Ended: April 14, 2018
The human body actually carries a surplus of oxygen in the blood—75 percent is exhaled during rest and as much as 25 percent is exhaled during physical exercise.
A fundamental element of the Oxygen Advantage technique is to understand the Bohr Effect—the way in which oxygen is released from hemoglobin and delivered to the muscles and organs.
The Bohr Effect was discovered in 1904 by the Danish physiologist Christian Bohr (father of Niels Bohr, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist—and footballer). In the words of Christian Bohr, “The carbon dioxide pressure of the blood is to be regarded as an important factor in the inner respiratory metabolism. If one uses carbon dioxide in appropriate amounts, the oxygen that was taken up can be used more effectively throughout the body.”
The crucial point to remember is that hemoglobin releases oxygen when in the presence of carbon dioxide. When we overbreathe, too much carbon dioxide is washed from the lungs, blood, tissues, and cells. This condition is called hypocapnia, causing the hemoglobin to hold on to oxygen, resulting in reduced oxygen release and therefore reduced oxygen delivery to tissues and organs.
It is well documented that habitual mouth breathing during waking and sleeping hours results in fatigue, poor concentration, reduced productivity, and a bad mood.
A common starting BOLT score for an individual who exercises regularly at a moderate intensity will be approximately 20 seconds. If your BOLT score is below 20 seconds, depending on genetic predisposition, you will probably find you experience a blocked nose, coughing, wheezing, disrupted sleep, snoring, fatigue, and excessive breathlessness during physical exercise. Each time that your BOLT score increases by 5 seconds, you will feel better, with more energy and reduced breathlessness during physical exercise. The aim of the Oxygen Advantage program is to increase your BOLT score to 40 seconds, and this can be realistically achieved.
Dentists and orthodontists have also documented these profound facial changes as a result of habitual mouth breathing: narrow jaws, crooked teeth, sunken cheekbones, and smaller nasal cavities. While orthodontic treatment and the wearing of braces are epidemic among modern-day teenagers, it was normal for our ancestors to have wide faces with perfectly shaped teeth.
Now compare the benefits above with the effects of mouth breathing: • Mouth-breathing children are at greater risk of developing forward head posture, and reduced respiratory strength. • Breathing through the mouth contributes to general dehydration (mouth breathing during sleep results in waking up with a dry mouth). • A dry mouth also increases acidification of the mouth and results in more dental cavities and gum disease. • Mouth breathing causes bad breath due to altered bacterial flora. • Breathing through the mouth has been proven to significantly increase the number of occurrences of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
Nasal breathing is imperative for harnessing the benefits of nitric oxide, working hand in hand with abdominal breathing and helping to maximize body oxygenation. Think of the nose as a reservoir: Each time we breathe gently and slowly through the nose, we carry this mighty molecule into the lungs and blood, where it can do its work throughout the body. Mouth breathing bypasses this special gas, missing out on the important advantages that nitric oxide provides for general well-being.
The production of nitric oxide in the nasal sinuses can be increased by simply humming. In an article published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Doctors Weitzberg and Lundberg described how humming increased nitric oxide up to fifteenfold in comparison with quiet exhalation.
With this knowledge, it comes as no surprise that humming is also practiced during certain meditation techniques.
Breathing through the mouth causes blood vessels in the nose to become inflamed and enlarged. This, along with an increased secretion of mucus, creates the uncomfortable feeling of nasal stuffiness. When the nose becomes blocked it is much more difficult to breathe through it, thus perpetuating the habit of breathing through the mouth. Continued mouth breathing results in a more permanent state of nasal congestion, thus completing the vicious circle.
Generally, this exercise will unblock the nose, even if you have a head cold. However, as soon as the effects of the breath hold wear off, the nose will likely feel blocked again. By gradually increasing the number of steps you can take with your breath held, you will find the results continue to improve. When you are able to walk a total of 80 paces with the breath held, your nose will remain decongested. Eighty paces is actually a very achievable goal, and you can expect to progress by an additional ten paces per week.
and see how you do. If you regularly suffer from nasal congestion, you should soon find it much easier to breathe through your nose by practicing this exercise. No longer will you require over-the-counter nasal decongestants, antihistamines, or nasal steroids!
By holding your breath, you sharply increase the concentration of nitric oxide in your nasal cavity, resulting in dilation of the nasal passages and smooth, easy nasal breathing once more.
Breathing through your nose will result in a naturally moist mouth when you wake up. If your mouth is dry upon waking, you know that your mouth was open during sleep.
The relevance of the above studies suggests that effects similar to those achieved with high-altitude training can be obtained at sea level simply by performing a series of breath holds. Stimulating the spleen to contract by reducing the availability of oxygen causes an increase in hemoglobin and hematocrit, which in turn increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and improves aerobic ability.
Researchers have observed that hyperventilation significantly affects mental performance as well as physical capabilities. A study investigating unexplainable aircraft accidents tested the abilities of jet fighter pilots to use coordination apparatus after a short period of breathing too much. The results showed that mental performance deteriorated by 15 to 30 percent when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood was significantly reduced. Another study found that when hyperventilation reduces arterial concentration of carbon dioxide, physiological changes occur in the brain, causing dizziness and concentration problems. Researchers discovered that reduced levels of carbon dioxide detrimentally affected performance that required attention, causing progressively slower reaction times and an increase in errors.
Nitric oxide plays a monumental role in human health by reducing cholesterol, reversing the buildup of plaque in the blood vessels, and helping to prevent blood clotting, all of which significantly increase the risk for heart attack and stroke. According to Nobel laureate and distinguished professor of pharmacology Dr. Louis Ignarro: “[Nitric oxide] is the body’s natural defense to prevent all of these things from happening.”
Ways to increase nitric oxide include slow nasal breathing, regular moderate physical exercise, and eating foods that produce nitric oxide.
While physical exercise is an excellent way to increase nitric oxide, diet, dietary supplements, and nasal breathing also play significant roles. In a recent conversation with Irish cross-country running coach John Downes, he told me how he actively encourages his athletes to drink beet juice, explaining how he witnessed an increase in performance and reduction of cramping as a result. Since John isn’t a man to waste energy on unfruitful training practices, I decided to find out more. I soon discovered a study conducted by the University of Exeter that investigated the effects of increased dietary intake of beet juice, which is rich in the nitrates required to generate nitric oxide. A study group of men aged between nineteen and thirty-eight drank about two cups of beet juice every day for a week. This resulted in a “remarkable reduction” in the amount of oxygen required to perform exercise in comparison with a control group who drank water: The beet juice drinkers were able to cycle up to 16 percent longer before tiring. Furthermore, blood pressure within the beet juice drinkers dropped (within normal levels), even though it wasn’t high to begin with. In conclusion, the researchers commented that the reduction of oxygen required for submaximal exercise following the drinking of beet juice “cannot be achieved by any other known means, including long-term endurance exercise training.”
As we have seen, normal breathing volume for a healthy adult is generally agreed to be 4 to 6 liters of air per minute, but adults with asthma demonstrate a resting breathing volume of 10 to 15 liters per minute, two to three times more than required. Imagine the effect on the respiratory system when an individual breathes twice or three times too heavily all day, every day.
A study at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane found that when the breathing volume of adults with asthma decreased from 14 liters to 9.6 liters per minute, their symptoms reduced by 70 percent, the need for rescue medication decreased by 90 percent, and the need for preventer steroid medication decreased by 50 percent. The study found a direct relationship between the reduction of breathing volume and improvement to asthma. The closer breathing volume reduced toward normal, the greater was the reduction of asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and breathlessness.
Most parents are shocked when they realize that crooked teeth, narrow faces, large noses, and undeveloped jaws can be avoided if a child is simply encouraged to breathe through his or her nose. Not only is sports performance affected, but lifelong health!