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When I posted an event listing on Facebook about a talk I’m hosting during International Nose Breathing Week in September, a friend asked me if it was a joke.  He thought I might be sharing a story from The Onion, famous for its satire of the day’s news a la The Colbert Report or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

For most people in our busy modern society who weren’t taught about optimal breathing at an early age by parents and schools, the fact that breathing is happening is good enough.  They’ve got more urgent things to attend to – and certainly more pressing health priorities, like exercise and eating right – than exploring whether they’re breathing through their mouth or nose.

They don’t know that mouth breathing is a major contributor to uncomfortable, chronic respiratory issues that hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffer from – asthma, allergies, eczema, anxiety, snoring and sleep apnea being the most common ones.

I began having asthma attacks when I was 4 years old, and I suppose I was predominantly a mouth breather until I stumbled into a Buteyko Breathing class when I was 47. Once I started nose breathing and practicing some basic breathing exercises, my asthma and allergies markedly improved.   I immediately stopped buying my $70 monthly reliever inhaler. And tonight I’m going drug-free to a party at someone’s home with a dog and two cats.

Earlier this year I posted a blog entry on 28 reasons to nose breathe.  Here are the high points:

  • People with respiratory illnesses over-breathe.  That is, they breathe two to four times more than people without  the same health problems.  When you breathe too much air in, you’ve got to breathe it out again, and you lose precious carbon dioxide manufactured by your body in the process. Carbon dioxide regulates many essential functions, including how much oxygen is released into your cells.  It’s ironic but true that you can be over-breathing and not get enough oxygen because your body is out of biochemical balance.   It’s possible to over-breathe with your nose, but most people do it by using their (bigger) mouths.
  • Mouth breathing tends to make people more nervous, which causes a whole host of other issues.  It typically inflates only the upper lobes of the lungs, which are connected to the sympathetic nerve fibers, the branch of the nervous system that activates the fight-or-flight response. When you switch to nose breathing, you inflate the entire lungs, including the lower lobes, which are connected to the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, the branch that calms the body, slows the heart rate, relaxes and soothes.
  • The nose filters stuff out of the air we breathe that shouldn’t reach the lungs – like pollutants and large particles.

Not so long ago in indigenous societies, mothers stood vigil against mouth breathing by closing their children’s mouths when they were sleeping and at other times when their mouths were open inappropriately. Infants also model their parents’ facial patterns, and all they saw was nose-breathing.

I’ve got a 7-year-old, and I don’t think I’m alone in taking advice on how to raise her from books and the medical establishment, not my grandmothers who are long gone.   It seems like “the system” is oriented toward expensive drugs and quick fixes, not free tools that can go a long way toward eliminating health conditions through common sense.

Related posts include:

  • Elite Athletes: You Don’t Get More Energy Breathing Through Your Mouth During Heavy Exertion 
  • Top 10 Ways People Breathe Through Their Mouths Without Knowing It
  • How People Start Mouth Breathing…Infants Straight Out of the Womb Don’t Do It
  • Why Mouth Breathing Is A Disaster For Children’s Health

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