Bloating and COPD - Part 2
Last updated: September 2022
In part one I explained how COPD causes many of us to bloat. I also explained how large our lungs become inside our bodies. Bloating can be uncomfortable, and in some cases at times, painful. I said how large meals help to make us breathless, and why eating smaller meals may help. But what else can we do?
The competition for space
One reason for bloating is the fight between the diaphragm, stomach, and lungs competing for space. And the more those lungs are inflated through emphysema, the larger the lungs become. This results in more competition for space which sadly leads to more bloating. To help make more space we need to breathe better to allow those lungs to be a little less inflated.
When we were children we probably all breathed right. After all, breathing is a natural movement that most of us once did with little thought. A regulator in our brain tells us when to inhale. And when we exhale our lungs like elastic snapped back into place. Over time as life has gone on, many of us have developed a lifetime of learning bad habits. Sometimes stress or life events lead us into bad breathing habits such as hyperventilating that has remained with us, with very many COPD'ers becoming chest and mouth breathers as their condition developed.
Mouth and nose breathers
A mouth breather, of course, can make COPD much worse as all the dross that can sometimes be seen floating in the air is inhaled directly into the lungs. A nose breather has all this dross captured in the nasal passages. The advantages of nose breathing are not only that the dross is captured but that the air is warmed, and the humidity got about right for the fresh oxygen-laden air to enter the lungs. Where a mouth breather will inhale not only the dross but also cold or dry air that can make it hard on the lungs also. This will in some cases leads to hyperventilation.
As many as 90% of COPD'ers hyperventilate with most becoming mouth breathers – helping to make their breathing worse. When we hyperventilate, less oxygen is exchanged from our lungs into our bloodstream than otherwise would be. Our lungs then become more inflated and as we know, that will also lead to more bloating. Air to CO2 ratio also gets disturbed (the by-product to breathing that the brain uses to regulate breathing), resulting in an imbalance as too much CO2 is then expelled. It really is a big cycle that has to be broken. To compound things, the more our lungs are inflated, the less we can take in a nice breath of oxygen laden fresh air.
Worth the effort
With time we can change our bad habits and improve our breathing. It is not easy and may take a long time to do, but the benefits are awesome. Sit in a room preferably on a hard-backed chair, with your back straight and concentrate on your breathing. It might help to put a little music on low while you do this. When you are relaxed, slowly inhale, then exhale slowly through your nose for as long as you are able to. Then repeat this exercise for as long as you are comfortable.
Concentrate on exhaling for as long as possible and do not worry about how long you inhale. At first, you might not exhale for very long at all. But over a few sessions, you will notice you are exhaling for longer. Try to do this several times a day for five or ten minutes. Or any time you are relaxed and doing little. It is not easy at first. After all, we are conditioned to be mouth breathers and in many cases hyper-ventilators. You will after a week or two be surprised as your breathing becomes naturally slower, and deeper and more relaxed than before. I was.
Retraining chest breathing
Another problem is that many of us are chest breathers and not using the full capacity of our lungs. This can and often does make us more breathless than we would otherwise be. For this reason, chest breathers need to retrain themselves to breathe using the diaphragm as we once did. If we breathe that way we can regain more of our lung capacity. Many are chest breathers without realizing.
If you stand straight, lie down flat or sit with back rigid on a hard-backed chair, then move your head down so your chin rests on your chest it is impossible to chest breathe. Try it and watch your tummy rise up and down with your breathing as your diaphragm pushes outwards.
When you are comfortable with the simple exercise of breathing through your nose as explained earlier, standing, lying down, or with back straight on a chair put your chin down onto your chest, take in a nice breath, then raise your head so your chin is high like you are proud, and exhale for as long as you are comfortable to do through your nose – then repeat for as long as you are comfortable.
Much more at peace
Let us know how you get on, but don't forget: it may take a long time to get really good results. But the benefits are more than worth the effort. In my case, I have found I breathe better, slower, and through my nose most the time now, rarely hyperventilate and feel much more at peace with myself.
Next time I am going to talk about a simple exercise you can do that will help you lose up to two pounds a month in weight. Till then keep positive and cheerful. And most of all, Breathe Easy.
Where do you stand with your COPD?