Deep Breathing Reduces Oxidative Stress
Medical researchers from Italy’s University of Camerino have found that diaphragmatic breathing – breathing from the diaphragm – reduces oxidative stress, and helps normalize insulin and blood sugar levels.
The researchers tested sixteen amateur cyclists, eight of which used diaphragmatic breathing in a quiet place after a meal, and eight of which sat in a quiet place reading a magazine after the same meal.
Blood samples were taken and tested before the meal, one hour after the meal and two hours after the meal. The researchers analyzed blood levels of reactive oxygen metabolites, glucose, insulin, and antioxidant potentials. They also measured the subjects’ heart rates.
The group who conducted the diaphragmic breathing had significantly lower heart rates. Their blood had higher insulin levels, and more normal levels of blood sugar. They also had lower levels of free radicals and higher antioxidant levels.
Oxidative stress has been linked to a variety of disorders, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia and many others. During oxidative stress, free radicals can damage the body’s internal tissues.
The researchers concluded that, “Diaphragmatic breathing, likely through the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, increases insulin, reduces glycemia, and reduces reactive oxygen species production.”
Other research has found that meditation reduces glycemia levels and reduces oxidative stress. The central component of this type of meditation, however, has been focused upon deep breathing. This research illustrates that it is likely the deep breathing, rather than the “meditation” itself.
Other studies have shown that intestinal irritability and other digestive issues are positively affected by deep breathing methods.
Martarelli D, Cocchioni M, Scuri S, Pompei P. Diaphragmatic breathing reduces postprandial oxidative stress. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Jul;17(7):623-8.