When was the last time you thought about how you breathe? Newly emerging research is making it increasingly evident that how we breathe can have serious consequences to our health, physical performance, and longevity. We now know that improper breathing –
- Limits athletic performance
- Increases blood pressure
- Contributes to cardiac dysfunction
- Constricts blood vessels
- Leads to weight gain
- Raises cholesterol
- Causes acidic inflammation (and if you’ve been following me at all, you are well aware of the catastrophic consequences of oral and systemic inflammation!)
Clear back in 1891 George Catlin wrote a book titled Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life. And no, it was not a treatise on the social benefits enjoyed by learning to keep your smart a** remarks to yourself, but was rather a short dissertation on his observations that Native Americans, who were taught from infancy to breathe through their noses and not their mouths, rarely suffered from the dental and systemic diseases that plagued the “civilized” populations of that time. Now while I certainly wouldn’t try to defend all of his reasoning or conclusions, it turns out that he actually was on to something. Professional athletes are now learning that they can mimic the advantages of high-altitude training just by changing/correcting the way they breathe. And many others are also experiencing improved health and well being, including weight loss and reversal many chronic diseases, with just a few simple breathing exercises a day.
In his book, The Oxygen Advantage, Patrick McKeowen does an excellent job of explaining the science behind proper breathing. How deep mouth breathing actually hinders oxygen uptake into the blood stream, and how to retrain your body by resetting the oxygenation cascade for maximum efficiency. He provides a number of exercises to help accomplish this, but here is the program in a nutshell –
- Breathe through your nose – always: day and night, at rest and when exercising.
- Breathe from your diaphragm – your belly should move, not your chest.
- Breathe slowly and calmly – practice pausing between breaths, gradually increasing the length of time you can comfortably pause (your goal is a relatively relaxed 40 seconds).
- Eat an alkaline (unrefined plant based) diet.
For most of us, that’s all there is to it. Some though may need a little extra help, especially when it comes to controlling nighttime breathing; in particular, snoring and sleep apnea (OSA). In these cases, a little help from your wholistic/whole-health dentist just may be the ticket. This can vary from something as simple as retraining your breathing by placing a little tape over your mouth, to intra-oral airway appliances, or CPAP treatment. For a few, getting to the root cause of the problem may require an advanced orthodontic technique called orthotropics. Of course, your wholistic dentist will be happy to help you sort through all the options and find the one best suited for you:) To begin with though, following those four simple recommendations can make a world of difference. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!