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The Clear Link Between Breath Work and Immunity

by Timothy Ives, Rita Ghelani and Dr Gustavo Ferrer(more info)

listed in breathing, originally published in issue 293 - March 2024

Leading experts in the field of breathing techniques and respiratory health discuss the positive impact breath work can have on immunity and overall well-being. 

Breath work has long been recognised as an effective approach to enhancing physical and mental health. Three distinguished experts in this field, breathing expert Tim Ives, ‘The Cough Dr’ Dr Gustavo Ferrer, and Independent Pharmacist Rita Ghelani, share their perspectives on how specific breathing techniques can influence the immune system positively.

Tim Ives is a UK Based Breathing Expert; He Specializes In Buteyko Breathing

Tim says

“We have known for some time the amount of air we breathe and the speed of inhalation affects our general health. Slow, deep nasal breathing is a sign of health and fast, shallow mouth breathing is a sign of disease. The more a person can slow down their breathing, the healthier they will be. New research is now starting to explain why and provide answers to these questions.

“By understanding how the brain and breathing are connected, we are discovering why healthy breathing improves our immune system and reduces stress. We are now beginning to understand that our emotions and the way that we behave are determined by the way that we breathe. Periods of slow, calm nasal breathing have been demonstrated to improve memory function in older people suffering early signs of cognitive impairment.  This latest research on breathing and cognitive decline presents an exciting potential treatment and an even more exciting way to delay or prevent different types of dementia. My advice would be, don’t wait for the research. You can immediately start trying to improve your health and prevent cognitive decline by slowing down your breathing.”

“You can immediately start trying to improve your health and prevent cognitive decline by slowing down your breathing.  Our nose is a very effective natural filter and does a great job at keeping many airborne viruses at bay. Our noses filter 98% of bacteria and allergens, so breathing through our noses is recommended if you’re looking for protection. To enable easy nose breathing, I recommend using a natural daily nasal spray that will ensure that you have maximum efficiency and prevent allergic rhinitis and infections which can lead to inflammation and congestion. I like Xlear Nasal Spray as it contains Xylitol which has antibacterial qualities, it’s completely natural and has no side effects.”



Xlear Nasal Spray


Independent Pharmacist, Rita Ghelani Explains

"With advanced filtration systems, like central heating and air conditioning, the air around us can be very dry, which can cause problems in your sinuses.  Your nose depends on having some mucus to trap contaminants from entering the body. The mucus only functions if it is hydrated. Dry air dries up that protective mucus layer, leaving you more susceptible to sickness so they key is to keep your nose well moisturised. Xlear Nasal Spray can be used daily as a preventative measure to keep the nasal passages clear and moisturised, and to help reduce the build-up of bacteria and viruses that can cause infections.” 

Rita goes onto to explain “Xlear contains natural ingredients, saline and xylitol that physically help to remove the sticky mucus that causes nasal congestion and discomfort.  Studies also show that Xylitol may help to fight off bacterial growth and so prevent a blocked nose developing into chronic rhinosinusitis - inflammation of the sinuses and nasal cavities that can cause congestion or excessive runny nose.”     

Dr Gustavo Ferrer is also known as ‘The Cough Doctor’

Dr Ferrer believes that by cleansing the nose you can boost immunity, prevent congestion, and suppress allergies before they the enter upper respiratory tract.  

"Studies show that sinus cleansing effectively rinses the sinuses of allergens, inhibiting their effect on the body and decreasing symptoms. Additional studies (1) show that a saline rinse with xylitol, such as Xlear Nasal Spray, has an even greater effect to wash the nose.

Irrigating the sinuses with a xylitol solution enhances the body’s natural defences by pulling extra moisture out of swollen tissues and thinning the mucus."

Why Experts Recommend Xlear Nasal Spray?

  • Provides relief in as little as 10 minutes;
  • Natural – contains the natural active ingredient  xylitol;
  • Can be used daily unlike OTC nasal decongestants;
  • No side effects like drowsiness;
  • Suitable for children.


Nose Breath Breathing

Picture Credit: Pixabay


Tim Ives says: Spend 10 minutes a day with a focus on the following 5 breathing techniques to boost your immunity:

Firstly, stop, clear your mind and focus on breathing – nothing else.

  1. Physical Posture
    First, begin by ensuring your basic breathing posture and technique is correct. Sit up with a straight back, not slumped. The straighter the posture, the more volume is available to your lungs. The more volume - the slower you can breathe and the more relaxed and less anxious you will be.
  2. Oral Posture
    Push your tongue up to the roof of your mouth, purse your lips together, making sure your teeth are apart. When your tongue goes up, so does your physical posture! Try it. Drop your tongue to the floor of your mouth and you will feel like slumping. The opposite happens when you bring your tongue up into your palate.
  3. Inhale and exhale through your nose
    Breathing through our nose prevents us removing carbon dioxide (CO2) too quickly, whereas mouth breathing removes CO2 too quickly. The more CO2 we have in our red blood cells, the speed of oxygen release into our brain and muscles is optimised, so we have more clarity of thought and more energy. Depriving ourselves of nitric oxide can also cause other health concerns. In fact, it has been found to help memory, can assist the immune system in fighting off bacteria, regulate blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve sleep quality, increase endurance and strength, and assist in gastric motility.
    Our nose is a very effective natural filter and does a great job at keeping many airborne viruses at bay. Our noses filter 98% of bacteria and allergens, so breathing through our noses is recommended if you’re looking for protection. To enable easy nose breathing, I recommend using a natural daily nasal spray that will ensure that you have maximum efficiency and prevent allergic rhinitis and infections which can lead to inflammation and congestion. I like Xlear Nasal Spray  as it contains Xylitol which has antibacterial qualities, it’s completely natural and has no side effects.
  4. Breathe in and out as slow as possible through your nose
    The slower we breathe, the more efficient our respiratory system. Fast mouth breathing when stationary results in less oxygen reaching the lungs and slow nasal breathing results in more oxygen reaching our lungs. When breathing rapidly through the mouth, there is a lot of ‘wasted air’ that doesn’t get used.
  5. Focus on your diaphragm
    Push your tummy out, inhale through the nose, then we you exhale, bring your tummy in. Don’t force air in and out through the nose, allow your diaphragm to do this for you. Focusing on our diaphragm is another de-stressor technique and this will help bring calm, especially when feeling anxious.

Easily fit breathing exercises into your current daily routine to improve all aspects of your health.

Discover your Control Pause (CP)

  1. Take a small, silent breath in and let a small breath out through your nose.
  2. Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.
  3. Count the seconds until you feel an involuntary twitch in your diaphragm.
  4. Release your nose and breathe in slowly.

Tip - If you feel like you are gasping for breath, you have held your breath for too long. Use a stopwatch on a mobile phone to time yourself.

The time is your baseline measurement. If in doubt, do it a few times to get a reliable result. Improving your CP is the goal, so take this regularly to monitor your improved breathing.

If your CP is less than 10 seconds:

  1. Close your mouth and breathe through your nose day and night.
  2. Stop sighing. If you feel a sigh coming, try to stop it by not opening your mouth.
  3. Apply gentle, calm, quiet breathing at all times.
  4. Yawn with your mouth closed.

Tip: Wear Myotape at night (available from to ensure that you are nasal breathing whilst asleep. This will also reduce snoring.

Do not attempt any other breathing exercises until your CP is above 10 seconds.

If your CP is between 10 and 20 seconds.

  1. Carry out all the above key points.
  2. Practiced reduced breathing.

Reduced Breathing Exercise

  1. Sit in the correct breathing posture.
  2. Focus on breathing through your nose and bring your breathing down so that you are breathing as slow as possible in and out through your nose. You are looking to create a slight ‘air-hunger’ but not so that it is too uncomfortable that you need to gasp for air. If you do these quiet controlled reduced breathing exercises for 4 minutes at regular intervals throughout the day and regularly monitor your CP, it will improve and you will notice an improvement in your energy levels.

If your CP is above 20 seconds.

  1. Carry out the exercises above for a CP below 10 and below 20.
  2. Breath holds whilst walking.

Breath holds whilst walking (only do this if your CP is above 20)

  1. While walking take a small breath in, breathe out and hold your breath.
  2. Walk 5-10 paces while maintaining your breath hold.
  3. Resume relaxed nasal breathing and continue to walk.
  4. After 1 minute of walking with nasal breathing, repeat the breath hold.
  5. Repeat this sequence six to eight times with a small breath hold every minute.

Keep regularly taking your CP. When it is over 30, you will start to feel great. This can be maintained by carrying out these simple breathing exercises. You may start to feel that you can extend your breath holds. Your target is 40 seconds.

Tim advises that you should check with your GP if have any of the following medical issues: asthma, COPD, diabetes, epilepsy, chest pains, sickle cell anaemia, arterial aneurysm, heart problems, uncontrolled hyperthyroidism, cancer, emphysema, high blood pressure, depression or pregnancy prior to embarking on any breathwork exercises

 Further Information

Xlear Nasal Spray costs £8.58 for 45ml and is available from Amazon -


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About Timothy Ives, Rita Ghelani and Dr Gustavo Ferrer

Timothy Ives MA Med Ed, BSc (Hons), Dip Dent Hyg, FHEA is a lifelong student and is now combining his experience of postgraduate education, research, communication... and life and is bringing it all together. Royal Air Force Veteran; Registered Dental Hygienist; Qualified University Teacher; Educational Specialist; Fellow of Higher Education Academy; Qualified Buteyko Breathing Coach; International Speaker; Published Researcher; Earth Scientist; Podcaster. Tim's 'day job' is teaching, researching, public speaking, and running courses for oral healthcare professionals related to breathing, sugar, and behaviour change.

Gustavo Ferrer MD FCCP is an experienced pulmonologist trained both in Cuba and the US, founder of the Cleveland Clinic Florida Cough Clinic, Interstitial Lung Disease and president of Intensive Care Experts. He is an authority on respiratory ailments with more than 20 years of experience. His new book is Graceful Exit: How to Advocate Effectively, Take Care of Yourself, and Be Present for the Death of a Loved One. He also wrote, Cough Cures: The Best Natural Remedies and Over-the-Counter Drugs for Acute and Chronic Cough (Moxie Life Press, April 2016) which challenges the often overly medicated approach of Western medicine.

Rita Ghelani BPharm, MRPharmS Pharmacist is a UK registered practising pharmacist with over 20 years' experience, Rita is a member of the medical journalists’ association (MJA) and has a wealth of experience in community pharmacy.  She also has an NHS academy award in healthcare leadership with the Mary Seacole programme.   Rita is passionate about promoting the role of pharmacists and highlighting the different ways that they can help people manage their health and wellbeing in the digital age. 

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