As you read this, you are breathing. But are your chest and stomach moving as you do? Or are your breaths short, barely recognizable, through your nose? Two things I’ve learned recently I need to master in order to run well are:

  1. Consistency
  2. The Way I Breathe

I hadn’t realized how much I held my breath when I ran until I started doing it more consistently and I caught myself. Now I purposefully breathe very intentionally and fully through my mouth when I run, and it has helped with my longevity! Now I’ve learned I know I’m not running right when I’ve stopped being able to hear myself breathe.

The reason the subject of our breathing is so important in relation to our health today is because it is threatened very much by one of the top medical conditions of our day: anxiety. Each of our organs hold specific repressed emotions; the lungs happen to harbor anxiety and sometimes sadness. Anxiety affects how our lungs function, therefore being one of the reasons we can’t catch our breath when we’re nervous or deeply grieved. It’s actually been shown that our lungs can become damaged after prolonged periods of grief. It’s interesting, we don’t really read into the science behind how our bodies react to certain emotions; they just do! But why do we get butterflies in our stomach when we see someone we like? Why can’t we breathe when we’re really sad? Our emotions are physically manifested in our bodies and we can’t help it. And when it comes to the science of our breath, there is very often emotional components involved.

There are many breathing conditions massage has been studied to help with—asthma, emphysema–but I want to look at one of the most complex breathing conditions massage helps today, and that is cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that affect the cells in your body that make mucus, sweat, and digestive fluids. Over time, mucus builds up inside your airways, trapping germs and leading to infections as well as making breathing a struggle.

Cystic fibrosis is known by a sweeter name—“65 Roses”—which is a common term used by children today that are infected by the disease. The term originated back in 1965 when a 4-year-old by the name of Ricky, hearing his mom mention the name of his disease for the first time, pronounced cystic fibrosis as “65 Roses”. Sadly, Ricky lost his fight against CF in 2014.

The ugly fact is that cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening disease that affects 30,000 children and adults in the United States today. But, gratefully, that’s not where the story ends.

There have been a few different alternative remedies from the typical inhaled antibiotics that have been proven to help: massage and essential oils.

The use of essential oils may actually prove to be a revolutionary remedy. In a blog called At the Roots: Natural Healing for Cystic Fibrosis and Chronic Disease, Mica, a clinical herbalist specializing in addressing issues related to cystic fibrosis, severe respiratory diseases, nutrition, digestion, and etc., writes about her “self-experimentation” with essential oils and how inhaling eucalyptus oil through a nebulizer drastically improved her MRSA infection within her lungs without the side effects of her regular antibiotic treatments.

Within her post she says: “After only two treatments of inhaled EO (Eucalyptus oil) I immediately felt a huge effect. The EO stopped my spasmy cough that first day and it has not returned since. EO is bronchodilating, a counter-irritant, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory, so almost immediately made my lungs felt more open, less inflamed, and more resilient… my shortness of breath was gone. My cough was less spasmodic but more productive, as if each cough was more efficient at getting mucus up. After a week I noticed a decrease in the amount of mucus I was coughing up, and that amount decreased still in the following weeks. The oil seemed to be getting more effective with time. My night sweats left and never came back. I could sleep through the night again without waking up from sleep apnea to then hack up mucus. My lungs felt open and clear throughout the night and even when waking up.”

Other than helping with coughs and congestion, Eucalyptus oil is also great for:

  • joint pain
  • diabetes (a 2010 study done on rats proved it lowers blood sugar levels!)
  • lice (or an itchy scalp!)
  • fevers

In addition to Eucalyptus oil benefiting cystic fibrosis patients, percussive, tapotement strokes such as tapping and cupping done over the chest and back area are extremely helpful in dislodging built up mucus, as recommended by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation itself.

Furthermore, a a study on Massage Magazine involving 105 adults with cystic fibrosis was done, and all of them, who had each received a single, one-hour massage, reported an immediate alleviation of pain and greater ease of breathing. 90% of the patients reported chronic pain lasting three months prior to treatment. The evidence was so remarkable after such a short period of time that one of the study’s authors said it was worth further investigation.

If you, or someone you know, has cystic fibrosis, or a similar breathing condition, consider the alternatives! It can never hurt to try. 🙂

I encourage you to practice breathing deeper this week, as I promise to do with you! And as Monday rolls around tomorrow, let us open our eyes in the morning and immediately focus on breathing fuller. Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth. 🙂

“The Spirit of God made me, the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

-Job 33:4

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