Deep Belly Breathing


December 5, 2016

In an earlier issue of these Chronicles we talked about how to Love Food That Loves You as a way to prevent serious illness and gain excellent control over your good health.

Today we go back to the future with the wisdom of a grandmother who was never sick a day in her life.  Her secret?  Deep Belly Breathing.

The basics of physiology are when we breathe using the upper portion of our lungs we are typically using limited capacity reserved for high energy, rapid movement, flight-or-fight mechanisms born of the adrenaline rush.  We’re only using a small measure of total capacity too, relying on quick turnover to process instant immediate oxygen needs.

However, when we breathe through our gut, this is the deep, full and rhythmic breathing that assists relaxation and digestion.  

Yes, Deep Belly Breathing can help raise metabolism, improve absorption of nutrients, calm the body and lead to a cascade of knock-on effects including better sleep, better weight control – and of course resistance to disease.

What a wonderful word: the effect of Deep Belly Breathing is said to allow you to ‘re-inhabit’ your body.

It makes sense deep breathing is essential to meditation; maybe not so obvious its role in nutrition, but just as important.

Yes, the optimized effect of oxygen absorption is bound to improve digestion and provide a useful adjunct to mindful eating choices and habits.

Where over 70 million North Americans suffer from some form of digestive distress there is a real need to remediate – and the increased oxygen acquired by deep breathing can have an important benefit.  

Where increased oxygen creates more energy and balances and stabilizes blood sugar levels, there is easier elimination of waste and toxins so the body’s metabolism can work more efficiently.  This of course leads to less fatigue, and better, more restful sleep.

In Grandma’s case it was a voice that could carry across a city block.  Before that voice was tormenting grandchildren, her earlier career as an opera-singer owed its success to breathing control and lung capacity.

Grandma would say breathe in slowly through your nose.  Five beats.  Hold it deep in your gut pushing out through your belly-button. Clench your stomach muscles. Two beats.  Breathe out more slowly through your mouth. Seven beats.  Sit up straight throughout.  Square your shoulders. Tuck in your backside.  Repeat.

Never sick a day in her life.

Naturopaths we’ve worked with spend considerable time assessing critical diagnostics in healthy living, and which include breathing, airways and posture.  

There are important connections among breathing, airways and posture as a result of good teeth and bite, and overall excellent health (more on dentistry and the mouth as the gateway to good health in future discussions). 

What Grandma knew then anecdotally is understood now empirically.  

Rosemary Whiteside, CNP