After 18 years researching, training practitioners and helping people with breathing disorders, I realise there is still plenty to learn about breathing. We are only now exploring the frontiers of this "lost art" and how it impacts on human health and well-being. I am reading James Nestor's book Breath: The New Science of a lost Art. It is one of the finest and most thoroughly researched books on breathing that I have read.
300,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens had bigger skulls. Cooked food meant our heads shrank; alongside a growing brain, our airways got narrower. Urbanisation then led us to breathe less deeply and less healthily. And so today more than 90% of us breathe incorrectly.
We might have been breathing all our life, but we need to learn how to breathe properly! In Breath, James Nestor meets cutting-edge scientists at Harvard and experiments on himself in labs at Stanford to see the impact of bad breathing. He revives the lost, and recently scientifically proven, wisdom of swim coaches, Indian mystics, stern-faced Russian cardiologists, Czechoslovakian Olympians and New Jersey choral conductors – the world's foremost 'pulmonauts' – to show how breathing in specific patterns can trigger our bodies to absorb more oxygen, and he explains the benefits for everyone that result: from staying healthy and warding off anxiety, to improving focus and losing weight.
Breath is a fascinating ride through evolution, medicine and physiology – and extreme sports. But mostly it explores you. Structured as a journey with chapters from the mouth and nose through to the lungs and nervous system, it is non-fiction at its breath-taking best.
This New York Times best seller has the potential to help transform medicine. Learning to breathe properly and always through your nose imparts health benefits to help us deal with the many environmental and social stresses of this modern age. It can assist to eliminate the overuse of medications, which in many instances are merely suppressing symptoms and often have “side” effects that can be worse than the disorder for which the medications are prescribed.
James Nestor was interviewed by Jessie Mulligan on Radio New Zealand on Tuesday, 15 September 2020:
The New Zealand Government and front-line workers in our hospitals are doing an exemplary job in containing the spread of this virus. Advice on social distancing, regular hand washing wearing a mask in public and the tracer app have all helped us dodge the worst of this virus to date. However, missing from official guidelines is advice on how you can boost your natural immunity.
Many front-line doctors are frustrated by the lack of transparency about how health decisions are made and feel shut out of decision making. I am one of many integrative practitioners in Australasia who have signed an open letter to the Australian and New Zealand Governments offering our assistance. You can read the open letter here.
Those most susceptible to corona virus are people with co-morbidities like diabetes and heart disease, and the elderly. Poor nutrition and cold, damp overcrowded housing are also factors in transmission and infection. In addition to this, studies in the UK, Europe and Ireland have identified vitamin D deficiency as a significant factor in morbidity and mortality.
Researchers from Trinity College in Dublin have called on the Irish Government to change its position on vitamin D after investigating the association between vitamin D levels and COVID-19 mortality. The study showed that countries where people had lower vitamin D levels experienced the highest infection and death rates in Europe. Read the Full TILDA study
Dr Brighthope, who has spent decades advocating for vitamin supplements and pioneered the first postgraduate medical course in nutrition in Australia, is lobbying for change in Australia to mirror the reforms from overseas. He said vitamin D could be one of several key planks to limit the death toll and infections in susceptible cohorts such as the elderly.
“We know so much about vitamin D already, and the immunity benefits it provides in fighting a range of viruses including in the common cold, flu and pox families,” Dr Brighthope said. “We also know a safe and effective vaccine could be a long way off, if indeed we ever get one. It seems madness that in the meantime we are not using all defences available to us, especially one as cost effective as this.” Read the full article
For practical steps you can take to boost your immunity and minimise the risk of developing a severe respiratory infection, follow the links below to articles I co-wrote in March of this year. They include low, slow nasal breathing, humming to boost nitric oxide, adequate sleep, good nutrition and supplementing with Vitamin D, C and zinc.
These articles can be downloaded from our website:
Please note neither this post nor any linked articles claim that nasal breathing, humming alone will prevent or cure COVID-19. However, now more than ever it makes sense both for physical and psychological reasons to take any steps that may improve our health. Like the advice to wash our hands frequently, the advice to nasal breathe also gives us a sense that there is something we can do and a sense of control. And anything that makes us feel less stressed is also good for our immune system.
We are offering in-clinic courses and online consultations at Alert Level 2.5
There are 3 more in-clinic courses scheduled for 2020. We are limited to 10 per course so it pays to book early. There are 3 remaining places on our next school holiday programme running 28 September – 1st October, 11am–12pm.
To book a consultation or course, or for more information about our programmes, contact us on 09-360 6291 or by email. You can also book online.
Ngā mihi Glenn White
Helping people with breathing disorders since 2001