Health: Dr. Zach Turner on why mouth breathing is bad for your health

Dr. Zak explains why breathing through the nose is more beneficial to health than breathing through the mouth, and not just for bad breath.

Welcome to the weekly Ask Doctor Zac column on news.com.au. This week, Dr. Zach Turner talks about why breathing through your nose is better than breathing through your mouth.

QUESTION: Hey Dr. Zach, Have I been breathing wrong all my life? Over coffee, a friend told me that he had been up all night watching YouTube videos about breathing, and that some doctors claim mouth breathing is unhealthy. I’m pretty good at picking up red flags these days, both with men and with health advice, but this one has me stumped. This is true? Or should I not fall for misinformation? Maya, 30, Sydney

REPLY: I think this is a fascinating topic and an especially important question because it forces us all to rethink the simple things our bodies do every day. Just because it happens every day doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

I’m on your friend’s side in this matter. We all breathe automatically without thinking about it. It is important to pay attention to how you breathe because it is more beneficial to breathe through your nose rather than through your mouth. The simplest reason is that nasal breathing is more natural and helps your body use the air you breathe in efficiently.

You’re probably thinking right now, “Well, it’s not me, I’m breathing through my nose, I’m doing it right now.” Well, it’s because you think about it. About 30-50 percent of adults breathe through their mouths, especially early in the day. Breathing through your mouth can lead to health problems and cause things like bad breath and dry mouth.

The beauty of your nose is that it is perfect for safe breathing. It can filter out foreign particles thanks to the hairs in the nose. It can humidify inhaled air, making it easier to use by the lungs, and it produces nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator. It’s just a scientific way of saying that it dilates blood vessels to help improve oxygen circulation in your body.

Your mouth is perfect for eating, drinking and talking, but it doesn’t have any of the graceful features that your nose has. Breathing through the mouth increases the risk of developing asthma, tooth decay, gingivitis, exposure to foreign particles such as bacteria and pathogens, and snoring.

Breathing doesn’t have to be that hard – you can make it easy again with a few tricks and tips.

use your nose

Consciously use your nose to breathe, and gradually you will train your body to do so subconsciously. You will get all the benefits that I have listed above.

Don’t Forget Your Belly

People “belly breathe” and just above your stomach is the main muscle involved in the process of breathing – the diaphragm. Proper breathing begins through the nose and then moves towards the abdomen as the diaphragm contracts, the abdomen expands and the lungs fill with air. This is the most efficient way to breathe, as it pushes against your lungs, creating negative pressure in your chest, causing air to enter your lungs.

Lead a healthy lifestyle

Regular exercise keeps your lungs functioning properly, and a balanced diet will help you stay active. Avoid large meals and foods that cause bloating to prevent bloating and restricting diaphragmatic movement.

In truth, bad breath is a pandemic in its own right. The way we breathe is connected to everything from how we think and feel, to how we relate to the world, and to the health and balance of every system in our body.

To improve nasal breathing, try exercises such as alternating nostril breathing, belly breathing, and fire breathing. These techniques can help you master nasal breathing while improving lung function and reducing stress.

Tape your mouth

It may sound strange, but there are several foods that help keep your mouth shut while you sleep. Over the years, I have recommended to some of my patients that they apply elastic medical tape to their lips before going to bed.

Now that doesn’t mean taping your mouth – a small amount placed vertically stimulates the nerves without making you feel like your breath or mouth is restricted. This helps you both consciously and subconsciously keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose. It often takes only a week or two to retrain yourself to return to healthy breathing.

Got a question: askdrzac@conciergedoctors.com.au

Dr. Zach Turner holds a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of Sydney. He is both a medical practitioner and co-owner of a telemedicine service. Concierge doctors. He was also a registered nurse and a qualified and experienced biomedical scientist, as well as a doctoral student in biomedical engineering.

Originally published as Dr. Zack Turner on why breathing through your mouth can do your health more harm than good