MOST of us inhale and exhale throughout the day without thinking about it – unless of course, we've got a cold.
But according to Dr Michael Mosley – TV doctor and inventor of the Fast 800 diet – you might be doing this innate bodily process all wrong.
Take a moment to think: are you a mouth or nose breather?
In a recent episode of this podcast Just One Thing, Dr Mosley zeroed in on breathing methods and suggested inhaling in through your nose and exhaling out through your mouth whenever you can.
This simple change to your breathing can increase oxygen intake, keep your gums healthy, help fight off infections and might even enhance memory, he claimed.
"Now you may be wondering, how can it possibly be matter whether you breathe in through your nose or – like many people – through your mouth, how could it benefit your health?"
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Dr Mosley admitted to being sceptical about whether the airway you breathe through can actually make any difference to your health.
But he said "the science behind it is surprising and very clear".
Making a point on inhaling though your nose is actually different from making sure your breathing is deep and slow, the TV doctor went on.
"Breathing through your nose really can improve your lung function, your blood vessels, even your spacial awareness. And it can protect you against disease," Dr Mosley explained.
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He did note that some people find it hard – if not impossible – to breathe through their schnoz, and chronic allergies or infections can also throw a spanner in the works.
But for those who don't find it difficult, the GP said "switching to nose breathing could be one of the simplest things you can do to improve your health and well-being".
1. It keeps your gnashers healthy
For starters, it can help keep your mouth healthier, according to the diet guru.
When you're sucking in air through your mouth, have your ever noticed that your mouth is just… drier?
Constantly breathing through your mouth can actually reduce the amount of saliva you produce, Dr Mosley explained.
Not only does it leave you parched, it increases the risk of things like tooth decay and inflamed gums, as saliva plays an essential role in killing bacteria in your mouth.
2. It can give your brain a boost
The way you breathe influencing your memory sounds kind of improbable, right?
But Dr Mosley cited recent research in which 22 volunteers were given a memory test while in a brain scanner.
"When they were breathing through their noses, they performed better and the scans revealed their brains were working more efficiently than when they were mouth breathing," he explained.
3. It can help your body fight infections
Nose breathing can boost levels of nitric oxide, which increases blood flow through you lungs.
Dr Mosley spoke to Professor Jon Lundberg from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, who first discovered that your nasal cavities produce nitric oxide.
"Nitric oxide is generated in our bodies and with a main function of regulating cardiovascular function," according to Dr Lundberg.
"So it dilates blood vessels, makes the blood flow easier and it also reduces blood pressure.
"In very, very high concentrations, nitric oxide is a part of the immune system and it can actually help to kill bacteria and viruses."
He added that levels of nitric oxide are two to five times higher when we breath through our schnoz than when we breath through the mouth.
Dr Lundberg said boosted levels of nitric oxide helps keep your sinuses sterile – this is where the oxide is produced.
When the oxide travels to your lungs, it doesn't have a "direct antimicrobial effect" – meaning it doesn't attack bacteria, because it's too diluted by that point.
"But it dilates vessels, especially at the top of the lungs so that blood flow is shifted there, so we get a better blood flow in that area," Dr Lundberg said.
There's usually bad blood flow to the top of the lungs due to gravity, making this area more prone to infection.
But the nitric oxide brought in by nose breathing can boost upper lung blood flow by up to 25 per cent, according to the professor.
"A good blood flow is always good for the body to resist an infection, so by this we are protecting the lung," he went on.
Dr Lundberg gave the example of the lung infection tuberculosis, which is "classically seen at the top of the lungs".
4. It boosts oxygen levels
Dr Lundberg said what's "even more intriguing" is that nose breathing increases oxygen uptake.
"When nitric oxide hits the vessels in the lung, it dilates them so that increases oxygen uptake," he said.
"So we take up a little bit more oxygen when there is nitric oxide around."
More oxygen in the blood means more fuel available to muscles during exercise.
Some people – mostly athletes – tape their mouth shut during exercise in order to ensure nasal breathing.
It is thought better-oxygenated blood can improve the quality of your sleep, reducing daytime fatigue, hunger and mood swings.
If you're looking to switch up your breathing methods, Dr Lundberg first suggested becoming aware of how you draw in air.
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If you're congested, he recommended you spray some salt water up each nostril, instead of the usual drugs you reach for.
Humming for five or 10 seconds can also help 'wash out' your sinus cavities, the professor added.
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