I’m currently reading a book called Breath: The New Science Of A Lost Art by James Nestor.
At first glance this may seem like a bit of a silly read, since we all breath every day, without really thinking about it.
It turns out that breathing, or breathing properly, isn’t quite as simple as we may think.
I’ve been thinking about this more recently, particularly as many of us have been breathing through masks more, and I’ve personally noticed that this has changed how I breathe.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the number of people having issues with breathing disorders, be it asthma, or sinus congestion, or snoring, or sleep apnea, has sky rocketed in the past 50 years.
While there are many factors contributing to this, there were a number of surprising takeaways I thought I’d share from the research.
I personally find this stuff fascinating. I’m a bit of a health science geek, but even if you aren’t, there’s some applicable information that may help you to improve your own health.
Here are three fascinating takeaways:
1. Mouth breathing is bad. According to the science, really bad.
Who knew? Most people, myself included, just assume that breathing is breathing, whether it’s through your mouth or nose, it really doesn’t make a difference.
Turns out that’s wrong.
While I won’t go over all the research here (and there’s a lot of it), in one of the studies, the author of the book had both of his nostrils 100% plugged closed for 14 straight days, so that the only type of breathing he could do was mouth breathing.
How did he fare? Not well!
Over those 14 days of exclusively mouth breathing, his heart rate and blood pressure increased significantly, his episodes of sleep apnea increased 400%, and his incidence of snoring increased by a shocking 4820%! Wow!
They’ve repeated these studies with both people and animals, and in every case, mouth breathing results in worse health, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and significantly worse sleep.
Breathing through your nose is really important. A lot of this has to do with the purpose of your nose. It turns out it’s not just for smelling, but is actually super important for many physiological functions in your body, including hormone regulation, digestion, heart rate, brain function, menstrual cycles and more.
2. Slow breathing is incredibly beneficial for you.
The slow breathing rhythm they found most effective for optimal physical function and healing was 5.5 seconds in for an inhalation and 5.5 seconds out for an exhalation, all through your nose.
Interestingly, this rhythm of 5.5 seconds in and 5.5 seconds out, or roughly 6 breaths per minute, corresponds with many prayer mantras from multiple religions and spiritual practices. This contrasts with the average breathing rate of about 18 breaths per minute.
I encourage you to start breathing slowly in and slowly out through your nose once or twice a day, ideally for at least a couple minutes. It works incredibly well to calm your physiology, and to help to move you towards a healthier healing state.
3. The clinical measurement that was most effective at predicting long-term health and lifespan was…
Genetics? Diet? Blood pressure? Heart rate? Cholesterol levels? Nope.
It was lung capacity, basically how much air you can take into your lungs!
I won’t go into the science of it, but the smaller and less efficient a person’s lungs became, the quicker subjects got sick and died. As the author said, the ability to breath full breaths was “literally a measure of living capacity.” Wow!
Nose breathing helps with this, as does slow breathing.
But what’s also interesting is that several studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments also help with this!
By adjusting the upper and mid-back regions, allowing those areas to start moving properly again, this allows the entire rib cage to start to move better and open up, allowing more air into your lungs, effectively increasing your lung capacity!
This is one of the reasons why chiropractic patients often notice so many health improvements, not just less pain.
Because as your breathing gets better, and you get more oxygen into your tissues, literally everything else in your body functions better, and this more than anything else is the greatest indicator for long term health and lifespan. Pretty cool!
Dr. Byron Mackay