How to Detox by Just Breathing


Please read this first: First Steps to Take After Toxic Chemical Exposure

Most people only breathe in the top part of their lungs.

Did you know we breathe in and out more than 28,800 times per day? Unfortunately, most of us rush around our daily business breathing very shallowly. A shallow breath uses just the top portion of the lung, which is also the smallest part of the lung. When we breathe deeply and use our diaphragm, performing “diaphragmatic breathing,” we fill the bases of our lungs which are much larger.

In the image above, the top third is where most people breathe. But look at all that space down in the lower two-thirds of the lungs! Deeper breaths bring in more oxygen to our blood and our tissues.

Deep exhales relieve mental and psychological stresses and exhale metabolic wastes. Metabolic wastes are natural by-products of burning calories and other bodily functions. In addition, exhaling is a significant way your body releases toxins!

In certain diseases, a person’s breath will have characteristic odors. For example, it’s common for alcoholics to have alcohol on their breath even if they have not had a drink that day. It’s common for people with the genetic disease phenylketonuria (PKU, a hereditary disease caused by the lack of a liver enzyme) to have a mousy odor on their breath. People with lung and mouth infections or digestive imbalances usually have fetid (extremely unpleasant smelling) breath. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, doctors smell the patient’s breath as one method of coming to a diagnosis.

Whenever you inhale and there is a toxin in the air you breathe, it’s very important to remember this toxin will likely damage your lungs and go directly into your bloodstream. The lungs are meant to bring air in and oxygenate the blood vessels that run next to and around the small air sacs (alveoli). If there is a scent, smell, perfume, paint fume, or other toxins present, it will go into the blood.

But no matter how you are exposed to a toxin, be it via contact with your skin, eating it, drinking it, or inhaling it, your body (depending on what type of toxin it is), may be able to excrete the toxin via your breath. Breathing is one of the primary ways our bodies release certain kinds of toxins like alcohols and solvents, which is why deep breathing and what substances are exhaled are very important in the context of detox.

Four hundred people from cities in New Jersey, North Carolina, and North Dakota voluntarily wore air sampling monitors during their daily activities (twelve-hour daytime periods) for two days, collecting air while they went about their business. At the end of the second day, a breath sample was taken and analyzed for each person. The scientists found the breath samples contained up to ten times higher levels of pollution and chemicals than the air collected over the two 12-hour periods. This showed the body was catching up on processing the inhaled pollutants hours after the exposure to the substance occurred.

Deep breathing also massages the digestive system and the liver. As you take a deep breath, the diaphragm flattens out and descends. This pushes downward on the colon, the stomach, and the small intestines. It is thought this gentle massage helps move lymphatic fluids back to the cisterna chyli for collection and removal. These organs play a critical role in eliminating toxins from the body.

Yogic Breathing

A pranayama yoga class is one way to learn how to breathe more deeply. Pranayama is a specific set of breathing exercises taught in some yoga classes that is used to move energy around the body. Look for a pranayama yoga class in your neighborhood if you would like to learn how to do these ancient deep breathing techniques.

Aerobic Movement

Aerobic means “with oxygen.” The best way to oxygenate the body is with movement that gets the ol’ heart pumping. So getting your heart rate up every day will ensure that you get some deep breathing in daily!

Nose versus Mouth Breathing

In this Ted Talk, Shut your Mouth and Change your Life, Patrick McKeown, a world-renowned expert in the Buteyko Breathing Method and author of 8 best selling books including (his latest) The Oxygen Advantage, Close Your Mouth, Asthma Free Naturally, Anxiety Free: Stop Worrying and Quieten Your Mind, Sleep with Buteyko, guides you to do just that:

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