Home / My Blog / Mouth Breathing, Nitric Oxide, And Your Health

My patients contact me for a number of reasons but mouth breathing is always the main one. This makes perfect sense because an open mouth is an obvious sign that something isn’t quite right with the body.

Sometimes the primary concern is purely aesthetic, because having an open mouth is seen as an undesirable characteristic in Western Society. But after my years in practice as a myofunctional therapist, I know that an open mouth is a sign of mouth breathing, and that’s always an indicator of underlying health concerns. It can even change the way your child’s face, teeth and jaw develop – and that’s pretty serious in its own right.

We’re Designed To Breathe Through Our Nose

Humans are absolutely designed to breathe through the nose almost all of the time. Sometimes however, that just isn’t possible, for example when we’re running or exercising hard, in which case, it makes sense that we’d breathe through the mouth.

But there are other times when we’re forced to breathe through the mouth. When we’re badly congested due to a cold, flu or an allergic reaction, we literally have to start breathing through our mouth.

nitric oxide

When this condition passes however, we should quickly revert to nasal breathing. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. If the condition persists for long enough, then it’s entirely possible that we could fall into an open mouth breathing habit.

This is especially true for children. Sometimes kids can be affected by long-term congestion where they’re blocked up and stuffy for years on end. Even if the congestion is shorter lived, children will sometimes get used to breathing through their mouth, and once that habit starts, it can be exceptionally difficult to break.

I cover the negative effects of mouth breathing in detail in this article but right now, I’d like to look at something that isn’t often addressed, and that’s the role of nitric oxide and its connection to our health.

What’s The Deal With Nitric Oxide?

The way you breathe affects the level of oxygen in your body, but oxygen isn’t the only gas involved in respiration. Carbon dioxide is also a vital part of this process, and nitric oxide, while somewhat unique, is no less important.

Nitric oxide has been described as a cellular signaling molecule because it’s so closely tied into a number of critical processes in the body. It’s involved with everything from the binding and release of oxygen and hemoglobin, to inhibiting inflammation. It’s even linked to the destruction of viruses, parasites and malignant cells in the airways and lungs. In addition, nitric oxide is a part of the system that regulates blood pressure.

Nitric oxide is produced in a number of body tissues but what’s really relevant to anyone who breathes through their mouth is that nitric oxide is also produced in the nasal passages. When we nasal breathe, our bodies can make use of this amazing substance, but as soon as we start breathing through the mouth, that’s just no longer possible.

Research has linked abnormal nitric oxide levels with some serious health concerns such as high blood pressure, heart failure, atherosclerosis and strokes. Many of my patients also have sleep apnea, which is linked to a number of similar health concerns. Mouth breathing is a common factor for all of these issues, which means it’s the red flag that many health practitioners often overlook.

To put it simply, breathing through your mouth bypasses important parts of the breathing process, which is why we see so many negative health effects around mouth breathing.

So What’s The Answer?

Theoretically the solution to getting more nitric oxide into your system, and thereby to improve your health, is just to breathe through your nose.

My patients who make the shift from mouth breathing to nasal breathing often report positive changes in the way they feel, and sometimes, those changes are dramatic.

However, as anyone who has ever tried it can tell you, changing a deeply entrenched lifelong habit such as mouth breathing isn’t easy. If it were, there’d be no need for myofunctional therapists like myself.

If you or anyone in your family does breathe through their mouth, you need to speak to a health professional with experience in airway-related conditions and symptoms. I’d be happy to have a chat if you would like to find out more.



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