‘In through the nose, out through the mouth’ – so the old saying goes.
But switching to breathing exclusively through the nose can bring a range of physical and mental health benefits, experts say.
The simple act of closing your mouth can make you more attractive, claims Mads Tömörkènyi, a longevity scientist and biomechanics specialist from Denmark.
This is because the breathing technique can prevent crooked teeth, “lazy” eyes and an elongated face, he said.
And studies show that nasal breathing can also boost brain function, lower blood pressure, and relieve stress and anxiety.
Here, experts explain why nasal breathing is your easy gateway to better health.
But switching to breathing exclusively through the nose can bring a range of physical and mental health benefits, experts say
Mads, founder of fitness brand MT Performance, said, “The mouth is only designed for breathing when your nasal passage is constricted from a cold or allergies, other than for eating and talking.”
He said nasal breathing “can change the muscle and tissue structure in the face, ultimately making you look more attractive.”
Mads said, “Mouth breathing overstimulates certain cheek muscles. This can make your face appear longer, make your eyes “lazier” or even change the shape of your nose.
“Mouth breathing that leads to narrowing of the airways causes the lower jaw (the largest and strongest bone in the face, which is part of the jaw) to become understimulated. It shrinks in size, just like the airways.’
The consequence of jaw shrinking is crowded and shaky teeth, said Dr. Richard Marques, Harley Street dentist.
He said, “The long-term adjustment of nasal breathing will help the muscles in the face to support jaw alignment and straight teeth.”
Prevent bad breath
Dr. Marques said mouth breathing is “harmful to the teeth, gums and overall oral health.”
He said: ‘Excessive mouth breathing causes the mouth to dry out, which can lead to chronic bad breath problems.
‘The gums are also affected by mouth breathing and can become quite red, swollen and irritated. This increases the risk of gum disease.
“Mouth breathing can also be a cause of tooth decay and sensitivity, as acid levels in the mouth increase.”
Yanar Alkayat, a personal trainer and registered yoga therapist from London, explained that nasal breathing can address stress and anxiety.
She said, “The first thing you notice about breathing through the nose – especially on the exhale – is that it’s easier to slow down the breath. It is physically more difficult to breathe slowly through the mouth.
“The slow exhalation sends signals down the vagus nerve (the longest cranial nerve in the body that goes from your stomach to the brain).”
This triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, a network of nerves that relaxes the body after stress or danger, for example by slowing the heart rate.
How to start nasal breathing
There are dozens of breathing techniques, including 4-7-8, box breathing, and alternate nostril breathing. Experts warn to start nasal breathing at the easiest level and avoid drastic measures.
Close the mouth
Gillian McMichael, a transformational coach and meditation teacher from Edinburgh, said: ‘Go back to basics. If you find yourself breathing through the mouth at rest, correct that.”
Signs that you are a mouth breather include a dry tongue, waking up in the morning with a dry mouth and difficulty breathing comfortably through the nose.
During the day
Gill said: ‘I would suggest that people set themselves a goal for doing breathing exercises. For example at breakfast, lunch and dinner, just to see if it makes a difference.’
At your desk
Alternate nostril breathing, where you pinch one nostril while you inhale or exhale with the other, is practiced in yoga to boost energy.
It’s known as nadi shodhana pranayama, which translates to ‘subtle energy-purifying breathing technique’ – a perfect pick-me-up at your desk.
Engage in meditation or yoga
Gill said, ‘One of the best things you can do to improve your breathing is learn to meditate. Take a meditation class online or use one of the many apps.’
On a walk
Mark Hallam, a personal trainer from Melbourne, said: ‘Walking is a great time to exercise. Take five to ten steps while inhaling through the nose, hold your breath for five to ten steps, then exhale for five to ten steps.
“As you get better at nasal breathing, these numbers can increase.”
In between sets at the gym
Mark said, ‘During training, in rest periods from work that isn’t particularly intense, sit down and focus on box breathing. This is where you inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, then hold for four more counts.”
Mads agreed to only start nasal breathing with light exercise “at the lowest heart rate possible” before building up.
“You immediately feel a calming effect,” Yanar said.
She said studies have shown that nasal breathing can increase heart rate variability (HRV).
She said, “The higher your HRV, the more balanced your nervous system is. It means you can experience a spike in stress and adrenaline and then recover quickly.”
Lower blood pressure
The same activation of the parasympathetic nervous system via nasal breathing can also control blood pressure, said Gillian McMichael, a transformational coach and meditation teacher from Edinburgh.
She said: ‘High blood pressure can be caused by a lot of stress and anxiety, among other things. When we are in a high state of alert, such as when we have had a big argument with someone, we naturally breathe through our mouth.
“Simple breathing techniques, such as the box method, have been proven to lower blood pressure when done regularly,” she said.
The box method involves exhaling for four counts, keeping your lungs empty for four counts, inhaling at the same rate, and holding your breath for four seconds.
In one study, participants who were instructed to do 10 minutes of nasal breathing exercises twice a day, in addition to their usual medication, saw a “statistically significant difference” in their blood pressure after just five days, compared to those who didn’t.
The pelvic floor is a network of muscles that supports organs such as the bladder, vagina, and penis.
Reinforcing it can prevent urinary incontinence and prolapse and “make sex better,” says the NHS.
During pregnancy and childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles can stretch and weaken.
Lulu Adams, a specialist in pre- and post-natal exercise, said: ‘Because nasal breathing involves inhaling through a smaller “space” than the mouth, it almost forces you to use the diaphragm to breathe, rather than the accessory muscles of breathing. to recruit the front of the neck and shoulders.
“Better involvement of the diaphragm positively impacts the entire deep core unit, including the pelvic floor.
“There is definitely a view that stronger pelvic floor muscles can help you have better orgasms.
“However, if the pelvic floor muscles are too tight, it can cause pain on penetration.”
Improves brain function
When breathing through the nose, nitric oxide is released from the body. This molecule acts as a vasodilator, meaning it opens up blood vessels.
Lulu said, “By opening up the blood vessels, particularly in the lungs, nitric oxide improves the circulation (and diffusion) of oxygen throughout the body.”
This means that more energy is delivered to the organs of the body.
With brain imaging, the University of Korea showed higher brain activation during a nasal breathing task compared to oral breathing.
Mark Hallam, a Melbourne-based personal trainer, says breathing through your nose efficiently oxygenates the body.
A small study from Colorado State University showed that nasal breathing while running can increase oxygen in the bloodstream with exercise.
This can mean “you can work longer at high intensities and recover better between work sets, ultimately helping you get more done,” said Mark.
He added, “People who breathe through their mouths limit themselves.
“You can’t train as hard or for as long as you’re chronically breathing through your mouth.” So if you can train less, you always limit your results.’
‘Mouth taping’ is an increasingly popular aid used during sleep to stimulate nasal breathing.
The approach, which involves placing tape over the lips so a person can’t easily open their mouth, could prevent snoring, advocates say.
It was shown to work in a pilot study of 30 people with mild obstructive sleep apnea – a condition in which the airways become too narrow during sleep, restricting proper breathing.
Those who wore a plaster over their mouth snored less.
However, the Sleep Foundation says more research is needed and the safety of mouth tapping at night is highly debated.
Dr. Sarah Brewer, a GP in Guernsey and medical nutritionist at Healthspan, said air passes through a purifying system in the nasal passages, as opposed to through the mouth.
“This helps filter airborne contaminants such as microbes, pollution, smoke, dust, allergens and insects.
To do this, the nose is lined with a layer of special cells and tiny hairs called cilia (too small to see). These cells produce sticky mucus to trap dirt and germs, while the cilia beat continuously to clear mucus from the sinuses to the back of the nose and throat.”
Asthma symptoms are known to worsen with exposure to dust, pollen, smoke, pollution and cold air.
“Breathing through the mouth draws cool, dry air into the lungs, which can narrow the airways,” says Patrick McKeown, author of Close Your Mouth and Asthma-Free Naturally.
“Breathing through the nose warms, moistens and filters the incoming air and utilizes the gas, nitric oxide, which is antiviral and antibacterial and helps open the airways in the lungs.”
Dating back to the 1950s, the Buteyko Breathing Method has been shown in several studies to potentially improve asthma.
It involves exhaling slowly, holding that breath for as long as possible, and inhaling only when there is moderate discomfort.
An Australian study in 1994 revealed that participants who followed the technique had 70 percent fewer asthma symptoms.
Patrick, clinical director of Buteyko Clinic International, said: ‘There have been about 20 clinical trials of the Buteyko Method for asthma. The overall results are positive.’
Always talk to your doctor before starting any breathing exercises.