Could breathing through my nose improve my health?

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Human beings are the only mammals that breathe through our mouth. You will notice dogs keep their mouths open when they are tired, but that is not for breathing, it is to regulate their body temperature. This is called thermoregulation. Humans control our body temperature through the largest organ in our body, our skin. Our mouths are designed primarily for producing sound and eating.  Our nose is designed for breathing.

Think about looking at a ray of sunshine coming through the clouds, notice all the small particles in the air as the light shines through it. Understand that when the ray of light disappears, those particles are still present.

  • THE FIVE STAGES OF PROTECTION WHEN NASAL BREATHING

When we breathe through our nose, the first line of defense that that this dirty air encounters are the small hair called cilia. The job of the cilia is to filter out these small particles. As the air travels past the cilia it then goes through the turbinates. This is a maze like structure that is designed to provide resistance to the air to either cool or warm the air. Next the air passes through mucus that serves two functions. It humidifies the air and also contains an enzyme called lysozyme that is a bacterial disinfectant.  You’ve all heard of the house product Lysol. Where do you think it got its name?  Next, the air passes over receptors in the nose that produce nitric oxide. This is a powerful vasodilator whose function is to open up the blood vessels to allow for improved air exchange to our tissues. The final stage before the air goes into our lungs to oxygenate our tissues is the tonsils. This is a lymphatic organ that is our final stage of air purification.

Once air breathed through our nose has gone through these five stages, it is perfectly suited to enter the lungs and be distributed throughout our body.

  • THE DANGERS OF CHRONIC MOUTH BREATHING

When we bypass our nose for breathing we lose out on the first four stages of cleansing and humidification. Instead, the dirty air enters our mouth and travels to the back of our throat. Our tonsils have to take on the burden of this dirty air. Instead of being the last line of disinfection, the tonsils become the first and are not prepared or designed to handle this dirty load. This is why in children that are mouth breathers, they end of with constantly infected tonsils, ear infections and a whole host of other symptoms.

Mouth breathers also exhibit dry mouth, bad breath and potentially greater chance of developing cavities due to the lack of saliva protection around the teeth.

nose_vs_mouth

  • WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I’M A MOUTH BREATHER
The first thing to try is to maintain the tongue on the roof of the mouth (tongue is shown in the picture above as the larger light pink area in the mouth region) which opens up the nasal pharyngeal airway (the pathway through the nose). Keep the lips sealed with the teeth apart. Quietly breathe in through the nose and exhale through the nose.  Exhalation should be twice as long as inhalation. This is why meditative breathing is so
effective.
*If you are still struggling with nasal breathing or want more information, contact our office to set up an evaluation with one of our functional manual physical therapists. We will get you breathing healthier which will improve all aspects of your life.*
-Brad Gilden, DPT, MS PT, CFMT, FAAOMPT, CSCS

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