1.1: Altitude Training Program – Breath quality and its effect on health and illness

1.1: Altitude Training Program – Breath quality and its effect on health and illness

A ride on any local bus or train is an immediate eye-opener on the topic of breath quality. Tight chests, blocked diaphragms, humped backs around the diaphragm, bad breath, wheezing… Its all around us and this course opens our eyes wider to the whys and wherefores of breath quality; both good and bad.

Started by the sound of the alarm clock and its flashing neon digits, Derek opens his crusty, red- rimmed eyes and automatically searches for the snooze-button. The room returns to darkness and stillness, and Derek, lying on his back, mouth agape continues his snoring on the inhales, and the small choking apneas on the exhales. His chest and stomach barely move, except for a short, sharp diaphragmatic movement as he overrides the apnea and takes a short inhale.
An hour later, Derek is making it through his coffee, shower and breakfast routine.
His lips are chapped and dry, even though we are mid-summer and his head feels foggy. His back hurts and when he looks in the mirror he sees the familiar line of dried spittle from the corner of his mouth.
Between yawning and taking swigs of his coffee, Derek scans his tablet for the latest news while looking down and breathing with his bottom-jaw dropped and mouth open. His nose is partially blocked, and he breathes open-mouthed to avoid the discomfort. Derek makes a mental note to pick up a nasal spray from the chemist on his way home.
Feeling hungry, and not willing to wait for a bagel at the train station, Derek lumbers to his feet, yawning widely to make toast. He likes white bread, and being a bachelor lives on toasted cheese sandwiches.
Wheezing and sneezing, Derek stands in the passage as his bus calmly makes its way through the morning traffic. Still congested and feeling uncomfortable Derek is still breathing through his mouth and quietly contemplates his work day ahead. He burps quietly and notices the smell of his breath. The young lady next to him turns away towards the open window.
It is a warm day and the windows of the bus are open, which is pleasant as a small breeze plays through the bus. This effect is largely reduced as a large truck with a rattling exhaust moves up beside the bus. The smell of exhaust slowly fills the bus and the passengers start to cough, some holding the collar of their shirts to their noses, while others don’t seem to notice.
Derek is feeling extremely uncomfortable by this point, his stomach is bloating, he is thirsty in the heat and he suppresses the urge to get off the bus. Last year, in summer, Derek had an asthma attack in a tunnel while waiting in traffic and the thought of an attack now is starting to be stressful and tighten his chest.
Bending down, a sharp pain in his mid-back shoots through under his left shoulder blade, but ignoring it he opens his bag and withdraws his ventolin inhaler and takes a fast puff before coughing.
Feeling pacified and able to cope, Derek places his ventolin in his coat pocket and continues on through the traffic, ignoring the rising tide of physical and emotional stresses weighing upon him.
Derek is in front of his computer, nose-blocked, stomach bloated and open-mouthed, reading his emails. He has a meeting in 15 minutes and is suppressing the anxiety opens a browser and starts flicking through facebook, twitter, the news and sports news sites. A text window opens in facebook and flicks back through his browsers to chat. His friend Jay is asking him if he wants to come over Thursday night to hammer out the last details of an app they have been developing together. Jay is becoming a little frustrated because Derek keeps dropping the ball on him and keeps pushing back the release date.
Derek responds quickly in the negative because he has his son staying Thursday night, pushing away the guilt of letting his friend down again. Looking at the time, and fighting the urge to panic, Derek jumps up and rushes to the meeting, ignoring the pain under his left shoulderblade. He pops a breath mint to compensate for his chronic bad breath during the meeting and grimaces as a small heartburn flames up.
The elevator has broken down in the heat, something about cooling the buildings janitor says and Derek heads for the stairs.
Derek is panting by the time he climbs two floors, and is aware of the tightness in his chest by the time he has climbed the fourth floor. He searches for his ventolin, but it is back in his coat pocket, hanging next to his desk…
Derek will spend the rest of his day;
– Fighting to breathe
– Fighting to remember small things
– Fighting to digest
– Fighting for his job
– Fighting to keep his friendship
– Fighting to live…

Derek is a normal person coping the best he can with the pressure sin his daily life; A job he once loved, a separation, poor diet and excessive medication.
Derek can’t breathe due to the stress and tension in his life, and because he can’t breathe he has the following problems:
– Chronic bad breath
– Chronic stomach bloating
– Chronic constipation
– Chronic short-term memory loss
– Chronic Asthma
– Chronic lack of concentration
– Muscle stiffness
– Allergies
– Hayfever
The list goes on

Derek can medicate each of the problems above to the best of his and his pharmacists abilities, and shuffle along in life seeing the world from inside his glass-walled prison of poor health.
Or, Derek can realise his as-yet unknown potential to move forward with his health, his family, his work and hidden sporting ability.
It all starts with an exhale – no, not an inhale like you have been told, but one very, very long, life- changing exhale.


– Mouth breathing;
Derek sleeps on his back, due to pain around his Thoracic/Lumbar spine region, under his left shoulder blade. His head is tilted back as he sleeps causing his already dropped-back, underdeveloped jaw to slide back and put pressure on his throat, inducing apnees.
Because Derek is overweight, his neck and jaw carry excessive fat, adding to the pressure on the throat.
– Jaw dropback
Derek’s chronic mouth breathing since childhood has left him with an underdeveloped, set- back jaw.
– Sleep apnea
Nearly 20 times per hour, Derek is holding his breath, at times dropping his blood oxygen saturation down to 50%. This is a life-threatening habit.

Fatigue and Foggy head

– Due to Derek’s apneas and O2 deficits during the night, one of the side-effects is a ‘Foggy Head’, which takes most of the morning to clear, leading Derek to drink excessive caffeine.
– During the day Derek finds himself plagued by waves of fatigue that he battles with sugar and caffeine. A social smoker, Derek will ‘get through’ the day by occasionally smoking a pack of cigarettes,

Chapped lips

– Mouth-breathing during the night leaves Derek with dry lips and a dry throat in the morning upon waking. Derek will find himself slowly dehydrating during the night.

Bad breath

– In part, Dereks’ chronic bad breath is induced by his night of open-mouthed sleep, and in part due to his blocked nose causing him to spend the day mouth-breathing. Dereks mouth, teeth and throat bacteria are continually battling to maintain their pH, and because of this imbalance we have odour.
– Derek has food allergies and intestinal bloating, caused in part by the pH imbalance of his mouth and throat, but also in part due to the imbalance in his gut caused by the excessive medication he uses to treat his back pain and recurring illnesses he treats with antibiotics.
– Stress and food induced asthma are part and parcel of Dereks daily life since he was a teenager. During puberty Dereks body thickened and weight loss became an issue, especially because he was more interested in science and technology than hiking, biking and swimming like his peers. His family ate heavily and Derek would seek solace in sweet, heavy foods. His ex-wife and best friend were both gym-junkies, but they too were plagued by their own health difficulties brought on by excessive, high-heart rate cardio exercise and excessive raw-food detoxes and diets.
Short-term memory loss
– Normally dependable due to his slower-moving constitution,Dereks fatigue, asthma and allergies are contributing to his short-term memory loss, another cause of stress.

Thoracic/Lumbar region pain

– Unable to digest correctly, Derek has an impaction of fecal matter in his large intestine which puts great pressure on the nerves that exit the lumbar spine causing chronic lower back pain.
– His bloated intestine puts pressure on his stomach and diaphragm, making breathing generally uncomfortable. This, coupled with Dereks blocked nose means he breathes short breaths into his chest, effectively causing atrophy and shortening of the diaphragm. His heart needs the stimulating effect of diaphragmatic movement. This stress on his diaphragm and heart are made public to him by pain under the left shoulder blade.

He has no idea, and neither does anyone who has crossed his path; Derek is a phenomenal athlete, and his journey to performance will be an empowering, liberating process of learning and training.