Breathing can prove to be a powerful medicine against several conditions that can worsen our quality of life. But not the shallow and fast breathing that often accompanies us in everyday life, gripped by thoughts, worries and commitments. This breathing, on the contrary, only makes the stress, to which we are subjected, even worse. On the other hand, slow, deep and diaphragmatic breathing can have important benefits for our health. Today we talk about these advantages.
Diaphragmatic breathing against reflux
Reflux occurs when the valve located between the esophagus and the stomach, called the cardia, relaxes, allowing the acid content to rise from the stomach to the esophagus with burning sensations behind the sternum, chest pain and symptoms such as cough, sore throat, nausea and even asthma. It is possible, through breathing exercises, to strengthen the diaphragmatic muscle, which functions as a sort of second valve, relieving reflux. Several studies have tested this hypothesis by asking volunteers to practice diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Well, these studies showed that regularly performing similar breathing exercises in cases of reflux improved this condition significantly (Eherer et al, The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2011 - Qiu et al, APM, 2020).
Diaphragmatic breathing for lung health
Practicing diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to improve lung function within a month, even in the presence of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In particular, in the case of asthma, this type of breathing reduced hyperventilation, made the movements related to breathing wider and more effective and improved sports performance as well as the quality of life. In the case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, those who practiced diaphragmatic breathing had improved respiratory rhythm, the ability to perform physical activity and endurance (Hamasaki et al, Medicines, 2020).
Diaphragmatic breathing against constipation
Diaphragmatic breathing is a real massage of the internal organs, such as the intestine, which benefit from it. Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to counteract constipation, favoring correct intestinal transit (Hamasaki et al, Medicines, 2020).
Diaphragmatic breathing, blood pressure and anxiety
Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to relax and counteract anxiety and stress. In fact, following diaphragmatic breathing sessions, the levels of cortisol, the hormone that indicates how stressed we are, was reduced (Ma et al, Front Psychol, 2017). The relaxing action is also reflected in an increase in antioxidant defenses against free radicals and the damage they can cause. But be careful, an increase in free radicals is observed not only with aging and incorrect lifestyles, even intense physical activity can expose us to an increase in free radicals that, in the long term, especially if we practice this intense activity with constancy, can cause cell damage and degeneration. Well, diaphragmatic breathing has also been shown to protect athletes from damage by free radicals (Martarelli et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2011). Not only that, this type of breathing has allowed, in just over a month, to reduce blood pressure and increase the heart's ability to adapt to external factors, a condition that reduces stress levels and increases well-being (Hamasaki et al, Medicines, 2020).
Diaphragmatic breathing, how to practice
To perform a diaphragmatic breathing exercise, you can lie on your back. Place one hand on the chest and the other hand at the navel level. Inhale deeply for about 6 seconds, taking care to expand the belly, raising only the hand on the navel while the other hand on the chest must remain still. Then exhale, for about 6 seconds, feeling your belly drop while your chest doesn't contract. Repeat 10 times. To make the exercise even more effective and strengthen the diaphragm more, after each week you can add a book, or other weight, on the belly (Eherer et al, The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2011).