When you think about breathing issues, you probably think about asthma or COPD, but today we’re going to share some of the signs of dysfunctional breathing patterns. In other words, we’re talking about the way you breathe and what that can mean for your health.Keep in mind that this is NOT an exhaustive list, but a few we thought we’d highlight today that we see in our practice that impact our patients’ health.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROPER BREATHING AND DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING
Did you know that taking 10 deep belly breaths has been scientifically proven to shift us into our parasympathetic nervous system, lower our blood pressure/heart rate, reduce stress and provide an overall sense of calm? But this positive effect is only possible when you practice ‘proper breathing’ vs ‘dysfunctional breathing.’
We know what you’re thinking, “Wait… there’s a ‘wrong’ way to breathe?” In short, the answer is yes.
WHAT IS PROPER BREATHING?
Slow, deep belly breaths using your diaphragm
WHAT IS DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING?
Shallow, fast breaths from your chest/accessory muscles
5 COMMON SIGNS OF DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING — AND WHAT THEY MEAN
DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING TYPE 1:
Nasal breathing for the win! Breathing through your nose is actually the most efficient way to breathe for human beings. Studies have shown that mouth breathing can lead to poor sleep quality, learning disabilities in children, an increase in our stress response and decreased oxygen delivery to our cells.
Not sure which you are? Can you eat with mouth closed for your whole meal? Have people told you you’re a loud/aggressive eater? If yes, you might be a mouth breather. Can you go for a casual walk without having to drop your mouth open after some time to breathe? This can also be an indication of dysfunctional breathing.
DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING TYPE 2:
SNORING, SLEEP APNEA
Snoring is another sign of dysfunctional breathing and occurs when the throat or airways become narrow and unable to properly stay open, causing vibrations of throat tissue. Aside from disrupting your sleep (and your partners), loud, frequent snoring can also be one of the indicators of obstructive sleep apnea, a chronic condition in which muscles at the back of the throat are unable to keep airways open, resulting in repeated pauses in breathing.
Sleep apnea can lead to other conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, concentration issues and even depression. If you or your partner snore, it’s important to go for a sleep study and get assessed for sleep apnea.
DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING TYPE 3:
Believe it or not, eating something we are sensitive to can change how we breathe. Let’s take dairy, for example – Many people with dairy sensitivities can relate to this, because it can create excess mucus in your body and lead to nasal/sinus congestion, excess phlegm in the throat and consequent breathing difficulties.
DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING TYPE 4:
STRESS, ANXIETY, PANIC ATTACKS
Paper bag, anyone? Chronic hyperventilation has been linked to things like anxiety, agoraphobia and panic attacks. It turns out that irregular breathing, mouth breathing, and over-breathing (breathing too much air) can agitate the mind (stress, anxiety etc.) and reduce the amount of oxygen to the brain and alter carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
On the complete other end, deep, slow, belly breathing through the nose has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, activate our parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest!) and create an overall calming effect.
DYSFUNCTIONAL BREATHING TYPE 5:
If you’re feeling drained or fatigued frequently, it may be a side effect of dysfunctional breathing. Try the exercise we gave you in part 1 to find out! Chest breathers tend to feel more tired than nasal breathers – Moreover, signs of “air hunger” like sighing or yawning frequently can indicate dysfunctional breathing patterns.
HOW TMB CAN HELP YOUR BREATHING AND HEALTH
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and want to learn more about how dysfunctional breathing can impact your body, stress, energy and more, contact us today for a free consultation with our functional medicine practitioners.
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This article is excerpted from our weekly TMB Magazine — an exclusive subscriber only publication that is packed with all sorts of in-depth latest study breakdowns, functional medicine insights and wisdom from Dr. Bhat and her team.
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