Breathe In Breathe Out


Breathing is one of those automatic functions that your body does without you thinking about it.  Without breath, you don’t live very long.  So yes, breathing it vitally important to your very existence.  However, I am suggesting that maybe, just maybe, you should think about your breathing a bit more.

I often say that if “something” comes into my sphere of interest three times I need to investigate further.  Well, that happened recently.  And yes, it had to do with breathing, breathe quality, air and over-breathing.  Yep, I said over-breathing.  Over-breathing is breathing in much more air than required without knowing. Patrick McKeown wrote in The Oxygen Advantage, “The unconscious habit of over breathing…is highly detrimental to our health…leads to loss of health, poor fitness, and compromised performance and also contributes to many ailments including anxiety, asthma, fatigue, insomnia, heart problems, and even obesity.” [1]

If you’ve been following me for some time, you may recall that I had “asthma-like” issues that with a lot of sleuthing and effort were minimized, but never fully resolved.  First, I was sent to an asthma clinic with the result, “She doesn’t have asthma.”  Next, I was given a rescue inhaler and a steroid inhaler by my family doctor to help with my breathing when I exercised.  You see, trainers didn’t want me in their spin classes because I “sounded” awful (in other words, my breathing was laboured and noisy).  I gave up on those inhalers because I felt a heaviness in my chest when I used them.  As well, I didn’t want to become dependent on using them just to exercise.  Eventually, I quit using all inhalers and simply eased up on my exercise intensity.  My breathing improved when I took out certain foods like almonds, cashews, dairy and gluten.  Later, when I removed refined sugar, my overall breathing improved.  A naturopath called my condition food-related asthma.  Hum…. maybe it was merely a result of inflammation of the airways from eating foods that my body’s immune system react to.  Just a thought.

While I was listening to the “Dirty Gene Summit” put on by Dr Ben Lynch, I heard Patrick McKeown’s interview.  McKeown stated that “through our breath, we can influence our blood circulation. We can influence the amount of oxygen delivered from the blood to the cells. We can also open up our airways. I’m not talking about taking a deep breath or the big breath that’s commonly espoused; I’m talking about the doing the opposite.”[2]  That got my attention.  Do the opposite of deep breathing?!? Even during my Headspace meditation moments, you asked to begin with a couple of deep breaths.  During exercise classes or even a massage, you are asked to take deep breaths to relax or ease discomfort — take a deep breath and breathe into it.  Apparently, the more air you breath is not better for you!  In fact, McKeown went on to say, “the ironic thing about breathing is that the more air you breathe, the less oxygen that gets delivered.”[3]  Say what?!?

Prior to hearing McKeown, I had read and seen on Mike Mutzel’s social media that he was “mouth taping.”  Then I saw mouth taping on another site.  That peaked my interest, but I didn’t pursue it (yet).

Fast forward a couple months where I encountered a booth at my association’s annual convention called Breathway featuring Buteyko breathing (Patrick McKeown, again!).  I chatted with Lorraine and registered to take an information session.  I attended that session and paid for Buteyko Breathing re-education classes, which I just finished.  I learned many breathing exercises and to mouth tape at night.

What have I learned?  Breathe less.

Tweetable:  “To oxygenate tissues and organs, we need to breathe less, not more.”   [4]

When I was breathing heavily, I was overbreathing causing lower levels of carbon dioxide in my blood and lungs.  I know, you’re thinking carbon dioxide isn’t good for you, so why does it matter.   Oxygen is carried by your hemoglobin molecules in your blood.  And guess what, the release of that oxygen into your tissues and organs is dependent on carbon dioxide in your alveoli (lungs) and arterial (arteries) blood.  The connection between carbon dioxide and hemoglobin is known as the Bohr Effect.  Look it up for more information.  It’s been around since 1904.

My breathing has improved dramatically.  I no longer overbreathe. My wheezing is no longer noticeable (except when I eat something that I know causes issues). I can complete an hour-long barre class with my mouth closed!  In fact, I recently cycled to the summit of the Highwood Pass in Kananaskis Country (before the highway opened on June 15th), which was about a 600 meter elevation climb with my mouth closed!  As a side note, Highwood Pass is the highest paved pass in Canada at 2,206 meters elevation. This was my first major ride of the year and I was slow, but my heart rate was steady and I felt like I could do it.  Slow and steady.  I was never short of breath or ability.  Generally, I HATE hills and it was trying to snow to top it off.  When I looked at my heart rate on my Apple Watch, it was consistent and never wildly raised.  Closed mouth breathing works.

My breathing re-education is far from over.  The learning part may be complete, but now comes the habit forming part — applying all that I’ve learned.  Presently, I’ve seen an improvement in my sleep, how I exercise, and how I handle stressful situations.  In time, I should see other improvements like lowering of my blood pressure — I’m pre-hypertensive with no known root cause (doctor-speak).  I’m excited about the prospects of breathing less and enjoying better lifelong health.

Stay tuned, as I am investigating what it takes to become a Buteyko Breathing instructor.  I’ve learned so much and I want to help you breathe better too.


Resources

[1] Patrick McKeown, The Oxygen Advantage (New York: William Morrow, 2015), p 4.

[2] Dirty Genes Summit, 2018.

[3] Dirty Genes Summit, 2018

[4] Patrick McKeown, Shut Your Mouth, (2015), p 9.

Also check out, Patrick McKeown’s Tedx Talk, “Shut Your Mouth and Change Your Life.”

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About Brenda

As a nutrition consultant and educator, I aim to support you in achieving health and vitality through natural wholesome foods and lifestyle transformation. Ready to change yourself from the inside out? Then contact Brenda today.