutely free!!!
What is this amazing new pill? It’s your breath.
Each healthy breath you take is like taking this amazing pill. The magic of your amazing breath is in the proper execution of what most believe is a simple reflexive process that runs on autopilot. It is true, thankfully. Our breath is automatic. Our autonomic nervous system constantly monitors our oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, causing us to take a breath automatically anytime the balance of these two gasses is off.
The problem is, due to many influences in our life and environment, the gas gauge is off. The setpoint for optimal breathing is no longer in proper balance resulting in 8 out of 10 people overbreathing.
Overbreathing. This is at the heart of many common ailments and the reason people breathe incorrectly. Simply put, overbreathing is the result of taking in too much oxygen when you breathe. To understand this you first have to learn a little chemistry. So let’s take a trip back to High School chemistry class.
The central mechanism for creating energy in the body is your mitochondria. This is basically like the engine in a car. Within the mitochondria is the combustion process that generates ATP, the powerhouse of the body. To understand this, think of how a car engine produces power. In the cylinder head, the engine injects air and fuel, followed immediately by a spark from the spark plug. This creates combustion, a powerful explosion that forces the piston downward to turn the crankshaft, which ultimately powers the car to move.
As with your car engine, your mitochondria take in metabolic fuel from the food you eat, and oxygen from the air you breathe, then using cellular combustion, turn the fuel and oxygen into cellular energy, known as ATP.
If you are still with me, congrats. It is about to get interesting. When combustion happens, just like with your car, there is waste created. Your car lets out the exhaust in the form of carbon dioxide. Guess what….so do your mitochondria. Yup! When cellular energy is created from metabolic fuel and oxygen it puts off carbon dioxide.
Now here is the critical piece that makes proper breathing worth doing, and why overbreathing is so damaging to your body. In order for oxygen to be released from the red blood cells, it must be in the presence of carbon dioxide. In other words, while carbon dioxide may be bad for the environment, it is absolutely essential for life inside your body. How is that for biological irony? Pretty awesome, right?!
Signs you may be overbreathing:
- Frequent breathlessness
- Yawning or gasping during the day
- Dry pasty morning mouth
- Repository issues like asthma
- Frequent or chronic sinus colds or infections
- Frequent or chronic congestion
- General low energy or exhaustion
Overbreathing leads to the following issues:
- A reduction of the gas carbon dioxide in the blood
- Mouth breathing and underutilization of the gas nitric oxide
- Impaired release of oxygen from red blood cells
- Constriction of the smooth muscles in the blood vessels and airways
- Adverse effects on blood pH
- Reduced oxygenation of working muscles and organs, including the heart and brain
- Increased acidity and fatigue during exercise
- Limited sports performance
- Negative effects on overall health
Now let’s get back to your breathing and why proper breathing is so important. When you breathe you inhale oxygen and you exhale carbon dioxide. When you breathe too much, otherwise known as overbreathing, you send more oxygen to your cells than there is carbon dioxide. When there isn’t enough carbon dioxide in your cells there is a reduction in the number of oxygen transferred to your mitochondria, resulting in a decrease in energy-producing combustion.
I know that was a lot to unpack. The simple version is you need to have the right amount of oxygen AND carbon dioxide in your body in order to properly produce cellular energy, among other things. This delicate balance is also important for numerous other systems in your body to work correctly, but I think we have discussed enough biology for now.
The solution to overbreathing is simple. Breathe through your nose, all day and night, for the rest of your life.
Mouth breathing has a number of ill effects, including taking in too much oxygen. Mouth breathing also results in dry unfiltered air reaching your lungs. Not good.
When you breathe through your nose you benefit from the miracle that is your sinuses. This cavernous part of your respiratory system moistens and warms the air to your natural body temperature so it is ideal for delivery to your cardiovascular system. It also filters out viruses and airborne particles which supports overall health and your body’s natural immunity process.
Simply training yourself to breathe through your nose will start you off with the wonderful benefits of proper breathing. For starters, due to the smaller openings of nostrils compared to the mouth, you naturally inhale a lower volume of oxygen.
But what if I am congested? I can’t breathe through my nose. It’s too hard.
No problem. Here is a simple technique for clearing your sinuses:
- Breathe in a relaxed breath, through your mouth if necessary.
- Exhale softly, then close your mouth and pinch your nose closed.
- Gently sway side to side, bending from your waist left and right.
- Continue until you feel a strong urge to breathe.
- Take your first breath in through your nose. You will immediately feel a reduction in congestion.
- Repeat at least 2 to 5 more times.
The more you do this, combined with more nasal breathing, the less congestion you will feel throughout your day.
Using simple techniques like the one above you can utilize your breath to improve overall health and wellness. Not only will you feel better you will live longer too. There is an interesting scientific finding that lung capacity directly correlates to lifespan. So if you want to live a long time, breathe through your nose.
Improving how you breathe can bring the following benefits:
- Improved sleep and energy
- Easier breathing with reduced breathlessness during exercise
- Naturally increasing the production of EPO and red blood cells
- Improved oxygenation of working muscles and organs
- Reduction of lactic acid buildup and fatigue
- Improved running economy and VO2 Max
- Improved aerobic performance
- Improved anaerobic performance
The ideal breath is simple. In through your nose, down into your belly, with an exhale slightly longer than the inhale.
Take the time to notice how you breathe. Is it mostly from your mouth? Do you breathe into your chest or into your belly? Do you experience moments of breathlessness, especially after short periods of exertion like walking up a flight of stairs? Awareness of your breathing is the first step towards improving your breathing.
Nasal breathing for the win.
Bonus wisdom: There was a lot of concern in the early days of the COVID19 pandemic about the impacts on breathing and oxygen uptake when wearing a mask. I will expand on this in a future article but the short answer is, due to overbreathing, most people get too much oxygen.
The key is not how much oxygen you breathe in, it is with the amount of oxygen delivered to your cells. As you have learned, this is more a factor of carbon dioxide than the volume of oxygen you breathe. Wearing a mask does make it harder to draw in a normal breath. But it actually causes you to reduce your oxygen volume closer to what is normal.
I haven’t seen any studies but I bet there has been an improvement in overall health during this challenging time, aside from those who unfortunately contracted COVID19.
Author and Optimize Coach
David is a writer and coach specialing in awakening human potential. David likes to think of himself as a conscious creator, student of life, Super Dad, chef, Spartan Athlete, and Optimize Performance Coach. Writing for Dr. Kusher and the CFL community is just one of his many joys.