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Take a Deep Breath
How often do you stop and take a deep breath these days? Breathing is the most essential activity we do. However many of us take it for granted and some of us are even doing it wrong. Sounds funny that someone might be doing something that is so natural incorrectly, but believe me it happens. We take on average 14,000 breaths per day so its about time we stop and realize what is actually happening and how it is affecting our health.
Other aspects of the body often overshadow the importance of good lung health. The heart and cardiovascular system get a lot of attention, we get screened for cholesterol, make sure our blood chemistry is ok, get an annual breast exam or prostate exam depending on which parts you have. But we do not stop to think about our lungs until we are coughing up a storm and suffering from pneumonia. Where would the heart be without the lungs anyway? If it did not have the lungs it would not have much of a job to do, and certainly could not do it for very long.
Lets start at the beginning, first take a nice slow deep inhale. Did you use your diaphragm to initiate your breath? I hope so, that is how we are designed to breathe. The diaphragm relaxes and drops down as air moves into the lungs, its completely passive, no work should be done. However many people will do this incorrectly and will initiate breathing from their upper chest. When you breathe from the upper chest many abnormal things start to happen. First you are causing the body to contract the neck and chest muscles to raise the rib cage to allow air to move into the lungs. This requires work and energy expenditure. Do that 14,000 times in a row and see how tired you are and how sore your neck and upper back are. Are your neck and upper back sore? Check your breathing!
Breathing as you know is essential for our body to survive. If you stop breathing for just a few minutes all your fun and adventure is over. Breathing is a lot more than bringing oxygen into the body so our muscles, brains, and every cell of our body can work correctly. That’s right every cell of our body stays alive because of oxygen and the ability of the body to use the oxygen to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the energy molecule our body uses in all its physiological chores. If you don’t bring in enough oxygen on a regular basis you will get tired and fatigued quickly. If you find yourself yawning, or getting sleepy in the afternoon, check your breathing!
Oxygen is not the only important molecule of breathing. Carbon dioxide is what we breathe out, a waste product that our body needs to remove. Excess carbon dioxide in the system will create an acidifying affect on the body chemistry. Help reduce the acids of the body and keep the pH of the system more balanced and optimal by taking deep breathes every day.
Asthma is a condition that plagues many Americans. If you have never suffered an asthma attack you are lucky and believe me you do not want to. They are very scary, as your airways constrict and you cannot get the oxygen in and the carbon dioxide out. Asthma and lung health go hand in hand. The over all health of the body keeps your lung tissue working optimally, and when your physiology is working optimally you will not have an asthma attack. Unfortunately many children today as well as adults are suffering from physiological imbalances that put a great deal of stress on their lungs. These stresses come in the form of food allergies or sensitivities, too much sugar and carbohydrate consumption, and fatigued adrenal glands. There is a special hormone of the adrenal glands that is responsible for keeping the tonicity of the blood vessels appropriate for the oxygen demands of the body. When the adrenals are fatigued that hormone is not produced in the capacity it should be and you end up with exercise-induced asthma. If that’s you, make sure you speak with your health care professional to determine the best way to address that problem as it can be complicated and need monitoring. DO NOT SELF-TREAT THE ADRENAL GLANDS.
Deep breathing has many health benefits and it is free and easy to do as long as you take the time to do it. Activities like Yoga, Ti Chi, Qigong, and meditation have a long history and all utilize deep breathing to help improve health and reduce stress. Deep breathing has been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone from the adrenal glands. If you don’t feel like being a yogi, try singing, you cannot fill a room with beautiful music if you don’t take a deep diaphragm breath. Walking is a great time to practice deep breathing too. You should be doing it anyway, but next time you are out on a walk or a hike really fill your lungs with air, you will be amazed at the sense of elation you feel.
Getting the air to the bottom of your lungs is essential to protect your body from pathogens. If you are a chest breather the air will stay stagnant in the lower lobes of your lungs and there those pesky germs can fester and multiply. This will cause unwanted symptoms and disease that are easily preventable as its something you have to do 14,000 times a day anyway.
You always have a choice. You are more then welcome to hold your breath until you turn blue in the face, but I would not recommend it if you want to live a healthy more optimal life. Choose to be conscious of your breathing. Take time each day to take some deep breaths. Next time your feeling sluggish stop and take 10 deep breaths in a row and I guarantee you will feel better.
Dr. Phil Cameron is a Chiropractic Physician and Professional Applied Kinesiologist. He owns the Bozeman Wellness Center, where he treats each patient individually helping every person to live Heathy, live Naturally, and live Optimally.