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Asthma & Bronchitis

When you take a breath, air travels through a system of increasingly smaller airways from the trachea to the bronchi and ultimately to tiny sacs known as alveoli. A system of tiny capillaries absorbs the oxygen from the alveoli and delivers it throughout the body.

In a normal bronchus, muscles are relaxed so that air easily travels through the airway. Asthma causes two problems that can restrict breathing. First, the bronchial muscles contract, often in response to an allergen or some other asthma trigger. Second, the bronchial walls, which always have some degree of inflammation in people with asthma, become swollen and filled with excess mucus. Some of the cells involved in inflammation of the airways are mast cells and eosinophils, which release chemicals that cause the airways to narrow.

Asthma is a disorder that intermittently causes shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, although the exact type and severity of symptoms vary from person to person.

Some people with asthma have cough, wheezing, and trouble breathing nearly every day, others feel perfectly well in between occasional attacks of chest congestion and wheezing. Some Olympic athletes with asthma experience only a tightness in the chest during world-class athletic competition. Other people have such severe asthma attacks after exercising that they require emergency treatment. All people with asthma share something in common, however: breathing passageways that periodically become abnormally narrow.

More than 20 million people in the United States — about 7% of the population — have asthma (see Asthma in America, below). Most people tend to think of asthma as a childhood disease, for good reason: Most cases of asthma are diagnosed by age five. Nonetheless, adults of any age may develop asthma, although the likelihood of developing it becomes increasingly rare the older you get. Studies indicate that as many as 10% of people over 65 have asthma, higher than the prevalence of asthma in childhood. If you are an adult with asthma, it is likely that you have had the disorder for a long time and will continue to deal with it for the rest of your life.

Many of your health concerns connect to how you breathe. After all, it is the mechanism that provides every cell in your body with life-giving oxygen. When your ability to breathe properly is compromised, you can expect some physical problems to develop.

One of the most common habits is shallow breathing—breathing that focuses in the upper lungs and uses the muscles in the neck and upper chest area. Research has shown that slowing down and deepening our breath shifts us from the stress response to the relaxation response; this slows the heart, normalizes blood pressure, increases blood flow to the digestive system, deepens sleep, increases energy, focus, concentration, and memory—optimal breathing not only helps prevent or cure disease, it raises performance levels in school and sports.

Why does abdominal (deep) breathing provide you with all these health advantages? Due to gravity, the lower portion of your lungs has a higher rate of blood flow. So your lungs and heart don’t have to work as hard and your circulatory system profits from this efficient means of oxygenating the blood. Deep, slow breathing is shown to release endorphins (the body’s natural pain suppressors) that bring about a feeling of relaxation and general well-being—a benefit you also get from massage.

As you incorporate better breathing into your life-style, try to do what you can to get as much fresh air as possible. In today’s society, with so many forms of air pollution, this can be a challenge. Your body will benefit from your efforts!

Learning to breathe more naturally can benefit your health and well-being. Massage can help you breathe easier and more efficiently.

Breathing properly involves more of your body than you may realize. Tension in any area can make it very difficult to breathe deeply. Try to take a slow, deep breath while tightening the muscles in your feet or your hips. Now try it again with all your muscles relaxed. You should notice quite a difference in your ability to breathe easily.

Your regular massage sessions can help to relax and normalize muscles throughout your body that can facilitate improved breathing. Your adoption of better breathing techniques can help to prevent a build-up of tension. When you maintain a regular schedule for therapeutic massage, you will probably notice you feel much better on a day-to-day basis and experience fewer recurring physical complaints.


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