Bloating and COPD

Bloating and COPD – Part 2

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?

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 life time 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. 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 is 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 blood stream 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.

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 though your nose for as long as you are able to. Then repeat this exercise for as long as you are comfortable to. 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.

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 your are comfortable. 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (18)
  • Njb
    5 months ago

    Need to repost this year. Very helpful. But mention it’s the pursed lip breathing method. When I first read, thought you meant breathe in and out through nose only.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi Njb and thanks for your post. Here is the article that focuses on pursed lip breathing: https://copd.net/guest-expert/pursed-lips-are-not-just-for-kissing/. The technique does stress breathing out (exhaling) through pursed lips. The rationale is breathing against a resistance (the pursed lips) creates a back pressure that helps to keep the airways open during the expiratory phase of breathing. I hope this is what you were referring to in your comment. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • Philmike
    2 years ago

    I guess I am a still a little confused about whether to Inhale and exhale through nose or mouth or one of each or what ?

  • Derek Cummings author
    2 years ago

    Sorry if my article was unclear to you philmike. Inhale through the nose. Exhale with pursed lips as if gently blowing out a candle. Hope this helps. Breathe easy.

  • Teresa
    2 years ago

    When will you give us the exercise that helps lose 2 lbs a month? Hoping it will help me.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Teresa – we hear you and appreciate your concerns when it comes to losing weight. Please keep in mind there are really no guarantees when it comes to exercising and specific weight loss. However, combining some form of exercise and/or pulmonary rehabilitation with a proper diet (for you), may be something you want to look into with your health care provider. I thought you might find it helpful to look over this article on pulmonary rehab:https://copd.net/living-with-copd/pulmonary-rehab/
    Please check back with us and let us know how you’re doing.
    All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • rujo
    2 years ago

    Interesting. But i thought we were to breath in through our nose and exhale through our mouth. Exhale longer than inhale.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Rujo and thanks for your comment. I cannot answer on behalf of Derek – I’m hopeful when he sees your comment, he will have a response.
    However, in view of your concerns about proper breathing strategies, I thought you might find it helpful to review these two articles:
    First, this one on pursed lip breathing:https://copd.net/guest-expert/pursed-lips-are-not-just-for-kissing/ and
    second, this one on breathing strategies: https://copd.net/living-with-copd/pulmonary-rehab/breathing-strategies/
    Wishing you the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • royboy64
    2 years ago

    Great article but my question is what if your nose is plugged ? i quit smoking oct 28 2013 the same day i was diagnosed but also since then i have had plugged nostrils, i have been prescribed 3 different nose drops but nothing seems to help

  • Njb
    5 months ago

    Royboy64, see you posted this 2 yrs ago. I went to an ENT, said can he help me breathe easier, and he did some stuff to help. Went back again and said is there anything else you can do, and he did more outpatient surgery, and really helped. Can now breathe through 2 nostrils. Never give up. Really helped me breathe better. Can’t breathe with stuffy nose!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi again, Njb and thanks for your input and follow-up with Royboy64. Warmly, Leon (site moderator)

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    I can certainly understand your frustration, royboy64. I have a few suggestions, but also a couple of questions. For one thing, have you seen an allergist? It may be coincidental that you were diagnosed with COPD at the same time. Perhaps you also have some allergies that are causing the stuffed nose. If so, they could help if they discover what’s triggering it.
    That being said, there are a few things you could do that may help. Be sure and stay hydrated. It really will make a difference. Also, many people swear by a Neti Pot. It can serve a couple of purposes – it clears out the nasal passage and it cleans it out of allergens. It might be worth a try. Certainly speak to your doctor before you do much of anything. Sometime a warm, wet cloth placed over the face can also help relieve congestion. Or leaning over a pot of steam (just be careful you don’t get burned).
    Let us know how you make out. I wish you well. It’s no fun being stuffed up all the time.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi. royboy64. Sorry to hear about your plugged nose. There are many things that can cause a plugged nose, from rhinitis (hay fever, allergies), to sinusitis (bacterial or virus infection), to anatomical anomalies like a deviated septum or polyps. They are all treatable, although require getting a proper diagnosis. If your current doctor is unable to help you, then it may be time to ask for a referral to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor. I say this as a professional, although also from personal experience.Over at our asthma site, Kerri described her experience with an ENT, and I’ll attack a link below. Hope this helps. John. Site Moderator. https://asthma.net/living/ups-downs-allergic-rhinitis/

  • Beyond Tmrw
    2 years ago

    Very informative. I have found that when I mouth breath and am having a hard time getting air into my lungs (even with the oxygen on), if I take a hard piece of candy (tic tacs work for me) and suck on the candy, it makes it easier to shut my mouth and breath. I think it is cause I am concentrating on the candy and not the way I am breathing. Keep up the postings on bloating as I have lost 20 pounds that I gained when I quit smoking, but my gut is still large. Not sure where I lost the weight, but not there! Thanks again for all the information.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Beyond Tmrw and thanks for posting your comment. How exciting to hear that you’ve lost 20 pounds – that’s quite an accomplishment!! It’s also interesting that you’re able to ‘distract’ yourself with the hard candy which keeps your focus away from your breathing. Keep up the good work!
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Meg
    3 years ago

    Really great information and guidance on breathing exercise. I realize that I’m a chest breather and rather shallow breaths as well. I’ve done some breathing exercise but when I check in on myself during my normal day, I’m back to shallow breathing. It seems worst at night when drifting off to sleep. I wonder if it may have some corellation to waking up gasping for air. Hmmm

  • Hazejames
    3 years ago

    I find your thoughts and suggestions on bloating and breathing very helpful. I’ve often wondered what the cause of my bloat was, now I know. Thankyou

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Hazejames and thanks for taking the time to post your comment. It’s always appreciated when people (like you) let us know they find value in our written content. We hope to hear more from you in our online community. Best regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • Poll