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Nasal Breathing: Reasons Why It’s Good For You

Medical Daily logo Medical Daily 6/4/2020 Joshua Tresvalles

Breathing provides much-needed air to our bodies. It not only helps us absorb ourselves in what is around us, but also takes bits and pieces of life, understand them, and, in turn, gives part of ourselves out. 

Nasal breathing in particular, when we breathe using our noses rather than through our mouths, is essential for many things and for various reasons. One is that our bodies operate effectively through a state of balance, alternating between action and relaxation, daydreaming and reason-based thought. This balance is influenced and may even be controlled by the nasal cycle.

Health and wellness website mindbodygreen has enumerated the following reasons why nasal breathing is good for you:

The Right Nostril Is A Gas Pedal 

Inhaling primarily through the right nostril causes circulation to speed up. It also causes your body to get hotter, and stress-causing cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate to all increase. 

Breathing through the nose's right side activates the sympathetic nervous system, which puts the body in a more elevated state of alertness and readiness. It also feeds more blood to the brain's opposite hemisphere -- specifically to the prefrontal cortex, which is linked to logical decisions, language and computing.

The Left Nostril Is A Brake

The left nostril is deeply connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, the side that lowers temperature and blood pressure, cools the body and reduces anxiety. Left-nostril breathing shifts blood circulation to the opposite side of the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for creative thought, emotions and formation of mental abstractions. 

Researchers at the University of California in San Diego recorded the breathing patterns of a schizophrenic woman over the course of three years and found that she had a "significantly greater" left-nostril dominance. They hypothesized that this breathing habit overstimulated the "creative" right side of her brain, causing her imagination to run amok as a result. The researchers taught her over several sessions to breathe through her "logical" right nostril, leading her to experience far fewer hallucinations.

The "Great Secret Of Life" 

Though Eastern cultures have been using nasal breathing for centuries, it was not until the 19th century that much of the West got to learn of the beneficial technique. All of this is because of artist and researcher George Catlin, who spent six years traveling across the Great Plains to document the lives of 50 Native American tribes. 

One of the tribes that he encountered, which included the Lakota Sioux, Omaha, Cheyenne and Blackfeet tribes -- all in Missouri, is the mysterious Mandan, whose members stood 6 feet tall and lived in bubble-shaped houses. Many of them had blue eyes and snow-white hair. Up to that point, no one of European descent had bothered interacting with the Mandan or other tribes, let alone talking to, researching and living with them, and learning their beliefs and traditions. 

The tribal people, having never seen a dentist or doctor, had teeth that were perfectly straight. In Catlin's words, they are "as regular as the keys of a piano." None of them seemed to get sick and deformities and other chronic health problems appeared rare if not nonexistent. The tribes owed their vigorous health to a medicine that Catlin called the "great secret of life." That secret? Nasal breathing.

The Native Americans explained to Catlin that breath inhaled via the mouth weakened the body, deformed the face and caused stress and disease. Nasal breathing, on the other hand, kept the body strong, made the face beautiful and prevented disease. 

"The air which enters the lungs is as different from that which enters the nostrils as distilled water is different from the water in an ordinary cistern or a frog pond," Catlin wrote.

Helps Your Sinuses, Sleep And More 

More than a century later, Northern California-based dentist and sleep researcher Mark Burhenne had been studying the links between mouth breathing and sleep. He found that the former contributed to periodontal disease and bad breath, believing it to be the main cause of cavities, even more damaging than sugar consumption, bad diet or poor hygiene. Burhenne also found that mouth breathing both caused and contributed to snoring and sleep apnea. Thus, he recommended his patients tape their mouths shut at night. 

"The health benefits of nose breathing are undeniable," Burhenne told mindbodygreen. One of these benefits is that the sinuses release huge amounts of nitric oxide, a molecule that plays a key role in increasing blood circulation and oxygen delivery into cells. Nitric oxide levels can heavily influence immunity, weight, mood and even sexual function. 

Nitric oxide can be boosted sixfold through nasal breathing alone, absorbing about 18 percent more oxygen compared to mouth breathing. Burhenne said that mouth taping helped a 5-year-old patient of his overcome ADHD, a condition linked to breathing difficulties during sleep. It helped him and his wife deal with their own snoring and breathing problems. Hundreds of other patients reported similar benefits.

Lab tests have shown that nitric oxide increases the survival rate of mammalian cells infected with coronavirus. Inhaled nitric oxide is now being studied as a therapy to help restore lung function and boost immune response in patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms.

a close up of a blur © Mylene2401 / Pixabay

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