Breathing plays an important role in how our body functions. This not only includes the lungs but nearly every organ in your body.
Four different parts of our anatomy, containers or hollow spaces, are heavily affected by how we breathe. These are airways, blood vessels and intestines. Health problems associated with these hollow spaces may present, be relieved or be avoided based on how we breathe.
Smooth Muscle and Hollow Spaces
In the diagram above, you will see tiny bands surrounding the hollow space, in this case an airway. These tiny bands are smooth muscle. Smooth muscle contracts and relaxes to aid the flow of the material inside the hollow space, as in the intestines, or to restrict foreign particle entry, as in the airways.
Smooth Muscle and Carbon Dioxide and Nitric Oxide
Smooth muscle is sensitive to the presence of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO.) When these two gases are present in adequate quantities, smooth muscle relaxes, maximizing the opening of the hollow space. When CO2 and NO are in short-supply, hollow spaces contract and reduce the size of the opening.
Let's take a look at the impact reduced CO2 and NO has on three important hollow spaces in the body and how to reverse the problem.
Hollow Space #1: Airways
Airways are hollow tubes that direct air from your nose or mouth to your aveoli in your lungs. The aveoli are tiny sacs that separate oxygen from the air and push the oxygen into the blood for transport to muscles and organs.
Conventional medicine theorizes sensitive airways are agitated by pollutants or allergens. When this happens smooth muscle contracts to block the passage of the pollutants and allergens. The Carbon Dioxide Theory says dysfunctional breathing "blows-off" carbon dioxide and nitric oxide, causing smooth muscle contraction. Regardless of which theory you subscribe to, the airways are shutting down. If the contraction of the smooth muscle is strong enough, an asthma attack is happening.
Airway contraction may be controlled/reversed using bronchodilator medication. In many but not all cases, the same result can be had by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide and nitric oxide in the lungs. In fact, by changing how one breathes, creating higher levels of carbon dioxide and nitric oxide, airway contraction and asthma attacks may be avoided altogether.
Hollow Space #2: Blood Vessels
Like airways, blood vessels, including capillaries, are surrounded by smooth muscle. And like the airways, these smooth muscles are sensitive to CO2 and NO levels. When CO2 and NO levels are lowered in the blood, the smooth muscle contracts and pressure is created in the blood vessels. This is known as hypertension or high blood pressure.
Many people are on blood pressure medication while others use natural supplementation, such as beets, to increase nitrates in the blood. Nitrates are a precursor to nitric oxide. In the breath training world, we teach those with hypertension to breath correctly and naturally retain CO2 and NO in the body. In many cases, high blood pressure normalizes after a few weeks or months of correcting the breath.
Hollow Space #3: Nasal Passages
While your nose is not surrounded by smooth muscle, the inside of the nose is very much a hollow space that contracts and opens (relaxes) like other hollow spaces. The nose is a very important part of the breathing process and has the job of preparing incoming air for the lungs. When things are not right with the air prep process, the tissue inside the nose will contract or create mucus, congestion, restricting airflow.
The inner tissue of the nose, like other hollow spaces, is very sensitive to carbon dioxide levels AND the primary reason for nasal congestion is low levels of CO2. I always enjoy watching a congested person's eyes light up when they apply a simple breathing exercise, called the Nose Clearing Exercise, and within minutes find their nose clears.
Hollow Space #4: Intestines
Many think the "American diet" has led to an increase in the number of people with constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS.) And while diet changes and good gut health may help, often correcting the breath resolves these problems.
As noted earlier, the intestines are surrounded by CO2 and NO sensitive smooth muscle. Correct breathing helps retain these two gases in the body, relaxes the intestinal smooth muscle and everything flows as it should down below. In many cases, the affects can be seen after a few days of doing specialized breathing exercises.
We've seen in this article how breathing correctly can increase/normalize carbon dioxide and nitric oxide levels in the body, resulting in relief of asthma, high blood pressure, nasal congestion, constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. In many cases, relief can be seen in days or weeks after breathing is corrected. How you breathe really matters.