Home / My Blog / Nasal Breathing Is So Important

Nasal breathing is something I talk about a lot on this website and in my practice. In fact, you could say that teaching people to breathe through their nose is the basis of everything I do at Faceoloy. Along with helping them to close their mouth and put their tongue in the right place of course.

This is all part of my Four Goals of Myofunctional Therapy. I go into what the Four Goals are all about in this article. I also cover many of the negative effects of mouth breathing in this article. But I’m sometimes asked why it all matters so much. People want to know why nasal breathing is so important.

Nasal Breathing Is The Way We Evolved

I’ll often reply that the answer is really simple. As human beings, we evolved to breathe through the nose. Millions of years of evolution led to nasal breathing being the optimal way to breathe, with chronic mouth breathing being a dysfunctional breathing pattern.

Nasal Breathing Is So Important

When it comes to learning more about human evolution, Daniel E. Lieberman’s excellent book The Story Of The Human Body is a great place to start. It’s well written and makes a complex subject easy to understand. I found that this excerpt from the book offered a succinct explanation about why humans adapted to breathe through the nose:

“Aside from being attractive (to us), our unique outer nose plays an important role in thermoregulation by generating turbulence in the air we inhale through the inner nose. When an ape or dog breathes in through its nose, air flows in a straight line through the nostrils and into the inner nose.

But when humans inhale nasally, the air goes up through the nostrils, takes a 90-degree turn, and then goes through another pair of valves to reach the inner nose. These unusual features cause the air to swirl in chaotic vortices. Although this turbulence requires the lungs to work a little harder, it increases contact between air and the mucus membranes that line the inner nose.

Mucus holds lots of water but not very strongly. So when you inhale hot, dry air through an external nose, the resulting turbulent flow enhances the inner nose’s ability to humidify the air. Such humification is important because inspired air needs to be saturated with water to prevent the lungs from drying out. Just as importantly, the turbulence helps the nose recapture that moisture when we exhale.

The evolution of large external noses in early Homo is strong evidence for selection to walk long distances in hot, dry conditions without dehydrating.”

What About Nasal Nitric Oxide?

There’s another reason why nasal breathing is so good for us and a far better option than breathing through the mouth. That’s nasal nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is a vitally important molecule because it plays such a critical role in the body. It’s been called a “cellular signaling molecule” because it’s connected to so many separate bodily processes. These range from controlling inflammation and regulating blood pressure to the binding and release of the oxygen in the air we breathe. Nitric oxide also plays a role in controlling parasites, viruses, and malignant cells in the airways and lungs.

When we nasal breathe, nitric oxide is naturally released in the nasal passages. However, as soon as we start mouth breathing, we miss out on the benefits of this amazing molecule.

Myofunctional Therapy Can Help Restore Nasal Breathing

Another question I’m sometimes asked is why is myofunctional therapy really necessary if we’ve evolved to breathe through the nose? Surely the solution to a mouth breathing habit is as simple as stopping that habit and just breathing through the nose?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. A mouth breathing habit can be caused by a wide range of factors ranging from sub-optimal craniofacial development or a tongue-tie to chronic nasal congestion etc. A myofunctional therapist will work with you to get to the root cause of your mouth breathing habit. Once you know what’s actually causing the problem, you can start to address it as part of a structured treatment program. And it needs to be a well planned program because a mouth breathing habit can lead to changes in the structure and functionality of the face, jaws, and oral muscles. This all needs to be taken into account to get the best long-term results.

Nasal Breathing Is So Important

If necessary, depending on your situation, a myofunctional therapist can also help you to find the right medical professionals to work with to address and treat the causes of your mouth breathing habit.

It really is worth finding a way to get back to nasal breathing. I can say with certainty that my patients who switch from chronic mouth breathing to nasal breathing always report positive changes to their health and sense of overall well-being.

 
 

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