Is it indistinct to breathe through the mouth or through the nose? Many people consider that breathing through one or the other side is optional, and that it is not really important to breathe through the nose or mouth, however, this is a big mistake.

The nasal breathing has great benefits for the body [¹] the wrong way to breathe is related to snoring and even some abilities that develop very little, and that could be very useful to improve our health.

Nasal breathing (as opposed to mouth breathing) increases circulation, raises blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, decreases respiratory rate, and improves overall lung volumes [²], among many more benefits.

Breathing is a basic requirement for life

At rest, a person takes approximately 14 breaths per minute, completely automatically and unconsciously. With each normal breath, about half a liter of air is taken in, but if we knew how to breathe correctly through the nose, we could obtain much more oxygen. Approximately 12,000 liters of air can be obtained per day.

The respiratory process can be roughly summarized: through the outside air we inhale oxygen, which diffuses through the alveoli into the blood and is distributed to the other organs. Our cells depend on this oxygen. Only in this way can vital processes take place in our body, such as the generation of energy in cells (cellular respiration). Carbon dioxide is exhaled as a metabolic end product in return.

Differences between nasal and mouth breathing

Breathable air can enter the lungs in two different ways. For one thing, it can take the path through the nose, which is called nasal breathing.

If nasal breathing is not possible (because the nose is congested or obstructed, for example), the breathing air flows through the open mouth, passes between the tongue and the palate, enters the throat and continues towards the lungs through the windpipe. This is called mouth breathing . It is much healthier to breathe through your nose than through your mouth.

The benefits of nasal breathing

Breathing through the nose produces nitric oxide (NO) in the sinuses. This gas dilates blood vessels, which can also regulate blood pressure. However, the benefits of this kind of (necessary) breathing don’t end there, to consider: nasal breathing fulfills many functions that are important to the whole body [³].

1. Protection and cleaning against foreign particles and pathogens

The inside of the nose, that is, the nostrils and turbinates, are lined with a very special mucous membrane, which has many microscopically small hairs called cilia. These cilia protect the inhaled airflow from the penetration of foreign particles such as dust and impure particles, but also germs and pathogens [ 4 ].

These foreign bodies become trapped in the protective mucosa of the nose. Once something is stored in the nose, the mucus film is used. This performs a cleaning function, collects small impurities and particles and transports them towards the exit of the nose. Also, special proteins and various enzymes are produced on the mucous membrane. They support the protective function and serve as the body’s defense system.

2. The nose modulates the temperature of the air we breathe

The nasal mucous membrane serves another important purpose: it brings the air almost to body temperature (around 34 degrees Celsius) and hydrates it at the same time. Even at outside temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius, the air reaches over 30 degrees until it reaches the lungs.

When it is cold in the environment, more blood flows into the tissue of the nose, with the result that the nasal mucosa swells. As it flows past this mucous membrane, the cold air warms up before reaching the deeper respiratory tract. In contrast, the extremely hot and dry air we breathe cools as it flows through the nose and is enriched with moisture.

3. Nasal breathing provides better oxygenation

Breathing through the nose compared to breathing through the mouth has a decisive advantage in terms of oxygenation: nasal breathing leads to a 10 to 15 percent higher oxygen saturation of the blood. This means that our blood is oxygenated more and that the organs receive better oxygenation [ 5 ].

This is due to nitric oxide (NO), which is formed in the sinuses and is automatically transported by nasal respiration into the lungs. Nitric oxide has a number of important functions, such as dilation of blood vessels and promoting blood flow to the alveoli.

Therefore, more oxygen can be absorbed into the blood and transported to the organs. It also relaxes the respiratory muscles and inhibits inflammation [6].

4. Snoring decreases

Problems breathing through the nose can lead to snoring problems. If the nose is obstructed or misplaced, for example, due to a cold or an anatomical feature such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum , an overload will occur in the airways, making it difficult to inhale and exhale, and resulting, in many cases, in the appearance of snoring.

In many cases, labored nasal breathing is also just one of the causes of the snoring problem. If there are problems breathing through the nose during sleep, the body unconsciously switches to mouth breathing. In turn, this promotes oral snoring , a form of snoring in which the flow of air you breathe causes the palate tissue to vibrate.

Snoring can develop sleep apnea with breath murmurs. This affects approximately ten percent of all men and five percent of women.

Help to get a free nasal breathing

  1. Nasal dilators and patches widen the nostrils, thus improving breathing this way.
  2. Nasal rinses that rid the nose of mucus and secretions and help especially with colds and allergies.
  3. Surgical interventions are often unavoidable due to severe anatomic respiratory limitations (eg, curvature of the nasal septum, hypertrophy of nasal turbinates, polyps).

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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