A surprising journey into the mouth and nasal passages.
Science writer James Nestor has long suffered breathing related health problems. To try and sort out what was wrong with him, he took a decade long investigation into all things to do with breathing, focusing on the mouth, nasal passages and inhaling and exhaling techniques. Volunteering as a guinea pig in a series of scientific experiments, Nestor found some astonishing results.
The main takeaway from the book is that we need to breathe in a more controlled manner (5.5 seconds in, 5.5 seconds out is optimal) and through our noses. Our nasal passages filter and pressurise air, which has a beneficial effect, helping to us overcome allergies and congestion. Nose breathing also helps fight bacteria. Too much mouth breathing, especially during sleep, results in snoring and sleep apnea.
One of the more fascinating results of Nestor’s research is the development of our mouths. The advent of agriculture has resulted in softer, more processed foods, and as a result, less chewing. Mouth sizes have actually gotten smaller since our hunter-gatherer forbears, resulting in breathing problems. After a year of having endured a mouth brace that forced his jaw to work more, x-ray imaging found Nestor’s air passages had opened more and he’d developed extra bone density on his face. All a result of extra chewing.
This is a fascinating work of science, offering many surprises as to how the respiratory system works. Highly recommended, especially for those with breathing difficulties and ailments.
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. Published by Penguin Life. $35
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books