How is mouth breathing detrimental to my immune system?

Most of us do not think about breathing unless we are having a problem.   Breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, and it is something we do not normally think about.  Stress can affect our breathing.  We say “Let me catch my breath.”  We say, “I was so scared I could hardly breathe.”    When this happens, we are aware that something has disrupted the normal patterns of breathing.

If we live in a high stressed environment, then we may develop the habit of being a shallow breather.  We may breathe through our mouths into the top part of our lungs, but do not extend the diaphragm and really get that good breath to the bottom of our lungs.

Healthy breathing is ‘belly breathing.’  We should breathe in through the nose, extending the belly as our lungs become full, and exhaling through the mouth as our belly compresses.   If you are conscious of breathing this way, then you are getting all the benefit of carbon dioxide (CO2)/oxygen exchange.

Nose breathing is 22% more effective than mouth breathing.

  1. Carbon Dioxide and nitric oxide in the nasal cavity dilate your blood vessels
  2. Nitric oxide sterilizes the air as you inhale through your nose
  3. The extra resistance of nose breathing results in 10-20% better oxygenation of cells
  4. Nitric oxide inhibits viral replication
  5. Nose breathing in sleep helps reduce snoring and sleep apnea
  6. Nose breathing prevents exercise induced asthma
  7. Nose breathing engages the diaphragm which supports the spine and core muscles.

Chronic Hyperventilation (over breathing) disrupts the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood.  When CO2 levels are low, the cell is not able to receive the oxygen from the blood.   CO2 is the delivery mechanism for releasing oxygen into the cells.  With little CO2, the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen in the blood becomes too tight.  The oxygen will stay in the blood instead of being transferred to the cells.

Being mindful regarding your breathing can help you transition into a nose breather. It takes about 6 weeks to develop the habit of breathing correctly through the nose,  There are exercises you can do to help.

For further information, I would suggest you read The Breathing Cure, by Patrick McKeown

Until next time,

Dr. Polly