The Connection Between Breathing and Blood Sugar

tomatoes-large-IG.jpgBreathing is obviously a very important function of the human body, and it affects almost every area of your health. One fascinating connection is how breathing is connected to blood sugar and oxygen levels in the blood. A recent study explains how a lack of oxygen in fat cells can lead to obesity-induced insulin resistance and diabetes. Learn how your breathing habits can help maintain healthy oxygen intake, and make it a little easier to avoid the descending cycle that can lead to obesity and diabetes.

A recent study by researchers at the University of California San Diego demonstrates that a lack of oxygen in fat cells triggers inflammation, which can lead to insulin resistance and obesity-related diabetes.

Breathing, obesity, and diabetes

The American Diabetes Association estimates that more than 25 million Americans have diabetes, and another 79 million Americans are estimated to be pre-diabetic. Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) is a medical condition in which obese people develop poor breathing, which lowers blood oxygen and increases carbon dioxide levels in the blood. One cause is excess weight against the chest wall, which makes it harder for the muscles to draw sufficient breath. This makes it difficult to breathe, especially when lying down, which disrupts needed rest and leads to a range of symptoms, including:

  • Poor sleep quality
  • Obstructive Sleep Disorder (Sleep apnea)
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Frequent Headaches
  • Chronic Tiredness
  • Chronic hypoxia, including shortness of breath and fatigue

The tendency to habitually breathe through the mouth is one place to break the cycle that can lead to obesity-related diabetes among other chronic health problems.

Tips to help you stop mouth breathing

To help you stop being a ‘mouth breather’ and develop a healthier nasal breathing habit, try these tips based on advice at

Remind yourself to breathe through your nose as often as you can, by writing yourself a note, or by setting a timer to remind you to check your breathing. Remember your posture – many mouth-breathers (and lots of people who work at a computer keyboard) tend to hunch forward, which restricts breathing. Close your mouth, press your head back a little and take some deep breaths through the nose. If your nose feels too blocked to let in a good breath, try this: inhale, then exhale completely through your nose. Hold the out-breath for several seconds. Last, inhale forcefully through your nose.

See your doctor if your nose is chronically stuffy, for advice on saline nasal spray, adhesive strips to open nasal passages, or a Netti pot to rinse away phlegm.

The benefits of slow, steady nose breathing are many: it helps relieve and resist stress, helps regulate your pulse, balances oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream, and helps you metabolize dietary fat more efficiently. All of these are known to help you resist the stress and obesity connection, in which stress and fatigue lead to cravings for salty, fatty foods that lead to obesity, which can open the door to diabetes.