A very common motto among asthma sufferers is “When you cannot breathe, nothing else matters”, alluding to the despair of those who cannot inhale the air that gives life. Is Life-giving Air the Complete Story of Breathing? This article takes common breathing tips and gives reasons for their effectiveness. It goes further and provides essential elements in respiratory technique for better health.
Breathing is perhaps one of the most centrally integrated autonomic behaviors that go far beyond simply filling the lungs. García AJ writes in 2011:
“Respiration arises through complex network interactions involving neurons distributed throughout the nervous system. The respiratory rhythm generating network is composed of micro networks that function within larger networks to generate different rhythms and patterns that characterize respiration” .
The result of Garcia’s study can best be seen when a person is affected by strong emotions such as fear and anger.
The main advice for breathing is to override autonomic control and consciously inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth with pursed lips.
Dr. Carla Naumburg PhD of ‘Ready, Set, Breathe’ fame suggests that breathing exercises bring mindfulness to everyday life. By remembering to breathe, you create space to restore calm and lower blood pressure and stress hormones, thus creating an opportunity to control the situation.
Professor Konstantin Buteyko (Russia 1923-2003) is credited with a technique characterized by slow, reduced breathing combined with spaced-apart breathless pauses that allow carbon dioxide to build up to the point of exploding.
Breathing is a relevant component of Yoga practice. Yoga breathing techniques usually accompany different poses or some form of meditation. Therefore, it is difficult to separate and attribute the result to breathing, poses, or meditation.
Pandit JJ, in 2003 tested 3 breathing techniques for optimal oxygen uptake, as follows:
1. Three (3) minutes of tidal breathing
2. Four (4) deep breaths in 30 seconds
3. Eight (8) deep breaths in 60 seconds
Oxygen uptake was the same for items 1. and 3 and a higher efficiency than for item 2. Their work illustrates that breathing technique is important.
Enter Nitric Oxide (NO), a colorless gas with a half-life of only seconds. Nitric oxide (NO) was named “molecule of the year” in 1994 by Science Magazine.
In 1998, the Karolinska Institute awarded the Nobel Prize to American pharmacologists Robert F. Furchgott, PhD, Ferid Murad, MD, PhD, and Louis J. Ignarro, PhD for their discoveries of the role of nitric oxide (NO) as a signaling molecule. in the cardiovascular system.
NO relaxes the smooth muscle in the arteries providing a larger blood flow area, which lowers blood pressure and carries more nutrients where they are needed. The importance of NO in human bodily functions cannot be overstated. Although thousands of research articles have been written, worldwide research continues. NO is implicated in heart health, lower blood pressure, better sleep quality, and even erectile dysfunction.
NO is produced in the sinuses, the largest being the maxillary sinuses on both sides of the nose. They are closed chambers except for a small soft tissue opening called the osium that opens the olfactory airways.
There is no right or wrong way to breathe – the brain’s autonomic function makes sure that you get adequate oxygen into your system. However, there are ways to breathe to get the most NO in your system. Here are 7 tips to help get this amazing gas into your bloodstream.
1. BREATHE RAPIDLY THROUGH YOUR NOSE.
Nose hair and constricted nasal passages ensure that there is negative pressure in the airways. This partial vacuum causes the sinuses to deliver a small amount of NO-laden air into the inhaled breath. The harder you breathe, the more your sinuses will NOT deliver.
2. BLOCK ONE NOSE HOLE AND INSPIRE.
Blocking one nostril and in turn the other nostril will increase the partial vacuum to cause NO-laden air to be injected into the inhaled breath.
3. BLOCK BOTH NARAL HOLES AND TRY INHALING.
Close both nostrils and try to inhale. This creates the greatest amount of vacuum in your respiratory system allowing NO-laden air to be sucked out of your sinuses. Of course, you can only do this for a short time before resuming normal breathing.
4. BREATHE SLOWLY THROUGH YOUR MOUTH.
It does NOT take time to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, it is good to hold your breath for as long as is convenient. Alternatively, breathe out slowly so the lungs have time to absorb the NO.
5. Hum or sing
Lundberg et al showed in 2003 that tinnitus increases exhaled NO by 700%. Another researcher found an even greater increase in exhaled NO during humming. The problem is that it is difficult to inhale while humming. Therefore, the suggested sequence is to hum for 3 seconds and then immediately inhale.
6. PRETEND SNORING
To overcome the problem of humming and inhaling simultaneously, it is suggested to pretend to snore, making the sound as if you are snoring. The frequencies of snoring are in the range of the natural frequencies of the maxillary sinuses of approximately 110 to 350 Hz. Allowing the maxillary sinuses to resonate will drive the NO-laden air into the inhaled respiratory volume. Because snoring is an inhalation maneuver, NO will reach the lungs in greater volume.
7. VALSALVA MANEUVER
During a descent procedure in an airplane, headaches are often avoided by using the Valsalva maneuver. This maneuver involves closing both nostrils while trying to exhale until the eardrums “burst.” This has the effect of pressurizing the sinuses which, upon subsequent inhalation, release pressure and inject NO-laden air into the olfactory airways.
A. NO in the sinuses is a finite resource and can be depleted. How can it be replenished? Eat lots of foods rich in nitrates, for example beets, fenugreek, etc. and give your body time to convert nitrates to NO.
B. Why not inhale NO gas like babies with pulmonary hypertension do? The dose of NO in a medical setting is carefully controlled. Exposure of animals to NO has caused drowsiness, loss of consciousness, and death.
C. Why not sit in a high traffic area and breathe the NO produced by cars? Exhaust gases from motor vehicles contain NO. However, exhaust gases are a toxic cocktail of other gases such as carbon monoxide. The risk of poisoning far outweighs any benefit that can be obtained.