Nasal Congestion

One of the most common presenting symptoms amongst participants in a Buteyko breathing retraining course is a partially or fully blocked nose. It is not normal to have a blocked nose most of the time. Of course, we may sometimes when we have a cold, but otherwise the nose should be clear enough that we can comfortably maintain nasal breathing 24/7.

Nasal congestion is one of the earliest symptoms to respond to the breathing exercises. Many people find they can nasal breathe after the first course session, some for the first time in years.

Why is nasal breathing preferred to mouth breathing?

The nose has a number of very important functions. It prepares the air for the lungs in ways that breathing through the mouth cannot. The nose filters, warms and humidifies the air we breathe. In this way inhaled air is warmed to body temperature, humidified to a suitable humidity for the lungs and filtered before it reaches the lungs.

Mouth breathing potentially introduces unfiltered, cold, dry air directly into the lungs. Unfiltered air may carry airborne allergens and dust particles that may irritate and inflame the airways. Cold, dry air passing over the airway tissue may lead to inflammation, dehydration and the drying out of mucous, making it tackier and more
difficult to expel.

In addition to this, if we are mouth breathers we breathe a lot more air than we would be breathing if we were nasal breathers. This excessive breathing is called overbreathing (hyperventilation). This over-breathing pattern is what causes many of the symptoms that people with dysfunctional breathing experience. You can see a common list of these symptoms in our 3 minute breathing Questionnaire.

Humans are the only animals that breathe through the mouth. This is an adapted symptom of our stressful and often nutritionally poor diet. Our ancestors were nasal breathers and the prevalence of mouth breathing is a relatively recent phenomenon that was not common in pre-modern times.