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Breathing | Izaak Lavarenne, Masso-Kiné 

 

Izaak Lavarenne

Masso-kinesitherapist

Everyone can breathe, right? Wrong! At least that's what many say and I would tend to second that.


It's not that people can't breathe, it's that very few of them know how to breathe properly.


So how should we breathe? The answer to this question can be surprisingly nuanced. Especially since many beliefs have been propagated and engraved in popular culture by gurus over the years. Let's dive into the specifics of breathing through the nose and mouth to try to determine the correct way to oxygenate.

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Breathing through the mouth

  Let's start by looking at what happens when we breathe through the mouth. Being larger than the nose, the mouth allows you to breathe a greater volume of air at a time. This allows for greater breathing power. Also, greater breathing power means greater muscular demand. Breathing through the mouth therefore instinctively recruits more accessory respiratory muscles that would not necessarily need to be contracted at rest.

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In addition, since the mouth is very humid, a large amount of water vapor is also exhaled as a result. This can lead to a more rapid dehydration of the individual.

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A last small but negligible fact is that with the mouth, it is possible that the air enters through the esophagus instead of the trachea, which can cause occasional and slight gastric discomfort.


Breathing through the nose

The second option available to us is to breathe through the nose.

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The nose is composed of cavities with irregular surfaces and small diameters, which gives it a higher surface area of contact with the air than the mouth. This allows several advantages.

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The first is that the temperature of the air that enters the nose is more influenced by the body temperature and is therefore heated or cooled to be less difficult to process by the lungs.

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Secondly, the presence of nasal hairs and mucus helps to filter the air of harmful particles so that the purity of air going to the lungs is superior, and to avoid lung infections. This mucus is secreted when breathed in through the mouth or nose, but by exposing it to a nasal air stream, nasal congestion and the discomfort it brings are avoided.

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Thirdly, the small diameter of the nose might seem to be a disadvantage, as it slows down the potential speed of airflow, but the slowness of the exhalation also allows more time for oxygen to be absorbed before being exhaled (1)

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After all, it is not very surprising that breathing through the nose has so many advantages over the mouth, which is its only role.  

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Other advantages of breathing through the nose :

  There are many other benefits of breathing through the nose rather than the mouth, but here are just a few.


  One study supports that breathing through the nose has a hypotensive effect. In other words, nose breathing may be an interesting option for those with high blood pressure to supplement their treatment.


The habit of breathing through the mouth also presents several problems during sleep. When lying down, especially on the back, and breathing through the mouth, the jaw and tongue tend to fall out with gravity, which can partially or completely obstruct the airway. Mouth breathing is therefore a major determinant of sleep apnea and snoring (2) . This retracted position of the jaw can, in turn, influence the biomechanics of the temporomandibular joint and create malocclusion (3) (i.e., the teeth do not close well together or the movement of the jaw is altered).

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  Finally, research has also found that mouth breathing is associated with a higher prevalence of allergy than nose breathing children. (4)

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Techniques beyond the nose-mouth dichotomy
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  You've probably heard instructions to breathe in with your nose and out with your mouth or vice versa. With what you've just read, it should seem doubtful that the nose-mouth combination offers any benefit. In fact, the likely purpose of these instructions is to direct people's attention to their breathing.


  However, focusing on other characteristics of the breath such as depth, duration or location of the breath performs the same role without affecting the quality of the air consumed.


  Some Indian traditions encourage nasal breathing, unilateral, one nostril at a time (5). This breathing, although limited in the amount of air it can generate, has surprising results on brain activity.

 

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  According to another study, breathing through the left nostril stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain and its associated functions such as spatial perception, while right nasal breathing would stimulate left hemisphere functions such as verbal performance!

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Conclusion
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  We now know that breathing through the nose has several physiological benefits such as warming and cleaning the inspired air, increasing the possible oxygen absorption time, stimulating certain brain regions, lowering blood pressure and preventing complications such as sleep apnea and snoring.


  However, breathing through the mouth is not without its advantages either, as it allows us to access more air more quickly, which is why we breathe with our mouths open when we are short of breath.


  Ultimately, the choice is yours to breathe through your nose... or your mouth... or both!


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  Sources :

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  1 Morton, A. R., King, K., Papalia, S., Goodman, C., Turley, K. R., & Wilmore, J. H. (1995, September). Comparison of maximal oxygen consumption with oral and nasal breathing. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8599744

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  2 Grippaudo, C., Paolantonio, E. G., Antonini, G., Saulle, R., La, G., & Deli, R. (2016, October). Association between oral habits, mouth breathing and malocclusion. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27958599

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  3 Grippaudo, C., Paolantonio, E. G., Antonini, G., Saulle, R., La, G., & Deli, R. (2016, October). Association between oral habits, mouth breathing and malocclusion. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27958599

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  4 Jiménez, E. L., Barrios, R., Calvo, J. C., De, M. T., Campillo, J. S., Bayona, J. C., & Bravo, M. (2017, June). Association of oral breathing with dental malocclusions and general health in children. Retrieved February 13, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26154526

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  5 Khalsa, S. D. (1993, June). The ultradian rhythm of alternating cerebral hemispheric activity. International Journal of Neuroscience, 70(3-4), 285-298.

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