Improve Digestion if You Breath Through Your Nose
Yes, You heard it right! Would you believe me if I told you that how you choose to breathe, whether through your mouth or through your nose can have a direct effect on your digestion? Lucky for us, it happens to be true! This provides us with a cheap, simple and effective way to slow down, eat mindfully and improve digestion.
Activates a different biological response in your body
Here’s how: Breathing through your nose activates a different biological response in your body than breathing through your mouth. Breathing through your nose activates your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) while breathing through your mouth activates your sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nervous System
Why does this matter? The parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system typically function in opposition to each other. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of our nervous system that gets us ready for a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response in the face of danger.
In the days of our ancestors, (or for those of us who still live in the wilderness), coming across a big bear activates our sympathetic nervous systems. This induces a set of physiological responses in our bodies including: release of cortisol and adrenaline, increased heart rate, impaired digestive function, pupil dilation, reduced production of saliva, increased sweating, dilation of lungs and increased muscle strength.
In today’s world, we are constantly being triggered by perceived stressed, continuously stimulating our sympathetic nervous systems, gearing us up to either put up a fight or run like hell in the other direction.
The parasympathetic nervous system acts to help calm down and reverse the stimulation that the SNS aroused in us. The PSNS slows down heart rate, regulates digestion and stimulates the liver and kidneys. An easy way to remember the difference between the two systems is:
Sympathetic = Fight or Flight
Parasympathetic = Rest and Digest
When we breathe through our nose, it activates our parasympathetic nervous system (calm) while mouth breathing encourages the sympathetic nervous system (excited). Breathing through our nose also increases the oxygen in our blood by about 10-15%.
Slowing down, centering yourself, and taking a moment to relax into the present moment allows you to activate your PSNS and eat in a peaceful state. Eating in a relaxed state is easier on your digestive system and allows you to integrate and assimilate your food more easily.
This makes nose breathing one of the cheapest and easiest ways to help you immediately tune into mindful eating and improve your digestion.
Try it for yourself. Next time you are about to sit down to a meal, before just digging in, take a moment to center yourself. Place your hand on your belly and take 3 long, deep inhalations and exhalations through your nose, noticing your belly rise and fall.
Allow yourself to let go of the business of your day and simply be present at the moment. Simply notice any tendency you may have to want to rush through your meal.
How does it feel to slow down and breathe? This is also a great opportunity to say a mealtime blessing or express gratitude for the food before you, another sure way to deepen your relaxation response and improve digestion.
Do you struggle with overeating or would like to heal a difficult or disordered relationship with food? Are you ready to invest in yourself for the professional guidance to help you develop a healthy relationship to food and establish healthy eating habits?