Ultra processed food trial – ‘The results are in’

The results are in. This (2019) study involved 20 adults following either an ultra-processed (UPF) or unprocessed diet for 2 weeks at the NIH Clinical Centre. This was followed immediately by 2 weeks of the alternate diet. The diets were matched for nutritional composition: calories; energy density; macronutrients; sugar; sodium and fibre and participants were free to eat as much as they liked.

Despite composition matching, subjects on the UPF diet consumed an average of 508 extra calories per day, comprising more carbohydrate and fat, but not protein. Participants gained more weight during the UPF diet, an average of 1kg, and lost weight during the unprocessed diet. This implies that there is something about the processing itself which causes a metabolic issue.

Other interesting points to note were:

During the UPF diet

• The eating rate was faster

• Sodium consumption increased

• To compensate for the lower fibre level and match fibre intake for both diets, beverages with dissolved fibre were given

• Body fat mass increased

During the un-processed food diet:

• Appetite suppressing hormone increased

• Hunger hormone decreased

• Total cholesterol decreased

• Inflammation markers decreased

• Fasting glucose and insulin levels decreased

One thing is clear. Whilst there is much conflict about which diet is the ‘best’ the whole world seems to agree that avoiding processed foods is a good thing.

Refs: Hall, K. D. (2019) Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: An inpatient randomised controlled trial of ad libitum food intake. Cell Metabolism; 30(1) pp. 67-77. e3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7946062/

#nutrition #eastbournenutritionist #UPF #realfoodheals #weightlosshelp

Intermittent fasting and fasting for health

Fasting
Intermittent fasting
Health
Weight loss

Intermittent fasting is in the limelight at the moment but many traditions have been incorporating fasting for millennia.  Humans have historically fasted overnight, for religious reasons or during periods of food scarcity. Some monks have a precept called ‘no meals after noon’ and religions such as Taoism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism all fast.

Fasting principles

What we eat at mealtimes is our primary fuel source for 3-4 hours.  After 4-12 hours we utilise sugar (glycogen) stored in the liver, muscle and brain.  Somewhere between 10 or 12 hours we will start to burn fat out of the liver to produce glucose for energy (gluconeogenesis).  It takes 2-3 days for fat to become the predominant fuel source.

The body will often store toxins in fat cells waiting for an opportune moment to detoxify.  It’s a bit like us putting things in cupboards, pending a rainy weekend for a clear out. When we are constantly digesting this moment doesn’t materialise. The body never gets chance to undertake any longer term regeneration or deep cleaning projects and our cells and guts can become overwhelmed.

"fasting is the body's equivalent of spring cleaning your house or servicing your car"

The digestive system

The inside of our gastro intestinal (GI) tract is still considered external to the human body. The cells lining the GI tract act as the gatekeeper to our body’s internal environment. The lining is delicate about half the width of a human hair.  Nevertheless it underpins all of our health by protecting our immune system and blood stream from toxins and pathogens.  The lining is covered in a mucus layer which contains our gut flora (microbiome) and this forms a selective barrier between us and the outside world.

Host microbiome axis: Interaction between the GI tract, the mucus layer and our immune system

Source: Esser, D. et al. (2019) Functions of the microbiota for the physiology of animal metaorganisms; Journal of Innate Immunity; 11(5), pp. 393-404

The immune system

Just behind our gut lining sits our gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) which is host to the majority of our immune system. Most people eat at least 3 meals a day plus snacks. This means our immune system is on duty 14 hours a day assessing anything that filters through the gut lining for potential toxins and pathogenic material. 

With constant stimulation and no rest, our immune system can’t build up reserves of antioxidants or take care of any long-term building projects. It then risks developing faults or errors of judgment which scientists believe can make us susceptible to:

Types of fasting

There are a number of different types of fasting (see below)*.  There are also hybrid diets such as the fasting mimicking diet (FMD). This is low in calories and protein but high in fat and maintains micronutrient content. Time restricted feeding (TRF) when food is kept to an eating window of 12 hours (7am to 7pm) or 8 hours (8am to 6pm) will provide an overnight fast of 12 and 14 hours respectively. These variations may be more suitable for some people depending on their state of health and unique physiology.  

Longer fasts of up to 5 days can promote autophagy which is a process of programmed cell dissolution.  This takes place once all of our glycogen stores have been utilised c. 24-72 hours around the 4th or 5th day. With this process the body breaks down any damaged cells  such as mis-folded proteins, ameloid plaques, damaged DNA etc. It’s a process of self-eating where the body recycles damaged materials for alternative use. Shorter fasts such as Intermittent fasting help the body to train into longer fasting periods. Fasting shouldn’t be undertaken without due consideration of your current health status and reference to your health practitioner or GP.

“You get rid of the junk during starvation — and once you have food, you can rebuild… The damaged cells are replaced with new cells, working cells — and now the system starts working properly.”

Dr Valter Longo

What fasting does

Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) carries out all the functions which basically run your body on a day to day basis.  Fasting seems to press the reset button on your physiology and all the functions of your ANS including:

Gut / immune system reset - fasting appears to reset our metabolism and rejuvenate the immune system as it gets chance to rest and recover and restore our antioxidant reservoirs.

Gut hormone/stress reset – fasting resets our hormonal systems and avoids the constant adrenaline state to which so many of us have become accustomed.

Gut / brain reset – fasting can help to change our emotional relationship with food as we challenge the body to adapt to different levels of food supply.

Liver reset – fasting facilitates detoxification as we burn fat and sugar out of our liver compartments. 

How fasting improves health

Studies in humans and mice of different types of fasting demonstrate improvement in multiple health indicators such as:

My approach and cautions

I don’t introduce fasting until I believe the client is sufficiently healthy to follow the protocols safely.  My approach is personal to each client. Before starting to restrict food intake we work to ensure that they are well nourished from a micronutrient perspective, have a well functioning liver and detoxification pathways and are hormonally stable.  In addition they will preferably be trained in the breath-work I teach.  This helps clients to work with their autonomic nervous system to manage their stress levels and emotional state in general, but also around food.

We typically start with 2-3 days of intermittent fasting.  Usually it’s from the last evening meal at around 7 pm until about 1 pm or lunchtime the next day. This provides an 18 hour break for both the digestive and the immune systems.

Hydration is also important.  I have a specific hydration protocol for clients to follow when they are preparing for or undertaking a fast or intermittent fast. There are some contraindications to fasting so I always recommend working with a health practitioner.

What the research shows

Most of the research is currently in mice but it seems to demonstrate:

Get in touch on 07740 876233 for more information or if you would like or to discuss your health concerns and how I might be able to support you.

Please note: This article is intended for information purposes so readers can gain an understanding of the benefits of fasting for health.  I highly recommend working with a health practitioner if you plan to try this as there are many aspects to take into consideration.

References

Chaix, A. (2022) Time-restricted feeding and caloric restriction: two feeding regimens at the crossroad of metabolic and circadian regulation; Methods Molecular Biology; 2482 pp 329-340 DOI: 10.1007/978-1-0716-2249-0_22

Cheng, C-W. et. Al. (2014) Prolonged Fasting Reduces IGF-1/PKA topromote hematopoietic-stem-cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression, Cell Stem Cell; 14(6) pp.810-823 http://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/fulltext/S1934-5909(14)00151-9

Longo, V.D. and Panda, S. (2016) Fasting, circadian rhythms, and time restricted feeding in healthy lifespan; Cell Metabolism;14; 23(6); 1048-1059.

Mattson, M. P., Longo, V.D. and Harvie, M. (2018). Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Research Reviews: 29 pp. 46-58.

Rangan, P. et. al. (2019) Fasting-mimicking diet modulates microbiota and promotes intestinal regeneration to reduce inflammatory bowel disease pathology; Cell Reports; 5;26 (10); pp. 2704-2710.e6. doi:10.10.16/j.celrep.2019.02.019

Sutton, E.F. (2018) Early time-restricted feeding improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and oxidative stress even without weight loss in men with pre diabetes; Cell Metabolism; 5; 27(6); 1212-1221,e3.

Wei, M. et al. (2017) Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease; Science Translational Medicine; 15;9(377)

Vaughn, K.L and Mattison, J.A. (2018) Watch the clock not the scale; Cell Metabolism, 27 pp.1159-1160.

Training

Zach Bush Biology Basecamp (2020)

Pending:- Intermittent fasting: personalization for better outcomes by Amanda Swaine, DipION, BANT, CNHC

* Fasting types:- intermittent fasting (60% energy restriction on two days or more), fasting mimicking diet, time restricted feeding (8 hour food window) and periodic fasting (5 day diet providing 750-1100 kcal).

Acid or Alkaline?

There are so many controversies in nutrition and one of these is the theory around the acid-alkaline balance of the diet.  This blog explores the science and debate around this topic.

If you want to calculate the acid/alkaline of your meal ‘The PRAL’ (Potential Renal Acid Load) scale calculates how acid or alkaline a food is per 100g consumed. This scale is determined by measuring the pH of the ash remaining once the food has been burnt. It is however the subject of debate as the high temperatures used far exceed those of digestion and also burn off the sugar which is thought to cause acidity in the body itself.

The simple way to understand this topic is that alkaline forming foods include all vegetables especially spinach, all herbs and most fruit.  Acid forming foods include all grains, cheese, meat, fish and peanuts as well as processed foods.  Pure fats, sugars, and starches are neutral, because they don’t contain protein, sulphur, or minerals. A source of confusion is that some foods such as lemons and citrus taste acidic but have an alkalising effect on the body.  Examples of highly alkaline vegetables are spinach, broccoli, kale, cucumber and parsley.

When we digest protein acids are produced however these are buffered by bicarbonate ions in the blood.  This reaction produces carbon dioxide which is exhaled and also salts which are excreted by the kidneys. The kidneys produce ‘new’ bicarbonate ions which are returned to the blood.  So as with most things in the body a cycle is created which enables the body to maintain blood pH within a range of 7.35 to 7.45. So whilst food is linked to acidosis through the potential to place a more acid or alkaline ‘load’ on your body, this is quickly resolved to maintain a stable blood pH.

It is important to keep in mind that sufficient protein intake is important for health generation as well as facilitating acid excretion.  So a very low protein diet can in fact increase acidosis and have adverse health effects. 

However if our body’s are in a constant acid-base disequilibrium this is a type of systemic stress. If compensatory mechanism’s diminish a persistent acidogenic diet may increase the likelihood of an H + surplus and lower levels of serum bicarbonate.  The scientific term ‘acidosis’ refers to a process, a dynamic compensatory response not just a change in blood pH.  Many health conditions such as osteoporosis, kidney disease and muscle wasting are associated with a chronic low-grade level of metabolic acidosis.  Although the mechanisms are not fully understood it is thought that there is a trade-off for constantly countering the effect of acid foods. Over time this may deplete buffering reserves of alkaline minerals especially in bones and tax muscle, kidneys and endocrine systems.

Some researchers suggest our contemporary Western diet has a higher acid load relative to that of our ancestors. Minich and Bland (2007) suggest that the root of this may lie in the agricultural revolution, processed food and grain products and more recently popular diets such as Atkins and Paleo.  The latter are high protein diets which increase our net dietary acid load. They are often accompanied by a decrease in the micronutrient and phytochemical intake from fresh fruits and vegetables.

However other researchers dispute these claims. For example the famous researcher and dentist Weston Price found the diet of primitive Eskimos to contain an acid/alkaline balance of 707:382. He was specifically interested in dental caries which in the modern Eskimo diet have increased from 0.9 to 130 per 1000 teeth, whilst the acid/alkaline diet balance reduced to 382:227.

What is clear is that our bodies strive to maintain homeostasis including normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar and normal blood pH. 

If pH falls to below 7.35 then the body regulates acid-alkaline balance via the following:

Patrick McKeown author of ‘The Oxygen Advantage’, points out that acid forming foods stimulate breathing to off load carbon dioxide via the breath.  Metabolic bicarbonate buffering processes occur over several days whereas adjustment via the breath can occur within minutes to hours.  However this stimulus can cause people to resort to mouth breathing rather than nasal in order to restore homeostasis within the body. This aspect of pH adjustment is often ignored in nutrition articles but it’s one of the key reasons I trained in the Oxygen Advantage technique.  Unfortunately mouth breathing or over breathing via hyperventilation can quickly become habitual which can then result in pH moving in the opposite direction causing respiratory alkalosis (Brinkman and Sharma, 2021). Symptoms are wide and varied and can include: shortness of breath (dyspnea); fever; chills; peripheral edema; weakness; confusion; light headedness; dizziness; anxiety; chest pain; asthma; abdominal pain; nausea; vomiting or weight loss.

Similar to most things in life it seems to be about balance. Indeed Sagen Ishizuka (1851-1910, founder of the macrobiotic diet, linked the equilibrium of acid and alkaline foods with the Chinese ideas of Yin and Yang.  Natural balance not radical consumption of either or.

For help with nutrition or breathing advice and training please call me on 07740 876233.

References

Brinkman, J.E. and Sharma, S. (2021) Respiratory Alkalosis; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482117/

Cam Magazine (October, 2014); https://www.scientificwellness.com/blog-view/the-alkaline-diet-science--health-benefits-425

Minich, D.M. and Bland, J.S. (2007) Acid-alkaline balance: role in chronic disease and detoxification; Alternative therapies; 13(4).

McKeown, P. (2015) The Oxygen Advantage. Harper Collins, New York.

Robey, I.F. (2012) Examining the relationship between diet-induced acidosis and cancer; Nutrition and metabolism; 9(72).

Weston Price (1934) Acid alkaline balance by Dr, Weston A. Price; https://www.healingnaturallybybee.com/acidalkaline-balance-by-dr-weston-a-price

Helen Maxwell

07740 876233

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Supporting immunity

I am receiving lots of enquiries about how to support their immune system and health through the winter season. I’ve put together some information on key nutrients to consider for support and why, together with some practical suggestions of what and how much to take. There is no substitute for eating a healthy nutritious diet but if you regularly suffer from colds, flu or infections over the winter season this extra support may be useful. As always please consult your GP or health practitioner if you are already taking medication or supplements to ensure there are no contraindications.

Vitamin D3

Recent studies show vitamin D3 supports the immune response to infection and protects against respiratory tract infection especially in vitamin D deficient people1,3. UK NHS guidelines recommend 400 IU per day 2 but many researchers recommend more especially if you aren’t getting at least 10 minutes sunshine per day. I usually recommend 1000 IU but it’s always a good idea to test first. Finger prick tests are available. I use a company called FORTH but you can also ask your GP to test. Use this link to benefit from my discount code:

https://www.biomarkertracking.com/p/store/DNRMAXWELL/2/

Zinc

Has been shown to stimulate antiviral immunity 4.  Best taken with copper, 15mg per day should be sufficient for prevention 4.  Lower serum concentration of both vitamin D3 and zinc have been detected in patients suffering with moderate Covid 19 symptoms as compared to mild or asymptomatic patients5.

Propolis

Propolis honey bee resin is formed from the resins which the bees collect from trees which form part of the plants natural immune system. It contains more than 300 naturally derived bio-active compounds. These flavonoids and phenolics are what make Propolis a powerful natural defence which may soothe sore throats and support upper respiratory tract infections.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are fascinating powerhouses of nutrients and compounds that provide many positive health promoting actions including antiviral and antibacterial.  We share 40% of their DNA making them more similar to us than plants. Many mushrooms have anti-viral properties and can inhibit viral replication. They can improve T-lymphocyte proliferation and increase Natural Killer cell activity to increase our natural defences against cancer and provide immunomodulatory benefits 6.

Quercetin

Quercetin is a flavonoid found in plants such as onions, brassicas, apples, grapes and berries. It is known to stimulate the immune system to generate aniviral activity and decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines and inflammatory mediators. It has also been shown to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) due to exercise and can be utilised in URTI’s such as asthma and allergic reactions. 7

Ginger

Ginger has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory benefits and positive effects on acute respiratory distress syndrome.8

Ginger tea - take a large palm sized piece of ginger and cope into a few pieces.  Bash each piece to release the flavour better or grate it and boil in 1 litre of water for 30 minutes.  Optional - add 1/2 tsp of ground turmeric and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper. Once it has cooled a little you can add the juice of 1/2 a lemon about 3 tbsp. Strain if desired and pour the liquid into a flask to drink when desired.

Get in touch for more information on nutrition to support your health and immunity. Call 07740 876233 or email me at helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk. https://helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk/contact-2/

Please use this link to access product information and immune boosting juice and smoothie receipes

https://www.dropbox.com/s/qxd4bx7lynr4ucu/IMMUNITY%20.pdf?dl=0

References1 Calder, P.C. et al. (2020) Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System Is an Important Factor to Protect against Viral Infections Nutrients 12(4) p1181. 2 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/ 3 James, P.T. et al. (2021) The Role of Nutrition in COVID-19 Susceptibility and Severity of Disease: A Systematic Review. The Journal of Nutrition;151 pp.1554-1878. 4 National Academies Press (US) (2001) Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Micronutrients. Washington (DC) 5 Golabi, S. et al. (2021) The Association between Vitamin D and Zinc Status and the Progression of Clinical Symptoms among Outpatients Infected with SARS-CoV-2 and Potentially Non-Infected Participants: A Cross-Sectional Study Nutrients 13(10) pp. 3368.6 Chan, G.C-F. et al. (2009) The effects of beta-glucan on human immune and cancer cells; Journal of Hematology and Oncology 2(25)   DOI: 10.1186/1756-8722-2-25 7 Micek, J. et al. (2016) 7 Nyguen, H.A. et al. (2020) Quercetin and its anti-allergic immune response; Molecules 623; doi:10.3390 8 Ginger on Human Health: A Comprehensive Systematic Review of 109 Randomized Controlled Trials 12(1) 157 https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010157

Breathing for runners

Running 
Breath coach
Oxygen Advantage

Maximise your performance through

BREATHING

Learn how to

Functional breath training and simulation of high altitude training with

 Helen Maxwell certified Oxygen Advantage® Instructor

Contact Helen on 07740 876233

Breathing-pattern - could it be the missing link?

The way we breathe is intricately linked to the way our body functions on both a physical and psychological level. When we breathe correctly we oxygenate our organs to maximise their function.

Between 50-80% of the general population have some level of breathing-pattern disorder

The researcher and professor of physical therapy, Kiesel (2017), has found that between 50-80% of the general population have some level of breathing-pattern disorder.  The Oxygen Advantage® programme is designed to reset and optimise your breathing-pattern to improve your overall health and well-being.  It also works specifically on performance for sports and exercise.

Signs and symptoms that your breathing is disordered

Signs that your breathing may be disordered or that you need to improve your breathing include.

Why consider learning to breathe correctly?

Correcting how you breathe may be the missing link in your health journey.  For example if you wake up tired or struggle to focus in the morning this may because of how you breathe during the night. 

When we learn how to breathe properly we can impact all kinds of health issues such as:

DigestionImmune function
Weight lossEnergy levels
AnxietyChronic fatigue
AsthmaExercise induced breathlessness
ConcentrationFocus
Sleep problemsSnoring
Sports performanceCOPD

How is breathing connected to weight loss, energy levels, chronic fatigue and anxiety?

There is a close link between breathing and metabolism which is connected to energy and weight. There seems to be a relationship between the amount we eat and over breathing. Exercises designed to stimulate the para sympathetic nervous (PNS) system seem to bring the body back into balance. This PNS stimulation helps to lower anxiety levels, reduce emotional eating and appetite as well as improve the basal metabolic rate. This is through complex interactions between respiratory rate, heart rate, and the increased capacity of the blood to carry oxygen.

What about asthma and breathing difficulties?

This is one of the key reasons people undertake the programme.  The mechanics and depth of how we breathe affects the amount of air and blood in our lungs. If we breathe well our lungs will protect us against pulmonary infections and we will generate an important molecule called nitric oxide. This molecule is generated in the nasal passages and is our first line of defence against foreign particles. Nitric oxide is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral and it dilates our airways and blood vessels to enhance delivery of oxygen and micronutrients to the tissues. Generating nitric oxide has been found to have significant health benefits especially with regard to chronic and age related disease.

By learning to breathe correctly, improving oxygen uptake and controlling the amount of air you breathe asthma symptoms may reduce or resolve and the need for medication can diminish.

Why does our breathing affect our digestion and our immune function?

Our gut membrane is the barrier between our internal and external world. It is the vital link between what we eat and the nutrients our body digests and absorbs. It’s surface area is as big as two tennis courts but it is delicate, only one cell thick and half the width of a human hair. Most of our immune system is situated just behind this membrane which starts in the sinuses and runs all the way down our throat to the stomach and intestines. It works to protect us from any unwanted substances we may ingest.

Many of us eat on the run, in a rush or whilst feeling stressed.  When we learn to breathe correctly we oxygenate our gut so it can relax, digest and function optimally which in turn supports our immunity.

How can changing how we breathe improve our exercise performance?

Many of us gas-out too soon when we exercise.  This breathlessness can actually put us off exercising.  We instinctively think this is because we can’t get enough oxygen. It has much more to do with being unable to tolerate the build up of carbon dioxide and lactic acid in the body combined with weak respiratory muscles. This chemical oversensitivity can be retrained and reset so the body can do more with less.  We can also retrain the mechanics of breathing to improve the strength of our diaphragm, and the inspiratory and expiratory muscles.

What is the Oxygen Advantage® programme ?

The Oxygen Advantage® programme teaches you the science and the practice of breathing right.  You learn the science of breathing and the ‘how to’ practical part which has two stages. The first stage is to assess your breathing and then learn how to retrain and repattern this for optimal function.  The second stage of the programme uses exercises which simulate high altitude training.  This teaches the body to do more with less, improving athletic performance for both recreational and professional sports people. 

Once you have learnt the exercises and reset your breathing receptors you simply incorporate it into your daily activities.

Benefits

The physiological benefits will depend on how your body responds to the core benefits of:

We pay little attention to the way we breathe because it’s such an automatic process. The Eastern philosophies such as yoga and Tai Chi have always taught that it is a key component of health.  We have never been taught to address it but with the Oxygen Advantage® programme you will learn the science and the practice from a fully qualified instructor.

You can read more about the Oxygen Advantage® programme here.

Helen Maxwell

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

07740 876233

References

Kiesel, P.T. et al (2017) Development of a screening protocol to identify individuals with dysfunctional breathing. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 12(51), DOI: 10.16603/ijspt20170774

Djupesland, P.G. et al. (1999) Nitric oxide in the nose and paranasal sinuses – respiratory tract physiology in a new perspective; Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 119(27); pp.4070-4072.

Bryan NS, et al. (2017) Oral microbiome and nitric oxide: the missing link in the management of blood Pressure. Current Hypertension Reports:19(4):33.

Stephan BCM, et al. (2017) Cardiovascular disease, the nitric oxide pathway and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia; Current Cardiology Reports: 11;19(9):87.

Weight loss: What’s breath got to do with it?

Excess weight is often thought to be the result of an imbalance between energy from food consumed less energy spent throughout the day. However, well known researchers such as Zoe Harcombe, have pointed out that weight is not simply the end product of calories in less calories utilised for metabolism and exercise. Weight loss is more complicated than adjusting food intake, nutrients and exercise levels although this is usually part of the picture. Apart from the emotional and mental aspects of eating there is also a close link between breathing and metabolism. 

Metabolism is the biochemical process by which your body combines food and drink with oxygen to convert it into energy. Your basal or resting metabolic rate (BMR) rate is how much energy you burn at rest to perform autonomic functions breathing; heart rate; digestion etc. determined by your: age; sex; body size and composition (muscle uses more energy). This rate is generally fairly consistent although physical activity and exercise can have an impact. However our respiration rate (speed, volume), our breathing mechanics (upper/lower chest, lung capacity) and the cadence (rhythm) of our breath affect this metabolic equation and ultimately tissue and organ function.

I first came across Butekyo breathing when I studied at Westminster University, whilst learning about the pathophysiology of asthma and nutritional support strategies.  Dr. Konstantin Butekyo was a Russian Doctor, who taught breathing techniques to his asthma patients.  This method is now taught by Patrick McKeown. He has combined Butekyo with other exercises to improve breathing for both sport and health into the Oxygen Advantage® technique in which I am trained.

Through over a decade of working with thousands of people to improve their breathing Patrick has observed that there seems to be a relationship between breathing volume and food consumption. Many of his clients would be using the techniques to resolve asthma, anxiety, stress or snoring but report a secondary benefits such as reduced appetite, weight loss, increased water intake and less craving for processed or unhealthy food choices.

When we eat less our energy expenditure often reduces in tandem. Carrying extra weight can also make exercise more challenging.  This is partly because of the extra pounds but often being overweight leads to the development of poor breathing habits such as hyperventilation, sighing, upper chest breathing and mouth breathing.  This means breathing increases during rest and quickly becomes erratic during exercise.

Poor breathing habits are common. One study estimates as many as 50-80% of the general population have some element of dysfunctional breathing.  The drivers are believed to be: pollution; poor quality food; central heating; lack of physical exercise and so much time spent sitting down. In addition many holistic practitioners and some forms of exercise such as yoga and pilates promote the idea of big, deep breaths. If the breath is taken into the upper chest it will activate our sympathetic nervous system or stress response. This way of breathing can become a habit. If we regularly take even occasional large upper chest breaths throughout the day this can upset pH balance, blood oxygen saturation and even food digestion and absorption can suffer. It is not a time to digest food if the body is primed to run away from a predator.

Using the Oxygen Advantage® breathing techniques to reduce and normalise breathing helps to bring the body back into balance. Reducing and softening the breath helps to normalise blood pH which is often too acidic. The resulting stimulation of the para-sympathetic nervous system can help to reduce emotional eating.  Some of the exercises simulate high altitude training and we have known for many years that animals and people lose weight at high altitudes. At altitude blood oxygen saturation reduces which seems to diminish appetite. Reduced breathing and breath holding temporarily lowers oxygen saturation in the blood inducing an anaerobic state which forces the body to burn fat stores.  The body adapts by releasing hormones to raise the concentration of red blood cells in the blood to increase oxygenation levels and aerobic capacity.

In 2018, researchers Yong, et al., found a significant increase in VO2 max and the BMR of healthy subjects when they tested them pre and post diaphragmatic breathing exercises.  This is important because 70% of our energy supports our BMR and as lean tissue requires more energy than adipose tissue (fat) to maintain itself, lean tissue may be preferentially lost when we try to lose weight. So raising BMR may be another way the technique supports healthy weight loss.  

Our blood vessels, airways and organs including our digestion system are lined with a hundred thousand miles of smooth muscle.  If we over breathe and don’t move much our tissues receive less oxygen and constrict, impairing function and sensitising our sympathetic nervous system.  When we correct how we breathe tissues dilate and function improves, stimulating our metabolism to self-regulate and correcting issues such as breathlessness, constipation and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Breathing is first on the list when it comes to survival, before food and water but often it’s last on the list of our health priorities. We pay little attention to getting it right. It is a very overlooked aspect of health and can be a key component to achieve weight loss and better health with less effort and less focus on food intake.

Get in touch to see how the Oxygen Advantage® training can help you to lose weight, address dysfunctional breathing, breathe better during exercise or just to improve your overall health.

Signs that you may have sub-optimal or dysfunctional breathing: feeling tense; cold hands and feet; a low body oxygen level test score; frequent sighing or yawning; mouth breathing at night; exercise induced asthma; snoring.

Helen Maxwell

www.helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

Helen@helenmaxwellnutrition.co.uk

07740 876233

REFS

Harcombe, Z. (2010) The obesity epidemic, Columbus Publishing.

Kiesel, et al. (2017) Development of a screening protocol to identify individuals with dysfunctional breathing’, International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy’, 12 (5), pp.774-786.

Mayo clinic staff (1998-2020); ‘Metabolism and weight loss: how you burn calories’; [available at]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508.

McKeown, P. (2015) The Oxygen Advantage, Harper Collins Publishers: New York.

Parkes, M.J. (2017) Reappraisal of systemic venous chemoreceptors: might they explain the matching of breathing to metabolic rate in humans? Experimental Physiology https://doi.org/10.1113/EP086561

Rothenberg, R.L., (2020) Restoring Prana, Singing Dragon, London and Philadelphia.

Yong, M-S. et al., (2018) Effects of breathing exercises on resting metabolic rate and maximal oxygen uptake, Journal of Physical Therapy Science; 30(9), pp.1173-1175.