I’m a doctor – here’s how you breathe improperly and why it can be dangerous

BREATHING is something we do unconsciously without thinking much about it.

But one doctor has warned that there is a right way to breathe that can help prevent disease.

A doctor told people to breathe through their noses and not their mouths


A doctor told people to breathe through their noses and not their mouthsCredit: Alamy

dr Zac Turner, a doctor in Australia, urged people to consider whether they breathe through their nose or mouth.

But he said most people would think they’re nose breathers even if they’re not.

“About 30 to 50 per cent of adults breathe through their mouth, especially earlier in the day,” he told

“It’s important to pay attention to how you breathe because it’s healthier to breathe through your nose than through your mouth.

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“The simplest reason is that nasal breathing is more natural and helps your body use the air you breathe in effectively.”

dr Turner listed the reasons why mouth breathing can cause health problems.

It can contribute to bad breath, dry mouth, tooth decay, gum disease and risk of asthma.

However, breathing through the nose can protect against bacteria and pathogens.

dr Turner said: “The beauty of your nose is that it’s perfectly designed for safe breathing.

“It can filter out foreign particles through its nose hair. It can humidify the air you breathe, making it easier for your lungs to use, and it produces nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator.

“That’s just a scientific way of saying that it dilates blood vessels to improve oxygen circulation in your body.

“Your mouth is perfectly designed for eating, drinking and speaking, but it doesn’t have the refined qualities that your nose has.”

He added, “The way we breathe is connected to everything from how we think and feel to how we relate to the world and the health and balance of every system in our body.”

How to change your breathing

Because breathing is an involuntary action, you don’t think about it very often.

So you might be wondering how you can actively do it differently.

dr Turner said to improve your nasal breathing and lung efficiency, try exercises like alternating nostril breathing, abdominal breathing, and fire breathing.

“These techniques can help you master nasal breathing while improving your lung function and reducing stress,” he said.

Alternating nostril breathing is what it says on the tin – when you breathe in through one nostril and exhale through the other, using your hand to block one of the two.

To perform alternate nostril breathing, Healthline has the following steps:

  • Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position
  • Put your left hand on your left knee and bring your right hand to your nose
  • Exhale fully, then use your right thumb to close your right nostril
  • Inhale through the left nostril and then close the left nostril with your fingers
  • Open the right nostril and exhale through that side
  • Inhale through the right nostril and then close that nostril
  • Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side

This is a cycle – you can continue for up to five minutes and should always end with a left side exhalation.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, abdominal breathing can help strengthen the muscles (diaphragm) you should be using when you breathe.

dr Turner explained, “People are ‘belly breathers’ and just above your stomach is a key muscle in the breathing process called the diaphragm.

“Proper breathing begins in your nose and then moves to your stomach as your diaphragm contracts, your abdomen expands and your lungs fill with air.

“It’s the most efficient way to breathe because it pulls the lungs down and creates negative pressure in the chest, causing air to rush into your lungs.”

Practice abdominal breathing:

  • When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, you may find it easier to follow the instructions lying down
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs
  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your abdomen moves outward and your hand rises. The hand on the chest should remain as still as possible
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles so that as you breathe out through pursed lips, your stomach moves in and your hand comes down I’m a doctor – here’s how you breathe improperly and why it can be dangerous

Sarah Y. Kim

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