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Energy and Oxygen

Obviously, humans need oxygen, that fact isn't lost on us, but often, the factors that get in the way of getting good oxygen are overlooked. A few well-known causes of fatigue, like anemia and iron deficiency, are actually oxygen problems even though we don't really think of them that way, but there are breathing related problems as well. The solution might just be as silly as taping your mouth shut.

Obviously, humans need oxygen, that fact isn’t lost on us, but often, the factors that get in the way of getting good oxygen are overlooked. A few well-known causes of fatigue, like anemia and iron deficiency, are actually oxygen problems even though we don’t really think of them that way, but there are other issues as well.

Iron Deficiency, Carbon Monoxide, and Fatigue

The reason iron deficiency makes people tired is because in order for your blood to carry oxygen to your brain and other cells, it needs to have good levels of iron that the oxygen can bond to. So it isn’t the lack of iron itself that causes symptoms, it’s the inability to carry enough oxygen.

Carbon monoxide is a problem along a similar vein, because it bonds to the iron in your blood, limiting the amount of oxygen that can be carried. So technically, these are both oxygenation problems. We’ve discussed both iron deficiency and carbon monoxide in Season 4 episode 2, and iron in more depth in season 3 episode 25 so there is no real need to get into it again, but it’s important to know that all of these oxygen related issues have a common core.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is the classic oxygen related sleep problem. Sleep apnea happens when something interferes with your breathing during the night and causes you to wake up briefly, even if you’re not aware of it, to get your breath. The most common early symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring, and waking up feeling unrested. There are two types of apena, called central and peripheral. Central is harder to work with because in this situation the brain forgets to send breathing signals occasionally. It can still be treated with a CPAP machine, but other lifestyle modifications don’t have much effect. Peripheral sleep apnea happens because swollen or saggy tissue in the throat or sinuses blocks the airways momentarily, or excess weight puts too much burden on the muscles you use to breathe. Peripheral apnea can be reversed with dental devices, weight loss, and occasionally surgery. Failing those, both types of apnea are treated with a CPAP machine, which enriches your air with extra oxygen.

Allergies, Sinuses and Fatigue

As with sleep apnea, if your airways are inflamed, swollen or mucusy, that also leads to a low oxygen internal environment. Chronic sinus infections, allergies, and asthma are huge culprits in the oxygen-deficeint fatigue world and working to treat these will boost your sleep quality, but also your daytime energy outside of sleep as you get plenty of fresh oxygen to your brain.

energy and oxygen, mouth breathing and fatigue, mouth taping and sleep,

Mouth Breathing, Night-Time Oxygenation and Fatigue

This is where we really hit the meat of today’s talk, becuase as we age, many of us mouth breathe at night, often unknowingly, but this causes a hit to our night time oxygenation and our daytime energy levels. Mouth breathing can be caused by all sorts of things. Sinus issues, allergies, colds, deviated septum, enlarged adenoids, unusual sleep positions, asthma, even habit. Many people who do breathe predominantly through threir mouth at night aren’t aware of it. Some signs that it might be a thing you do include dry mouth or chapped lips when you wake up, bad breath, snoring, or drool on the pillow. Your partner might notice that you mouth breathe, but they might not. It is often unobtrusive and difficult to notice because you may switch back and forth between breathing through your mouth and your nose during the night.

Why, you might ask, is this such a big deal because mouth breathing is still breathing, right? There is still airflow. That is true, but we are actually designed to breathe through our noses, to help optimize air for maximum oxygen transfer in the lungs. When you breathe through your nose there are three things that happen to the air that don’t happen when you breathe through your mouth. Those are:

  1. Your nasal passages have tiny hairs called cilia that trap and filter allergens, pollution, and other particles, which helps reduce lower airway irritation and inflammation. Your mouth doesn’t have such protection.
  2. Your nose has bony structures called turbinates that moisten the air you breathe, making it friendlier to your lung tissue. Mouth breathing loses a lot of the moisture that helps your lungs to function optimally.
  3. Your throat and lungs are designed for warm air. Your nose and sinuses are designed to allow air to warm up before it passes into the lungs, where it doesn’t have as much of an opportunity to do that when you breathe through your mouth.

These differences add up to a significant reduction in oxygen transfer to your blood when you breathe through your mouth, versus when you breathe through your nose.

So, what do you do about this? There are a few options for you to explore. The simplest and by far my favorite is mouth taping. It may sound odd, but taping your mouth shut at night forces you to breathe through your nose. Obviously this only works out if your nose is clear enough to breathe through, otherwise it’s just a really bizarre way to suffocate yourself. There are dozens of mouth tape strips available, but any sensitive-skin gental removal medical tape will work. Just a small piece in the center of your mouth from top to bottom is enough.

The medical tape isn’t strong enough if you actually need to open your mouth to breathe and there isn’t any danger, although the first few times I used mouth tape I definitely felt a bit like a lunatic. Opportunities for hilarity aside, it can improve your sleep quality and help you wake up feeling like you actually rested.

Another alternative is a chin strap, chin bib, or chin hammock-type device that hooks over your ears and holds your mouth closed overnight. It’s as silly looking as it sounds, but just like the tape it helps you get a good night sleep and wake feeling rested.

If there is a serious sinus blockage, then sometimes surgery is actually the answer because it can help to clear a deviated septum, remove swollen, enlarged, or infected adenoids, and otherwise clear physical obstacles out of the way of your airflow.

So yes, we all know we need oxygen to function, but when you go to your doctor’s office and tell them you’re tired, they might not be thinking of mouth breathing. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen today, and if you try mouth taping let me know how it goes in the comments!

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MTHFR is a common genetic mutation that can contribute to anxiety, depression, fatigue, chronic pain, infertility, and more serious conditions like breast implant illness, heart attack, stroke, chronic fatigue syndrome, and some types of cancer. If you know or suspect you have an MTHFR variant, schedule a free 15-minute meet-and-greet appointment with MTHFR expert Dr. Amy today.

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Amy Neuzil
Amy Neuzil

Dr. Amy Neuzil, N.D. is a leading expert in MTHFR and epigenetics, and she is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellness for their genetic picture. She has helped thousands of people overcome health challenges using a simple, step-by-step approach that starts with where they are today. Dr. Neuzil's unique approach to wellness has helped countless people improve their energy levels, lose weight, and feel better mentally and emotionally. If you're looking for a way to feel your best, Dr. Amy Neuzil can help. Contact her today to learn more about how she can help you achieve optimal health and wellness.

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