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Diet and Lifestyle to Help You Thrive with MS, Part 5 - Breathing. - A Guest Blog

Posted September 28, 2011


In August, we introduced you to Laurie, a health & wellness coach specializing in helping those with chronic illness and fatigue. This week we are so excited to share her fifth installment of her diet and lifestyle series:


A few weeks ago, I introduced you to the important role meditation can play in thriving with multiple sclerosis. Admittedly, meditation can be a difficult practice to stay consistent with. For some it’s just not their thing. So how else can you get a similar benefit without meditation?

Simple – breath deep.

Deep breathing engages your vagus nerve, which is responsible for your relax, rest and healing response. That would be the opposite of your flight or fight stress response that most people live in most of their life. Deep breathing can shut off cortisol production, give your adrenals a rest and give your body room to heal.

The vagus nerve is also the largest nerve system after our central nervous system and it affects numerous organs, including the digestive tract. When the vagus nerve is engaged it promotes proper digestion (important for all the reasons stated in my last installment). That’s why we get a tummy ache when eating on the run but not when having a leisurely lunch with friends. It’s also why we recover from the flu more quickly if we get our rest.

Most of us live in a constant state of stress and thus don’t even use a fraction of our lung capacity. We take short, rapid, shallow breaths, which triggers our stress receptors.

Training ourselves to use our entire lung area for breathing (yes, we have to train ourselves) will trigger the relaxation receptors that reside in the lower lung. This is how we turn on our vagus nerve and ignite some healing action.

So here is a simple exercise to fill your lung and engage your relaxation and healing system:

Breathing through your nose, inhale deeply. Fill up your lungs from the bottom to the top until you think you can’t take in any more air. Exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat for 5 minutes. At first you may get a little light headed. That will dissipate overtime.

Do this 3 to 5 times a day to begin. Once you are comfortable with it, start doing it before every meal. And feel free to contact me to let me know how it’s going.

Happy breathing.

Laurie Erdman helps busy individuals living with chronic illness, stress or fatigue double their energy so they can enjoy life again. She overcame multiple sclerosis, fatigue, and chronic stress, and now inspires and educates others to create a healthier, more vibrant life. Laurie is Founder and Chief Wellness Hero at Chronic Wellness Coaching.

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