Mouth breathing, as opposed to air flowing freely through the nose, is a common phenomenon. What isn’t common knowledge is how this impairment of air can adversely effect your health. Snoring is mouth breathing at night, typically the result of phlegm blocking nasal passages.
Phlegm accumulation can create masses, such as cysts, polyps, or tumors, anywhere in the body. Whether nasal obstruction is caused by phlegm, or the congealed phlegm of polyps or cysts, the resulting blockages can impair breathing.
Think of air passing through a trumpet or clarinet. The air blocked by pressing keys creates a range of sound. In a similar manner the obstruction of air flow through your nose and throat is the main reason for snoring.
Snoring causes more problems than loss of sleep for those subjected to the noise. Granted, sleep depravation for a partner or spouse is no trivial thing health wise. However, the health implications for the person snoring is rarely considered and more extensive.
Snoring and mouth breathing mean a reduction of available air. The louder and more annoying the snoring, the greater the nightly struggle for oxygen.
Try breathing through your mouth while pushing your tongue back as far as it will go. It cuts off your flow of air. Now try breathing through your nose with your tongue pushed back in the same position. Unless your nasal passages are clogged you should still be able to breath just fine.
If forced to breath through the mouth while reclining, the tongue or uvula can block the air supply, causing sleep apnea. Other structural issues such as a deviated septum can also impair the normal flow of air through the nose, in which case surgical intervention may be required.
Sleeping on the side or propped up can help prevent the obstruction of air through the mouth and reduce snoring but doesn’t resolve nasal obstruction. A dry mouth at night can be an indication of mouth breathing.
If oxygen is cut off while sleeping, the body’s instinct is to wake up just enough to remedy the situation by moving the tongue out of the way to obtain air. With sleep apnea, the cycle goes on throughout the night, waking just enough to gasp for air then falling back asleep.This method of sleeping causes sleep and oxygen depravation, which can lead to hypertension and strain on the heart. Recent genetic research suggest sleep depravation damages DNA.
Oxygen depravation impairs the body’s ability to build and regenerate cells and deprives the cells in your body of energy needed to function. Oxygen depravation prevents the efficient burning of wastes and toxins in your body through oxidation. Oxygen depravation impairs the function of your brain: cognition, memory, and the ability to direct your body’s movements. Five minutes without oxygen and the brain starts to die. Nine minutes results in brain death. Sleep apnea creates much shorter lapses of air than this but even minimal, chronic oxygen depravation to the brain is consider a probable component of neurological degenerative diseases.
All the cells in our bodies thrive in an oxygen rich atmosphere. What thrives with lack of oxygen are bacteria, fungus, viruses, parasites, and cancer cells.
Making sure our bodies have enough oxygen helps keep us mentally and physically strong with a robust immune system.
So what can be done to eliminate snoring and mouth breathing?
First, eliminate dairy from your diet. Once your air pathways are clear you can eat it again infrequently, but discontinue use if phlegm or impairment of breathing recur. Dairy creates a huge amount of mucus and phlegm. Yes, this includes butter and yogurt.
Second, minimize all damp foods: oily or greasy foods, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, cold foods, iced foods or drinks, raw foods, alcohol, and sugar, including all foods sweetened with anything except pure stevia.* ( No one should use artificial sweeteners since they cross the blood brain barrier, causing neurological disorders. Also they are extremely addictive.)
Third, increase cardiovascular exercise. If unable to exercise do deep breathing exercises. The heart is a muscle. Cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart just like muscle building exercises strengthen other muscles. A strong heart pumps more oxygen throughout the body. Cardiovascular exercise also increases deep breathing, which improves lung capacity and the amount of oxygen drawn into the body.
Fourth, clean out your nose and sinuses daily. When you’re in the shower, blow and clean out your nose. Steam from the shower loosens phlegm so it’s more easily removed. Once or twice a day snort some warm, filtered water with sea salt dissolved in it, or use a nette pot. If you use a nette pot, be sure to rinse it regularly with boiling water or run it through the dishwasher to kill any bacteria or mold inside.
My protocol for patients who snore, predominately breath through their mouths, or suffer from phlegm obstruction varies per patient, depending on individual needs. Diet and digestion have to be addressed. There are foods that contribute to fat and phlegm production and those that aid in breaking them down. Any impairment in digestion can contribute to phlegm production.
One common denominator in phlegm obstruction is the body’s inability to digest fats: the liver and gallbladder are necessary to break down fats.Those who’ve had their gallbladder removed should take a bile supplement with each meal. There are Chinese herbal formulas that assist in breaking down gallstones to prevent gallbladder impairment or removal.
Sugar consumption also contributes to phlegm. If you have sweet, alcohol, or junk food cravings chances are you have an overgrowth of Candida, which thrives when given food or drinks high on the glycemic index. I prescribe supplements for my patients that curb these cravings.
Cysts or polyps in the nasal passages or sinuses can obstruct air flow. Herbal formulas dissolve these types of masses.
Snoring and mouth breathing are not something to laugh at; not a mere annoyance. Snoring and mouth breathing are the body’s gasp for help and a warning of health issues on the horizon if ignored.
* For more information on damp foods see my article on Damp Foods on the Ashland Local’s Guide web site.
Health & Happiness,
Nancy Burton, L.Ac. (Licensed Acupuncturist)
For Appointments Call: 541-646-0134