It always feels good to stop whatever you’re doing and take a deep breath. (Try it right now and see!) But did you know it can actually lead to a slew of health benefits? Deep breathing can help reduce blood pressure, keep your stress levels down, and curb an anxiety or panic attack — and if you suffer from digestion problems, deep breaths could be your new best friend.
Taking a deep breath helps us calm down and enter rest mode. Your body relaxes as your heartbeat slows and more oxygen flows to your brain. Basically, deep breathing quiets everything down, helping your body do its job. And when you’re eating, this is more true than ever — especially if you tend to sneak in a quick bite between tasks, instead of sitting down to a leisurely meal.
Our bodies enter fight-or-flight mode whenever we’re engaging in a stressful activity. This sympathetic response, also known as survival mode, floods our bodies with adrenaline and gives us energy to complete the task at hand. When you’re in this state, your body puts digestion on the back burner, as it’s a sluggish process that forces it to slow down. This is fine if we’re busy and need to get things done, but it really gets in the way when it’s time to slow down and digest our food. The result? GI troubles like indigestion, nausea, heartburn, and fatigue.
How Breathing Helps Digestion
Thankfully, those deep breaths we just told you about can really help shift our bodily response from alert to restful, so we can digest our food properly. To help reduce these stomach troubles, try taking a series of slow deep breaths before and after you eat — especially if you’re feeling stressed. This activates more blood flow to our digestive organs and also helps us slow down when eating (which can also help with weight loss!).
Deep breaths have also been proven to help raise our metabolism, which tends to decline with age. In a 2018 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, diaphragmatic breathing (or taking deep breaths that stretch the diaphragm) showed promising results for raising the resting metabolism of healthy adults. Scientists concluded that it increased both the participants’ total oxygen intake and their metabolic rate.
While taking deep breaths is beneficial for your health, it of course shouldn’t replace any medication or treatment plan recommended by your doctor. It’s more like a bonus boost to help you feel better if you struggle with digestion problems — or even if you don’t! Taking a little time to breathe deeply every day could make a big difference in the way you feel.