You will often hear me say “change your habits, change your life”.
I talk about simple basic habits you have control over. Many people have no idea how something so simple, that we really don’t give much thought to, can affect their life. How you breathe has an effect on how you feel, sleep, how much energy you have, how you communicate, your weight, your relationships, even your ability to cope.
In the United States, we spend billions of dollars a year on improving our energy, looks, weight, fitness, sleep, relationships, and most importantly our health.
I will let you in on a little secret. You have a way to improve all of the things listed above and it’s absolutely free. You already do it 24/7 without even thinking about it. But you should. Impaired breathing produces negative consequences to our health and well-being.
I can attest firsthand to how breathing has everything to do with how you feel and living a happy healthy life. Breathing is often overlooked as a key to health. As a chronic mouth breather it was not until last year I realized it was my mouth breathing that was affecting my sleep. For years I thought it was my bladder. I spent thousands of dollars seeing a urologist only to find out it was my breathing causing my stuffy nose, dry mouth, and sore throats.
If you’re a chronic mouth breather because of a stuffy nose, you’re not alone. With allergies, colds, nasal congestion, and wearing masks most of the day a common trend of mouth breathing inevitably follows-especially when you’re sleeping. I’m sure you’ve seen many family members asleep, head and pitched back, mouth wide open, and snoring louder than the movie you’re watching. Mouth breathing can surely ruin your image, it can wreak havoc on your health, and can live weeks without food, days without water but only minutes without air. We take breathing for granted! When we breathe through our mouth we get 18% less oxygen to our brain. Poor breathing habits are linked to poor health. Once we establish incorrect breathing habits we risk those habits becoming permanent and over time causing more stress to our body. The good news. We can improve the way we breathe at any age at any time. Once we are aware of our habits. Our breathing habits are controlled by our thoughts and our emotions.
5 Benefits of Breathing through Your nose
One of the most important reasons to breathe through your nose is the benefits of a gas called nitric oxide that’s made by your nose and sinus mucous membranes. This gas is produced in small amounts, and when inhaled into the lungs, it significantly enhances your lung’s capacity to absorb oxygen, increasing oxygen absorption in your lungs by 10-25%. Nitric oxide also can kill bacteria, viruses, and other germs. This is why you often hear fitness and yoga instructors emphasize inhaling and exhaling through your nose during workouts.
Smell and Taste
If you can’t breathe well through your nose, your sense of smell suffers which affects your sense of taste, since your smell and taste buds are connected. This can lead to disturbances in your appetite and satiation levels, wreaking havoc on those struggling with weight issues.
Heart and Lung function
Your nose also has vital nervous system connections to your lungs and heart. Not breathing well through your nose can alter your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as increase your stress responses.
Saliva and mucous
Your nose makes about 2 pints of mucous every day. If your nose isn’t working properly and mucous isn’t cleared, the stagnant mucous can lead to infections such as sinusitis or ear infections, not to mention bad breath. Mouth breathing dries out your mouth producing less saliva, which causes more dental disease.
Snoring and sleep-disordered breathing
Not breathing well through your nose can increase snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Nasal congestion alone doesn’t cause obstructive sleep apnea, but it can definitely aggravate it and disrupt your sleep cycle. If your tongue is not touching the palate and falls back easily due to sleeping on your back and muscle relaxation in deep sleep, then having a stuffy nose can aggravate further collapse of the structures. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Knowing all these benefits of breathing through your nose, however, doesn’t help much if you don’t know why you’re not able to do so. To stop mouth breathing, the first thing you must do is to figure out what’s blocking up your nose.
Nasal congestion is something everyone experiences sometimes in life. Yet, if you’re trying to prevent this from happening it’s important to know the various reasons behind why and when this occurs.
Here are 5 of the most common reasons for a stuffy nose:
By definition, everyone has a slightly crooked (deviated) nasal septum. There are various reasons for having a deviated septum, including trauma, but the most common reason is no reason at all. It’s just the way your nose developed.
Turbinates are wing-like structures that attach to the sidewalls of the nasal cavity, opposite the midline nasal septum. They normally smooth, warm, humidify, and filter the air that you breathe, but they also become enlarged and produce mucous when inflamed. Turbinates also swell and shrink alternating from side to side, which is a normal neurologic process called the nasal cycle.
Infection or Allergies
If you have allergies, a cold, or any kind of infection, like a sinus infection, your turbinates will swell up, clogging your nose with lots of mucous production. Contrary to popular belief, the color of the mucous has no relation to bacterial vs. viral infections.
Once you have inflammation and swelling inside your nose, for some people, depending on the configuration of your nose, your nostrils can literally cave in as you inhale. Different noses have differently shaped nostrils with various nostril thicknesses. The more narrow your nose, the more likely your nostrils are to cave in. People who undergo cosmetic rhinoplasty are more at risk years later, since narrowing the nose can weaken the support structures of the nose.
Some people’s noses are extra sensitive, especially to weather changes, like humidity, temperature, and pressure changes. Certain chemicals, scents, and odors can set off a reaction as well. Many people mistakenly think this reaction is an allergy, but it’s really your nasal nervous system over-reacting to the weather or to odors. One of the most common reasons is poor quality sleep, which causes a low-grade stress response, which can heighten your senses.
It’s All Under Your Nose and Starts With Your Mouth
A chronically stuffy nose doesn’t happen by itself. Usually, it’s part of a bigger picture, where the entire upper and lower jaws are more narrow and constricted, in addition to more narrow nasal cavities. Dr. Steven Park described this process in his book, Sleep Interrupted, where due to modern humans eating soft, mushy, processed foods, our jaws are much more narrow than normal, with dental crowding. Bottle-feeding, which is another modern, Western phenomenon, is also thought to aggravate this problem.
If you have a stuffy nose, it can also aggravate soft palate and tongue collapse when in deep sleep, due to muscle relaxation. With more obstruction, more stomach juices are suctioned up into the throat and nose, causing more swelling and more nasal congestion. All this from smaller and more narrow jaws.
This is where Breathing exercises and Myofunctional therapy can help. Our bodies are amazing at compensating you may not even know what is happening in and around your mouth that is affecting your breathing and sleep. You can have low muscle tone, a vaulted palate, or be tongue-tied all of which can be treated and assist in helping you use your nose the way you were born to breathe.
You should not need a myofunctional therapist if you can accomplish The four goals of myofunctional therapy:
- Breathe through your nose all day and night
- Keep your lips closed
- Correct Tongue Posture
- Correct Swallow pattern
The problem is we are not often aware of how we breathe, how to improve it, and how important it is for our overall health and wellbeing.
Simple tips and tools
Keep an open mind
We are complex creatures with thoughts, feelings, and different beliefs. There is so much information out there, start by asking yourself if this makes sense it will make it easier for you to evaluate and understand all the information coming at you on a daily basis.
You Are Responsible For Your Health
With the new developments in the world, information and misinformation are abundant. Not all Dr. has the same training, information, and beliefs either. I have experienced firsthand how one Dr. says it is impossible to feel what I am feeling and dismisses me and another takes the time to listen and actually help.
Your intuition is an informed instinct, a gut feeling good or bad. You get to choose whether to listen or not. I call it my superpower. It is really fascinating how incredible it is when we trust it. it‘s our innate GPS when we follow it we will never get lost.
I have not always followed it. When I was diagnosed with Cancer It was my saving grace. The more I listened the louder it became. I thought I lost it. It was just that I did not trust it. I have questioned myself and not listened. I wanted to trust and listen to the Doctors. If I had listened to the Doctors over myself I would not have my beautiful daughter. I would not have found cancer so early. When I listen to my intuition it has never let me down.
When you take full responsibility for your life and your health you will find that quick fixes, a pill for every ill that relieves symptoms instead of getting to the root causes are less attractive. We are all different, epigenetics beliefs and instincts play a role. It is wise to listen to science and Physicians and the people around you, but ultimately you are responsible for your body and what goes on. If it does not feel right it…is probably not right for you. You are in control.
Dare to unfollow your inner voice. Improved breathing has helped me feel better, sleep better, enjoy life more. I still have weak moments where I eat what I want, don’t exercise how I should, lose my temper, and sometimes get sick. I have learned that if you don’t have your health you can’t live the life you want with the people you care about. I missed out on so much being sick and angry about the things that were not in my control which led me to hold my breath a lot. I was getting light-headed, foggy, and sleepy but then could not sleep because I was waking up with a dry mouth. It was my mouth breathing that was waking me up. I thought it was my bladder. It has been an eye-opening experience seeing what changing my nighttime routine and breathing habits had done for my body.
I had to share what I have learned. If you can accomplish the four goals of myofunctional therapy you are doing better than most. If not, you may need more help. I offer a free consultation to see where you are at what you may need. Sometimes it takes a team to find the root cause to live a healthy life. I have never been one to accept this is just the new norm for you. Some things you may have to tolerate. But most of the time you do have other options. It just takes work to find the right person to listen to and help you navigate through all the opinions and beliefs. I am a great example of this with endometriosis, being told I would not have children, using a night guard, and still having headaches, jaw pain, and neck aches. Thinking my bladder was the issue for my frequent nighttime peeing, breast cancer, and strange reactions to foods, supplements, and medications. I have had my share of medical issues and Dr. telling me it was just my normal. Working to find the right practitioners who help me navigate to feeling better and being able to eat without consequences.
If I can help you please reach out to me or the people I have interviewed and worked with. There is help if you are willing to kiss a few frogs along the way to finding what works for you. We are all different, what each of us can tolerate is different, and how our bodies react to things we put in are different. Healthcare is not a one-size-fits-all ever.
Always trust your gut or intuition especially when it comes to your health if you don’t have your health. Life is a struggle. Click the link to get my PDF on the Four goals of myofunctional therapy. A great place to start is what % of the day are you breathing through your nose vs your mouth. If your mouth is not healthy and you’re mouth breathing you will probably have some underlying issue you may not even know about. Once you are aware we can go from there. Thanks for listening if this helped you or you know someone that can benefit from hearing it please share, like, and subscribe. A healthy mouth is a healthy body and a healthy happy life