top of page

Nostril Breathing vs. Mouth Breathing

The effects of proper breathing habits were first noted in observations of early Native Americans, who were known for their chiseled jaws and beautiful teeth. These physical attributes were thought to be directly related to the fact that Native Americans had learned from childhood to breathe through their nose. This theory was scientifically proven more recently in tests using monkeys. Monkeys that had their noses plugged and had to breathe through their months began to show changes in their facial development. While that is a terrible way to treat an animal, we gained a valuable, yet often overlooked piece of wisdom; breathing through the nose can keep you healthy and strong.

The breath is often an overlooked aspect of our lives but there can be amazing ben

efits when we consciously breathe!

Just by changing the way we breathe we can tap into the amazing benefits that the breath has to offer, like:

Relieving stress

Improve energy levels

Reduces anxiety and can help fight off chronic depression

Improve sleep patterns

Can improve the mood and build confidence.

Can help improve our digestion

Regulate body temperature

Can even help you lose weight!!

Control our state of mind!!

Good Health in just a few breaths

We take about 21,600 breaths a day and we are completely oblivious to most of them. For most people, the breath is something they just never really think about until they are holding their breath under water or have an issue breathing in some way. Just like any other autonomic function in the body, we usually only notice it when something is wrong, but the breath can actually be used to communicate with the unconscious functions of the autonomic nervous system. The breath is a powerful tool that can also help to keep our immune system strong and effective and this one simple little fix can dramatically improve the way you breathe, as well as how you live your life! So I'm sure you are asking yourself right now, how can breathing improve your immune system?? It is going to sound to simple but the answer might just be breathing through the nose.

The nose is the silent warrior, the gatekeeper of our bodies, pharmacist to our minds and weather vane to our emotions.” -Dr Jayakar Nayak,

Can breathing help me lose weight?

Every molecule in the universe has some sort of mass to it, some sort of weight. Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide are no different. Carbon dioxide, it turns out, weighs just a little bit more than just oxygen alone! This difference isn't going to melt the pounds off of you just by breathing differently, but we do breathe about 21,600 breaths a day! By consciously making our exhalations longer than our inhalations we can make sure that we are releasing more weight than we are taking in.

Breathing through the nose can improve circulation... and even your sex life!!

The air mixes with nitric bacteria which joins with oxygen to create NO2. Nitric Oxide is a powerful vasodiallator that keeps the blood vessels open so more blood can flow through the body. When we breathe through the nose, bacteria from deep in the nostrils mixes with the oxygen we breathe in and creates Nitric Oxide. Nitric Oxide increases blood flow, relaxes smooth muscle, low blood pressure and increase energy levels. Nitric oxide also relaxes the erectile tissue in the penis which allows more blood flow, which results in penile erection. Viagra, a common medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction, works based on this idea, it works by enhancing the action and effectiveness of nitric oxide. There are supplements and cremes and other products that claim to cure erectile dysfunction, but what if I told you that breathing through your nose could be the very remedy you were looking for!? Sounds to good to be true right?? Maybe not such a crazy idea...

Nitric Oxide in the body can help cure snoring and stop sleep apnea

Nitric oxide also relaxes the smooth muscle in trachea and bronchioles which make the act of breathing easier to accomplish. This smooth muscle, when slack, can partly or completely block the airway, causing snoring and sleep apnea.

NO has other important jobs in the body

Nitric oxide is produced by other cells in the body as well. Some types of white blood cells produce nitric oxide for antimicrobial purposes. It then mixes with other molecules to create powerful antimicrobial compounds that destroy invading pathogens, keeping our cells healthy and safe from invasion.

The Nostrils warm our breath before entering into our body.

As air enters the nostrils, turbinates swirl the air around and funnel it towards the back of the nose and down to the lungs. The swirling action heats the air to make it easier for the lungs to take in and use. If you go outside in the dead of winter and take a deep breath you will end up choking because the air outside of the body is way to cold compared to the internal temperature of the body.... the lungs can't process the air because it's way to cold.

Nostril-breathing helps to build immunity

Mucus membranes line the nostril passages and capture debris and potential invaders from the air so they won't enter into our lungs. Instead the mucus travels down to the stomach where the acidic environment of the stomach can render them harmless. In the fall and winter we tend to get respiratory sicknesses because the air begins to dry out and get cold, which dries out our nostrils. I use coconut oil, just a little bit in each nostril, to make sure the mucus membrane in your nose is healthy and strong. This is our first line of defense against potential invaders!

Nostril-breathing can boast your energy levels

Breathing in through the nose also pressurizes and slows the air coming into the body. Slowing the breath down allows more time for the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange to occur. Pressurizing the air turns it into a super concentrated stream of air filled with living giving prana..... and oxygen! Breathing in through the nose also helps to pull air down into the lower lobes of the lungs, where there is more oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange occurring.That longer exchange makes the utilization of oxygen more efficient which leads to more sustained energy. They did a study with athletes and found the exercising through the nose can provide us with 16% more oxygen!

Nostril- breathing works out your breathing muscles

When we breathe through the nose we tend to use the bottom lobes of our lungs. This is where more alveoli are and where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is prevalent. Mouth breathers tend to breath mainly in their chest so they use only the top two lobes of the lungs. Their breath will be quick and shallow and they will complain about being exhausted, constant headaches, and tension in the neck and shoulders.

The Dangers of Mouth Breathing

Several health conditions and risk factors can lead to mouth breathing. Examples include the following: Things like allergies, asthma, chronic cold or respiratory sickness, finger or thumb sucking, gum disease and gingivitis, problems sleeping and even can cause birth abnormalities (choanal atresia, cleft palate or Pierre-Robin syndrome.

Mouth-breathing can make you sick

When you breathe through the mouth whatever is floating in the air is brought into the body and down into the lungs without filtering anything. Bacteria and viruses get caught in the throat or make their way into the lungs and end up making us sick.

Breathing in through the mouth doesn't allow the temperature of the air to rise up to the body temperature, which makes it difficult for the lungs to take in. That's why when we take a deep breath of cold air we end up coughing our lungs out. When breathing through the mouth, we end up taking faster and shorter breaths, which causes a build up of old air in the lungs, which can throw off the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide in the blood. Levels of carbon dioxide in the body actually cue the cell to open up and accept oxygen and release carbon dioxide. When the old air can't leave the body fully, the cells hold onto the carbon dioxide too long which keeps the cell from absorbing oxygen and creating energy.

Mouth breathing and Over-breathing

Mouth breathing may cause over-breathing because the air is quickly rushed in the body and quickly back out of the body making it difficult to absorb the goodies and release the waste. Imagine trying to fill a water balloon by trying to catch water from quick little waves that rush by. It would be difficult, and completely inefficient compared to trying to fill a water balloon using the concentrated stream of a hose. The hose directs the water right to where you want it to go, which is super effective and simple. When we mouth breath, our exhalations are usually incomplete, which traps air from the previous breath in the lungs and gets in the way of the incoming fresh inhalation.

Mouth-breathing can literally change the shape of your face!

Breathing through the mouth causes the mouth to grow forward and drop down, which creates a long, narrow face with a small chin and defined cheekbones. Breathing through the mouth can also affect your body posture. Mouth-breathing causes the head to tilt backward, so the weight of the head shifts toward the back of the skull.

So how can we fix our breathing patterns and experience this secret to good health that most people miss? Here are a few quick fixes you that might help you breathe through your nose slowly and consciously:

Mouth Taping- It is just what it sounds like, taping your mouth shut so that you are forced to breath through your nose. This can be helpful for people with asthma (as long as it isn't severe) because they tend to breathe through their mouths anytime they aren't paying attention to their breath. What kind of tape should you use to tape your mouth? Well I certainly wouldn't use duct-tape! I have read that scotched tape, painters tape, and maybe packing tape work well and aren't to rough on your lips. Scotched tape should be enough to keep your mouth closed. This is a great way to break the habit of breathing through your mouth.

Practice Pranayama (breathing exercises)- This is a way to take control of a normally unconscious function of the body. Breathing is part of the autonomic nervous system, which unconsciously controls many functions of the body. The ANS controls our heart rate, blood flow, breathing and digestion and is also in charge of our fight or flight response. When we are stressed or anxious, our body goes into fight or flight mode, which raises the blood pressure which increases the heart rate, tenses up the muscles, shuts down secondary systems all in an effort to prepare us to fight. When we can't shut this signal down it can create all kinds of negative side effects in the body, so switching on that rest and restore response is crucial for maintaining a balance in the body. Nadi Shodhana is a perfect practice to open up the nasal passages.

Nasal strips and neti pot- these keep the nasal passages open and clear so that it is easy to breathe through the nose. You can also use peppermint, spearmint, lemongrass, eucalyptus essential oils to clear the nostrils throughout the day.

Mindfulness practice- Every time you notice that you are breathing through the mouth, close it and begin to breathe through the nose. Make sure to allow yourself to fail a few times, it is just a practice. Every time you notice you are mouth-breathing, kindly remind yourself to breathe through the nose. Repeat throughout the day and eventually you will be breathing through the nose primarily.

References, M., WHEATLEY, J.R. and AMIS, T.C. (2008), Enforced mouth breathing decreases lung function in mild asthmatics. Respirology, 13: 553-558. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1843.2008.01300.x, James. Breath: The New Science of A Lost Art. Riverhead Books, 2020.Lundberg JO, Settergren G, Gelinder S, Lundberg JM, Alving K, Weitzberg E. Inhalation of nasally derived nitric oxide modulates pulmonary function in humans. Acta Physiol Scand. 1996 Dec;158(4):343-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-201X.1996.557321000.x. PMID: 8971255.

Haight JS, Djupesland PG. Nitric oxide (NO) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep Breath. 2003 Jun;7(2):53-62. doi: 10.1007/s11325-003-0053-4. PMID: 12861485.Academy of General Dentistry. "Mouth breathing can cause major health problems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 April 2010. <>.Harvold EP, Tomer BS, Vargervik K, Chierici G. Primate experiments on oral respiration. Am J Orthod. 1981 Apr;79(4):359-72. doi: 10.1016/0002-9416(81)90379-1. PMID: 6939331.Izuhara Y, Matsumoto H, Nagasaki T, Kanemitsu Y, Murase K, Ito I, Oguma T, Muro S, Asai K, Tabara Y, Takahashi K, Bessho K, Sekine A, Kosugi S, Yamada R, Nakayama T, Matsuda F, Niimi A, Chin K, Mishima M; Nagahama Study Group. Mouth breathing, another risk factor for asthma: the Nagahama Study. Allergy. 2016 Jul;71(7):1031-6. doi: 10.1111/all.12885. Epub 2016 Apr 1. PMID: 26991116.

Suggested Reading

bottom of page