The Purpose of Breath

Many people do not realize the importance and connection that their breath has to both the brain and the heart.  Because of this connection breathwork can be a powerful and accessible tool for all to use not only for better balance but also to help manage conditions such as anxiety, depression, other mood disorders, fatigue, stress, diabetes and heart disease.  This isn't just conjecture or theory either!  There have been quite a few studies recently that provide an evidence based connection between the breath and the body's ability to regulate the body's autonomic nervous system.

Think of the autonomic nervous system as a conductor of the body that helps to regulate signals and impulses.  The two main players of this system are like the reins and the crop for a horse.  One system drives things faster and the other system slows things down.  These two systems work together day and night to control all types of things such as how quickly we are thinking to our ability to go to sleep.  In medical terms we call these reins the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.  What medical research tells us is that different breathing exercises and techniques have a unique way to tap into these systems so that you can control them and that when you tap into that control your body reaps the benefits.  

The primary reward of becoming more aware of your breath comes in the engagement of the parasympathetic system to start to slow things down.  Think about it- all day we are on the go or have something to do or see or text or post ALL THE TIME!  That leads to a constant feeding of the sympathetic system which places a strain on the supportive glandular network which can place your hormonal system completely in a whirlwind!  When you engage in breathwork the parasympathetic system (or the "reins") start to take over which slows your systems down and allows your body to "take a break".  This process of "breaking" is actually fundamental in the process of healing and repair to the body.

So now that you understand one of the true purposes of your breath the challenge becomes to start to become more aware of your breathing pattern.  Consider signing up for a breathwork class or seminar in your community or sign up for a yoga class and pay particular attention to the breathing patterns taught during the session.  Your breath is always with you, it is free and you don't have to go anywhere to do it.  Take the time to be aware of where your breath is and make your breath work for you and not against you.









J Cardiovasc Thorac Res. 2016;8(4):170-175. doi: 10.15171/jcvtr.2016.34. Epub 2016 Dec 30.

Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2016 Feb;124(2):65-70. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1565062. Epub 2015 Nov 17.


Are You One of Many?

Menopause-Why Do So Many Women Go Untreated?

A study published online from Menopause in July of this year gave statistical support to something that many women have known for a long time.  Many women experience menopausal symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats and go untreated by their doctors year after year.  According to the results of this study which examined women's symptoms and methods of treatment via survey methodology only 11% of survey respondents were availing themselves of hormonal replacement therapy or HRT.  Although this study was conducted in Australia according to the researchers it is likely that these results can be extrapolated to the United States.  So the big question  is why are all these women going untreated?

Hormone replacement therapy is one of many forms of therapy that may be used to combat hot flashes and night sweats, two of the most common symptoms of menopause.  After the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Study was published in 2002 many women stopped using hormones in droves and many more women that have entered the climacteric period since 2002 still have not availed themselves of this type of therapy.  Although it is true that hormone replacement therapy does come with  some increased medical risks such as cardiovascular disease, increased blood clot risks,  and increased risks of breast cancer it is also true that certain methods of hormonal therapy have a safer risk profile than the traditional oral therapy that was used in the WHI study.  The other concern that this study highlights is in regards to the low use of vaginal estrogen which also has a different risk profile than traditional HRT.  The use of vaginal estrogen has been shown to have a big impact on the quality of intercourse as well as being an important factor in decreasing infections.  So the big question remains....why are so many women left untreated year after year?

The true answer to this is likely secondary to several different factors.  For one many women and their doctors  were completely scared off their hormone therapy by the first wave of published results from the WHI study.  In many cases so scared off that many never came back to review the secondary and tertiary studies that showed the flaws of the study as well as the difference in side effect profiles in terms of route and dose of therapy in all the research that has come out since 2002. So the truth is that although the study definitely provided some useful information it wasn't perfect in analyzing all risks in all groups of women or with all different types of therapy.   Because of this many women still have the perception that hormone replacement therapy of any kind is unsafe and according to many published studies doctors are not typically changing this perception during the office visit if they are even discussing treatment options at all.  

So what's a hot, sweaty, grumpy woman with possibly a dry vagina to do?  First off know that although this too shall pass although it typically doesn't pass quickly.  Depending on what study you go with most women have symptoms from 5-7 years!  Can you just think of how much extra laundry you would have on sheets and nightgowns alone?  So that means that you can't usually just get through this very well without some type of help.   Second, make sure that you bring up what you are going through at your doctor's visit and know that there are both effective hormonal AND non hormonal options that can help you through this period.  If all you get back is a blank stare or the "brush-off" that you can just live through this my advice would be to get a second opinion by someone who specializes in hormonal therapies and menopausal treatment.   If you don't have a provider who lives close to you, don't know where a provider is close to you or you are an international woman suffering from the symptoms of menopause don't give up hope as often these types of specialists can also consult with you online and then work with your local provider to treat your symptoms.  To find out more about scheduling virtual second opinion for menopausal symptoms and treatment please click here.