Breathing Man meditating - breathing optimally...

Video: A 3 Minute Diaphragmatic Breathing Bodyhack to Relax and Recharge

An example of a 3 minute diaphragmatic breathing rhythm session to show how you can switch your nervous system from constant low level fight or flight into complete relaxation in a very short amount of time. It feels fantastic and is the only automatic bodily function that we can consciously control quite easily, so it is a way of regulating the same nervous system that regulates our response to stress – the autonomic nervous system (ANS). And all other automatic functions – digestion, metabolism, elimination, detox, immune, all endocrine glands, mood, sleep cycles etc. etc. As such, it allows you to give your body a profound, internal rest and recharge as often as you want 🙂

 

breathing dynamics

Asthma is a Breathing Issue. And Breathing Retraining is BY FAR the Best Solution for Asthma

Breathing Dynamics for Prevention & Treatment of Asthma

Asthma is defined by the Global Initiative for Asthma as “a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways in which many cells and cellular elements play a role. The chronic inflammation is associated with airway hyper-responsiveness that leads to recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing particularly at night or in the early morning. These episodes are usually associated with widespread, but variable airflow obstruction within the lung that is often reversible either spontaneously or with treatment”.

Asthma is clinically classified according to the frequency of symptoms, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), and peak expiratory flow rate. Asthma may also be classified as atopic (extrinsic) or non-atopic (intrinsic), based on whether symptoms are precipitated by allergens (atopic) or not (non-atopic).
Asthma is caused by environmental and genetic factors. These factors influence how severe asthma is and how well it responds to medication. The interaction is complex and not fully understood.

Studying the prevalence of asthma and related diseases such as eczema and hay fever have yielded important clues about some key risk factors. The strongest risk factor for developing asthma is a history of atopic disease (hypersensitivity or allergic diseases – eczema or atopic dermatitis, hay fever or allergic rhinitis; atopic conjunctivitis). This increases one’s risk of hay fever by up to 5× and the risk of asthma by 3-4×. In children between the ages of 3-14, a positive skin test for allergies and an increase in immunoglobulin E increases the chance of having asthma. In adults, the more allergens one reacts positively to in a skin test, the higher the odds of having asthma.

Research is also beginning to show a strong correlation between the development of asthma and obesity.

Asthma is probably one of the world’s most over-diagnosed and over-medicated ailments.

According to Associate Professor Colin Robertson, Respiratory Physician at the Royal Children’s Hospital, 80 percent of children diagnosed with asthma may have symptoms induced by exercise; therefore the community at large perceives asthma in a certain way. This can be positive in the sense that the problem can be easily recognised, however sometimes other respiratory conditions can mimic asthma.

Professor Robertson suggests, “Doctors, relatives and enthusiastic physical education teachers can mistake a child who exercises and gets out of breath as having asthma when they are actually just unfit”.

“This gets interpreted as Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA) but it doesn’t respond to anti-asthma therapy. What they need is breathing exercises to learn how to control it. It is a simple effective intervention and it is important for people to know that it exists”

Medications for Asthma

Medications used to treat asthma are divided into two general classes: relievers or quick-relief medications used to treat acute symptoms; and preventers or long-term control medications used to prevent further exacerbation.

Relievers which include Ventolin, Bricanyl and Spiriva are recommend to be used only for relief or tightness or breathlessness. They are adrenaline based so they increase heart rate and over use can be dangerous, or even fatal. Those who use relievers more than 3 times per week are considered being at risk and are recommended to cut back dosage.

As a result of these dangers, long acting steroid preventers were produced to suppress the immune reaction or inflammation and hypersensitivity in the body, and therefore reduce reliever usage. These medications are usually inhaled gluco-corticoid steroids and include Flixotide, Pulmicort and Alvesco.

A third group of asthma medications have now been developed that combine the reliever and preventer medications. These include Seretide (the most widely prescribed asthma drug in the world) and Symbicort. These combination drugs were produced as a result of dangers caused by the development of high-potency, long acting reliever medication which, as people were getting longer lasting relief, they often discontinued use of their preventer. After several hundred deaths (due to over-exposure to adrenalin), a solution was devised to combine preventer medication with reliever to prevent patients.

The problem with the combination drugs is that each puff of Seretide or Symbicort contains around 4-6 puffs of Ventolin. Given steroid preventers were developed in the first place to prevent patients using more than 3 puffs of reliever weekly (remember that more than 3 puffs per week were considered risky), these combination drugs actually increase the dosage of Ventolin to up to 24 puffs per day!!!

The irony of the medical approach to asthma and breathing difficulties is that, whilst these medications relieve symptoms in the short term, they can exacerbate or cause asthma and breathing difficulties in the long term.

For example, adrenaline based reliever medication opens the airways and relaxes smooth muscle which eases symptoms in the short term. But, adrenaline causes the breathing rate to rise which, over time leads to over-breathing.

And, steroid based preventer medication reduces inflammation in the lungs, reduces breathing rate on a short term basis and suppresses the immune system response, which results in less asthma symptoms in the short term. But, the suppressed immune system response leads to more colds and flus, and chest and lung infections – which, ultimately, result in over-breathing.

As we will see now, over-breathing plays a major role in creation of asthma and breathing difficulty symptoms, and correction of over-breathing is fundamental to reduction in symptoms and reliance of pharmaceutical drugs.

The Breathing Dynamics Approach

Note it is recommended you read many of the blogs on ‘Breathing Dynamics’ or ‘Respiratory Therapy’ on this website prior to reading this section, as the following is a simplified summary based on a knowledge of this theory.
The Breathing Dynamics approach to dealing with asthma is to look for the ‘root cause’ of asthma. It is not a disease as such – more a condition that can be managed.

Based on “The Bohr Effect” we know that low arterial blood levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) will lead to haemoglobin having a higher affinity for oxygen, and therefore O2 is not released into tissues for energy production. As a result of lower CO2 levels, the body will cause restriction in smooth muscle to prevent CO2 loss (and as a result reduced release of O2 into cells).

In asthma, this constriction of smooth muscle occurs in the airways and alveoli in the lungs resulting in inflammation and spasm in the respiratory system, and ultimately, breathing difficulties such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

We know also that over-breathing results in reduced arterial blood levels of CO2. So, it can be logically deduced, that over-breathing plays a significant role in the pathology seen in asthma.

Also, generally those who over-breathe tend to be sympathetic nervous system dominant (see general breathing notes), which produces the ‘fight or flight’ reaction in the body. This reaction causes a surge of adrenaline in the system and leads to a cascade of other reactions in the body including elevated heart rate, breathing rate and, amongst other things, elevated histamine levels.

Elevated histamine levels will promote or increase immune system hypersensitivity associated with asthma.

Therefore, in dealing with asthma via breathing retraining, we aim to correct over-breathing in order to:

  1. Elevate arterial CO2 levels – reducing smooth muscle constriction and spasm in the airways and alveoli.
  2. Balance the autonomic nervous system – (between sympathetic and parasympathetic enervation) to reduce adrenaline and histamine levels.

This is achieved by a number of techniques aimed at:

  1. Breathing through the nose at all times – including at night and during low level exercise (and even higher levels over time with training).
  2. Increasing brain tolerance to elevated plasma CO2 levels (via breath hold and breathing rhythm techniques) to allow the body to be comfortable with lowered breathing rates and volumes.
  3. Developing breathing rhythms using CapnoTrainer biofeedback technology aimed at maintaining elevated plasma CO2 levels and keeping the airways nice and open – therefore preventing the likelihood of constriction and inflammation in the airways and reducing elevated histamine and adrenaline.

Once developed, all of these techniques can be replicated long term, turned into one’s habitual breathing pattern, and offer not only prevention of breathing difficulties and asthma, but also allow optimal respiratory function. And once trained, the practice is free!!

There is now an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting the use of breathing retraining in the management of respiratory disorders such as asthma.

One study published in 2006 in ‘Thorax’ a highly respected International Journal of Respiratory Medicine, found that in a 30 month, double blind randomized trial of two different breathing techniques in the management of asthma, confirmed that both groups achieved an 86% reduction in bronchodilator reliever medication and a 50% reduction in the dosage of inhaled cortisone medication.

My clinical experiences in treating asthma using Breathing Dynamics or breathing retraining have certainly echoed these results.

To book in for a consultation to see Tim regarding the use of Breathing Dynamics to prevent or treat asthma, email Tim or call 0425 739 918.

 

Capnometry

Let Your Body Teach You How to Breathe Optimally Using Biofeedback

CapnoTrainerÂŽ Biofeedback Technology

Capnometry is the science of measuring partial pressure of carbon dioxide, CO2 (PCO2), during respiration. This is not new technology. It has been used extensively in hospital operating theatres and ICU’s. Because of the vital role of CO2 in respiration (see The Bohr Effect) and in blood chemistry (especially maintenance of correct blood pH), it is a medical necessity to monitor CO2 to ensure that they remain are in the correct ranges for maintenance of  ideal functioning of the body. The CapnoTrainer® is a small and highly portable capnometer that, via software provides real time information on breathing efficiency.

The CapnoTrainer® provides for a continuous measurement of PCO2 while breathing. As there is only 0.03% CO2 in atmospheric air we breathe it reads effectively “zero” on inhalation. During the exhalation it rises sharply to the average level of PCO2 in the alveoli of the lungs, rising very slowly during the transition from exhale to inhale (alveolar plateau), and eventually reaching a peak immediately prior to the next inhale. This peak is known as the End Tidal carbon dioxide (ETCO2). The waveform is represented via a live graph on a computer screen is known as a Capnogram. See below.

Better_breathing_applications_chart

ETCO2 in people with healthy lungs and a healthy cardiovascular system is highly correlated with the arterial partial pressure CO2 (PaCO2).

As previously mentioned The Bohr Effect states: “the lower the partial pressure of CO in arterial blood, the tighter the bond (or the greater the affinity) between haemoglobin and oxygen”.  So PaCO2 is the limiting factor in breathing efficiency. It will determine how efficiently the oxygen we breathe is released from our blood to our cells for energy production. The minimal PaCO2 required for optimal respiration and release of O2 into cellular tissue for energy production is 40mmHg.

ETCO2 measurements on the CapnoTrainer will give an immediate look at the efficiency of an individual’s breathing based on the principles of The Bohr Effect. Less than optimal efficiency of breathing can lead to a multitude of symptoms as a result of the body’s need to compensate for this reduced functioning. These compensations include hypoxia (reduced oxygen supply) in cellular tissue, constriction or spasm in smooth muscle and excessive mucous production. And apnoea.

Respiratory rate is also obtained through measurement of the time between the end tidal peaks (diagnostic norms for breathing rate at rest are 8-10 breaths per minute). The averages of both respiratory rate and ETCO2 are plotted on a history graph for real time review.

The CapnoTrainerÂŽ provides immediate and first hand biofeedback information to the observer about air flow and breathing efficiency. Gasping and other breathing irregularities can immediately be seen.

Not only does the CapnoTrainerÂŽ measure breathing efficiency potentially in a variety of situations or circumstances (due to its great portability), it is also a fantastic tool to train an individual to improve their breathing efficiency. The CapnoTrainerÂŽ software offers a number of training tools to improve breathing efficiency. It can also be used as a measurement to verify the effectiveness of training interventions being performed by an experienced breathing practitioner or trainer.

CapnoTrainingÂŽ can be used to improve breathing efficiency to treat a number of ailments, as a preventative measure to prevent anxiety, asthma, snoring etc. or as a means of enhancing performance with athletes, artists and business professionals.

I have used Capnometry to assess and retrain breathing for many years and find it an essential and fantastic means of retraining client’s breathing to alleviate symptoms and ailments, and to perform at greater levels.

It simple, quick and mobile. Contact me if you like to investigate further.

Nose Breathing

Nose Breathing Improves Health and Performance by Increasing Nitric Oxide Levels

Use Your Nose to Relax, Be Healthier and Perform Better

In a recent blog, I discussed how diaphragmatic breathing helps to regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that regulates all of our automatic functions, and our response to stress. In fact, emphasising certain phases of the breathing cycle (via the diaphragm) can dramatically increase the relaxation response.

Well, the story of the role of breathing in regulating or influencing the ANS goes even further, and the nose plays a major role as well as the diaphragm. This truly is a ‘wait, there’s more’ moment…

Relatively recently, a third subsystem of neurons that have been named ‘non-adrenergic and non-cholinergic’ neurons (because they use nitric oxide as a neurotransmitter) have been described and found to be integral in autonomic function, particularly in the gut and the lungs.
Nitric oxide has been found to act as a neurotransmitter, immune-regulator and vasodilator.
Some of the actions of nitric oxide include:

  • Regulation of blood pressure.
  • Boosting the immune system.
  • Fighting microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.
  • Fighting cancer.
  • Increasing blood supply to cells.
  • Improving sleep quality.
  • Increasing gut motility.
  • Aiding in muscular control, balance and coordination.
  • It has also been suggested to protect against cardiovascular disease, impotence, diabetic retinopathy, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Many athletes now use nitric oxide supplements to increase performance, as it increases endurance and strength.

Nitric Oxide Benefits

A recent study comparing nitric oxide production in nose breathing and mouth breathing found that the nasal passages produced a significantly higher amount of nitric oxide than mouth breathing did. In fact, 50% of exhaled nitric oxide is produced  in the nose. A further study found that nitric oxide is absorbed in the nose as well as being produced there.

Also, as exercise intensity increased, the levels of nitric oxide increased in nose breathing but not in mouth breathing.  So, it can be implied that, when under high levels of stress, nose breathing will offer stress mediating effects via nitric oxide that can protect against the deleterious effects produced by long term stress, whereas mouth breathing will not.

To learn how to regulate your autonomic nervous system by nose and diaphragm breathing, for greater health, performance or relaxation, contact me by email or phone. I offer breathing dynamics taining one on one, via video Skype or in group courses.

RAAF

Breathing Away to a Dream Career.

Testimonial: A Fantastic Breathing Dynamics Success Story.

A great success story for a client who came to me after having been accepted into the RAAF, but failed a peak flow test, so he couldn’t be admitted. He had an opportunity again a few weeks later, so he came to me for breathing training.

The peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) is a test that measures how fast a person can exhale (breathe out). This test checks lung functioning, and is often used by patients who have asthma.

Measurement of peak expiratory flow gives an idea of how narrow or obstructed a person’s airways are by measuring the maximum (or peak) rate at which they can blow air into a peak flow meter after a deep breath.

Peak flow monitoring helps measure how much, and when, the airways are changing. Due to the wide range of ‘normal’ values and high degree of variability, peak flow is not the recommended test to identify asthma. However, it can be useful in some circumstances.

“Breathing training went great. I managed to pass the test earlier today. Can’t thank you enough for your help. I’m certainly going to continue the techniques taught by you”.   Josh, Torquay

Similar to the BMI test for obesity, the peak flow test is a very crude measurement for breathing performance in that the test itself forces the recipient to over breathe, and therefore making them susceptible to symptoms of over breathing. Including constriction and spasm in the airways, as displayed in asthma.

Nevertheless, within a 2 week period, we retrain Josh’s breathing so that his body would accept a lower breathing rate and volume, and he was able to extend both the duration and volume of hos exhalation. The result being that he aced the test on the second occasion.

As such, Josh was able to be admitted to the RAAF and begin training for a career that had been a dream of his.

A great outcome, and a pleasure to assist a person chasing their dreams.

Not only can breathing retraining assist with many aspects of health or illness, it can also be fantasting in enhancing many aspects of performance.

Feel free to contact me via email or phone if you’d like to explore how improving your breathing can help your life.

 

 

 

 

Breathing

Your Breathing Will Determine Whether You Are Relaxed or Anxious – It’s All Under Your Control!!

Diaphragmatic Breathing Helps You to Regulate Your Nervous System

Functional (or optimal) breathing using the nose and diaphragm plays a very major role in regulating the two aspects of the autonomic nervous system – the sympathetic and parasympathetic aspects. It serves to balance them. Something which, as observed from previous discussion, is not achieved by mouth or over-breathing which serves to maintain us in sympathetic nervous system dominance (or ‘fight or flight’ responsiveness) for most of our lives. As most of us have developed into over-breathers over our lives, this pertains to us all.

The diaphragm in particular, plays a major role in sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system balance in two ways:

  1. Balance between the contraction and subsequent recoil of the diaphragm helps balance SNS & PSNS activity.
  2. The predominance or abundance of SNS and PSNS in different parts of the lung. 

Firstly, the contraction of the diaphragm on inhalation requires sympathetic nervous system input to fire the contraction and resultant flattening of the diaphragm which draws the lungs down and allows air to fill the lungs – particularly the lower lobes. The exhalation however involves switching off the SNS driven contraction of the diaphragm allowing it to return or recoil back to its original position. This is driven by PSNS activation which acts as a complementary opposition (in this case) to the SNS. As stated, it relaxes the diaphragm or switches off the contraction leading to the recoil or return of the diaphragm to its resting state.

Breathing Man Inhalation

 

 

Breathing Man Exhalation

 

Most over breathers use the accessory muscles of breathing as the dominant muscles of respiration, to the detriment of optimal diaphragmatic breathing. As such the diaphragm becomes weak or atonic and loses its flexibility. We have found via CapnoTrainerTM biofeedback equipment and general clinical observation that, over-breathers have most difficulty controlling their exhalation. It ends up being shorter in duration than the inhalation. Diagnostic norms suggest, however, that the inhalation:exhalation ratio is ideally 2:3, and therefore the exhalation is ideally 50% longer than inhalation.

As a result of this imbalance in the inhalation:exhalation ratio, the ANS becomes SNS dominant.

At Breathing Dynamics we focus on creating a balance between inhalation and exhalation, and therefore balance in the autonomic nervous system. The result of this nervous system balance can positively affect many other functions of the body that are under the influence of, or are regulated by, the ANS. For example, we regularly see positive effects from diaphragmatic breathing on:

  • The brain and neurotransmitter levels – Increased PSNS enervation naturally elevates serotonin and melatonin and, as such, we regularly see great results with anxiety & depression and sleep quality via diaphragmatic breathing retraining.
  • The digestive system – diaphragmatic breathing often yields great results with digestive complaints such as IBS, constipation and reflux. After all, a system that is sympathetic dominant will inhibit the digestive system, whereas, one that is parasympathetic dominant (via diaphragm breathing) will encourage it.
  • The circulatory system – allowing greater blood flow to the brain and peripheral areas, resulting in great benefits for headaches and migraines, cold extremities, skin quality etc.
  • The lymphatic system – as the diaphragm helps to act as a constant pump for lymphatic system – which is reliant on muscular contraction for flow.
  • The urinary system.
  • And more.

Secondly, as previously stated, mouth breathing originally (or from an evolutionary perspective) served as an emergency function in response to an acute stressor. Generally, the chest muscles are mostly used when mouth breathing (instead of the diaphragm – unless you have received previous training) which predominantly fills the upper and middle lobes of the lungs, and less so the lower lobes. The upper lobes of the lungs are rich in SNS receptors which, when activated, serve to accentuate the requirement of the body to respond in emergency fashion – or via a ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. This serves a specific function. An example of this would be when we gasp in response to being frightened or surprised.

But it was not designed to be our predominant mode of functioning.

On the other hand, when breathing uses predominantly the diaphragm (as in optimal breathing), the larger, lower lobes of the lungs are comfortably filled allowing for more gas exchange. And respiration is far more efficient. In addition, the lower lobes are rich in PSNS receptors which allows for a balance between the PSNS and SNS and a correction of our predominant ‘fight or flight’ functioning.

When breathing ‘diaphragmatically’ and through the nose it is common to experience relaxation and a calming of the mind. It also gives athletes greater access to ‘zone like’ or ‘alpha’ states during exercise or competition, which generally involve higher levels of PSNS activation than in normal waking states.

The table below shows a comparison in terms of effects between breathing with the diaphragm as the driver of respiration as opposed to predominantly using the chest muscles or other accessory breathing muscles. Whilst, not all of the points listed in the table are covered in the general information, they are covered when we introduce the ‘Breathing Dynamics’ optimal breathing rhythm in courses or via online training modules.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Breathing Using Accessory Muscles
Fills blood rich lower lobes of the lung first. Fills predominantly upper & middle lobes of the lungs.
Allows use of full lung capacity for gas exchange and removal of wastes.Creates a more rhythmic, reduces breathing rate via control of the recoil on exhalation.

Activates PSNS receptors in lower lobes. PSNS and SNS are balanced.

Full use of lungs compromised.
Breathing rate is elevated and rhythm is more random.Activates SNS stress receptors in upper/mid lobes and SNS dominates.
Stimulates ‘rest and digest or rejuvenate’ response. Activates ‘fight or flight’ response.
Diaphragm is strong and elastic. Diaphragm becomes weak and atonic.
Allows for relaxed, rhythmic and efficient respiration. Requires more work and higher breathing & heart rate to achieve efficient respiration.
Sinuses remain clear due to constant air flow through them. Sinuses become congested from discontinued use.
Facilitates lymphatic drainage and circulation to heart, lungs, ribs and chest via the ‘pump’ like action of the diaphragm. Lymphatic drainage and circulation to heart, lungs, chest and rib cage compromised.
The ‘Pump’ like action also facilitates efficient functioning of digestive organs (i.e. peristalsis), urinary organs and sexual organs all located in the abdominal cavity. Function of organs in the abdominal cavity compromised.
Ribs and chest allowed to move in their full range of activity and remain flexible. Ribs and chest become inflexible.
Thoracic spine remains flexible. Thoracic spine at insertion of ribs becomes stiff and rigid.
Neck and shoulders not overworked. Neck and shoulders become tight.

 

 

fight or flight response

The World We Created Causes Us to Over Breathe

What is the Cause of Over Breathing?

I’ve already written about the importance of breathing to our health, the biochemistry and mechanics of breathing, what optimal breathing looks like and what it doesn’t look like, so it is now time to discuss the cause of dysfunctional breathing or over breathing.

In short, STRESS CAUSES OVER-BREATHING. More specifically, we become conditioned to respond to stress by over-breathing or mouth breathing as an emergency response.

Our innate response to stress is the ‘fight or flight’ state which is an evolutionary response to a perceived threat, and served to effect changes in our bodies that prioritise or make us more capable of ‘fighting’ or ‘fleeing’. For example, if a wild animal poses a threat to our safety, we choose to either fight or flee the source of this extreme stress. In this evolutionary example, the stressor either goes away either by us successfully fighting or fleeing the animal. Or we die. There was indeed an “emergency” that asked for a body/mind response that called upon all of our resources. With the removal of the stress, our physiology returns back to a basal level and we return to the tasks of living.

The modern stressors we deal with are, more often than not, far less threatening to our safety. Whilst the the sources of stress are often far less severe, due to the culture we have created being far different to the environment our bodies evolved or adapted to, they are far more chronic or long lasting. Unfortunately we do not often return to this basal low level (or zero level) of stress we predominantly existed in (outside of emergencies) in times past. As a result we reduce our body’s ability to deal with more acute stressors and we often regularly respond in ‘emergency’ fashion to stressors that do not require this response.

Nevertheless, the process of evolution has led to us responding to any stress in a way that has long been our mode of functioning, because that its what we evolved to do. That the severity and types of stress we now deal with are vastly different to those we evolved dealing with is not of consequence to the body. Our safety is far more assured than in previous times, yet our body still responds with this ‘fight or flight’ mechanism.

Our body’s innate stress response is driven by the ‘autonomic nervous system’ (ANS) – a part of our nervous system that controls the functions of our organs and many of our body’s functions (including respiration!!) which functions regardless of whether we are conscious of it or not; i.e. the functions it controls still operate whether we are awake or asleep. It comprises the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which excites or arouses the body to prepare for the ‘fight or flight’ stress response, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which calms the mind and rejuvenates the body. The sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions typically function in complementary opposition to each other.

A common analogy used to compare these two facets of the autonomic nervous system describes the SNS as the ‘accelerator’ and the PSNS as the ‘brake’. The sympathetic division typically functions in actions requiring quick responses. The parasympathetic division functions with actions that do not require immediate reaction.

The ‘fight or flight’ response to stress causes the sympathetic nervous system to dominate. Sympathetic nervous system dominance leads to the following changes characteristic of the ‘fight or flight’ response:

  • Adrenaline levels in the blood rise.
  • Over time, blood levels of cortisol increase.
  • Heart rate increases
  • Blood pressure increases
  • Blood is redirected from the digestive system to skeletal muscles
  • Breathing rate and volume increases
  • Triggers the burning of sugar and storage of fat.
  • Elevation of plasma levels of clotting factors and histamine.

When breathing rate and volume rise we over breathe. When we over breathe we lose too much CO2 and the blood becomes too alkaline. As a result, haemoglobin holds on to inhaled oxygen in the blood stream, cells become deprived of oxygen and we experience different symptoms.

Once this response occurs regularly enough it becomes a conditioned response or a habit. Over time, this adaptive response, originally designed as an emergency response to an acute stress, becomes our normal mode of functioning.

But, as humans we are born ‘obligate nose breathers’ meaning that we do not possess the voluntary ability to breathe through our mouths. Mouth-breathing, the most common example of over-breathing is a learned response triggered by our emergency response to stress.

For example, you will notice that newborn infants breathe quietly through their nose all of the time. However, if their nose becomes blocked they will struggle to get air into their lungs. As they have not learned the response to mouth breathe, they will begin to suffocate. As a response, they begin to cry which allows large volumes of air to enter the lungs rectifying the emergency. The infant then returns to its normal nose breathing.

When subsequent stressors arise they repeat this emergency response, until they become conditioned from a very early age to respond to any sign of stress with this emergency mouth breathing response.

In our modern world of chronic low level stress, mouth-breathing, originally an emergency response, becomes a conditioned response and a habit. And, eventually our normal way of functioning.

The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, promotes a “rest and digest” response, thus a calming of the nerves return to regular function, and enhance digestion. Some of the functions of the PSNS are:

  • Increase in digestive system function.
  • Breathing rate and volume decrease
  • Lowering of the heart rate (or returning it back to normal or resting rates)
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced blood cortisol
  • Constriction of the pupil and contraction of the ciliary muscle to the lens, allowing for closer vision.
  • Stimulation salivary gland of secretion, and accelerates peristalsis, so, in keeping with the rest and digest functions, appropriate PNS activity mediates digestion of food and indirectly, the absorption of nutrients
  • Increase in blood flow to the brain
  • Increase in ‘happy’ neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine – low levels of these are seen in depression
  • Is also involved in erection of genitals
  • Stimulates sexual arousal
  • Increase in night time melatonin – promoting a more restful sleep.

If you observe the cascade of changes that are evident when we over breathe and are in ‘fight or flight’ responsiveness, you will see that this cascade of changes accounts for many of the pathologies that occur in a great number of the chronic ailments we suffer from in the modern world.  Which, in turn, points out that over breathing is not something that we should ignore or take for granted.

The Breathing Dynamics training program will teach you to beak the cycle of over breathing, and help to get out of habitual ‘fight or flight’ responsiveness.

 

Breathing Man meditating - breathing optimally...

How Would Optimal Breathing Feel to Your Body?

What Does Functional, or Optimal Breathing Look Like?

Normal breathing is defined as:

  • A silent, gentle wave pattern
  • 8-10 breaths per minute
  • Through the nose
  • Tongue resting at the roof of the mouth.
  • Driven via the diaphragm with minimal or no upper chest or shoulder movement
  • Yielding a tidal volume (volume of air in and out) of 4-5 litres per minute.

These diagnostic norms combined with the optimal concentration of CO2 in arterial blood of 40mmHg partial pressure (based on the previous discussion about the Bohr Effect), will ensure that the pH of the blood is maintained at its ideal levels (7.35-7.45), and result in optimal energy production in cells.

The respiratory centre(s) in the brain control breathing rate and depth and primarily use the concentration of CO2 in arterial blood (pACO2). pAO2 is also used in part (via receptors in the carotid arteries), but, as oxygen availability in cells is directly related to pACO2 (The Bohr Effect), CO2 concentrations remain the primary determinant.

A functional or normal breathing rate of 8-10 breaths combined with pACO2 of 40mmHg will allow for maintenance of pH in the ideal range of 7.35 to 7.45.

Therefore if pACO2 drops below 40mmHg, it follows that the breathing rate will have to increase to maintain this ideal pH range.

If the pACO2 remains below ideal for an extended period of time (as is the case with over-breathers or those with chronic breathing disorders such as asthma, snoring, hyperventilation etc), the brain will accept this as normal functioning and will adapt by establishing this elevated breathing rate as normal. So the respiratory centre(s) in the brain will now have a lower pACO2 as a ‘trigger point’ to re-instigate breathing via the diaphragm.

As mentioned earlier, the diagnostic norm of 8-10 breaths per minute translates to 12,000-14,000 breaths per day. Yet the average person breathes up to 30,000 times per day. This suggests that the average person breathes roughly twice as often as we are ‘designed’ to and, more seriously, that the average person does not meet diagnostic norms for breathing. And therefore, is not capable of breathing functionally or optimally due to habitual over-breathing patterns.

Indeed, our clinical experience has confirmed this. Using CapnoTrainer biofeedback technology, we have not found a single person, without previous training, capable of breathing at a level that is considered functional according to diagnostic norms. So we are all over breathers – both in rate and volume until we are trained to breathe functionally again.

Common sense, reinforced by research, suggests that performing a bodily function at a level that is considerably inferior to that which is found to be optimal (from an evolutionary perspective) will ultimately lead to a compromise in function, including pathology, elsewhere in the body.

For example, we all know that living with blood pressure that is significantly above or below what is the diagnostic norm for blood pressure (and, as such, the blood pressure our system was designed to function optimally at) will lead to serious side effects or pathology. Indeed, high blood pressure and low blood pressure are both medical conditions that are taken very seriously by the medical community.

Similarly, if insulin levels are constantly elevated compared to diagnostic norms (via elevated blood sugar levels), then diabetes can eventually be the result. Obviously, diabetes or hyper-insulinaemia are both treated as serious or chronic life threatening medical conditions that are in epidemic proportions in the Western world.

Yet, whilst it is common knowledge that most or all of us over-breathe compared to diagnostic norms, why is it that over breathing is not treated as a serious medical condition?

Perhaps because breathing is so central to our functioning at all levels of the body and in all systems of the body, the side effects of over breathing are not as obvious as they are with the above abnormalities in our physiology or biochemistry.

Understanding the problem requires an understanding of the current medical model and its origins.  The medical system which evolved to deal with the historically predominant threats of infection and trauma became a system which focuses its energy on acute treatment of distinct, specific diseases, seeking to eliminate a single causative agent, with the patient as a passive recipient of the ‘cure’.  We can see how this approach is out of alignment with the new wave of chronic disease.  Instead, these patients require long term management, of multiple, overlapping states of dysfunction, driven by numerous causative factors, with the patient being required to take the primary role in their own risk reduction.

The Breathing Dynamics program will retrain you to breathe at functional, or optimal levels. Your energy levels, sleep, performance, circulation, digestion, nervous system, and many other systems in the body will see the benefits of this….

The Nose is for breathing. The mouth is for eating.

Nose Breathe Your Way to Energy and Health

We Are Designed As Nose Breathers!!

In using the word ‘designed’, I am not talking about a grand design in a religious or spiritual sense. I am using this term to describe the outcome of factors that have contributed to how our bodies are both constructed and function, optimally. These factors are the evolutionary influences (environment etc.) that, over a million years and more, have led to us being what we are now.

As such, the respiratory system is designed for us to breathe through or nose (see diagram) via the following mechanisms:

Human_respiratory_system

  • The inside of the nose contains turbine like ridges, known as turbinates, which swirl the air into a refined stream most suitable for oxygen exchange.
  • The hairs in the nose filter inhaled air removing it of larger debris.
  • The mucous membranes in the nasal passages produce mucous that help disinfect (via lysosomes) other pollutants in the air we breathe.
  • Our sinuses produce up to 2 litres of mucous per day which serve to disinfect (as per the nose), humidify (as moist air is required in the lungs for optimal gas exchange) and heat or cool inspired air.

If we breathe regularly through our mouth, we by-pass the above processes leading to:

  • Poor gas exchange in the lungs as the air that enters them is not humidified.
  • As a result we also dry out and irritate sensitive lung tissue which produces mucous as a protective mechanism. This mucous takes up space in the lungs that would otherwise be used for gas exchange, and wheezing can be a common consequence.
  • As the air that we breathe is not filtered or disinfected of bacterial, viral and foreign particles, excessive immune system activation occurs in our tonsils, adenoids and sensitive lung tissue leaving us more susceptible colds, flu’s and respiratory tract infections.
  • The support that the tongue provides the upper jaw (to counteract the pressure exerted by the cheeks on the upper jaw) is removed as the tongue position shifts to the bottom of the mouth. This can lead to narrowing of the jaw and crowding of the teeth, especially during development.
  • Drying of the saliva in our mouths which disrupts the pH of the saliva, removing some of its antibacterial effect which can predispose to dental carries and upset digestion.

Moreover, we breathe up to 6 times the volume of air in, and subsequently out, when we breathe through our mouths. The deleterious effect of this is that it washes out the reservoir of 6.5% end-tidal (after exhalation) CO2, therefore disrupting our ability to achieve the optimal pH in arterial blood (7.35 via 40mmHg of CO2) required for optimal oxygen release into tissues (based on the mechanics of the Bohr Effect discussed in my last blog). 

This means that mouth breathing if far, far less efficient than nose breathing, resulting in reduced energy production, and it can contribute to many common ailments.

Most people mouth breathe far more than they are aware of – especially at night when they are sleeping, which significantly reduces the quality of their sleep and energy levels the next morning.

Mouth breathing is a very obvious example of over breathing. Other examples include sighing, yawning, coughing, snoring, talking too quickly, laughing and yelling.