The severe conditions of COVID-19 that we are living through have made one fact painfully clear – Preventive Care in the ‘best of times’ can reduce health risks in the ‘worst of times’
By Lionel H. Phillips D.O.
Now is the time to be proactive and embrace the power of preventive care. In the same vein of prevention, it is also important to stay as active as possible.
American pharmacologist and 1998 Nobel Laureate in Physiology, Prof. Louis J. Ignarro, describes one of the body’s many natural defenses against pathogens:
“Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. It’s not just something you do in yoga class – breathing this way actually provides a powerful medical benefit that can help the body fight viral infections.”
I have requested that health Ministries make a point of questioning each and every COVID-19 virus sufferer, as to whether they are nose or mouth breathers.
I am convinced that a larger percent are mouth breathers.
Nose breathing – as opposed to mouth breathing, increases circulation, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes. Diaphragmatic Breathing – When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts (tightens) and moves downward, extending the area. This creates more space in your chest cavity allowing the lungs to expand. The diaphragm muscle not only separates the upper from the lower organs, it also acts as a massager tool to both areas. Your nose cleans the air you breathe – The nose helps clean the air. On the surface of the nasal tissues, particularly the turbinates, are cells with small hair-like appendages called cilia that trap much of the bad stuff. Writes Prof. Louis J. Ignarro, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Molecular & Medical Pharmacology, UCLA School of Medicine, in an article dated 19th June 2020:
“Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. It’s not just something you do in yoga class – breathing this way actually provides a powerful medical benefit that can help the body fight viral infections. The reason is that your nasal cavities produce the molecule nitric oxide, which chemists abbreviate NO, that increases blood flow through the lungs and boosts oxygen levels in the blood. Breathing in through the nose delivers NO (nitric oxide) directly into the lungs, where it helps fight coronavirus infection by blocking the replication of the coronavirus in the lungs”.
It would be surely advantageous for the Health Ministries to take note of the experience and views of Prof. Ignarro.
Air temperature – In the same way as our throat and lungs do not like dirty air, they do not like air that is too cold or too hot. The passing of the air through the nose allows the air to become more like our body temperature, which is better tolerated by the tissues.
Your Respiratory System
We all know that breathing is a vital necessity, that we do without giving it a thought. In addition, we have been given two options – to breathe through the nose or mouth. We breathe to supply our body with oxygen as we breathe in – inhale, whilst we get rid of Carbon Dioxide plus other elements when we exhale. The Oxygen that we inhale either through the nose or the mouth, will enter your lungs. The diagram illustrates the route. The oxygen inhaled will enter your Pharynx, pass through the Trachea and then enter your Lungs. Research shows that Nose breathing is the correct and most optimal way to breathe. Not only are our bodies designed for nose breathing based on the specific apparatus and the mechanisms by which we inhale and exhale through nose breathing, but there are numerous important health benefits to be had from correct consistent nose breathing. The converse is also true, because mouth breathing bypasses important filtering stages in the breathing process and this method of breathing may lead to many health problems, not the least of which may include snoring and sleep apnea. Our lungs are full of tunnels that end in tiny air sacks called alveoli. This is where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. The oxygen then passes into your blood, which supplies the oxygenated blood to every part of your body.
Diaphragmatic Breathing – The In’s and Out’s
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs that separates the thoracic (chest) from the abdominal cavities. It is the principal muscle of respiration, though you may not be aware of it. When you inhale, through the nose your diaphragm contracts (tightens) and moves downward extending the abdominal area. This creates more space in your chest cavity allowing the lungs to expand. When you exhale, the opposite happens — your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward in the chest cavity, providing a great massage for both upper and lower organs. All of us are born with the ingrained knowledge of how to fully engage the diaphragm to take deep, refreshing breaths. As we get older however, we get out of the habit. Everything from the stresses of everyday life to common poor postural habits, results in shallower, less satisfying “chest breathing.”
Nasal breathing – as opposed to mouth breathing – increases circulation, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes. The internal nose not only provides around 90% of the respiratory system air-conditioning requirement, but also recovers around 33% of exhaled heat and moisture. Your nose cleans the air you breathe. The air we breathe has all kinds of stuff in it – from oxygen and nitrogen to dust, pollution, allergens, smoke, bacteria, viruses, small bugs and countless other things. The nose helps clean that air. On the surface of the nasal tissues, particularly the turbinates, are cells with small hair-like appendages called cilia that trap much of the bad stuff. Once captured, the bad stuff sits in the mucous and is gradually pushed into the throat, where it is swallowed. Our stomachs tolerate bad stuff much better than our lungs. This is lessened by blowing your nose when it feels blocked, rather than waiting until it is swallowed. In your Lungs there are sacs called Alveoli. Blood vessels cover the alveolus that connect to a system of veins and arteries that move blood through your body. The oxygen then spreads into the blood vessels so that the heart can pump it to different parts of your body. The sense of smell is not only for pleasure; it is necessary for safety. We need our smell to detect smoke, spoiled food and toxic gases. People who have lost their sense of smell need to have alarms for these gases and they must be careful with what they eat. Our nose regulates the temperature. Just like our throat and lungs do not like dirty air, they do not like air that is too cold or too hot. The passing of the air through the nose allows the air to become more like the body temperature, which is better tolerated by the tissues. Warming cool air is more common than cooling warm air. That is because we spend more time in environments below body temperature than above it. A clear manifestation of the warming and humidifying effect is the runny nose we get in cold weather, which is related to condensation of the moisture in the nose. Smell plays a key role in taste. We have four primary tastes – bitter, sour, sweet and salty. All of the refinements in taste are in fact related to smell. That is why people feel that food is tasteless when their ability to smell is decreased.
Diaphragmatic breathing technique – How to get started
Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees and head supported with pillows as shown in the diagram. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel the movement of your diaphragm as you breathe in and out. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your abdominal section moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. Tighten your abdominal muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible. When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down, as shown above. As you gain more practice, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair. To perform this exercise while sitting in a chair: Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed. The rest of the breathing process is identical as when lying down. Note: You may notice an increased effort will be needed to use the diaphragm correctly. At first, you will probably get tired while doing this exercise. But keep at it, because with continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing will become easy and automatic. Correct Nose Breathing has a positive effect on every system in the body. Mouth breathing will have a negative effect.
How often should I practice this exercise?
At first, practice this exercise for a few minutes about 2 – 3 times per day. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise, and perhaps even increase the effort of the exercise by placing a book on your abdomen if lying down.
A change from an ingrained habit of mouth breathing to nose breathing is extremely difficult for many. Please do not give up too easily. In addition, it is understandable that the elderly often find mouth breathing easier for them. Even in their situation, I would encourage them to have patience. You may find children and grandchildren easier to convince before the mouth breathing becomes ingrained.
As for the COVID-19 Virus, allow me to share a thought on the assumption that you have read through the above information on the Respiratory system. During this time, nose breathing becomes even more important and relevant. Nose breathing can reduce dust, pollution, allergens, smoke, bacteria and viruses from entering the lungs. As usual, I welcome your views and comments on the above. Shoot straight from the hip. May you and yours keep safe and healthy.
About the Author:
Lionel Phillips is a Doctor of Osteopathy (1975), an International Fitness & Health Instructor, Consultant and Lecturer. He has researched and designed ‘The Needs & Functions of the Human Body’ as an educational subject for inclusion in all School Curriculums World-Wide.
A past Federation Member and Israel Liaison Representative of IHRSA (International, Health & Racquet Sportsclub Association) and member of their worldwide “Panel of Experts”, Phillips is a recipient of the “Prime Ministers Award of Merit” (PM Menachem Begin).
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