Photo Credit: by Kelvin Valerio, Pexels.com
Everybody knows how to breathe. That’s obvious, right? If you weren’t breathing, you wouldn’t be alive! But did you know there’s a right and wrong way to breathe? And did you know that even if you’re breathing all day long, you may be breathing wrong?
Mouth breathing, or breathing primarily through your mouth rather than your nose, is actually a wrong way to breathe. It’s better than nothing, of course, but it’s not ideal for your health! In fact, it can cause a slew of health problems you might never expect from simply breathing.
In this article, we’ll look at how you can tell if you’re breathing wrong and some reasons why that might be happening. We’ll also examine why mouth breathing is dangerous and harmful to your health, and what you can do about it if you find that you’re breathing wrong.
Now take a deep breath (through your nose!) and let’s dive in.
How to know if you’re breathing wrong
There are actually many dangers of only breathing through your mouth due to having sinus issues or similar complications. That’s why it’s important to determine if you’re breathing wrong, so that you can seek assistance or intervention from the right medical professional.
In short, the proper way to breathe is through your nose. According to Lung.org, “the nostrils filter, warm and humidify air in a way that the mouth cannot.” Our bodies are designed to breathe through our noses, and our noses perform many important functions in the breathing process. Not to mention, our sense of smell is one of the five senses we rely on to stay healthy and well.
Healthline lists some other functions of the nose that make it a necessary part of life: “The nose produces nitric oxide, which improves your lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen. Nitric oxide increases the ability to transport oxygen throughout your body, including inside your heart. It relaxes vascular smooth muscle and allows blood vessels to dilate. Nitric oxide is also antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, and antibacterial. It helps the immune system to fight infections.”
Bet you didn’t know all the work your nose was doing behind the scenes!
Of course, sometimes it’s necessary to breathe out of your mouth, like when you have a cold or when you are doing strenuous exercise. You might fall into the habit of breathing through your mouth during the day or when you’re asleep. Temporary mouth breathing when required is no big deal. But it’s always best to breathe through your nose.
The article also explains, “Humans are ‘belly breathers,’ and just above your stomach is a major muscle in the respiration process, the diaphragm. Proper breathing starts in the nose and then moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands and your lungs fill with air. ‘It is the most efficient way to breathe, as it pulls down on the lungs, creating negative pressure in the chest, resulting in air flowing into your lungs.’”
If you are unable to breathe through your nose or breathing through your mouth comes more naturally and easily, there may be other issues at play.
The article also shares, “A person with a chronic lung disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may need extra energy to breathe, so breathing through the nose and from the belly is particularly important for these individuals. … Also, ‘pursed-lip breathing,’ when you press your lips together and inhale through the nose with the mouth closed, is also a good technique for patients with COPD.”
You might not even realize that you’re regularly breathing through your mouth instead of your nose, especially while you sleep. But some of the signs to look for include snoring, dry mouth, bad breath, and more.
Why mouth breathing is bad for your health
If you’ve lived your whole life breathing through your mouth, you might not understand what the big deal is. You might think that it’s no big deal how you breathe as long as you’re getting enough oxygen. But that’s not the case. Mouth breathing can be really damaging to your health.
In an article about the best way to breathe to boost your productivity in life, Inc even proclaims “mouth breathing is the new smoking.” The article goes on to explain, “an emerging body of research tells us that how we breathe has a profound impact on how we think and feel. Good breathing cultivates resilience, focus, and productivity. Bad breathing cultivates stress, anxiety, and a scattered mind.”
But it gets even worse than that. Mouth breathing can be extremely harmful to your oral health, which is linked to a host of other diseases and complications.
WebMD explains, “Breathing through your mouth can dry out your gums and the tissue that lines your mouth. This can change the natural bacteria in your mouth, leading to gum disease or tooth decay. Over long periods of time, mouth breathing can also lead to physical changes in children, such as:
* An elongated face
* Droopy eyes
* Dark spots underneath the eyes
* Narrow nostrils
* Trouble sealing lips
* Dry lips
* A narrowed upper lip
As Healthline puts it, “In children, mouth breathing can cause crooked teeth, facial deformities, or poor growth. In adults, chronic mouth breathing can cause bad breath and gum disease. It can also worsen symptoms of other illnesses.” Mouth breathing leads to periodontal disease, such as gingivitis and tooth cavities, as well as throat and ear infections.
As you can see, mouth breathing is actually worse for your health than you might expect. On the contrary, taking long, deep breaths through the nose is good for the body and mind, relaxing you and giving your body the clean oxygen it needs.
Super Size Me for breathing: the breath experiment
Do you remember the documentary Super Size Me, about what happens when you eat McDonald’s food for three meals a day for an extended period of time? The results were shocking, but we all know that fast food is bad for us.
But did you know that James Nestor, author of the new book Breath, recently conducted a similar experiment but focused on what happens when you mouth breathe instead of breathe through your nose?
Inc shares, “Nestor forced himself to mouth breathe. He jammed earplugs into his nostrils and closed them shut with surgical tape. The results confirmed what scientists have been saying for years. After just a few days of mouth breathing, Nestor’s snoring at night had increased by over 1,000 percent. His blood pressure spiked by an average of 13 points, putting him in a state of stage one hypertension. And, not surprisingly, he felt anxious, scattered, and ‘awful."
Can you believe that mouth breathing can have such dramatically damaging effects?
The experiment shows that bad breathing “leads to all sorts of bigger problems: anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and other chronic health conditions.” But it also shows that “small changes in the way we breathe can produce radical results.” In other words, the secret to feeling and living better might be as simple as your breath.
What to do if you’re a mouth breather
If you’re a mouth breather, you’re going to want to address it and get it solved if possible so that you can breathe correctly. The good news is that you don’t need to overthink it. Breathing is the most natural thing we do as humans. But if you’re not breathing correctly, it may be a sign of a bigger issue that you should get resolved. Visiting a doctor is a necessary next step.
Lung.org reminds readers not to get too stressed out about breathing. It’s a natural necessary function of the body. “It’s important to remember that your body is built for it. Your respiratory systems know exactly when to tell you to change your depth of breathing, depending on your activity. … ‘the lungs keep the blood’s pH in a very tight range to allow all body functions to occur … There are receptors in our body that constantly monitor the blood’s oxygen and pH levels. It automatically sends signals to our brain to tell us how often and how deep to breathe.’”
Plus, there are many ways to resolve breathing issues. You could see an ENT, a pulmonologist, or a doctor specializing in your particular issue if you are having trouble breathing. A doctor who specializes in this type of care will be able to tell you the best treatment plan for you to live a new life breathing through your nose, as you were made to do.
Treatment options depend on the cause of your breathing problems. A doctor might recommend nasal decongestants, nasal strips, antihistamines for allergy relief, or prescription or over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays.
Surgery might be the best option in some cases. Endoscopic sinus surgery or procedures such as turbinectomy, septoplasty, and similar can enlarge sinus openings and nasal passages to allow for better air flow and easier breathing. For example, those who can’t breathe properly due to a deviated septum can get surgery to have this anatomical issue corrected.
Breathing is a natural and fundamental part of life. You need to breathe right to live right!
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