Breathing is essential for life. Despite its importance we rarely are aware of the way we breathe, let alone the impact it has on our overall health. So what does optimal breathing mean for our health?
Why is optimal breathing important for your health?
- It filters the air for particles and microbes
- Allows the lungs to fill to greater capacity, increasing the exchange from lungs to the bloodstream
- Maintains the correct balance of carbon-dioxide levels
- Maintains ideal pH level in the bloodstream
- Supports digestion
- Improves mood, energy and memory
- Helps to regulate the body
- Improves posture
What is optimal breathing?
Optimal breathing means breathing through your nose, utilising your diaphragm and taking 8-12 breaths per minute. This process helps to balance and maintain optimal oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which has a huge impact on other physiological processes in the body. This balance allows our body to produce nitric oxide, which itself has many important functions. Some of these important functions include assisting memory, supporting immune function, regulating blood pressure, reducing inflammation and improving sleep quality (to name a few). Additionally, as the diaphragm moves during optimal breathing it helps to massage and detoxify our inner organs. Furthermore it also moves the lymphatic fluid more effectively through the body, which is essential for the immune system.
What can cause disordered breathing?
There are many reasons for disordered breathing, some of these may include:
- Postural issues
- Chronic mouth breathing
- Cultural practices
- Congenital defects
- Abnormal movement patterns
- Occupational hazards
- Lung disease
- Metabolic disorders
- Drugs (including caffeine, aspirin, alcohol)
- Speech and laugher
- Panic disorders
- Phobic avoidance
To sum it up…
There is a huge difference between breathing and breathing well. It is a topic that I explore in great detail in my book, A Life Less Stressed and ongoing throughout my podcast, Unstress. Some episodes where we have focused specifically on breathing include chats with Dr Rosalba Courtney and Patrick McKeown.
The first step to optimal breathing is to become aware of how you actually breathe. Start by taking a few minutes before each meal and before bed to focus on your breath. I’ve written about the importance of deep breathing and the role it plays in activating our ‘rest and digest’ response, so be sure to give it a read. This is just a super simple snap shot of optimal breathing, it’s a topic that is much larger than what I have said here and deserves a lot more attention.