Sit comfortably and count the number of breaths you take in a minute. The majority of us once we were no longer children became mouth breathers. It’s common that through mouth breathing you breathe 18-25 times per minute. This is referred to as hyperventilating. Normal would be 8-12 breaths per minute. Through mouth breathing and over breathing we end up with too much oxygen in our bodies and too little CO2.
The body makes CO2 as a byproduct of making energy in the body. Our metabolism that we all want faster makes carbon dioxide, CO2. As CO2 increases that stimulates an unconscious breath in, to bring in O2, oxygen to balance that CO2.
However although more oxygen does sound great, too much oxygen is oxidising, breaks down substances by adding an oxygen. Doesn’t sound so bad until you appreciate what inflammation and free radicals are all about, and why we need anti-oxidants to counter the ravages of oxygen.
Free radicals contain oxygen but have an uneven number of electrons. So they run around your body looking for things to react with. This is where the term Reactive Oxygen Species comes from for those down with their inflammation and oxidative stress knowledge.
Through exercise we make anti-oxidants to counter these damaging versions of oxygen molecules. When you have enough but not too much free radicals they help kill bad bugs or pathogens. When they are in excess they can ultimately cause damage to your DNA, protein and fats in the body resulting across time in disease.
Breathing through your nose at rest and in some physical tasks that don’t cause significant stress can help balance your oxygen to carbon dioxide levels very effectively. By practising this breathing technique you can learn to better tolerate CO2 and the result is increased oxygen where you want it, in your muscles and organs and out your blood.
So back to the simple trick…shut your mouth! Shut your mouth and breathe through your nose and count the number of breaths. The idea is to take smaller, slower breaths with less effort. If you have a dog or small child watch how their stomach moves slightly as they sleep. I have done and won’t be alone but you can find yourself standing over your child convinced they have stopped breathing, their breath is so calm and still, ah, life without stress and all your needs met!
You can ratchet this technique up a notch and try to to hold your breath and move, you are only looking to create air hunger, which should be mild stress. It’s not about diving under the water and swimming until your lungs burst, it’s not a battle of who is the toughest or biggest pair of lungs. It’s an efficiency of metabolism test that ultimately through repetition provides a training effect. The adaptation is better oxygen metabolism, less hidden internal (oxidative stress) and the inflammation that results.
So take the breath through the nose, hold, go for a stroll, breathe when the need to breathe kicks in. Try to stay cool and breathe aiming to get your breathing back under control before trying subsequent attempts. With practice you can go for longer before breathing normally, it becomes quicker to get your breath back under control and you manage more repeats. Then if you go for a stroll and nose breathe you can combine some healthy stress free activity with detoxing, anti-inflammatory activity. A time saving health tip!
A stepping stone could be taking a mouthful of water obviously then keeping your mouth shut thus have no chance to mouth breathe without making a mess and perform some simple, mundane task, send some texts or get adventurous and try to get dressed. The more adventurous try taping their mouth shut and some practice sleeping like that. You can find sites online selling you the tape. I always think you have to factor in each persons perception of stress. If taping your mouth shut or turning the breath holding into a form of physical challenge makes you claustrophobic or raises panic, it’s a stressor and not a stress reduction technique. Liver is one the best foods you can eat and as a dense nutrient source sorely lacking in modern diets but if the thought of eating it makes you gag, it’s a stressor! If you eat stressed you are damaging your digestion and metabolism so why gag and chow it down??
So a simple technique to help your body fight inflammation is to try nose breathing and see if it’s for you.