Breathing Difficulties and their Triggers

Breathing Difficulties and their Triggers

Breathing Difficulties and their Triggers

Although this could be considered a complex area, it can also be broken down primarily into three distinct areas of causality: Environmental (including diet), Postural and Emotional. Understanding this can then lead to a much more effective programme of how to support an individual in restoring thier respiritory function

Any one of these areas can be the cause or contribution to significant breathing difficulties, which are often just  classified as 'Asthma', with the conventional response of inhalers and avoidance of the activities or environments which trigger the responses. 

Asthma UK makes it quite clear in their website that the cuases are little understood, but that there are certainly genetic,  although I would suggest more likely familial (learned from the family), and environmental factors that contribute. But that also smoking during pregnancy is likely to affect the new born and adult onset asthma can be caused by viral infections and environmental factors.

The typical symptoms can be: 

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest

Not everyone experiences all of these symptoms and some of them my only occur periodically.

So lets look at the 3 areas of possible trigger, starting with Environment.

There is no doubt that the quality of the air you are breathing in will have an effect on the respiritory system. We only have to look as historical aspects such the pollution in big cities in the 19th Century and that present now in Asia and other countries that are maximising their industrial capacity to know that when the air is thick with particles, we will breathe them in and this will affect how easily we can breathe, this of course includes smoking. lungs

Some of these particles are not easy to remove from the lungs once they are present and come with the resulting increase in mucus as the lungs try to protect themselves and the inevitable progression of diseases such as bronchitis, emphasimia. This can also make an individual more prone to infections such as pneumonia.

So we can be affected by these environmental aspects in industrial spaces, but what about in more normal life. Well certainly anyone who spends any amount of time commuting, whether it be to school, college or work, is likely to be taking in relatively high amounts of exhaust fumes. We also have no real knowledge of the long term impact of the amount of exhaust that areoplanes are depositing into the atmosphere. But also for those in rural communities, the risk of exposure is significant. With my practice based in Shropshire, I see many people who are exposed to pesticides and other faming chemicals with varying affects on their health, much more dramatically observed in those over 60.

pesticide warning

We would be niave to think that these chemical doused foods will be safe by the time they reach our shops and safe for use to consume and that their ingestion will have no effect on any other part of our body or build up over time.

This chemical trail can also be followed into our toiletries and cleaning products, many of which have no safety data associated with their long term use. What is worse is that many of these chemicals do have associations to all sorts of reactions, skin problems, breathing difficulties and even cancer and yet legally they can still be used.

It even extends to our furnishings, paints, carpets and any item that has been manufactured. Most of which at some point are sprayed, soaked or impregnated with toxic chemicals. We should have a level of awareness of all of this if we are to effectively monitor for potential triggers, ideally not supporting industries that use such products in the manufacture of their goods. There is much more that can be written on this subject and perhaps at a later date I will go into more detail on this, but as a basic Healthy House UK is a good place for info and solutions on this type of hazard. I tend to deal with this aspect of asthma mainly with kinesiology, but more on that in a later post.

So if we take a look now at the postural aspect to breathing difficulties we have a very simple but strikingly obvious link to how posture can contribute to our respiration. 

Many of us don't even think about how we breathe. About the complex network of interactive muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia that allow us to breathe. Their interaction is facinating in its complexity and the shere amount of factors that contribute is a little overwhelming. But at the very least we need to expand our thorasic cavity outward and pull our diaphragm downward to achive an inbreath and reverse this in a controlled and co-ordinated manner to achieve an out breath. The fascial connections alone run from the top of your head in an almost contineous weave of connection to your pelvis (and arugably beyond). Because our muscle/fascia physiology is partly dependant on how we use it, any posture that is out of alignment can cause a reduction in optimum function of a group of muscles, which can not only lead to pain and restricted movement, but to restricted breathing, especially if your habitual breathing method is poor. Any kind of stooping or holding of the stomach in (restricting diaphragm movement), will contribute to breathing difficulties. This is also where we can begin to see some of the links between emotions and breathing. People who are depressed or overly self conscious tend to adopt a posture which collapses their chest inward, affecting their breathing (which doesn't help thier state of mind either). I find that application of Bowen Technique can go a long way to resolving most postural based triggers for breathing difficulties and its use will be discussed in more detail in a later post in this series.

Let us finish this opening section with a breif look at the contribution of emotion to breathing difficulties.

One the most obvious indications I see with people who have breathing difficulties comes from those with anxiety issues who are shallow, rapid breathers. They spend so much time in states of anxiety that they develop a habit of hardly taking breath. This not only has long term physiological implications but in the short term provides them with a lack of oxygen and inefficient removal of CO2 which affect the functioning of the brain, consciousness and the rest of the body. This habit of rapid shallow breathing can be something that is present much of the time (less so during sleep) or can be triggered by certain emotional factors, situations, ideas and concepts. To a degree, most people can suffer from this type of repsonse but it tends to be short lived and manageable. But for a significant percentage of those I see, this has become an adapted habit and they breathe like this most of the time, with higlights, if you want to call them so, during times of even low to moderate emotional stress. For the most part I use kinesiology to work with this aspect.

The fact is that most of the people I work with have varying degrees of all of these factors, environmental, postural and emotional. But why? Simply because they all enact on one another and it could be no other way. We are an integral system and there will always be a corresponding reflection in the other dimentions of our being: interior, exterior, individual and collective. I have never seen anyone who presents with only one of these aspects, even if the others are in the minority they always have a degree of presence for each individual I work on.

So this post will be followed by a more detailed look at how we can manage breathing difficulties. In the mean time I would love to hear your comments and feedback on this post. Especially to hear examples of triggers that you have experienced in your breathing difficulties or in observing others. 

Back to blog posts