Feb 222013

When is the last time you paid attention to the way you breathe?

There are two types of breathers: abdominal and chest breathers. When abdominal breathing, an individual utilizes his/her diaphragm and abdominal musculature to enlarge the chest cavity, creating a negative pressure that pulls air into the lungs. In contrast, a chest breather utilizes his/her neck, chest, and rib musculature to lift the chest cavity and inflate the lungs. You may be asking yourself, both methods get air into my lungs, can one really be better than the other? The short answer is yes!

Chest breathing poses many health problems to an individual:

Decreased oxygenation of blood: Chest breathers are unable to get as much oxygen in their lungs as abdominal breathers. In chest breathing, the lower layers of the lungs, which are most valuable for oxygen transport, receive little fresh air, so oxygenation of blood in the lungs is diminished. In diaphragmatic, or natural breathing, fresh air is perfused homogenously throughout the entire lung field, resulting in better oxygenation.

Lymphatic drainage of the organs is reduced: The lymphatic system is like a filter for your body. In addition to the liver, the lymphatic system is important for eliminating toxins from the body. Abdominal breathers have better lymphatic movement because unlike the cardiovascular system, which has a pump (the heart), the lymphatic system relies on muscle contraction and movement to push fluid. The lymph nodes connected to the stomach, kidneys, liver, pancreas, spleen, large and small intestines are located just under the diaphragm – over 60% of all lymph nodes in total! In chest breathers, where the diaphragm is not moving, lymph fluid becomes stagnant, and toxins build up in the organs. Abdominal breathing increases the elimination of toxins from the visceral organs by about 15 times.

Tissue oxygenation is reduced: Chest breathers inherently take more respirations, or breathes, per minute because of the limited oxygen in the blood, resulting in hyperventilation. Hyperventilation, or breathing more frequently than normal, results in less oxygen in the body cells. Overall, the slower your breathing pattern at rest, the more oxygen is delivered to the cells.

Now you may be asking, what might be causing me to breathe from my chest? Excessive stress is the biggest contributor to chest breathing. A weak core, resulting or contributing to poor posture, also limits the ability to abdominal breathe. Trying to keep a flat tummy, or sucking in your gut, also poses a problem with abdominal breathing. Finally, certain fashions, such as tight pants and belts around the waist, may predispose an individual to chest breathing.

How to determine if you are a chest or abdominal breather?

While laying on your back,place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly button. Try not to pay attention to how you are breathing, but observe how your hands move with each breath you take. In abdominal breathing, you will notice that your lower hand, or the hand over your belly button, raises higher than your other hand. In chest breathers, the opposite is true.

Changing bad habits: becoming an abdominal breather:

Same as above, lay on your back with one hand over your chest and one hand over your belly button. Concentrate on raising the hand over your stomach with long, deep breathes. Try to limit movement of your upper hand as much as possible. Gradually, practice abdominal breathing in a chair or while standing. This exercise is best performed 3 to 4 times a day.

To strengthen your diaphragm and abdominal musculature, place a heavy book or weight over your stomach and practice your abdominal, or belly breathing.

Wrap an ACE bandage or belt around your lower ribs, which will limit movement of your ribs and chest cavity during breathing, forcing you to breathe from your abdomen. Start with short periods of time, only 5 minutes or so, and gradually work your way up to a couple of hours. In a short time, you will be breaking your bad habits.

When changing bad habits, you will be amazed at how much of a change they make in your health and well-being. You may notice yourself with more energy, sleeping better, and breathing easier. The true benefit, though, is that you are cleaning out your organs and providing them with all of the oxygen they need.

Remember, adding one healthy habit a day will add years to your life! A great way to start living healthier is by making chiropractic care at Wilderness Chiropractic Health and Wellness Center a part of your new healthy lifestyle.

If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, consider calling Wilderness Chiropractic, Health and Wellness Center for a full examination of your adrenal gland to see how your body is responding to physical, chemical, and emotional stressors.

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