-Diaphragmatic Breathing vs. Shallow Breathing-

The human body requires certain things to sustain life, things that we do each day, and most days we do these things without even thinking much about them. These daily activities that support life and growth are proper nutrition through the food and drink we consume, sleep to support proper growth and restoration of the body, and we all require oxygen through the breath we take throughout each day.

According to NASA, our atmospheric air is composed of approximately 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide and trace amounts of neon, helium, methane, krypton, and hydrogen, as well as water vapor.

The oxygen found in our air is a key component of all the chemical reactions that keep our bodies alive. For example, oxygen is required for our bodies to produce large amounts of cellular energy, called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), that fuel our cells, such as brain cells, to do their work. Without oxygen, the brain would suffer damage within just a few minutes.

We accomplish this life-sustaining breathe without thought (our rate of breathing is regulated by our autonomic nervous system), but when we are awake and active, we may alter the way in which we breathe, deeply or shallow, without even realizing it.

Does it matter how deeply we breathe throughout our busy days, let’s take a look…

Diaphragmatic Breathing Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, is the process of breathing deeply into the lungs by flexing the diaphragm rather than the rib cage.

Diaphragmatic breathing is said to trigger the body’s relaxation responses which then benefit both physical and mental health. These responses encourage your body to release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain, according to Dr. Herbert Benson, the founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute.

Some beneficial consequences of diaphragmatic breathing include increased oxygen to the brain and muscles, reduces anxiety and worry, improved concentration, the release of stress and tension, and stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system which promotes a calm state of being.

According to Dr. Group, when we practice deep breathing it helps to clear out toxins from our lungs which then leads to improved lung performance and the nourishing oxygen helps us feel better and have more energy.

Diaphragmatic breathing entails contraction of the diaphragm, the dome-shaped broad muscle that is essential for inspiration, expansion of the belly and a deep inhalation and exhalation. This deep breathing action decreases the breathing rate and maximizes the amount of blood gases being moved such as oxygen into the blood and carbon dioxide out of the blood.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the diaphragmatic breathing technique includes:

First, lie on your back on a flat surface with your knees bent, and your head supported. A pillow may be used under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage, as this will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

Next, breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain mostly still.

Finally, tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed (puckered) lips. Again, the hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

Shallow Breathing

Shallow breathing, or chest breathing, is a breathing pattern marked by slow, shallow, and generally ineffective inspirations and expirations that draws a minimal amount of air into the lungs.

Short and shallow breathing has been shown to raise anxiety levels.

Prolonged shallow breathing will result in increased lung resistance and increased bronchial hyper-reactivity (BHR) which is an abnormal respiratory condition characterized by a sudden reflex constriction of the muscles in the walls of the bronchioles, which is a universal feature of asthma.

When shallow breathing occurs over a period of time it can lead to hypoventilation which can cause carbon dioxide to build up and occurrence of respiratory acidosis, a condition in which a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood produces a shift in the body's pH balance and causes the body's system to become more acidic.

Several conditions can lead to shallow breathing in an individual, such as asthma, lung congestion, a panic disorder, and even heatstroke. Stress can also cause an individual to take short, shallow breaths which can then become a habit as the individual becomes accustomed to this breathing pattern.


We can see from this brief research that deep, rhythmic breaths will maximize oxygen in the blood and remove carbon dioxide, and also has other positive benefits such as it relieves stress and promotes a calm state of being.

Conversely, shallow breathing can raise anxiety levels and can promote acidic conditions as carbon dioxide builds up in the blood.

So find a quiet spot and take a moment to try diaphragmatic breathing. Deep breathing will help to clear the lungs and provide your body systems with the necessary oxygen for optimal function.

Genesis_2:7 “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

Job_33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Acts_17:25 “nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”


Diaphragmatic Breathing

Salvi, D., Agarwal, R., Salvi, S., Barthwal, B. M. S., & Khandagale, S. (2014). Effect of diaphragmatic breathing on spirometric parameters in asthma patients and normal individuals. Indian Journal of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy, 8(3), 43-48. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1545170516?accountid=158302 http://philschatz.com/anatomy-book/contents/m45988.html https://www.space.com/17683-earth-atmosphere.html https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9445-diaphragmatic-breathing Martarelli, D., Cocchioni, M., Scuri, S., & Pompei, P. (2011). Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2011, 932430. http://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nep169 Ma, X., Yue, Z.-Q., Gong, Z.-Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N.-Y., Shi, Y.-T., … Li, Y.-F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 874. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874 https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/june-2015/breathe-your-way-to-calm.aspx Joshi, R. (2014). Stress, depression and anxiety and breathing exercise among college going late adolescents. International Journal of Education and Management Studies, 4(1), 1-11. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1680503220?accountid=158302 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/heart-and-soul-healing/201303/dr-herbert-benson-s-relaxation-response http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/autonomic-nervous-system-disorders/overview-of-the-autonomic-nervous-system https://www.webmd.com/lung/arterial-blood-gases#1 https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/deep-breathing-for-lung-cleansing/

Shallow Breathing

Pubmed: Spadaro, S., Grasso, S., Mauri, T., Dalla Corte, F., Alvisi, V., Ragazzi, R., … Volta, C. A. (2016). Can diaphragmatic ultrasonography performed during the T-tube trial predict weaning failure? The role of diaphragmatic rapid shallow breathing index. Critical Care, 20, 305. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13054-016-1479-y Platts-Mills, T. (2015). The allergy epidemics: 1870-2010. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 136(1), 3-13. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2015.03.048 Bronchial hyperreactivity. (n.d.) Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. (2009). Retrieved January 18 2018 from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/bronchial+hyperreactivity Shallow breathing. (n.d.) Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary. (2012). Retrieved January 18 2018 from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/shallow+breathing https://northtampachiropractor.com/shallow-breathing-diaphragm-breathing/ Parmar, J., & Nagarwala, R. (2014). Effects of pranayama on bronchial asthma. International Journal of Physiology, 2(1), 96-101. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1518647287?accountid=158302 https://www.healthline.com/symptom/rapid-shallow-breathing

Cedar Park, Texas 78613


Teresa Edwards

MS in Holistic Nutrition

Certified Holistic Nutritionist

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