Up to 30-40% of modern people breathe through their mouth during sleep. Oral breathing is medically associated with various health problems, but this article is about the most fundamental abnormality caused by mouth breathing: reduced oxygen levels in the brain, heart, kidneys and all other body organs.

Superficially, it seems that there are no differences between mouth and nasal breathing. We still get oxygen into the lungs and blood and expel toxic carbon dioxide. Medical science, however, has the opposite opinion.

Breathing is about delivery of oxygen to the body cells. Hence, let us consider mouth breathing effects on oxygen transport, while hypoxia (or low cells oxygen content) is a clinical hallmark for virtually all chronic diseases.

While modern people believe in a fantasy that deep or heavy breathing (hyperventilation) can improve cells oxygen content, thousands of medical publications have found that hyperventilation reduces cells oxygen content. Hypoxia (or low cells oxygen content) appears due to hypocapnic (low CO2) vasoconstriction of blood vessels (leading to poor blood supply of all vital organs) and the reduced Bohr effect (less oxygen is released by red blood cells).

Mouth breathing is one of the central signs of hyperventilation since CO2 losses are much higher due to reduction in the dead volume (air space in the airways, oral cavity and sinuses). Furthermore, nose breathing was the medical and cultural norm only about 70-100 years ago as you can on old photos and in movies.

You can easily confirm that hyperventilation reduces cells oxygen content. Start voluntary and forceful hyperventilation. In about 2-3 minutes most people can faint. Why? Due to lack of oxygen and glucose in the brain.

Cells hypoxia leads to free radical production, anaerobic cell respiration, inflammation, lactic acid increase, immune system dysfunction, extra mucus production and many other pathological mechanisms. These are all direct effects of mouth breathing.

Consequently, the slower and easier a person breathes (and only through the nose), the more oxygen his tissues get. (Note that I discuss here effects of involuntary or automatic breathing patterns.) Indeed, very slow breathing has always been the norm in hatha yoga masters testifying about hypercapnia or elevated CO2 level in the arterial blood.

In addition, apart from tissue oxygenation regulation, carbon dioxide regulates many functions in the human organism. These positive effects of mild hypercapnia include: bronchodilation, control of inflammation, control of blood sugar, synthesis of proteins and hormones, mucus production regulation, dilation of bronchi and bronchioles, weight monitoring, relaxation of muscle cells, calcium metabolism, normal immunity, repair of alveoli in lungs, regulation of pulse, free radical suppression, lactic acid regulation, regulation of blood pH, sleep control, blood pressure maintenance, stability of the nerve cells and dozens of other main biochemical processes. All these processes are going to suffer due to only 5-10 minutes of mouth breathing.

How to make our breathing pattern slower and easier so that to restore nasal breathing 24/7? We need more carbon dioxide in the body cells. One solution is to breathe through a device that keeps exhaled carbon dioxide for each subsequent inhalation. During this breathing workout, our breathing control center adapts to higher carbon dioxide content and later our unconscious breathing pattern becomes slow. That is the idea of the Frolov breathing device therapy that is based on mild relative hypercapnia.

Another solution is to apply the Buteyko breathing method that does not require any breathing devices and can be practiced anywhere. Nasal breathing is a crucial requirement of the Buteyko technique with methods and tools to restore nose breathing 24/7.

Author's Bio: 


- Hypercapnia (Hypercarbia) Pathology or Super Health? This page discusses high blood CO2 levels and different meanings of hypercapnia.

- Breathing Problems Solved: The main website (NormalBreathing.com) with hundreds of medical quotes, graphs, references, charts, tables, results of trials, analysis of breathing techniques, free breathing exercises, manuals, lifestyle modules and other resources and articles for better cell oxygen levels and health. Normal Breathing defeats chronic diseases!

Dr. Artour Rakhimov is a health educator. He is the author of books and the educational website NormalBreathing.com devoted to natural self-oxygenation and breathing education.