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The power of breath-work to reduce inflammation in the body

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

Recently I’ve been talking a lot about chronic inflammation, what it is and its effect on the body, also if we are dealing with chronic inflammation in some form, how breath-work (amongst other factors) can be incredibly powerful to help reduce and improve symptoms.


What is chronic inflammation?


Chronic inflammation is a prolonged response to inflammation in the body, it may have been triggered by an infection or long term exposure to irritants/toxins or an irregular immune response.

Initially the symptoms can be difficult to pin point, but over time they can worsen and cause various health issues.


What can we do if we are dealing with chronic inflammation?


Whether you are dealing with an auto-immune disorder or chronic illness or injury there are many factors that can help. It’s important to speak to your health care provider to discuss any troubling symptoms that may be linked to inflammation, they can advise on your symptoms, determine the underlying cause, and develop an appropriate treatment plan for your specific needs.

Combining this with lifestyle factors such as implementing a healthy diet, staying hydrated, adding in some form of regular movement, managing stress levels, prioritising sleep and taking up practises such as breath-work can help manage your condition and potentially improve symptoms.


What are the benefits of breath-work for chronic inflammation?


Breathing techniques are so beneficial for improving inflammation. Using diaphragmatic breathing, focusing on and slowing the breath down can help calm the body and mind, lower our heart rate and blood pressure, improve our sleep, strengthen our respiratory function and improve digestion. This in turn can aid detoxification in the body and can help to strengthen our immune system and immune response.


Breathing techniques


There are many beneficial breathing techniques available to us and I highly recommend using an app or You Tube to find a technique that suits you.


Some of the techniques I use are cadence breathing, which is a way of controlling the breath in a rhythmic way, often with a longer out breath, this helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (or rest and digest system) calming the body and mind.


I either use 4-6 breathing, where you breathe in for a count of 4 and breathe out for a count of 6 or I use 4-7-8 breathing where you breathe in for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7 and then breathe out for a count of 8.


How do we breathe?


I’d really like to finish this post with a short explanation on how we breathe, which sounds silly but to help our response to stress and improve our immune function, learning to access the diaphragm and optimise our breathing is so important.


The diaphragm is the main muscle involved in breathing and is a dome-like muscle that separates the thorax from the abdomen. It attaches to the ribs from just below your chest to the base of the ribs, front to back and it looks like a big parachute.


It’s main job is to create intra-abdominal pressure.


When we breathe in the diaphragm moves downwards, which increases the pressure in the abdomen, this decreases pressure in the thorax which draws air into the lungs.


As the diaphragm contracts down it creates a pressurised container along with other muscles that surround the ribs / diaphragm and the base or pelvis (the muscles of the pelvic floor). It also massages the organs in the abdomen as it compresses downwards. This is how we build intra-abdominal pressure. Allowing this function to happen is important and so optimising the muscles that surround the diaphragm should be built into any breathwork practise.


Intra-abdominal pressure is how we generate force to create optimal movement but when we breathe in this way it also has positive and powerful effects on our immune system, nervous system, brain as well as our body and movement.

If we're constantly breathing from our chest and shoulders - which we have a tendency to do when we're stresssed - our breathing becomes more shallow, we lose the proper functioning of the diaphragm and therefore our ability to build IAP is less efficient.

When the muscles of the chest, shoulders and neck are used to breathe, they lose their primary function which is to support and move the head, this can potentially cause instability, tension and possibly injury to this area, it can also increase our stress rate.

The more we breathe from the diaphragm, the more support we have for our entire body and the better we can move, if we are able to move more regularly this can also help reduce inflammation. We can access our parasympathetic nervous better, improving our response to stress. Adding in a breathing technique such as cadence breathing brings more benefit too.

If you'd like more information on breathing for reducing inflammation in the body, please get in touch.

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