Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note, where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health.
I’ve been fascinated with nasal breathing ever since I read the book “Breath” by James Nestor. I’m reading another one right now called “The Oxygen Advantage” by Patrick McKeown. It goes into more detail on the science behind nasal breathing and its benefits.
I’ve talked with many people about this subject, including my long time friend Zack Kramer who joined me on the podcast this week.
Zack owns Trinity Strength in Knoxville TN, which is a gym that doesn’t just focus on weight training. He has an all encompassing approach to exercise and working out, incorporating nutrition and breathing into his coaching. So I was excited to get the opportunity to sit down and talk with him about nasal breathing and exercise in particular.
I learned so much from Zack in this conversation, and I want to talk about some of it in this Note. I highly encourage you to go listen to the full podcast episode. There are a ton of gems in there from Zack.
Breathing and your Health
Correct breathing is fundamental for overall wellbeing and exercise. It can help you exercise more safely by limiting injuries. It can also increase performance for high level athletes.
As you know, I believe that there are four pillars to optimal health: Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep, and Hormones.
The thing about sleep is that if you aren’t sleeping well, nothing will be optimal for you. And there is a huge correlation between sleeping well and nasal breathing.
I look a lot at sleep patterns and sleep apnea. I see it all the time in my practice. I can also speak from experience in that I used to be a mouth breather at night. Mouth breathing at night makes it really difficult to get the appropriate amount of sleep.
My brother essentially cured his sleep apnea by putting a piece of tape over his mouth. He never even had to go in for a sleep study.
For years I’ve been sending people for sleep studies and treating sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is terrible for you. It can cause hypertension, heart disease, and more.
Nasal breathing can also cure chronic sinusitis and asthma.
Diaphragm Breathing and Nasal Breathing
You can cue your diaphragm to breathe by putting one hand on your belly and one on your chest. This will teach you to breathe through your belly. A lot of the back issues that happen while exercising actually stem from not being able to breathe through our bellies the way we’re meant to. It also activates your core.
Nasal breathing feels difficult at first, but if you stick with nasal only breathing while working out it gets easier. It actually keeps you safe from injury because you will have to scale down your intensity to the levels you can nasal breathe. This can help prevent injury.
The nose has receptors for nitric oxide, which is a gas that promotes all kinds of benefits for the body. It vasodilates everything. It can increase exercise capacity, and even help with Erectile Dysfunction. It opens up a whole new world of building up things that protect you.
When you nose breathe, you are trying to teach your body how to tolerate CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). It’s not as much about Oxygen as it is about CO2.
The amazing thing is that you can teach your body how to tolerate increased amounts of CO2.
The best way to do this is simply by breathing through your nose. When we breathe through our mouth we breathe in more than just oxygen.
You can also try holding your breath while you do an exercise to build up tolerance to CO2. Simple and short breath holds while you walk or do push ups can be helpful.
One of the benefits Zack has seen with nasal breathing has been with anxiety and stress. There is a relationship between CO2 and anxiety and fear. When you increase your tolerance to CO2, you can lessen anxiety. It’s one of the biggest benefits outside of performance that Zack has seen with his clients who adopt nasal breathing. They’re just more relaxed in general.
Anyone can train their breathing. I’m such a fan of nasal breathing. If you want to dive deeper, listen to my podcast episode with Zack.
Also, check out “Breath” and “The Oxygen Advantage”.