nose breathingThere is one situation where most experts agree it is best to keep your mouth shut. No, it's not when you have a strong opinion or disagree with a friend. It's simply when you are breathing!

We all know that we need oxygen to survive, but does it really matter if we get that oxygen breathing through our mouth or nose? According to many experts, it does.

Let’s look at the claim that nose breathing is the best way to get your oxygen and explore ways to get the most out of your breath!


Why Nose Breathing Is Best

Science has found many benefits of nose breathing over mouth breathing that most people are not aware of, including:

  • Filtering - the cilia in our nose acts as a filter, purifying the air of particles. Further down the respiratory tract, the mucus lined windpipe continues to trap particles before they get to our lungs.
  • Regulating - the nasal passages regulate the humidity and temperature of the air we breathe.
  • Absorbing Oxygen - the paranasal sinuses produce nitric oxide, a gas that can increase your lungs ability to absorb oxygen by 10-25%.
  • Immune Response - nitric oxide also has anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-parasitic, and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Detoxification - exhalation is one of the primary ways to expel toxins from the body.
  • Slows the Breath - breathing through the nose actually slows our breath. When we slow the breath, we allow the lungs more time to absorb oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide from the body. 
  • Depth of Breath - slowing the breath encourages us to take deeper breaths. This fills the lower lungs which are rich in parasympathetic nerve receptors. This helps the body to calm and go into the rest, digest, and heal state. (In contrast, the upper lungs trigger the sympathetic state, also referred to as the fight or flight state.)


Dangers of Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing is useful in times of danger or stress when we need to receive oxygen quickly. This type of breath should be limited to intense situations. Habitually breathing through the mouth can cause a host of problems such as:

  • Developmental Changes - elongated face, altered smile, and larger tonsils. 
  • Mouth Problems - cavities, crooked teeth, and chronic bad breath. 
  • Sleeping Trouble - not wanting to sleep, waking up through the night, and waking up unrefreshed.
  • Changes in Personality - moody, impatient, angry, and stressed.
  • Cognitive Issues - forgetfulness, trouble in school, and brain fog.
  • Hydration Concerns - dry mouth and dehydration.
  • Lower Immunity - greater chances of sickness.


How to Engage in Nose Breathing

Breathing through your nose may have many benefits, but if you are used to breathing through your mouth it can feel difficult to change.

It is important to figure out if mouth breathing is a habit or if there is a physical issue making it difficult for you to breathe through your nose. Start by trying to breathe only through your nose for a full two minutes. Are you able to do this easily or is it a struggle? If this is difficult or you feel like you are not getting enough oxygen, you will need to figure out why. Sarah Hornsby is a myofunctional therapist who covers this issue in her video "How to Stop Mouth Breathing".

Once physical concerns are addressed or ruled out, there are some practices you can do to reverse this habit and receive the benefits of nose breathing. For practical ideas:

As always, I welcome your thoughts, ideas, questions, and stories! 

Dr. Jamie