THE GREAT DEBATE: THE NOSE VS THE MOUTH

Before delving into the differences between nose and mouth breathing, it's important to understand the anatomy of our respiratory system. Our nose and mouth are both entry points for air to enter our bodies, but they serve slightly different purposes in the breathing process.

  Nose Breathing: The Natural

The nose’s primary role is that of the respiratory system (breathing) and the body's natural and preferred way of taking in air, so much as an extra 20% more efficient the mouth breathing. It is the housing for the nostrils, hair (cilia) and nasal passageways. These play a vital role in our all-around health, and you probably don’t even know it. This triple threat is responsible for extremely important processes that can only occur during Nasal Breathing. Let’s look at some of the phenomenal benefits of Nasal Breathing:

Filtering and Humidifying: As we breathe through our nostril’s tiny hairs, called Cilia, act as filters capturing dust, viruses, pollutants, and around 20 billion foreign bodies from the air protecting your lungs. While this is happening the nasal passageways are warming and humidifying the air for a smoother entry to our lungs opening blood cells which can help protect us from irritation to the lungs.

Production of Nitric Oxide (NO): Through nasal breathing your body starts releasing the powerful Nitric Oxide (NO), which plays a crucial role in widening blood vessels, improving blood flow, and enhancing the exchange of gases in the lungs. This is necessary to increase Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the bloodstream, which in turn creates that beautiful giver of life, Oxygen (O2). Nitric oxide is a potent bronchodilator and vasodilator. Therefore, it helps lower blood pressure and significantly increases the lungs’ oxygen-absorbing capacity. It is also known to be a antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial.

 

Diaphragmatic Breathing: Nose breathing encourages diaphragmatic breathing, where the diaphragm (the primary muscle responsible for breathing) moves more efficiently. Think meditation style breathing as this promotes relaxation and stress reduction.

While all of this is going on you are activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System that supports rest, recovery, and digestion, rather than the part of the nervous system that is responsible for survival or stress states, such as fight or flight. That means that, even if the body is in a stressful state, nasal breathing can provide a sense of calm and allow us to function better. 

 Mouth Breathing: The Back Up

The primary purpose of the mouth, on the other hand, is to start the Digestive System and so tends to be less efficient for the use of breathing for multiple reasons:

Absence of Filtration and Humidification: When we breathe through our mouths, air bypasses the natural filtration and humidification processes of the nose. This can lead to increased respiratory infections and irritation of the lungs. If you have a respiratory issue like asthma or allergies, your ability to breathe properly will be affected negatively by mouth breathing. 

NO production of Nitric Oxide: Mouth breathing is not effectively releasing Nitric Oxide, which means the cells are not getting as much oxygen as through nasal breathing, which could lead to fatigue and stress, which can trigger the part of the nervous system that is responsible for survival or stress states, such as fight or flight.

 

Dental and Facial Effects: Chronic mouth breathing, especially in children, can lead to changes in facial structure and dental development. It can contribute to orthodontic issues, narrowing of the dental arch, jaw and palate, crowded and crooked teeth, open bite and noisy eating, speech and swallowing problems

Dry Mouth: Breathing through the mouth dries out the oral cavity, causing discomfort and potentially disrupting sleep. Dry mouth can also contribute to oral hygiene problems, bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease and contributes to disrupting the digestive process from lack of saliva production. Mouth breathing dries out the tissues in your mouth and throat, making them more prone to irritation and vibrations, which are key snoring triggers.  

Emergency Breathing: The mouth is typically reserved for emergency situations when you need to take in air rapidly, such as during intense physical activity or when you're struggling to breathe through your nose due to congestion. 

Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Mouth breathing is closely linked to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, conditions that can seriously impair sleep quality along with your overall health mentally, emotionally and physically. Mouth breathers often have their tongues drop to the back of their throats during sleep, further obstructing and reducing the airway space and thus increasing the likelihood of a snoring sound. 

The nose vs. mouth breathing debate doesn't necessarily have a one-size-fits-all answer. It's clear that nose breathing offers a plethora of benefits, from improved air filtration to better relaxation responses. Practicing conscious nose breathing during periods of relaxation, mindfulness, and everyday activities can contribute to better overall health.

Nose breathing might not be something we often think about, but its benefits are undeniable. From improved oxygen intake and lung function to reduced stress and enhanced dental health, it's a simple practice with far-reaching effects. By prioritizing nose breathing in your daily life, you can tap into its potential to elevate your overall health and well-being.

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