Article - Are you breathing too much?

Are you breathing too much?

Stress, toxic load in our environment, changes to our diet such as increased refined carbs and pasteurized milk, as well as a more sedentary lifestyle and excessive use of personal technologies has affected the way many of us breathe, making us hyperventilate or over-breathe.

As a result of over-breathing we starve ourselves of carbon dioxide. This might sound strange, because if you’re like me you would have thought we needed oxygen, not carbon dioxide, but it’s not as simple as that. At least not according to Buteyko breathing practitioner, Glen White.

Being asthma and drug-free for 13 years (having had asthma for forty years) means functional breathing has become a highly specialised subject for Glen. He says we need a certain level of carbon dioxide in our airways and blood to relax our muscles and help keep the bronchioles and blood vessels open. Carbon dioxide in our blood also helps release oxygen into the cells of our body.

What are the signs of a breathing problem?

Mouth breathing, noisy breathing, snoring, nasal congestion and mucous, upper chest breathing, poor posture, frequent sighing or yawning, cold hands and feet and or breathing more than 15 breaths per minute are all indications of a breathing problem. If you have any of these symptoms you’re not alone because according to Glen, 80% of the population over-breathes.

Meanwhile allergies like asthma, hay fever and eczema are on the rise and we’re often overlooking a key link: the way we breathe. One of the first things all mouth-breathers need to learn is to breathe with their mouths closed. As Glen says, “Your nose is not just for holding your glasses on, it’s for warming, humidifying and disinfecting the air you breathe. When we’re mouth breathing we’re taking in higher doses of allergens including things like animal dander, mould, air freshener and toxic chemicals”.

Here’s what happens when you breathe too much

  • Airways become inflamed and produce more mucous
  • Breathing regulation is upset; the smooth muscle constricts in our airways and blood vessels and cuts oxygen supply to the body
  • The pH balance in your blood is upset
  • Histamine production increases

Common myths about breathing

  • Deep breathing is beneficial - NO we need to breathe for our metabolic requirements
  • Under-breathing and oxygen deficiency is common - NO in 12 years of clinical practice, Glen has never seen this
  • The more oxygen you breathe the better - NO our blood is saturated with oxygen
  • We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide - NO there’s about 70% oxygen in exhaled air
  • Breathing is regulated by the need for oxygen - NO it’s regulated by the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood

Tips for a more restful sleep

  • Exercises developed in the 1950s by Professor Buteyko can help reset and improve the way we breathe
  • Breathe well in the daytime and you’ll breathe well at night
  • Clear your nose before you get to bed - a nasal wash might help
  • Sleep on your left side - it’s easier on the heart and on the breathing
  • Make sure your head’s slightly elevated
  • Avoid stimulating foods late at night
  • Switch off any laptops, tablets, phones or other technologies at least 60 minutes before you go to bed
  • Sleep in a ventilated room so you don’t overheat

Useful Links:

Have a listen to Glen White talking to Brian Kelly about the Buteyko clinic and how to breathe correctly:

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Comments | 3

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    I have recently completed the Buteyko course. After nearly sixty years as a mouth breather I have changed my habits and don't even think about it anymore. Great improvements in health (and almost no snoring)
    By malcolm rands on Thu March 27, 2014
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    Glenn doing a great work teaching and promoting the Buteyko method. Here is a page that explains how shortness of breath relates to overbreathing:
    By Artour Rakhimov on Thu March 27, 2014
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    I have his book and I have found it really useful.
    By Rose Patterson on Thu March 27, 2014

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