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The nose is a 'use it or lose it' organ

Updated: Mar 25


Do you suffer with a blocked nose, nasal congestion, post nasal drip or loss of smell. There are numerous causes for these symptoms however have you considered could these symptoms be related to not using the nose to breathe? In my experience as a breathing practitioner I have seen significant improvements in these symptoms once nasal breathing is re-established during rest, moving, sleeping and tolerance to carbon dioxide is improved. See my testimonials for further details.

The nose contains erectile tissue that is responsible for the nasal cycle and is altered by the female hormone oestrogen. The nasal cycle occurs many times over a 24 hour period (ranges from 30mins - 6hrs) & consists of spontaneous congestion & decongestion of the erectile tissue in the nose & ethmoid sinuses.

The nasal cycle is related to the autonomic nervous system (the system that controls all our unconscious processes) One nostril receives more fight, flight, freeze signals (sympathetic dominance) which shrinks the blood vessels in the erectile tissue (vasoconstriction) decongesting the nostril. Whereas the other nostril receives more relaxation response signals (parasympathetic dominance) which is associated with swelling of the blood vessels in the erectile tissue (vasodilatation) congesting the nostril. However there may be other mechanisms that drive this process and more research is needed.

As the nasal cycle causes a different airflow in each nostril, it results in two different olfactory (sense of smell) images, one from each nostril, which are simultaneously sent to the brain with each sniff.

The nasal cycle produces a plasma exudate (fluid that leaks out of blood vessels) which is important in defence against infection and humidifying the inhaled air.

One theory suggests in the congested nostril the air flows more slowly so any viruses, bacteria or pollutants are more likely to be prevented from passing into the lungs. Whereas, in the nostril that is less congested the faster airflow results in better humidification and heating of the inhaled air.

Nasal cycle patterns may transform from one to another in the same individual, that could be influenced by environmental or physical factors.

The oestrogen peak during ovulation is often accompanied by nasal congestion, which alters normal nasal cycle. Pregnant women (who have higher oestrogen levels) often complain of nasal congestion.

In 1989, Bende et al. observed an increase in the nasal cycle amplitude after inoculation of nasal drops with a coronavirus.

Breathing slower is associated with a more powerful nasal cycle. We have been designed to breathe slowly, gently, in and out of the nose, using the diaphragm. If your breathing does not match this description consider re-educating your body to breathe efficiently. If you would like me to be your guide consider joining one of my breathing re-education programmes.

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