The way in which you breathe — be it through your nose or mouth — can have a big impact on your health.
While we all swap between the two, the best option is to breathe through your nose. Sometimes, mouth breathing is unavoidable, especially when you are experiencing nasal congestion due to a cold, flu or allergies.
Exercise can also cause you to breathe through your mouth, as it helps deliver oxygen to your muscles quicker. But, on the whole, you should be trying to breathe through your nose. Here’s why…
Why is nose breathing better for you?
According to Healthline, the nose produces a naturally occurring molecule called nitric oxide, which helps improve your lung’s ability to absorb oxygen. This molecule makes it easier to transport oxygen throughout your body and relaxes vascular smooth muscles, which in turn allows the blood vessels to dilate.
Nitric oxide is also antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and antiparasitic and it helps your immune system fight infections. Your nose acts as “the first line of defence for the immune system,” human performance specialist and breathing expert Brian Mackenzie told mindbodygreen (mbg).
The nasal passages filter out bacteria, pollen and viruses in the air thanks to hair follicles in your nose. The nose is also able to regulate temperature and bring cold air to room temp before it hits your lungs.
Why is mouth breathing bad for your health?
While your nose can act as a filter, your mouth isn’t able to provide the same function and is why you might experience “dry mouth” quite regularly.
“There’s a large amount of air that passes and goes right in the lungs,” Mackenzie told mbg.
Those who regularly breathe through their mouths also have a higher chance of experiencing chronic allergies, hayfever and sinus infections as well as asthma and stress and anxiety, says Healthline.
You’re also more likely to have bad breath and gum disease as a result of mouth breathing, due to dry mouth. Throat and ear infections are also quite common for this same reason.
In children, a reliance on mouth breathing can result in crooked teeth, poor growth, irritability and dry and cracked lips.
What are the causes of mouth breathing?
Nasal congestion is the most common reason why people tend to breathe through their mouths, followed by enlarged tonsils and adenoids or a deviated septum. The shape of your nose and jaw can also play a role.
You can usually tell if you’re a mouth breather as it results in snoring, dry mouth, bad breath, waking up tired and irritable, hoarseness and brain fog, according to Healthline.
How to change your breathing habits
If allergies or illness is the reason behind the issue, taking antihistamines or nasal decongestants should prove helpful and allow you to comfortably breathe through your nose.
If your tonsils or adenoids are the cause, it could be helpful to speak to a doctor about possibly having them removed if they’re causing you issues.
Otherwise, just being aware of how you’re breathing and making a concerted effort to change it is helpful. Mackenzie says that at least 80% of your day should consist of nose breathing, so paying attention to your breath and closing your mouth when you notice is the easiest way to make a change.
While swapping from mouth breathing to nose breathing won’t magically improve your health overnight, it is a good practice to get in the habit of in order to support your immune system.
“Our breathing is not the answer, but it’s a tool,” Mackenzie told mbg.