We all have a life-time of experience in this most basic of functions – breathing. We do it automatically and without thinking – our bodies do it for us. Breathing is one of the fundamentals of being alive. That is the WHAT of it.
But what may never have occurred to us is the HOW, and the HOW is crucial.
Just recently there has been some publicity, two fabulous books and a lot of interest in how we breathe. It seems that not many of us breathe in a helpful way.
I have done some yogic breathing in my time, some meditative practices that focus on the breath and once learned an amazing morning practice that includes a lot of breathing and snorting out through the nose. I regard myself as a good breather.
But having read these two books and followed some of the techniques outlined along with some great online videos I have discovered that I have a way to go to reach the place of not panicking when I hold my breath (holding it in or holding it out!).
These are the three things that have stood out as important if we are to have optimal health, good posture and great breathing.
ONE: BREATHE THROUGH THE NOSE
This is important. The nose not only acts as a filter for airborne impurities, nasal breathing also stimulates the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is the body’s own natural defence against viruses (think of Covid!!). Nasal breathing in the day AND at night defends us from snoring, sleep apnoea and inflammation. Inflammation is seen as one of the main causes of illness and disease and disruptive conditions and any defence will be a good thing.
If you add humming to nasal breathing it is even better – 5 minutes a day!
TWO: DEEPER BREATHING
Deep breathing includes not just a deep breath in to oxygenate the body, it also includes a deep breath out. It exercises the diaphragm while movement of the diaphragm, in its central position in the body, also exercises the internal organs, the backbone and the muscles of the torso.
A good breath in will expand the chest, then the abdomen while a good deep breath out empties the abdomen of air, followed by the chest. Try it – it feels good – and doing this several times a day will help your overall wellbeing.
THREE: SLOW THE RATE OF BREATHING
When we add slowing the rate of our breathing to nose breathing and deeper breathing we increase the rate of oxygen absorption in the body. The ideal is apparently 6 breaths per minute (5.5 seconds inhale and 5.5 seconds exhale to be precise). But the good news is that starting at 12 breaths per minute can help with reducing anxiety and depression. Do this for several breaths, whenever you think of it during the day.
The benefits of better breathing are huge, more than I have outlined above.
Two brilliant books:
James Nestor: ‘Breath’ Penguin 2021
Patrick Mckeown: The Breathing Cure’ OxyAT 2021
And look up breathing on the internet – there are fabulous videos and programmes. And breathing is free and available to us all!!
I began to feel the difference when I found that I was sleeping through the night. For several years this had been a rare event, with sleeplessness kicking in at about 2am. Often during this wakeful period came stomach upheaval and nausea.
This brilliant result came after I had been eliminating histamine from my diet for a few weeks – helped with muscle testing the foods most affecting my system.
I had never heard of histamine intolerance – until last year when my daughter mentioned she had heard about it in a podcast. I listened and it fitted with the symptoms I had experienced during 2020. I had two periods, each lasting almost a m, of vomiting and diarrhoea, also exhaustion, brain fog and general unwellness. It was all very unpleasant and concerning!
What is histamine?
Histamine is a neurotransmitter and is an important part of the immune system – released into the body when needed to deal with invasions by pollen, foods, bacteria or viruses for example. It also helps with regulation of body temperature, sleep patterns, wound healing, memory, brain signals, muscles of lung and uterus as well as widening blood vessels and bowel movements.
I was delighted to realise that some of the irritating symptoms I had experienced for years were related to histamine intolerance!! The heat round my face and neck, difficulty in regulating my body temperature and ongoing digestive / gut problems.
Histamine is stored in the tissues of the body and in the blood – awaiting the signal for its release to deal with invasions through intake of food, drink, breath or through the skin. It is broken down within the body by the enzymes DAO (diamine oxidase) and HNMT (histamine N-methyl transferase). Without enough of these enzymes, histamine builds up over time.
So, in a nutshell, the problems start either because we have a low-capacity pot for storing histamine or have a low threshold of DAO or HNMT.
The way I see what happened to me is that my pot of histamine had filled up over time and without enough DAO or HNMT to deal with this amount, the pot overflowed – literally!!
How can this overflow happen?
Several factors may be involved:
- stress and fear cause histamine levels to increase
- foods / drinks high in histamine add to the existing pot
- foods that suppress the action of DAO or HNMT mean that histamine cannot be broken down – such as alcohol, some prescription drugs or vitamin C or Zinc deficiencies
- low capacity for histamine storage means that the pot fills quickly
What to watch out for:
There are several symptoms or clusters of symptoms that may indicate a histamine Intolerance. Here are some of them:
- Skin problems such as hives, rosacea, psoriasis, itching, flushed skin, eczema
- Swelling round the mouth, face and throat, with or without heat
- Throat tightening
- Excess mucus / nasal congestion / blocked sinuses
- Watering eyes, reddened round the eyes
- Sneezing to excess
- Digestive problems: heartburn, indigestion, reflux, diarrhoea, constipation, symptoms similar to IBS
- Symptoms similar to allergy reactions – though allergy reactions occur almost immediately after taking in the substance – histamine reactions can be 24 hours or more after the excess histamine had been taken in, making it hard to know what exactly you may be reacting to
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Anxiety / panic attacks / dizziness
- Drop in blood pressure
- Chest pains
- Headaches / migraines
- Sleep difficulties, insomnia, sleeping a lot without feeling benefit
- Confusion / irritability / brain fog
- Asthma / breathing difficulties
- Heart arrhythmia
- Severe period pains
- Chilly and shivering / Breaking out in a sweat
I don’t have all of these symptoms, nor do I have the severe type of intolerance that I have read about. I have been able to make a difference by watching what I eat. I haven’t been able to tolerate alcohol for years – it made me feel nauseous! I had gone off tea so no problem there. Tomatoes I had a love/hate relationship to – they are definitely off the menu. I had recently discovered the joy of fermented foods – no more of them. While mature cheese and processed foods were never a favourite!
I think we have to find our own special mix of great food – cooking most of it from scratch, using fresh ingredients. It has made a huge difference to me. And I can report that my exhaustion is retreating, and I feel well!!
Here are some of the foods that bring a lot of histamine into the body.
- Tomatoes / spinach / aubergines / possibly avocadoes
- Fermented foods / pickled foods – such as sauerkraut / soy sauce
- Tea – black tea in particular as it is fermented! Cocoa can also be fermented
- Caffeine in coffee, tea and chocolate (and some soft drinks)
- Citrus fruits
- Matured foods such as cheese or salami
- Food additives, flavour enhancers, and colourings
- Some prescription drugs also contain a lot of histamine – best to check the contents of any medication you are taking.
For me it has been a several week process of eliminating and discovering – the foods that cause the problem and those that don’t. We are all different, so my mix of food will be different from anyone else’s.
There are many websites covering this subject – and so a lot of information available. So you can read more if you think this is relevant for you – if you think it is then my suggestion is that you begin by eliminating some of the foods and drinks on the list above – the ones your body may have a sense are the ones that are not great for you. Or check them out with muscle testing.
Today – as I write this, the new moon makes its appearance. A total solar eclipse has happened. And we are a week away from the darkest day of the year – the winter solstice. We are rapidly dropping into the depths of winter.
And this year we have a major astrological conjunction taking place at the solstice – as well!
So, what does it all mean? For me this is the time of year to take stock.
And taking stock of the year we have just had – I aim to find:
- Its gifts and wonders
- Its challenges, trials and difficulties
- Those things I can be thankful for
- What could do with a change
Next up is how I would like the next year to be:
- For myself
- For my family friends and loved ones
- For the human family
- For the world I live in
I tend to make these wishes for the coming year fairly general rather than too specific – I really don’t want to rule out things that I haven’t thought of but that may be great.
And this year my biggest wish is for us – my human brothers and sisters – to acknowledge and act on the fact that we are all of one humanity. And in our common humanity, that we act with compassion, kindness and consideration for others. And not just for other humans but for all of life and for our Earth.
These are the dark days where we can envisage ourselves emerging from the hibernation of winter, beginning to live our dreams for the year ahead and joining with those collective dreams that aim for peace and joy as we live on this beautiful earth. And this year my dreams are for hope – that we can come through the difficulties as a collective and emerge stronger and clearer about our place in the greater scheme of things.
I am dreaming the insects to pollinate the plants and the soils being enriched with nutrients, compost and those little creatures that make the soils fertile. I am dreaming plants growing in abundance to feed all of nature – including the people.
I will do this as I plant my garden – my new wild-flower meadow and my new vegetable growing area.
There are many ways to dream changes in our lives and in the life of our communities and countries. Perhaps at this time our dreams will be heard as prayers and answered.
Love and Connection
It is not hard to feel isolated in these lockdown times.
And as we know only too well it is not good for our health – mental or otherwise. When
thinking about this it seemed that there are so many ways that we can connect to the world
outside of our four walls each morning. And it is good to remember that human contact is
not the only form of connection. When we can feel the connection to all forms of life and
be thankful that we share our world with all manner of beings, including spiritual beings, the
trees, animals, and rocks as well as sun, moon and earth – then we can discover that we are
not alone – nor is it possible!
I have had a way of doing a morning check-in for many years now, and it is not about just
connecting to people. It goes something like this:
Greet the day:
- With thanks to our beloved Sun for bringing light and warmth, which means
we can see all that is around us
- Greetings to our Earth for supporting and sustaining us, giving us stability and
grounding in our lives
- Thank you to the plants that nourish us and beautify our world and the
waters that make this possible
- With three deep breaths take in the offering of the air that inspires us and
provides oxygen for our bodies.
- Place myself in the middle of the circle of sun and fire, earth, waters and air
- What do I need today to balance and sustain myself?
- Am I grounded and connected to earth?
- Am I centred and balanced?
- I usually need something to find a good balance!
Some physical exercise always helps me:
- Deep breathing
- Cross crawl – exaggerated walking with opposite hand touching the knee
- Arm stretches – above the head – to the sides of the body – towards the
- Find a way of moving the body that feels good.
- I can feel my three-dimensional self as I do it.
- Or you may do some yoga, meditation, chi gong, tai chi or other form of
regular practice, to bring you into a state of readiness to embark on the day
Then I check in with myself – is there anything else that I need? Best done with deep
breathing into the belly, feet planted on the ground and making a link between the centre
of the earth and the centre of the cosmos, a lightning rod of pure connection. This can be a
great affirmation to yourself that you are there for you!
This reminds me of the way that the elders in many tribal communities would greet the
dawn and sun each morning – giving thanks – and setting up the day to be in connection
with their people and the world they live in. Thankfulness goes a long way towards
connection. And you don’t have to be an elder to do this!
Enjoy finding your way with this, adding in the exercises, thanks and reflections that are good for you.
With love and connection
Photo courtesy of Vic Jenkins https://thesoulsjourney.co.uk/
Apart from being a practitioner of Creative Kinesiology, I am also very keen to translate some of the recent scientific studies – ones that are relevant to us as kinesiologists – into a usable format. This means that we can use the information with our clients and not just keep it as background information. It can certainly help with healing for ourselves and for others.
My first blog was about building and maintaining our resilience – a crucial element of our physical, emotional and mental health in these times.
This time I am expanding on one aspect of this – our heart health and the capacity to love ourselves and others and all of life. Spending so much time alone during the first lockdown and now well into the second one I have been reflecting on this. It is a tricky thing to manage, when we don’t get feedback from our family and friends – the feedback that normally gives us a sense of ourselves and how we fit in to our world. This can take a heavy toll.
Our hearts are central to our wellbeing. We may know this intuitively – it is backed up by acupuncture theory and the Institute of HeartMath.
Let’s look at some facts:
So, how can we help ourselves in these, sometimes, lonely days?
- Our heart rhythms stretch out around us and take up 8 to 10 feet (3 to 4 meters) of our personal space – affecting all beings within near range.
- The heart has at least 40,000 neurons – equivalent to major parts of the head brain, making it a brain in its own right.
- It affects the body by secreting neurotransmitters, the nervous system’s messengers, into the blood and on into the body.
- In addition, the heart sends pressure waves, rhythms and pulsations to the rest of the body – affecting mental states and feelings. As these waves spread throughout the body, they bring the pulsations of the other organs into alignment with them. If the heart is in an erratic state, then the effect on the other organs is to create disharmony and incoherence.
- The heart appears to receive intuitive feelings moments before the brain in the head. It is speedier than the rather slow apparatus contained in our skulls.
You might be interested in ‘The HeartMath Solution’ by Doc Childre and Howard Martin. Piatkus, 2011 edition.
Love and connection
- Can we find things to appreciate about ourselves? Anything makes a difference – like singing in the shower, making a tasty bowl of porridge or when the cat jumps up and blesses us with a purr.
- Finding thigs to appreciate and be thankful for every day is a way of harmonising the heart’s rhythms. And in turn this brings harmony to the body, mind and emotions.
- When the going gets tough – remembering good things to appreciate from the past can make a difference to our heart rhythms in a very positive and coherent way.
- Breathing a little bit deeper can increase a sense of calm and coherence, changing anxiety to calm. It is worth having a go to experience what happens.
- Having a project or two can bring some purpose to the everyday as well as to our heart rhythms. And this can be helpful if it is outside of any work you are doing. Even turning out and rearranging kitchen cupboards can be a great project that leaves a feeling of achievement – my job for this week!