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The coronavirus and its accompanying symptoms, such as wearing a mouth-nose covering, have become fixed components of our everyday lives. All the more reason to protect ourselves effectively and ensure a well-functioning immune system and the best possible health.
How can proper breathing prevent infections?
Well protected with proper breathing
5 tips for better breathing
1. Breathing through the nose
3. Breathing Training with the Relaxator
4. Breathing away fears
5. Exercises for open and well-functioning airways
How can proper breathing prevent infections?
In addition to adhering to hygiene rules, avoiding contact with strangers and the still popular "Stay at Home" as well as consistent domestic quarantine after contact with suspected infected persons, one can actively do something for one's own health.
Since viruses are transmitted via the air we breathe or the aerosols contained in it and then primarily settle in the respiratory tract, correct breathing technique plays a particularly important role in preventing infection. With proper breathing - especially abdominal breathing - the upper and lower respiratory tract remain fully functional and resistant and have something to counter the virus in an emergency.
Daily, 10,000 to 20,000 litres of air flow through the lungs when we breathe. Our daily breath naturally contains lots of bacteria, viruses and the finest particles - in one day we breathe in up to 100 million of them, according to research by the Swedish Karolinska Institute.
Well protected with a mouth-nose mask and proper breathing
Wearing a mouth-nose mask (also called a community mask) has become extremely important worldwide since the outbreak of the Corona virus. And even though this measure helps to protect oneself and others, numerous medical experts warn that the common protective masks do not offer sufficient protection against viruses in the air we breathe. Moreover, because the masks are uncomfortable to wear, there is an increased risk of grabbing one's face while wearing the mask to adjust it. Furthermore, most masks only offer this limited protection for three to four hours anyway and then have to be replaced.
What often happens besides the fact that the masks are not worn properly?
What is often ignored is the fact that many wearers, especially children, breathe through their mouths under their masks: the higher breathing resistance under the mask makes it more strenuous to breathe through the nose, so we switch to mouth breathing.
However, knowing that breathing through the nose is a major contributor to health, it quickly becomes clear that wearing a mouth-nose guard can be counterproductive if there is insufficient, incorrect breathing.
5 tips for better breathing
There is more to a strong defence system than willpower and muscle or physical strength. The key to health is proper, conscious breathing! Today we know that an improved breathing technique is not only crucial for a strong immune system, but also has a positive effect on both physical and mental health: correct breathing ensures inner calm and composure, which in turn allows the immune system to work optimally. With just five simple tricks, everyone can do something for their (breathing) health.
1. Breathe through the nose
Skin, stomach, nose and lungs - these four important organs are constantly exposed to "threats" from viruses, bacteria, fungal spores and other pollutants. Our skin and stomach have an acidic PH, the skin has a PH of 5.5, the stomach of 1.5 to 3, which normally gives both of them effective protection against unwanted external influences.
The lungs, on the other hand, are exposed to constant "threats" from viruses, bacteria, fungal spores and pollutants.
The lungs, on the other hand, have an alkaline PH of 7.6, which is essential to ensure the transport of oxygen into the blood. However, like the skin and stomach, this high PH value prevents the lungs from being protected from particles entering from the outside. This is where the fourth organ comes into play: the nose.
The air we breathe is full of bacteria, viruses and other fine particles. 75 per cent of these particles and viruses are filtered out as they pass through the nose - or more precisely, the mucous membrane and cilia. By contrast, when we breathe through the mouth, the air ends up unfiltered in the lungs, in other words, we bypass our body's first line of defence!
The further the harmful particles are passed down the trachea into our lungs, the higher the risk of infection and inflammation becomes. Considering the size of the lung surface needed for smooth oxygen uptake, 50 to 100 square metres, it becomes clear how important it is to keep it as free of vires and bacteria as possible.
There are three good reasons to breathe through your nose:
1. A cold nose increases the risk of viral infection
Our nose can be compared to a heat exchanger that warms and humidifies the air we breathe. During inhalation, the nose cools and dries out, while it moistens and warms the inhaled air. When you exhale, the temperature of the nose increases again due to the 37 degrees warm air that flows out of the body. The mucous membranes are moistened again by the moist air from the lungs. If we only breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, the nose is not warmed when we exhale. The same applies to mouth-only breathing. The nose becomes cold and dry.
Research has shown that rhinoviruses, which cause colds and upper respiratory infections, multiply much faster when the nose cools down. The colder the nose, the more the immune defence is suppressed, which in turn leads to an ideal breeding ground for multiplying cold viruses. At present, we do not know exactly how the Corona virus reacts, but it cannot be ruled out that a cold nose, i.e. improper breathing, favours its spread in the body.
2. Nitric oxide has antibacterial and antiviral effects
Nitric oxide is an important substance produced in the nasal sinuses, as scientists at Sweden's Karolinska Institute discovered back in the mid-1990s. When inhaled through the nose, nitric oxide accompanies the incoming air to dilate the bronchial tubes so that the air can flow effortlessly into the lungs.
Another important property of nitric oxide is its antimicrobial action. Viruses and bacteria that have passed through the cilia of the nose are rendered harmless thanks to nitric oxide. In a 2005 study, scientists concluded that nitric oxide curbs the multiplication of SARS viruses. The Conrona virus belongs to the same viral strain as the SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Sydrome).
In addition, nitric oxide causes blood vessels in the lung tissue to dilate, which results in more oxygen getting from the lungs into the blood.
However, when we breathe in through our mouths, the air we breathe is not enriched with nitric oxide and the above positive aspects do not apply.
3. CO2 has an antibacterial effect
When we breathe in through our nose, our breathing rate decreases, which causes the CO2 concentration in our body to increase. CO2 has antibacterial properties, which is why it has been added to the packaging of perishable foods such as packaged bread, coffee and chicken meat since the 1930s to make them more shelf stable. Here, a study by the Karolinska Institute describes that the multiplication of staphylococci was 1,000 times higher when the food was packaged in normal air compared to CO2 and air. A technical paper in the Australian Nature from 2019 impressively explains that viruses and bacteria present in water are inactivated by the addition of CO2. In addition, the Swedish scientist Prof. Jan van der Linden published in several technical articles that the risk of infections during surgery decreases significantly when the open surgical wound is exposed to 100% CO2.
Is there a link between mouth breathing and pneumonia? Upper respiratory tract infections and pneumonia are characteristic of Covid 19 patients. Pneumonia can be caused by both bacteria and viruses. Although it has not yet been conclusively researched, it seems reasonable to assume that nitric oxide and CO2, as well as properly applied breathing techniques, play a role in keeping the bronchi and lungs healthy that should not be underestimated.
The nose: keeping the airways clear
"But I can't just breathe through my nose," is often an argument of those who breathe through their mouth. One consequence of incorrect breathing is that the nose ceases to perform its actual function because it is not being "used". Lack of air flow causes less air pressure in the nose, which over time causes the open passages to contract and become narrower. This has been shown in studies of patients who can no longer breathe through their nose due to laryngectomy.
Inside the nose, under the turbinate, there is an erectile tissue that swells as nasal breathing improves and ensures that the nose is clear. A stuffy nose is often a sign that breathing is not correct.
The narrowing of the nasal airways and passages, accompanied by a blocked nose is the logical response of our natural defence system to maintain optimal CO2 pressure in the body. CO2 is released in the body and excreted through exhalation. However, if a CO2 deficit develops in the body, it reduces the outflow by constricting the airways.
When one begins to optimise breathing and breathe through the nose, thus decreasing the breathing rate, more CO2 remains in the body. As a consequence, tension is released because the body can give up its defensive posture, i.e. tension.
Taping the mouth?
An effective, if at first strange, way to improve nasal breathing is to tape the mouth with Sleep Tape at bedtime. A good, restful night's sleep is essential for vitality and health. During sleep, the body regenerates, healing and repair processes take place. Accordingly, how we breathe during this time is critical.
People who have tried this method report that they not only sleep more peacefully, but are also more rested in the morning and that previously blocked noses become unblocked.
Sleeping (and breathing) with the mouth open, on the other hand, does not meet the body's needs because it puts it into a permanent state of latent hyperventilation, which not only leads to a lack of oxygen but also to more harmful particles being inhaled. Taping the mouth is a remarkably simple and inexpensive measure to ensure that the mouth stays closed at night and the nose does its job.
Although at first the idea of a taped mouth may seem frightening and uncomfortable, it is usually just a mental block that will subside once you have tried it for a couple of minutes.
As an introduction to the new breathing technique, you can also start taping during the day or, for example, 15 minutes before you go to bed. This way, you quickly get used to the tape and can soon wear it all night. If you don't have a special sleep tape, you can also use normal surgical or bandage tape.
Diminished breathing through the nose leads to poor airflow and negative pressure in the sinuses, this makes the region prone to increased bacteria and inflammation. For better airflow in the sinuses, there is a very simple remedy, according to the Karolinska Institute: humming. Humming when exhaling through the nose also increases nitric oxide levels by a factor of 15 to 20. We remember: nitric oxide has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial effects.
Here is a very simple guide to humming:
- Close your mouth, tongue resting in its natural position behind the incisors against the roof of the mouth.
- When you exhale, "say" "Hmmmm..." with your mouth closed. As you do so, the glottis contracts and pushes the air through the nose, creating the buzzing sound.
- You should feel slight vibrations in your throat; they stimulate air circulation and thus the production of nitric oxide in your nose and sinuses.
- Buzzing on the exhale for 20 to 40 breaths (about 5 to 10 minutes) two to four times a day can help regenerate a chronically blocked nose.
To enhance the effect, you can gently massage the area around the nose and above the eyes (where the sinuses, which are also connected to the nose, are located) while humming. If you have a sore throat, you can also include the area of the throat and the base of the tongue in the massage to stimulate the blood circulation there as well.
All exercises can be done naturally.
All exercises can of course also be used preventatively, for example when a cold is coming on.
By the way, massaging the larynx also stimulates the vagus nerve, which is directly connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our relaxation and digestion.
3. Breathing training with the relaxer
The aim of the Relaxator breathing trainer is to optimise respiration by lengthening the phase of exhalation to increase the intake of oxygen. All organs - brain, heart, muscles and eyes - depend on sufficient oxygen supply for their function. With the help of the relaxer, the body learns to breathe deeply into the abdomen again, expanding the diaphragm, which results in more oxygen being absorbed..
For those who do not have a relaxer, the effect can be brought about on the exhale with the help of a straw, pursed lips or consciously tensed laryngeal muscles.
The benefits of the relaxer for improved abdominal breathing are obvious:
1. Strengthening the respiratory muscles
Our breathing muscles consist of the diaphragm as well as abdominal muscles and muscles in the chest, neck and shoulders.
When we breathe in, 70 to 80 percent of the force comes from our most important breathing muscle, the diaphragm. When using the relaxer, the resistance it provides exercises the entire respiratory musculature. And when these muscles work better, breathing deepens, increasing the efficiency of oxygen-CO2 exchange in the lungs.
2. Increasing air circulation in the lungs and nose
Breathing too shallowly not only prevents efficient gas exchange, but also leads to stale air and thus shortness of breath in the deeper regions of the lungs due to lack of the necessary circulation. Optimal ventilation of the lungs resembles a steady flow comparable to that of a babbling brook. In the case of mouth breathing or constricted airways, the air in the lower part of the lungs stagnates - comparable to the turbid water of a pond. Breathing with a breathing trainer such as the Relaxator not only improves the pressure in the nose and sinuses, leading to improved circulation even in the deep lung tissues, but also promotes residual exhalation
3. Stress reduction as an immune booster
Have you ever wondered why people often get sick at the weekend or at the beginning of a holiday? It's simple: under stress, the activity of our immune system is suppressed - in times of highest tension, we don't have time to get sick. Then relaxation sets in and the immune system or defences are activated and work at full speed for a short time, for example to eliminate unwanted bacteria from our body.
Preventively, the effect of the relaxer also comes into play here. The phase of exhalation, which is prolonged by the use of the relaxer, signals "relaxation" to the body. At the same time, the long exhalation has a positive effect on the inhalation, which subsequently becomes deeper and thus better supplies the lungs with air. Overall, breathing slows down, which in turn leads to stress reduction in everyday life.
4. Stimulation of the lymphatic flow
Our lymphatic system, an important part of our immune system, depends on the movement of our largest breathing muscle, the diaphragm. All abdominal organs produce "waste products" that are carried away by the lymphatic system. By the way, more lymph fluid flows through our body than blood. Since the lymph fluid or system has no pump of its own, it is dependent on the muscular activity of our body. Since the diaphragm is constantly rising and falling, it plays a particularly important role in the lymphatic system. If the activity of our diaphragm is reduced, for example by breathing too shallowly, this also restricts our lymphatic flow and thus the cleansing of our organism.
5. Efficient energy management by balancing the nervous system
The autonomic nervous system controls all automatic processes in the body and consists of two areas: the sympathetic, activating area and the parasympathetic, calming area. The sympathetic part of the nervous system is responsible for putting the body into activity such as something like fight or flight mode, the parasympathetic part is responsible for rest, recovery and the "energy saving mode" in the body.
When the sympathetic nervous system is active, we usually use more energy than necessary and feel exhausted afterwards. Breath training with the Relaxator is an effective way to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and thus prevent us from putting ourselves under more stress and thus using more energy than necessary. And that's just by breathing properly!
4. Breathe away anxiety
Retained emotions, underlying conflicts - what is the price? Whether it's worry, trauma, anger, grief or fears and all their side effects such as avoidance strategies or even addictive substances and even unwise eating: every emotional burden costs our body energy and strength. This loss of energy in turn puts an excessive strain on our immune system. In addition, worries and fears increase the stress level, which in turn also puts an additional strain on the immune system.
At this point, too, we can be consciously aware of the fact that we are not eating sensibly.
However, conscious breathing can help us to face our fears and worries and find constructive solutions.
With a simple exercise, it is already possible to cope better with fears.
Exercise Part 1: Face Your Fears
Take 5 to 10 minutes and list all the situations or people that make you angry, upset, stressed or scared. Include fears that may have been with you since childhood
Exercise Part 2: Breathe
This exercise will help you to face and overcome your fears. Also, in any situation that takes you outside your "comfort zone", the breathing technique will help you reduce stress and build confidence.
Through rhythmic breathing, you will be able to feel your own energy.
Through rhythmic, slow and deep breathing, you will be able to face your fears and take a closer look at them with the intention of dissolving them.
- Take 5 to 10 minutes
- Imagine one or more of your listed persons/situations as vivid and real as possible. Feel into your body: Where do you feel tension or even pain? Allow your emotions to show themselves.
- Now pay attention to how you breathe during the "journey". If your breathing rate increases, your breath becomes shallower, this is completely normal.
- Now concentrate on your breath and deep, slow and rhythmic breaths, systematically lengthening your exhalation. In this way, your breath ensures that you feel safe even in stressful situations. By the way: The Relaxator is the perfect tool to perfect this kind of breathing!
Exercise Part 3: Reflect on your fears
Finish the exercise by reflecting on your fears: Where do they come from? What are they trying to protect you from? What can you learn from them? What do they say about you? All your fears have a purpose. When you start to name your fears concretely, you can succeed in recognising their deeper meaning and thus possible solutions.
5. Exercises for open and well-functioning airways
The exercises described below serve to widen your airways, stimulate their function and strengthen and relax the respiratory muscles. Create an exercise programme of about 10 minutes to do daily or as needed
Between each exercise, take a few quiet breaths and listen to your body before moving on to the next exercise. Sit upright and keep your breathing relaxed and rhythmic with deep, long breaths.
Again, it is recommended that you take a few quiet breaths between each exercise and listen to your body before moving on to the next one.
Once again, it is advisable to use the relaxer, which helps to make the exercises effective and long-lasting. The exercises will help you to be more active in your everyday life and thus to improve your health and quality of life.
1. Activation of the diaphragm
- Stand upright and support your hands at your sides: your thumbs are at the back below the ribs, index and middle fingers are at the front on the lower rib arches
- Fill your lungs against the resistance of your fingers
- Inhale for 4 seconds and hold the breath for 6 seconds
- Exhale for 12 seconds and then pause for 4 seconds
2. Stretching the neck and throat
- Get into a kneeling position and support yourself on your buttocks or hips with your hands
- Exhale, bringing your chin towards your sternum
- Inhale while moving your head and body slightly backwards in an arc, feeling your ribs widen
- On the next exhalation, bring your head back in an arc towards your sternum
- Repeat the exercise slowly and consciously several times
3. arms overhead
- Sit upright, preferably cross-legged, and make yourself long, stretching your arms diagonally upwards
- Inhale and exhale slowly and rhythmically
- Feel your diaphragm expand laterally with each breath
- Exercise 30 breaths
4. Looking over your shoulder
You can do this exercise while sitting or standing
- Exhale while bringing the head to the left
- Inhale and bring your head to the centre
- Exhale while turning your head to the right
- Do this exercise deliberately and slowly
5th back twist
This exercise is performed standing upright
- Your hands rest on your shoulders, elbows and shoulders forming a line
- Exhale while turning your upper body to the left
- Inhale and come back to the centre
- Exhale and now turn your upper body to the right
Your head automatically follows the movement of the upper body and your nose is always directly above the sternum (breastbone). Do this exercise slowly and consciously.
6. The Skier
- Inhale while stretching your arms towards the ceiling
- Inhale, bend your knees slightly and go from the hips into a deep forward bend with your entire torso, bringing your hands together behind your back
- Inhale and return your upper body to its normal position
With these tips and exercises you can train your breathing muscles specifically and improve your breathing technique. You will see that you feel more vital, alert and concentrated. Just try it out!