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Breathing to Live Longer

Published on November 18, 2014, Last modified on December 10, 2016

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The first thing we need to learn about our breathing is that it is important. In fact, even if you have been meditating or doing yoga for years one can still be in a position to see breathing more importantly. Any car mechanic can tell you how important the carburetor is in a car but not many doctors know how important their patients breathing patterns are.

Breathing is simple but somehow most of us manage to bungle it and we pay excessively health wise because of it. There is nothing more important to our life or our health than our breathing but who sees life this way? Every mother knows how to take their child’s temperature but how many know the easiest, cheapest and deepest test of one’s health that one can self-administer in thirty seconds without leaving one’s chair?

When we breathe right things tend to go right in our lives. When we breathe correctly, we tend to live longer and be much healthier. No one wants to come right out and say it but there is no better medicine than oxygen and no better way to get it, without extra cost, than learning to control one’s breath. That’s hard work so fortunately for most, who are a bit lazy to get a hold of their bodies most basic function, that of respiration, there are machines and medicinals to help us get more oxygen, energy and health.

There is no quicker way of getting oxygen into someone then taking sodium bicarbonate because it instantly releases carbon dioxide into the stomach and thus bicarbonates are thrust into the blood. In the blood, carbon dioxide and bicarbonates turn back and forth into each other with the help of lightning fast enzymes. This happens because bicarbonate and CO2 are two different forms of the same thing.

Our great source of energy is from oxygen. It is the body’s most basic nutrient needed in large quantities. Carbon dioxide is also necessary for energy and life because without it oxygen is not delivered in sufficient quantities to the cells.

“The body can store many of the things it needs to function such as vitamins and food in the form of fat. Oxygen is one item that cannot be stored in sufficient quantities for more than a few minutes. At rest, the blood holds about a quart of dissolved oxygen, but it is continually being used by the cells to produce energy. The lungs need to be constantly working to furnish a sufficient supply for various activities.”

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We fine tune the carburetor of our life with the rhythm of our breathing. Control the speed of your breathing and you will control your life. Control the speed of your breathing and you can save your life if you are dying from cancer. The FDA acknowledges that oxygen is a medicine but they will not prosecute you for practicing medicine without a license for breathing more oxygen.

There are many ways to getting more oxygen but there is no deeper way than learning to slow one’s breathing down. Way down in most people’s case especially if they have cancer or are sick with any disease. The general idea is to get enough oxygen into your blood to support your physiological requirements and power your limbs, organs, and muscles. Controlled breathing not only keeps the mind and body functioning at their best, it can also lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation and help us de-stress.

Your breathing or respiratory rate is defined as the number of breaths a person takes during a one-minute period while at rest. Recent studies suggest that an accurate recording of respiratory rate is very important in predicting serious medical events. Since many factors can affect the results, understanding how to take an accurate measurement is very important. While watching a clock, count the number of times you breathe in two minutes. Make three trials, and find the average. Divide by two to find the average number of breaths per minute.

The rate should be measured at rest, not after someone has been up and walking about. Being aware that your breaths are being counted can make the results inaccurate, as people often alter the way they breathe if they know it is being monitored. Nurses are skilled at overcoming this problem by discretely counting respirations, watching the number of times your chest rises and falls — often while pretending to take your pulse.

Lung expert Dr. Lynne Eldridge says that, “In general, children have faster respiratory rates than adults, and women breathe more often than men. The normal ranges for different age groups are listed below:

  • Newborn: 30-60 breaths per minute

  • Infant (1 to 12 months): 30-60 breaths per minute

  • Toddler (1-2 years): 24-40 breaths per minute

  • Preschooler (3-5 years): 22-34 breaths per minute

  • School-age child (6-12 years): 18-30 breaths per minute

  • Adolescent (13-17 years): 12-16 breaths per minute

  • Adult: 12-18 breaths per minute

Medical textbooks suggest that the normal respiratory rate for adults is only 12 breaths per minute at rest. Older textbooks often provide lower values (e.g., 8-10 breaths per minute) but as Dr. Eldridge and others have noted most modern adults breathe much faster (about 15-20 breaths per minute) than their normal respiratory rate. Respiratory rates in cancer and other severely ill patients are usually higher, generally about 20 breaths/min or more.

Don Campbell and Al Lee, authors of ‘Perfect Breathing: Transform Your Life One Breath at a Time,’ agree that 10 or fewer deeper, slower breaths per minute is best for overall health. “We all come into the world with the ability to take full, unencumbered breaths, but as we get older we forget how to breathe properly," they say.

When we breathe faster than we should we actually end up losing too much CO2 thus reducing body oxygenation due to vasoconstriction and the suppressed Bohr Effect caused by hypocapnia (CO2 deficiency). The faster we breathe the lower we force our oxygen levels and the more our cells suffer from hypoxia (reduced cell oxygenation).

Slower easier breathing improves cell-oxygen content. We call this abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing because the diaphragm pushes down and the belly swells out just as we see when babies breathe.

Ideal Breathing Rates

The lowest normal breathing rate noted by contemporary medicine is eight breaths per minute and that is a kind of golden standard to shoot for. Is even eight breaths ideal or is something even slower up for the offering that takes us to heavenly health. I have recommended the Breathslim device for years exactly because it puts the breaks on our breathing rhythm. When using the Breathslim I generally, after years of using it, practice at two breaths a minute for about 10 to 20 minutes at a session.

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Dr. Artour Rakhimov writes, “The next row (“minus 4-th” degree of health) corresponds to patients whose life is not threatened at the moment, but their main concern are symptoms. People with mild asthma, heart disease, diabetes, initial stages of cancer, and many other chronic disorders are all in this zone. Taking medication is the normal feature for most of these people. As we see from the table, heart rate for these patients varies from 80 to 90 beats per minute. Breathing frequency is between 20 and 26 breaths per minute (the medical norm is 12, while doctor Buteyko’s norm is 8 breaths per minute at rest). Physical exercise is very hard, since even fast walking results in very heavy breathing through the mouth, exhaustion, and worsening of symptoms. Complains about fatigue are normal. All these symptoms are often so debilitating that they interfere with normal life and the ability to work, analyze information, care about others, etc. Living in the chronic state of anxiety due to effects of stress and being preoccupied with one’s own miserable health are normal, while efficiency and performance in various areas (science, arts, sports, etc.) are compromised. Sitting in armchairs or soft couches is the most favorite posture.”

Dr. Sheldon Saul Hendler writes, “Breathing is unquestionably the single most important thing you do in your life. And breathing right is the single most important thing you can do to improve your life.” So what is the actual difference to our lives and health when we breathe less? You will be astounded by the information that Michael White has put together. 85,000 people filled out his questionnaire on his site yielding the following vital information:

Courtesy breathing.com

You should stare at this chart for a while and really let its information sink in. You can clearly see that slow breathers have all the health and fast breathers are just having the toughest time with their bodies and life. Fast breathers suffer from much higher levels of anxiety, depression, sleeping disorders and high blood pressure than slow breathers.

Dr. Fred Muench, says, “Once you go below 10 breaths a minute you start to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body relax when it has been injured. Slow breathing activates the vagus nerve, the primary cranial nerve, which is associated with a recuperative state." Perhaps more important, slow breathing tends to increase heart-rate variability, a measurement of the fluctuation in heartbeat during an activity. "If your heart rate fluctuates 60 to 80 beats per minute, cardiac-wise that’s healthier than someone whose heart rate varies between only 70 and 75 beats per minute," says Muench. "It means your system is not so rigid. Someone like Lance Armstrong has a massive swing in heart-rate variability, whereas an unhealthy or older person has a much smaller one. The way to increase variability is to breathe slowly."

Actually, heart rate variability is demonstrated from beat to beat and there are machines that can measure that and help increase it.

Too Much Breathing is Tiring

A person who is breathing at four breaths a minute will only breathe about 5,760 times a day. At the “normal” breathing rate of eight breaths a minute that count doubles to 11,520 breaths a day. At 16, which is still slow for many ill people, that rate reaches to 23,000 breaths a day. At 25 breaths a minute, we are clipping along at 36,000 breaths a day, which is a far cry above a normal rate.

Dr. Buteyko found that virtually all sick people (asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.) have accelerated respiratory patterns. During rapid breathing carbon dioxide becomes deficient, oxygen delivery to the cells is reduced, breath-holding time is reduced, and the natural automatic pause is absent in each breath. Buteyko appreciated the fact that breathing is in control and modulates the cardiovascular, immune, nervous, and digestive systems of the body.

Our vital capacity for breathing is directly related to our breathing rate and is a predictor of health, illness and longevity. After thirty years of studying over 5,000 patients in what was called the Framingham studies, doctors from the Boston University School of Medicine said they could predict both long-term and short-term mortality based on peoples’ breathing capacity. Dr. William Kannel said a person’s vital breathing capacity can, “Pick out people who are going to die 10, 20 or 30 years from now.”

Special Note: Fast breathing is cancerous! When you have cancer and have the will to fight for your life then breathing is a primary concern as is bountiful pure mineralized water with high alkalinity (as opposed to high pH water).

The main point to be realized from this essay is that our breathing deserves our constant attention when our state of health is challenged. A car mechanic will hang all over your engine’s carburetor if the engine is running rough and he will not stop until everything is all right. The same goes for our breath. However, it is not easy for our complicated minds to wrap themselves around something as simple and glorious as our breathing.

Breathing and yoga go together as does meditation. Both practices are more interesting offering the mind plenty to pay attention to but the breath is super simple, super basic. When we practice breathing retraining, we are concentrating our minds on the pulse of life. It is simple but not easy. A cancer patient should be concentrating at least an hour a day on their breathing. Vernon Johnston cured himself of prostate and bone cancer in a month with sodium bicarbonate and four hours a day of conscious breathing.

I recommend the Breathslim to get oneself started. It makes it easy for the newcomer for breathing retraining but will not take you to the end or ultimate in breathing. I like to say to people that an hour a day on the Breathslim is like four hours of more unstructured breathing exercises because it is hard to imagine many people, even those dying of cancer, having the will to breathe four hours a day like Vernon, who managed the full reversal of his cancer in 30 days.

Becoming a slow breather will change a person’s life. It will change their consciousness. For those who want to go the entire nine yards with breathing as the ultimate healing anti-aging process I recommend the breathing course by Michael White.

Conclusion

Al Lee and Don Campbell in their book Perfect Breathing say it well. “The impact of the breath extends into every aspect of life and shows itself at the root of human function. Ancient teachers, sages, yogis, and martial artists discovered its power and developed disciplines around it with yoga and qigong and karate, among so many other practices. Understanding the breath means understanding the human machine and how each breath can be used to develop and control the body. Breathing forms the foundations of meditation, contemplative thought and prayer, but it is also informing science and medicine, as conscious breathing proves its mettle as a tool to fight stress, build up immunity to disease, and heal the body in many ways.”

We all can listen when Lee and Campbell say, “What is a perfect breath? Far from being some noble yet unreachable goal that takes years of rigorous practice to master, a perfect breath is any breath you take for which you are completely mindful and aware. In the space of that one simple breath, great things can be accomplished. Perfect breathing is absolutely attainable, and within easy reach. In fact, your very next breath can be a perfect breath.”

Warning: Depending on the severity and type of the condition patients can worsen their health if they go into intensive breathing sessions too aggressively. Some critically ill patients can develop even higher blood pressure, panic attacks, and migraine headaches from aggressive and rapid changes in breathing. Like all parts of the Natural Allopathic Medicine protocol breathing retraining should be entered into slowly and calmly.

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Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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comments

For questions pertaining to your own personal health issues or for specific dosing of Dr. Sircus's protocol items please seek a consultation or visit our knowledge base to see if your question may have been answered previously.
  • I am German and would prefer German editions in PDF for download …. actually for any books. any help?

  • Alyse Levy

    How do you feel about coherent breathing? Do you feel it’s comparable to Michael White’s approach