Primarily breathing through your nose allows you to keep your health and quality of life. The answers on why are right under your nose:
- Your nose cleans the air you breathe. Your nose hairs (cilia) capture the bad stuff, turn it into mucus, and then push it into your throat, where it’s swallowed and digested. Your stomach acid and microbiome are much more capable of handling the bad stuff than your lungs. Keeping your nasal mucosa moist and humid is good protection against COVID-19.
- Your nose humidifies the air you breathe. As inhaled air passes through your nose, it is moisturized and humidified, thanks to a complex multiple layer structure called turbinates. If you breathe through your mouth for a long time, your throat feels dry because the inhaled air didn’t get humidified. Of note, Humid air keeps our glycans / mucosal layer moist, providing increased protection from viruses. Air-conditioning and heating dries out our mucosal layers, leaving us vulnerable. Masks keep the air we breathe warmer and more humid, thus providing additional protection against COVID-19 and other germs.
- Your nose regulates the temperature of the air you breathe. Your throat and lungs do not like air that is too hot or cold. Air passing through your nose assimilates to your body temperature.
- Your sense of smell keeps you safe. Your nose detects smoke, toxic gases and harmful food. Of note, you can’t trigger an allergic reaction by smelling food, but you can trigger an allergic reaction by inhaling particles of that food. These reactions typically produce mild respiratory symptoms and/or skin reactions. On rare occasions, they can be fatal.
- Your sense of smell makes good food taste better. Try eating your favorite foods with your nose pinched shut. You’ll be surprised how much flavor comes from your sense of smell. Harvard olfactory researcher David Edwards concludes that 80% of flavor is scent.
- Your nasal resonance improves the clarity and projection of your voice. This is why people with congested noses sound different. Pinch your nose and try to talk. Do you sound different?
- Nasal breathing increases nitric oxide production in the sinuses which keeps blood pressure levels healthy. Nitric oxide is also antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, and antibacterial. It helps the immune system to fight infections.
- Nasal breathing improves sleep along with better memory, focus and concentration. Some people even go so far as to tape their mouths shut when they sleep!
- Nasal breathing for intake improves athletic performance and recovery. Yes, this is contrary to popular practice and requires training to get used to it. Sprinters and runners should watch this video which demonstrates good posture plus 2-4 nasal inhales followed by 2-4 mouth exhales depending on desired speed. A Navy Seal has gathered 7 good exercise breath training videos for athletes. Elite athletes use these additional breathing techniques and these to lower stress pre-performance and recover faster post-performance.
- Your nose helps you find a suitable mate. Humans make use of body odor subconsciously to identify whether a potential mate will pass on favorable traits to their offspring. Body odor provides significant cues about the genetic quality, health and reproductive success of a potential mate. Loss of smell correlates with decreased sexual drive.
- Your nose allows you to avoid being a mouth breather. Mouth breathing causes a range of health issues for children and adults including crooked teeth, facial deformities, poor growth, bad breath and gum disease. It is also linked with hyperactive attention-deficit disorder. It can also worsen symptoms of other illnesses. “Mouth breather” is also a slang derogatory term which means being an idiot. Even babies are obligate nose breathers – smarter than adults!
High up in your nose resides Jacobson’s organ which links your brain with what you smell. As a result, your memories are strongly connected with scents. For example, think back to experiences with your Grandma and then recollect. Do you have associated smells? Likely yes. Your memories are stored differently and recalled differently when in the presence of different smells.
Jacobson’s organ is why nothing is more memorable than a smell. Author Lyall Watson has even written a fascinating book about it. Smells impact our awareness, emotional states and sexual behavior. Scents can make us feel good. Scents can trigger most of the enjoyable aspects from eating food, even without doing so. Think of this the next time you are tempted to eat a fancy dessert. You can just see and smell it to make yourself feel good, avoiding the calories and sugar! The same effect applies for fine liquors and spirits.
Separately, scents have been proven to improve athletic performance in rats. Because of their more powerful sense of smell, the behavior of animals is even more impacted by scents.
Weather Tips for Nose Health
- Cold weather has drier air. In the cold, wear a scarf or balaclava (like Grandma always told us – lol) to protect your face and make the air you breathe warmer and more humid to protect your throat and lungs.
- If indoors with the heat on, the air becomes drier too. Consider using a humidifier or mist vaporizer, but not so much that it causes mold, another nasal irritant.
- Humid, hot or cold conditions stress your body. To maintain constant body temperature (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), you require additional energy and thus additional oxygen to warm or cool your body. So breathe more using the tips for runners.
- Wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and party like a movie star.
Tips for Sick Noses
- To lessen the duration of a common cold, take 80-90 mg / day of zinc acetate lozenges as soon as you feel the start of the cold. In five clinical trials, cold duration was reduced by ~33%.
- For a stuffy nose, here is a good recommendation for the 8 Best Medicines.
- For sinus infections, see this list of suggestions for treatment and recovery.
- For nasal dryness and headaches, try steam inhalation.
- For cold and flu, Nasal Saline Spray and Nasal Irrigation research results show significant improvement in 30-35% of cases for days 1-3. However by day 4, they are comparable to placebo.
- Keep your nose clean. For removing dried-up crust inside your nose, use a nasal saline spray or irrigation device such as a neti pot.
- Avoid getting a sick nose in the first place. The usual recommendations apply. Don’t pick your nose. Instead, use tissues to blow your nose. Wash your hands frequently. Avoid being near sick people or sharing their food. Surprisingly, even in areas with COVID-19 (coronavirus), the American Medical Association does not recommend wearing a face mask over your nose unless you are already infected.
This concludes today’s article on nose care. In return for having a nose for keeping your health, reward yourself with this 6 pack of animal snouts to share with your guests at your next party.