By Dr Mercola
One of the most consistent recommendations for sleep apneathough is to normalize your weight. Reducing grains and sugarsas I discuss in my new book, The No-Grain Diet, is one effective way to do that.
While this study found that drug-based antidepressantswere helpful for sleep apnea, the implications are clear andobvious that any approach that improves depression will likelyhelp sleep apnea.
It is important to recognize though that non-drug basedtherapies rarely have the funding and support required tobe studied.
So, it’s likely that non-drug-based solutions designedto treat depression will be helpful. Soda, juices, sugar-coatedgrain cereals, candies, cookies, doughnuts, chips, popcorn,ice cream, pizza and vegetables oils are loaded with transomega-6 fats along with a deficiency of omega-3 oils. Theamazing thing is that so many can actually survive this nutritionalassault.
When it comes to documenting the devastation that depressionhas on us, the material is identical from a natural approach.Depression, or more accurately, un-repaired emotional short-circuiting,absolutely devastates our health and, in my estimation, causesfar more profound negative health consequences than all therotten food, toxins and poisons we expose ourselves to.
Adequate treatment for depression in a traditional modelis a nearly universal synonym for drug therapy or ineffectivecognitive counseling. Earlier this year another major review clearly showed that there is very little differencebetween most all antidepressants and a placebo.
- The Buteyko Breathing Method is a powerful approach for reversing health problems associated with improper breathing, the most common of which are overbreathing and mouthbreathing, including poor sleep and sleep apnea
- When you stop mouth breathing and learn to bring your breathing volume toward normal, you have better oxygenation of your tissues and organs, including your brain
- You breathe to remove excess CO2, but it’s still important that your breathing volume is normal, to maintain ideal CO2 levels in your lungs. Lack of CO2 constricts your blood vessels and detrimentally affects your heart function
- The heavier you breathe, the less oxygen that’s actually delivered throughout your body due to lack of carbon dioxide, which causes your blood vessels to constrict
- Processed foods, which tend to acidify your blood in an attempt to maintain normal pH, will make you breathe heavier. This is because one of the roles of carbon dioxide, which is in your blood, is to regulate pH
Interestingly, processed foods, which tend to acidify your blood in an attempt to maintain normal pH, will also make you breathe heavier. This is because one of the roles of carbon dioxide, which is in your blood, is to regulate pH. Besides water, raw fruits and vegetables have the least impact on your breathing, followed by cooked vegetables. Processed, high protein and high grain meals have the greatest adverse effect on the way you breathe.
The Buteyko Method teaches you how to bring your breathing volume back toward normal or, in other words, to reverse what’s called chronic hyperventilation or chronic overbreathing. When your breathing is normal, you have better oxygenation of tissues and organs, including your brain.
Rhinitis, which involves nasal congestion and runny nose, is a very common cause of mouth breathing. This in turn is associated with increasingly troublesome problems, including:
- Poor sleep and insomnia
- Mood disorders
- Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea
The Effects of Nitric Oxide
Nitric oxide is found in your nose, so when you breathe through your nose, you carry a small portion of the gas into your lungs. As explained by Patrick, nitric oxide plays a significant role in homeostasis, or the maintaining of balance within your body. Nitric oxide is also:
- A significant bronchodilator
- An antibacterial agent that helps neutralize germs and bacteria
- A vasodilator
This is one of the amazing aspects of Buteyko therapy that I noticed. As you breathe exclusively through your nose and abandon mouth breathing, your nose starts to water and you frequently have to blow it. But amazingly your nasal passages eventually expand quite dramatically and it becomes much easier to get all your air through your nose rather than your mouth. This is true even for high intensity exercises like Peak Fitness. It may take a few months to work up to it, but once you are there you will rarely if even need to breathe through your mouth again, even under the most extreme circumstances.
Asthmatics typically breathe through the mouth. They also tend to breathe heavier and have a higher respiratory rate than non-asthmatics. According to Patrick, there’s a feedback loop, in that the heavier breathing volume that’s coming into your lungs cause a disturbance of blood gasses, including the loss of carbon dioxide (CO2). Contrary to popular belief, carbon dioxide is not merely a waste gas. Although you breathe to get rid of excess CO2, it’s very important that your breathing volume is normal, in order to maintain a certain amount of CO2 in your lungs.
“If you’re breathing too heavily, you lose carbon dioxide, and smooth muscles surrounding your airways constrict. Another factor from an asthmatic point of view is dehydration of the inner walls of the airways. It’s a combination of these factors that cause the airways to constrict. Heavy breathing is causing the loss of carbon dioxide. And carbon dioxide also helps to relax smooth muscles surrounding your blood vessels. So, it’s not just the airways which constrict when you’re breathing too much, but it’s also the blood vessels.”
As your airway constricts, there is a natural reaction to breathe more intensely as a compensatory mechanism. However, this causes even greater loss of carbon dioxide, and cooling of your airway causes it to close even more. In other words, asthma symptoms feed back to the condition.
You can test this out by taking five or six big breaths in and out of your mouth. Most people will begin to experience some light-headedness or dizziness. While you might reason that taking bigger breaths through your mouth allows you to take more oxygen into your body, which should make you feel better, the opposite actually happens. This is because you’re getting rid of too much carbon dioxide from your lungs, which causes your blood vessels to constrict—hence the light-headedness. So, the heavier you breathe, the less oxygen that’s actually delivered throughout your body due to lack of carbon dioxide, which causes your blood vessels to constrict.
“Also, when you breathe too much, your red blood cells hold on to the oxygen and don’t deliver so readily to where it is needed throughout your body. It’s called the Bohr effect; discovered in 1904 by Christian Bohr,” Patrick says. “In order for oxygenation to take place, we need the presence of carbon dioxide. Heavy breathing causing the loss of CO2 is not only causing blood vessels to constrict, but it’s also causing a greater affinity of the red blood cells with oxygen.
… If you were to look at the basic premise of breathing, we should not hear our breathing during rest. We should see very little movement from the chest and tummy. Ideally, most of our breathing is diaphragmatic, but we shouldn’t see it. The mouth should be closed, breathing should be regular, and breathing should be effortless.”
How Breathing Plays into Sports
The way you breathe also affects your heart, and Patrick has been looking at the effects of breathing in athletics for the last two years. Typically, athletes who experience cardiac arrest or heart attack don’t fit the model of a person with heart problems. Most are in the prime of health. However, according to Patrick, many athletes do breathe very heavily, for obvious reasons.
“The heavy breathing, which is causing a loss of carbon dioxide, is causing reduced blood flow to the heart,” he explains. “The heart is experiencing less blood flow… [and] less delivery of oxygen. The heart, like any other muscle, also needs oxygen to perform properly. In the event that the heart is having insufficient blood flow and insufficient oxygen, it can alter the electrocardiogram readings, including and causing arrhythmia.
Arrhythmia is when the pulse gets out of control and gets too fast. If the pulse gets completely chaotic, the heart may stop, which will cut circulation off to the rest of the body, including the brain. So it’s really important for all of us that our breathing is normal, not only elite athletes or those people who are involved with athletics.”
Patrick is also investigating high-intensity training from the point of view of breath-holding (which I’ll review in the next section).
“When you subject your body to a reduced partial pressure of oxygen, as is the case during high-intensity training… you’re going into anaerobic metabolism, so you’re working without air. Your oxygen partial pressure is slightly dropping.
What happens is that your spleen, which is an organ located just under your diaphragm (it’s basically your blood bank), it contains about eight percent of the total red blood cell count. But if you’re doing high-intensity exercise or involving breath holding during exercise, the arterial saturation of oxygen is dropping. The spleen will sense this drop of oxygen, so it will release more red blood cells into circulation.
Now, another factor is that your kidneys, during high-intensity exercise and during breath-hold exercise, become slightly hypoxic; there’s reduced oxygen in the blood. In response to that, your kidneys will synthesize a hormone called EPO, which stimulates the maturation of red blood cells in your bone marrow.
So, the benefits of high-intensity exercise and also incorporating breath-holding into walking, for instance, will lead to improved oxygen-carrying capacity in red blood cells. We’ve heard of many athletes who have to do this unethically and illegally. But we should really tap into our body’s natural resource, because our body has everything that we need, if we know how to guide it.”
Exercises to Reverse Your Mouthbreathing
Fortunately, it’s actually quite easy to address mouth breathing. Simply take a small gentle breath in through your nose, and a small gentle breath out through your nose. Then, hold your nose while gently nodding your head up and down; holding your breath for as long as possible. Then, release your nose to breathe through your nose again. Wait for about 30 seconds to a minute, and then repeat the exercise.
“If you hold your breath or do that exercise about six times, you will start experiencing nasal decongestion. When breathing volume is brought toward normal, the nose will remain free [of congestion],” Patrick explains.
Keep in mind that while it is a perfectly safe exercise for the vast majority of people, if you have any cardiac complaints, such as high blood pressure, are pregnant, have type 1 diabetes or experience panic attacks, then please do not hold your breath beyond the first urges to breathe.
A useful tool with Buteyko breathing is a simple concept called the control pause. The control pause provides feedback about your relative breathing volume. To obtain an accurate measurement, please rest for 10 minutes before measuring.
- Take a small, silent breath in through your nose and allow a small silent breath out through your nose.
- Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.
- Count the number of seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe.
- At the first definite desire to breathe in, you may also feel the first involuntary movements of your breathing muscles. Your tummy may jerk and the area around your neck may contract.
- Your inhalation at the end of the breath should be calm.
- Release your nose and breathe in through it.
Remember that taking your control pause entails holding your breath only until you feel the first involuntary movements of your breathing muscles, or the first stress of your body telling you to “breathe.” If you had to take a big breath at the end of the breath hold, then you held your breath for too long.
A very good control pause amounts to 40 seconds, and a good control pause amounts to 30 seconds. A control pause of 25 seconds indicates room for improvement, while a control pause of 15 seconds or less is indicative of symptoms such as respiratory complaints (asthma, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness or nasal problems), sleep disordered breathing (insomnia, fatigue, snoring, or obstructive sleep apnea) or anxiety complaints (excessive worrying, high stress levels, poor concentration) or any other condition resulting from chronic overbreathing. The significance of the control pause for asthma is explained in the video below.