Some days, the most important thing we can do is just breathe. At birth, our bodies naturally know how to breathe. Over time, whether it’s due to stress, health issues, weight changes, or lack of exercise, our natural way of breathing changes. How well we breathe on any given day can depend on several factors.

For everyone with lung disease, there are treatments. Many of the treatments for Alpha-1 focus on what is wrong with our breathing above. Treatment for airways disease includes bronchodilator medications and ways to clear mucus. Treatment for collapsible airways is to provide back pressure to the airways through pursed-lip breathing or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) at night.

There is another very important aspect of breathing that touches our community. While we are taught to treat illness, the use of breathing techniques to improve wellness is both symbolic and real. Wellness initiatives come through improved nutrition, exercise, stress management, and prevention of infection. Learning proper breathing techniques can be an adjunct to creating wellness.

There are advantages to learning to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. The nose manages the air as it comes into your body by controlling the temperature, ensuring the air is not too hot or too cold, filtering out toxins, and even humidifying the air you breathe in. If you wake up with a sore throat or dry mouth, you likely slept with your mouth open. But most importantly, breathing through the nose keeps the body from panic breathing. Nasal breathing implies that the breathing rate is slow enough to keep control.

Breathing through your nose releases nitric oxide-not to be confused with nitrous oxide, which is the laughing gas you get at the dentist. Nitric oxide expands blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, and has a calming effect. This is important because as nitric oxide expands blood vessels, it increases oxygenation throughout the body.

Taking in deep breaths through your nose while using diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing is the central technique used in yoga. This is one of the basic controlled breathing t techniques which is the first step to breaking a shortness of breath cycle associated with panic.

So breathing is about wellness. Learning to relax and breathe to control life at the point of stress is important. And the importance is even greater for individuals with lung disease.

To learn more about breathing techniques for Alphas, check out the Big Fat Reference Guide (BFRG) article Coordinated Breathing for Lung Disease.