Monday, April 30, 2007

The Metabolic Typing Diet

I admit that before I studied to become a stress management consultant, I underestimated the importance of nutrition in everyday life. Since then it is a topic I have come to understand and appreciate.

Many people don't realize that eating well is vital to your stress-relief efforts. A healthy body and a healthy mind go hand in hand…you really cannot have one without the other. An imbalance in one will cause an imbalance in the other, and from there it just ping-pongs back and forth until you have an overstressed mind and body!

I've long been an advocate of eating locally grown foods, believing they are of greater benefit to you than exotic imports to which your body is unfamiliar. Nutrients aren't "just nutrients" as it turns out, and an exotic food contains compounds that your body may not know what to do with as far as digestion and nutrient use.

Furthermore, it has become apparent that food digestion and nutrient use by the body is also rooted in your ancestry (which ties in to geography). In a previous post, "Season, geography, and diet" I wrote:

"We sometimes hear of people in other countries around the world who eat foods that we have been told are "bad," but the people who eat those foods are reasonably healthy so we speculate there is something special about the particular combinations of foods they consume. We name diets after their geographic locations, and try to emulate their health and vitality by following the "Mediterranean Diet" and the "Japanese Diet," etc.

"It occurs to me that those diets keep those people healthy not because the diet contains one food or another in any particular quantity or order, but because the basic diet is of foods local to the area, local to the people, local to their physiological growth and development. The foods and the people grow in the same area, and I honestly believe they may be connected in ways we haven't even begun to imagine, never mind understand. Maybe we should give some serious time and study not only to what we eat, but when we eat it, and how far the food had to travel before it arrived at our table. Do you suppose it is possible that foods not native to your specific area are somewhat unhealthy if included regularly, or in large quantities, in your diet? I wonder – I really do – if that could possibly be true. Unfortunately I have been unable to discover any studies on the topic."

Well, I still have not found any studies on the topic, but I did find a fabulous book: The Metabolic Typing Diet by William Wolcott and Trish Fahey, Broadway Books, NY 2002, pb, 428 p., ISBN 0767905644

I wish the title had a word other than "Diet," something like "Nutrition For The Way Your Body Uses Food" because this is not your traditional diet book. This book helps you to determine the optimal ratio of proteins/fats/carbohydrates you should include in your nutritional program to achieve health and wellbeing.

As we are reminded in the book, "One man's food is another man's poison." It turns out that this may be literally true. We are all familiar with the fact that this Named Diet or that Famous Diet helps one person lose weight and feel great, but does nothing for another's weight loss, and besides the second person feels terrible while following it; they experience low energy, they're always hungry, or they feel just "awful." That is because the genetic makeup of those two people cause them to digest foods and use nutrients in very different ways, and one person is receiving proper nutrition while the other may be literally starving on that particular diet.

If people were cars, it would be like filling up two automobiles' gas tanks with regular unleaded gasoline and expecting optimal performance from both vehicles, one a car with a regular engine and the other a truck with a diesel engine. Optimal performance from the truck just isn't going to happen, and you may even make the diesel engine sick by "feeding" it the wrong fuel.

People surely aren't cars, but you can get the wrong fuel which can make you feel anything from uncomfortable to downright ill. While it is generally true that certain foods are optimal for certain groups of people…in fact, Chapter One in the book bears the title "The Wisdom of Ancestral Diets"….most of us in America are of such mixed ancestry that trying to determine our proper foods through an examination of the diets of our ancestors would probably return some very conflicting results.

Of course, then the big question becomes: "How do I know what fuel is right for me?"

This can cause a lot of conflict, both inner and outer. You want to feel good about what you eat, and you don't want your family or friends pointing out how your current food choice goes against the current dietary fad. Many people are told that vegetarian is the way to go and base that on the dental and intestinal structure of human beings. Personally, I strongly believe geography and ancestry is the way to go. As the book says (p. 5): "…many people who currently inhabit tropical or equatorial regions have a strong hereditary need for diets high in carbohydrates such as vegetables and fruits and grains and legumes. These foods provide the kind of body fuel that is most compatible with the unique body chemistry of people who are genetically programmed to lead active lifestyles in warm and humid regions of the world. Their systems are simply not designed to process or utilize large quantities of animal protein and fat.

"Conversely, people from cold, harsh northern climates are not genetically equipped to survive on light vegetarian food. They tend to burn fuel quickly, so they need heavier foods to sustain themselves. Eskimos, for example, can easily digest and assimilate large quantities of heavy protein and fat – the very types of foods that would overwhelm the digestive tracts of people from, say, the Mediterranean basin."

You can clearly see that a "one-size-fits-all" diet can be disastrous! You can also see that geographic environment is an integral part of choosing a proper diet. (This is not to say there aren't exceptions. I know several people who live in very northern latitudes but are happily and healthily vegetarian. The most important thing to remember is this: every person is unique! Find what works best for YOU!)

This is where the book comes in. It helps you determine your metabolic type…how you metabolize foods….through a questionnaire included in the book. There are three metabolic types; those who turn food into energy fast, those who turn food into energy slowly, and a mix of the two.

If you are a person with a fast metabolism, you need foods that burn slowly, and your diet should include more fats and proteins. If you have a slower metabolism, you should tilt your diet more toward carbohydrates because they burn faster.

I have been following the recommendations of this diet for a couple of weeks now, and I have to say I'm feeling great. I decided to try it because I had noticed over the last few months that carbohydrates, which I have always loved and have never before had a problem with, were leaving me feeling lightheaded and spacey, like I was on a sugar high. I had difficulty concentrating, my memory was going downhill…it was terrible! Presently, I'm eating more proteins and fats, and I've already seen a big improvement.

(Please note: if you think your child (or yourself) is ADD or ADHD, drop a few carbs and increase your protein. It may make a world of difference. And, of course, cut the sugars!)

Your body does change, and it's not a surprise that your nutritional requirements will change as you do. That is partly why I decided to try this new Metabolic Typing Diet, I had obviously changes in how my body utilized foods and nutrients. Of course the main reason that I like this book is that I do believe that when making your food choices, you should avoid fads (and fast food), and your choices should be based on the things your ancestors ate because that is how your body as evolved to utilize the nutrients. This is where the metabolic typing comes in.

The type of metabolism you end up with is determined by your DNA, and your DNA comes from your ancestors. I think I stumbled into just what I was looking for…a way to determine the right foods based on ancestry, but also taking into consideration your current lifestyle and environment. What could be more perfect?!

Another thing the book brings to light is that if you suffer from a chronic condition or disease, following the diet that is optimal for you can provide you with the right nutrients in the right quantities to help and maybe even heal your condition. The authors of the book have effected healings on a wide range of chronic complaints not by treating the disease, but by providing optimum nutrition so the body could heal itself….and everyone knows the only true healing is self-healing.

The bottom line here is that if you are stressed out, feeling lousy even though you try to eat right and follow the Food Pyramid guidelines or the latest miracle diet, STOP! Figure out your metabolic type and start eating right for YOU!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Recipe for Simplicity

Picture courtesy of Antique Clipart

I am a strong advocate for voluntary simplicity. I live fairly simply; I have what I need, and I love what I have. I've never been a "shop 'til you drop" sort of gal; in fact I don't really like shopping at all, and have been known to set speed records in getting in and out of Costco (a popular west-coast warehouse store).

Living simply is a little easier for me now because my son is grown and out on his own, and my husband is living and working in a neighboring state for a few years. However, it's not terribly difficult for anyone if you put some time and effort into planning a relaxed life and lifestyle.

Voluntary Simplicity makes a lot of sense when you realize that hundreds of generations of our ancestors lived simply and were seldom as stressed-out as we are today. In fact, it wasn't until the 1930's that we began to use the word "stress" to indicate a non-specific physiological reaction to tension. That tells us a lot about what our lifestyle is doing to us.

Many people think of Voluntary Simplicity as living like an ascetic, hauling water from a nearby stream for bathing and chopping wood for the stove before breakfast. Nothing could be further from the truth. Voluntary Simplicity is simply making the decision to step out of the rat race, reduce consumption, and concentrate on the things that are truly important in your life.

So, how do you do it? Here is a way to get started, 10 suggestions on how to simplify from the website of Linda Breen Pierce, author of Simplicity Lessons: A 12-Step Guide to Living Simply

~ Recipe for Simplicity ~

by Linda Breen Pierce

"Simplify, Simplify…" More than a century after Henry David Thoreau uttered these words, his plea for simplicity has more significance now than ever before. We work hard and play hard, filling nearly every moment with activity. Most families believe they need two incomes to pay for a standard of living that has doubled in the last 50 years. But do we? Based on my three-year study of over 200 people who have simplified their lives, I found that we can work less, want less, and spend less, and be happier and more fulfilled in the process. Here are ten suggestions to simplify your life. Don't try to simplify your life in a few weeks or months; most people need an initial period of three to five years to complete this transition. Small, gradual steps are best.

1. Don't let any material thing come into your home unless you absolutely love it and want to keep it until it is beyond repair. Too much stuff - it's suffocating us. Purchasing, maintaining, insuring, storing and eventually disposing of our stuff sucks up our precious life energy.

2. Live in a home with only those rooms that you or someone in your family use every day. Create a cozy home environment that fits your family. You will find this is much more satisfying than living in a museum designed to impress your friends. Spending time and money to maintain a home that is larger than you truly need diverts these resources from more fulfilling endeavors.

3. Limit your work (outside of the home) to 30 hours a week, 20 if you are a parent. To live a balanced life, we need "down" time - time to daydream, to relax, to prepare a leisurely meal, to take a walk. If we surround our structured activities with empty spaces, those activities will become more productive and meaningful.

4. Select a home and place of employment no more than 30 minutes away from each other. Commuting time is dead time. It nourishes not the body, the mind, nor the soul. Preserve your energy and money for more rewarding life experiences.

5. Limit your children's extracurricular activities to one to three a week, depending on age. Otherwise, you will exhaust yourself and your children will grow up addicted to constant stimulation.

6. Take three to four months off every few years and go live in a foreign country. Living in a different culture fascinates, excites, and vitalizes us. It teaches us to live in the present, a core practice of simple living. We gain perspective when we experience a foreign culture. We learn how much we have to be grateful for.

7. Spend at least an hour a week in a natural setting, away from crowds of people, traffic, and buildings. Three to four hours of nature time each week is even better. There is nothing more basic, more simple, than the natural world.

8. Do whatever you need to do to connect with a sense of spirit in your life, whether it be prayer, religious services, journal writing, meditation, or spiritually-related reading. Simplicity leads to spirituality; spirituality leads to simplicity. Cultivate a practice of silence and solitude, even for 15 to 30 minutes a day. Your spirituality will evolve naturally.

9. Seek the support of others who want to simplify their lives. Join or start a simplicity circle if you enjoy group interaction. Living simply in our culture can be a lonely journey. Your friends and family may still be on the work-and-spend treadmill and are unlikely to give you support. Participating in a study group will give you support and validation for your choices.

10. Practice saying no. Say no to those things that don't bring you inner peace and fulfillment, whether it be more material things, greater career responsibility, or added social activities. Be vigilant with your time and energy; they are limited resources. If you say yes to one thing (like a job promotion), recognize that you are saying no to something else (perhaps more time with family). Live consciously and deliberately.

Linda Breen Pierce is the author of Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World and Simplicity Lessons: A 12-Step Guide to Living Simply. She can be reached via email or at (831) 626-8486 (Pacific time).

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

10 Superfoods for Stress Relief

Beef & asparagus salad. See below for recipe.

Today's post is a reprint of an article by Dorie Eisenstein first published a few years ago in "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine.

Her food choices are still great, just remember to choose range-fed meats, and organic fruits, vegetables, and cereals.


10 Superfoods for Stress Relief

Which foods to eat for your busy life, and which foods to avoid when you're overwhelmed.

By Dorie Eisenstein

You're overwhelmed, overtired, and in desperate need of some mental and physical nourishment. You're stressed. What can you do beyond throwing in the towel and hiding under the covers? Thankfully, you can relieve stress by eating certain foods and avoiding others.

Tara Geise, a registered dietitian (RD) in private practice in Orlando, Florida, and a spokesperson for American Dietetic Association says, "One of the keys is avoiding things that will give your body and mind real highs and lows like caffeine and alcohol. You don't want to intake a lot of stimulants or a lot of depressants when you're stressed." Geise also recommends skipping that sugary snack you crave when the stress builds up. "Sugar causes your blood sugar to spike and then fall quickly, which can make your energy level dip," says Geise. "Then you're low energy and stressed and that's not a good picture."

Not to worry -- there are many foods you can eat that will help with your stress levels.


This green veggie is high in folic acid, which can help stabilize your mood. "When you're stressed, your body releases hormones that affect your mood," says Geise. "Eating certain vitamins and minerals like folic acid and B vitamins can help keep your mood steady because they're needed to make serotonin, which is a chemical that directly affects mood in a positive way."

Recommended Serving Size: 7 spears, 1/2 inch thick, cooked, 25 calories


Even though beef often gets a bad rap, it's a great dinner option for a stressed-out family. Beef contains high levels of zinc, iron, and B vitamins, which are also known to help stabilize your mood. "People think they should stay away from beef, but it's very nutrient rich, even compared to chicken," says Geise. Ask your grocery store butcher for a lean cut if you're concerned about fat content.

Recommended Serving Size: Scant 1 cup of raw lean ground chunk, 137 calories Scant 1 cup of regular ground beef, 310 calories


Milk is high in antioxidants and vitamins B2 and B12, as well as protein and calcium. Have a bowl of whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk in the morning to start your day with a stress-fighting breakfast.

Recommended Serving Size: Whole cow's milk, scant 1/2 cup, 66 calories Two percent cow's milk, scant 1/2 cup, 46 calories

Cottage Cheese and Fruit

Cottage cheese is high in protein and calcium. "Foods with high protein content that aren't loaded with sugar won't cause a spike in blood sugar and will keep you satiated for a longer time," says Geise. Try mixing the cottage cheese with a fruit that is high in vitamin C like oranges. Vitamin C plays a role in fighting stress because it's an antioxidant that fights the free radicals that get released when you're stressed. These free radicals have been shown to cause cancer.

Recommended Serving Size: Creamed cottage cheese, scant 1/2 cup, 79 calories One percent fat cottage cheese, scant 1/2 cup, 72 calories 1 orange, 60 calories


Are you ever looking for something you can really dig your teeth into when you're stressed? Try crunching on almonds to get some aggression out. A good source of Vitamin B2 and E, as well as magnesium and zinc, almonds are high in fat, but most of the fat is unsaturated. Like vitamin C, vitamin E has been shown to fight the free radicals associated with stress, and in particular, those free radicals that cause heart disease.

Recommended Serving Size: Shelled almonds, 1/3 cup, 306 calories


Very rich in antioxidants, blueberries offer a high-fiber, low-calorie fruit option that is also rich in stress-fighting vitamin C. Try them with cottage cheese or as a snack on their own.

Recommended Serving Size: Blueberries, 2/3 cup, 30 calories


A great lunch option, tuna is high in stress-fighting vitamins B6 and B12. Tuna is also a good low-fat protein source. "Don't load tuna down with fat by using a lot of mayonnaise," cautions Geise. "Choose a light mayo instead."

Recommended Serving Size: Tuna canned in brine, 3.5 ounces drained, 99 calories Tuna canned in oil, 3.5 ounces, drained, 189 calories

Cornflakes or Crispy Rice Cereal

Although they aren't low in sugar, cornflakes and crispy rice cereal are fortified with B vitamins and folic acid to help reduce stress. Have them for breakfast with milk. Geise also recommends having them dry as an afternoon snack.

Recommended Serving Size: Cornflakes, 1 cup, 108 calories Crispy rice cereal, 2 cups, 111 calories

Originally created for, September 2004.


Beef and asparagus salad recipe:


12 lb center-cut beef tenderloin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper


2 lb asparagus, trimmed
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt

Caper Oil

2 Tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp capers, drained and rinsed

1. To prepare roast: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season tenderloin with sea salt and pepper. Heat large sauté pan over high heat. Add beef and sear outside until light brown, about 5 minutes. Place roast in baking pan and insert meat thermometer into center. Place in oven and roast until internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

2. To prepare salad: Just before serving, bring 8 cups of water to a boil in large pot. Add asparagus and blanch 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Drain and place in 8 cups of ice water for 1 minute. Remove asparagus and chop into 1" pieces. In large bowl, combine asparagus, basil, zest, juice, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

3. To prepare caper oil: In blender, combine oil and capers and puree, or use a mortar and pestle to form a thin paste.

4. Slice beef thinly and serve 3 ounces with 1/2 cup of salad per person. Drizzle beef with 1 teaspoon of caper oil.

Makes 8 Servings

Per Serving: 230 cal, 21 g pro, 11 g carb, 11 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 55 mg chol, 0 g fiber, 600 mg sodium

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Chilling Time: 2 hours

Fresh cooking tips from Scott Uehlein, corporate chef, Canyon Ranch, Tucson:

Season meat well with salt and pepper before cooking-meat will be more flavorful and you won't need to add extra salt, thereby limiting the sodium content of your meal.

Try to combine sweet, sour, bitter, and salty flavors in every dish, as I did with this salad. Your palate will be more stimulated and satisfied, and you won't feel something is missing from a meal (plus you may be less likely to forage for a snack later). I prefer sea or kosher salt to table salt when cooking.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mindful Preventive Medicine

Verse 39 of the Daodejing tells us:

From the beginning these things possessed wholeness
Heaven possessed wholeness thereby becoming lucid
Earth possessed wholeness thereby becoming serene
All beings possessed wholeness thereby becoming alive

From this verse you see that you started out in the right place; you possessed wholeness, were One with the Dao. So, what happened? More important, how do you get back there?

Part of the problem is that you see yourself as separate; heaven is “up there” above your head, earth is “down there” below your feet, and you are wandering around in the middle. Something I read the other day offers a whole new perspective on your relationship to heaven and earth, and just where you truly stand in that relationship: Heaven ends at the bottom of your feet, earth ends at the top of your head.

I found this statement very enlightening. It tells you that you are not separate, you are included in both heaven and earth simultaneously. (If that sounds odd, think of it this way: you have a unique DNA pattern, but your DNA includes your parents’ DNA; one-half your father’s, one-half your mother’s.) It is natural and correct that you possess the wholeness of heaven and earth, that you live as a lucid and serene person functioning without inner conflict and turmoil.

In terms of mindful preventive medicine, the lucidity of heaven represents your mind and spirit: lack of mental agitation, healthy mental and spiritual state, clarity of mind. Many people think of spirit as passionate, however, as the energy that keeps you alive, it is mainly dispassionate and functional. The serenity of Earth represents your emotions: lack of emotional agitation, healthy emotional state, calmness of heart. You know that mental agitation causes a responding turmoil of emotions, and that this eventually leads to physical illness. The greatest need, then, is to eliminate, as best you can, mental conflict and emotional distress.

The best way to accomplish this is to follow the examples of heaven and earth. Heaven does not complicate choices or decisions. Heavenly and spiritual influences follow a smooth, natural course that is the unfolding of the universe. Earth does not second-guess heaven’s decision or agonize over how to accomplish this unfolding, earth unemotionally follows the path blazed by heaven.

There are so many choices and decisions you must make every day. Many are based on logic and reasoning, or desire and public opinion. These are unhealthy methods leading to inner and outer conflict and competition. Make choices and decisions that are correct for you, and also align with universal energies and are rooted in the Dao by spending time in silence, in a mental place with no priorities or agendas, just a quiet and open mind. If you listen honestly and sincerely, your intuition will speak to you, and your choices will be in harmony with your health, Nature, and the Way.

The mindful way to prevent illness is in keeping a clear mind and a calm heart. Follow without hesitation your mind and spirit. Don’t let emotional doubts and desires pull you off the course of health and wellness.

Thanks to Bradford Hatcher for permission to use his matrix translation of the Daodejing in writing today’s quote of verse 39. Bradford’s excellent translations of the Daodejing and the Yijing may be seen on his website at

Friday, April 06, 2007

Chronic Job Stress is a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

This is a reprint of an excellent article on regarding a study done in Great Britain on the diseases resulting from workplace stress. If we truly desire to reduce the cost of health care, it seems that reducing stress in the workplace would be a good step in the right direction.

Chronic Job Stress is a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

From Elizabeth Scott, M.S.,

Stress and Metabolic Syndrome

Important New Findings According to a study by the British Medical Journal, chronic stress has been linked to the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as other conditions. Here are the highlights of the study:

· Researchers followed 10,308 British civil servants aged 35-55 over a 14-year period to study the role of chronic job stress in the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

· They examined the link between chronic job stress and metabolic syndrome, which is a group of factors that, together, increase the risk of these diseases, including high blood pressure, insulin resistance, central obesity (excessive abdominal fat, which has been linked to increased cortisol in the bloodstream, as well as several other health problems), and a few other factors.

· They found that greater levels of job stress did indeed increase people’s chances of developing metabolic syndrome. The higher the stress level, the greater the chance of developing metabolic syndrome.

· Social factors played a role as well. Lucky subjects with higher status jobs were less likely to have the syndrome, and those with lower status jobs were at a higher risk.

· They also examined and discovered a link between metabolic syndrome and exposure to other health damaging behaviors like smoking, heavy drinking and lack of exercise, especially in men. Poor diet was also a risk factor, and tended to show up in the form of few fruits and vegetables. These factors, of course, lead to additional health problems as well as additional stress.

· One possible explanation for this are that prolonged job stress may affect the nervous system. Another possible reason for this is the fact that chronic stress may affect the body’s hormonal balance and .

Here’s What You Can Do: It’s important to take steps to take care of oneself and one’s body. The good news is that there are several things you can do to stay healthy. Not only that, but you can reverse many of the negative effects of stress in a surprisingly short amount of time, with a few relatively minor lifestyle changes:

· Reduce Daily Stressors You can reduce stress in your life by making lifestyle changes like becoming more organized, better managing time, and making other changes at work. Getting enough sleep and maintaining a positive outlook are also important in overall health. Here is a list of healthy habits that can improve your overall health.

· Learn Stress-Reducing Practices Learning and practicing a stress management technique or two can also help your health by activating your body’s relaxation response (the mechanism in your body that counteracts the ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, returning hormone levels and other systems to normal). Here are my top ten stress relieving practices; one or two of these could become an important part of your life and a valuable tool to stay healthy.

· Maintain a Healthy Weight Diet and exercise help tremendously. Another recent study found that metabolic syndrome can be reversed in as little as three weeks with healthy diet changes (65-70% complex carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, 12-15% fat and extra fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and moderate daily exercise (45-60 minutes of walking). Previous studies have found that losing even 10 lbs. makes a significant difference in lowering blood pressure, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and contributing to overall health and wellbeing, even when subjects were still obese.

Making changes may feel challenging at first. This article may help you in making your chosen changes, which will soon become ingrained, leaving you feeling less stressed and with increased physical and psychological health for years to come.

Updated: March 12, 2006

Monday, April 02, 2007

Dennis Lewis on Breathing

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Following are two excerpts from the February 13, 2007 issue of "Authentic Breathing News," the email newsletter of Dennis Lewis, author of Free Your Breath, Free Your Life.

Breathing techniques can be very effective in reducing stress. The two Dennis shared in his newsletter are especially effective for excellent health and wellness. While I have not changed a word in the articles, I have broken the longer paragraphs into shorter ones to make them easier to read in the narrow-column format of the blog.



We hear frequently from people who want to know why nose breathing is so important. So we are including this write-up from our website:

"When we breathe through our nose, the hairs that line our nostrils filter out particles of dust and dirt that can be injurious to our lungs. If too many particles accumulate on the membranes of the nose, we automatically secret mucus to trap them or sneeze to expel them. The mucous membranes of our septum, which divides the nose into two cavities, further prepare the air for our lungs by warming and humidifying it.

Another very important reason for breathing through the nose has to do with maintaining the correct balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our blood. When we breathe through our mouth we usually inhale and exhale air quickly in large volumes. This often leads to a kind of hyperventilation (breathing excessively fast for the actual conditions in which we find ourselves).

It is important to recognize that it is the amount of carbon dioxide in our blood that generally regulates our breathing. Research has shown that if we release carbon dioxide too quickly, the arteries and vessels carrying blood to our cells constrict and the oxygen in our blood is unable to reach the cells in sufficient quantity. This includes the carotid arteries which carry blood (and oxygen) to the brain. The lack of sufficient oxygen going to the cells of the brain can turn on our sympathetic nervous system, our "fight or flight" response, and make us tense, anxious, irritable, and depressed.

There are some researchers who believe that mouth breathing and the associated hyperventilation that it brings about can result in asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other medical problems.

And finally, let's hear what famed osteopath Robert C. Fulford, D.O. has to say in his wonderful book Dr. Fulford's Touch of Life about nose breathing: 'Remember: always try to breathe through your nostrils, and not through your mouth, because air must contact the olfactory nerves to stimulate your brain and put it into its natural rhythm. If you don't breathe through your nose, in a sense you're only half alive.'"


Think back to when you were a child. Unless you had asthma or some other health problem, the power of the life force, your breath, manifested itself in just about everything you did. Do you remember the kinds of things you did then?

In addition to jumping, running, twisting, turning, swimming, dancing, skipping, hopping, wrestling and all the other physical activities that help keep the ribcage, back, and diaphragm flexible and loose, you probably also remember hollering, shouting, and singing a lot--at least until your parents and teachers told you to stop. Perhaps you were even told by your parents or teachers that your voice was so terrible that shouldn't even consider singing. This has happened with many of us, and the results have often been devastating not just on the physical and emotional level, but to the very core of one's self-esteem.

What your parents probably did not realize is that all of these activities, including the constant use of your voice in many different ways, were spontaneous developmental manifestations of the life force, which awakened subtle physical and emotional perceptions, moving through you and animating you. The movements and sounds also kept your diaphragm flexible and strong.

Of course, under the influence of "education" and "socialization," you learned to control or stifle these manifestations and live more in the straightjacket of your mind, the world of thoughts, concepts, and judgments, which gradually separated you in an artificial and unhealthy way from the life and energy of your body. Unless you went ahead and sang anyway and participated in daily physical flexibility- oriented activities throughout high school or college, activities such as dance, swimming, martial arts, and so on, the daily demands on your diaphragm diminished, and, as a result, it ceased to function in an optimal way.

Now close your eyes and imagine that you are a child again. Think of a place and time when you really felt like you were able to be yourself--a tree, a lake, a playground, a hill, a particular street, wherever you felt most comfortable. Now in your imagination jump, skip, hop, twist, turn, run, sing and shout for five minutes. Really sense what that feels like. Notice how your breathing changes.

Now stop and go someplace where you enjoy being alone and try the same thing--but this time not in your imagination but in reality. In full awareness of what is happening in your body, emotions, and thoughts, and for at least five minutes, let the breath of life move through you as it will. Then check your overall sensation of yourself.

How do you feel? Do you feel more connected with yourself and the environment? What about your breathing? Can you somehow sense the movement of the diaphragm in your chest with each breath? Does your breath feel more evenly distributed throughout your body? Just notice, sense, and enjoy.

Copyright 2007 by Dennis Lewis


To subscribe to Dennis Lewis' newsletter "Authentic Breathing News" visit Authentic-Breathing-News Yahoo Group.

Website: Authentic Breathing Resources LLC

Free Your Breath, Free Your Life: How Conscious Breathing Can Relieve Stress, Increase Vitality, and Help You Live More Fully based on 9 reviews