Did you know that the air you breathe on a commercial airliner comes directly from the engine, complete with engine oil, lubricants and hydraulic fluid? A new study confirms the link between contaminated cabin air and aerotoxic syndrome. Learn what you can do to protect yourself and your family.
If you don’t feel well after air travel, it might be more than simple jet lag. From the parking garage to the baggage carousel, your body undergoes a fusillade of toxic assaults. You may eat toxic food, drink toxic water, and touch contaminated surfaces—and then your body is bombarded by body scanners, Wi-Fi and cosmic radiation.
On top of all that, the air in the airplane is toxic.
For six decades, the airline industry has turned a blind eye to the adverse health effects of contaminated cabin air. Since warm air is needed for both engine propulsion and human respiration, aircraft manufacturers decided decades ago to combine the two by bringing air through the engine to heat it, then bleeding it directly into the cabin—unfiltered. This air brings with it a toxic mix of engine oil, lubricants, and various hydrocarbons. As noted by US Attorney Alisa Brodkowitz, the only air filters are the lungs of passengers and crew.
Modern aircraft have no chemical sensors—save for the noses of the humans onboard. Background levels of contamination are sometimes but not always detectable by smell, and not all incidents are recorded in flight logs or reported to aviation authorities.
Engine oils leak into the air supply, by design. Their chemical signature is regularly found in aircraft cabins and cockpits. Repeated exposures have created a new occupational disease called “Aerotoxic Syndrome” suffered by pilots, flight attendants and other crew—and unfortunately, some passengers as well. Extensive evidence confirms that frequent exposures are occurring, and health and flight safety are being compromised.
The role bleed air plays in the reported illnesses has been the subject of much debate, but a study recently published by the World Health Organization (WHO) provides solid evidence that contaminated cabin air is making people sick. The study took an in-depth look at the effects of “contaminated air events” (aka fume events) on the health of aircrew to determine whether reported symptoms are consistent with exposure to pyrolysed (decomposed due to heating) jet engine oil and other fluids, or if the symptoms could be attributed to other factors. Researchers concluded the following:[i]
A clear cause and effect relationship has been identified linking the symptoms, diagnoses and findings to the occupational environment. Recognition of this new occupational disorder and a clear medical investigation protocol are urgently needed.
A Flying “Gas Chamber”
Exposure to extreme temperatures produces a wide range of toxic compounds. Jet exhaust, and therefore cabin air, are tainted with petrochemicals, carbon monoxide, ozone, benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, deicing agents, hydraulic fluid—and even fecal matter and pesticides.[ii][iii] [iv] In terms of Aerotoxic Syndrome, the most significant players appear to be the organophosphates, which will be my focus in this article.
All aircraft engines leak oil. Jet engines require synthetic oils for lubrication, and these oils contain chemicals such as tricresyl phosphate (TCP), which contains several compounds, one of which is tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate (TOCP). TCP is an organophosphate with known neurotoxic effects in the same category as sarin gas. TCP and other noxious agents are sometimes odorless—so you may not know you’re inhaling them, which makes them all the more dangerous.[v] According to the WHO study:
Transient, low-level oil leakage over the engine oil seals into the aircraft air supply occurs during normal flight operations, with less frequent, higher level leakage under certain operational conditions (e.g. seal wear or seal failure). The use of pressurized air from the engine compressor to both seal the oil-bearing chamber and supply cabin bleed air provides a mechanism for low-level oil leakage in routine engine operations.
While many experts have suggested that oil leakage is associated only with rare failure events, others now recognize that chronic exposure is caused by the so-called tiny amounts of oil vapors released by oil leaking continuously over the seals during engine power changes.
Most medical practitioners are unaware of Aerotoxic Syndrome. Sufferers are misdiagnosed with a variety of other illnesses that miss the root of the problem and result in inappropriate treatments. The prime suspect for Aerotoxic Syndrome is TCP, which is found in 25 to 100 percent of in-flight air samples.[vi]TBP (tributyl phosphates) are found in 73 percent of flights, and triphenyl phosphate metabolites have been found in 100 percent of urine samples.
It is believed the primary effects of TCP come from its disruptions of acetylcholine metabolism. Acetylcholine is a natural neurotransmitter found in your central and peripheral nervous system. Neurotransmitters normally have a short half-life because they are rapidly degraded by enzymes, preventing their build-up. When organophosphates in bleed air impede the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, the resulting increase in acetylcholine overstimulates acetylcholine receptors, giving rise to central and peripheral nervous system symptoms.
High TCP exposure is known to cause neuropathy, paralysis, and damage to myelin sheaths, similar to what happens with multiple sclerosis. Symptoms can present immediately or be delayed by a couple of weeks, with varying severity. Symptoms can be triggered by higher-dose episodes (fume events), as well as low level exposures associated with routine air travel. Even the smallest dose can produce symptoms in susceptible individuals, depending on factors such as previous exposure history, genetics, age, overall health and ability to detox. Chronic effects are common.
The relationship between toxic inhalants and reported symptoms has been difficult to establish for a number of reasons. Another problem is that toxicants cause a wide range of symptoms that are not always easy to connect to exposure, made even more challenging if the effects are delayed.
Aerotoxic Syndrome symptoms can mimic other conditions such as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), mold toxicity, chronic infections, drug reactions, “sick building syndrome,” chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis (MS)—making identification a challenge. Many aerotoxicity victims describe feeling like “zombies” or perpetually intoxicated.
Medical investigation of Aerotoxic Syndrome should focus on organophosphate poisoning, as many of its symptoms are typical of poison-induced neurological injuries. Aerotoxic Team provides a list of jet fluid compounds that have been detected in crews’ body fluids, and these specific compounds should be included in any lab analysis for toxic exposures, along with the more common toxins (pesticides, heavy metals, etc.). There is also a specialized hair analysis kit that checks for organ contamination from jet-oil TCP and five compounds, also available through the Aerotoxic Team website.[vii] The test must be performed within three to four months of exposure.
The ten most common acute and chronic health effects noted in the WHO study are listed below.
1. Breathing problems
2. Impaired cognition, memory and performance
4. Vision problems
7. Nerve problems
10. Cold/flu like feelings
An Epidemic of Underreporting
All current transport aircraft use the bleed air system to provide cabin ventilation, except for the newest airliner, the Boeing 787. Boeing’s “Dreamliner” incorporates bleedless technology using fresh air drawn in through inlets at the wing roots. You might think this would be a great selling point for Boeing’s new jet—but they do not feature the airliner’s “clean air design” in its marketing copy. Why?
Bringing attention to this feature would shine the spotlight squarely on the widespread air quality problems characterizing all of its OTHER aircraft. There are about 19,000 airliners currently in operation, and just over 280 are 787’s. Based on that statistic, we can conclude that only about 1.5 percent of transport aircraft are safe to fly.
The fact that Boeing redesigned the 787’s ventilation represents a tacit acknowledgment of the industry-wide problem of contaminated air and is one step toward a permanent solution. However, the vast majority of aircraft are still in the technological dark ages, with public awareness of health risks only starting to emerge.
Jet engine chemicals are routinely found in the blood of pilots.[viii] As I’m sure you would agree, compromising the neurological fitness of pilots should be taken as seriously as a mechanical defect in the plane—after all, pilots are essential to keeping our planes safely in the air. It is inexcusable for the industry to continue ignoring this problem.
It will be consumers and non-governmental advocacy organizations, such as those listed at the end of this article, that will force the industry and its regulators to make this issue a priority. If just one airline in this country took measures toward addressing the problem, it would see huge support by an increasingly educated consumer base—and that’s you and those with whom you share this article! Short of redesigning existing aircraft, the Aerotoxic Association proposes the following solutions:[ix]
- As bleed air is not presently filtered, installation of bleed air filtration systems would eliminate the problem, although a technically efficient system has not yet been developed.
- The French oil company NYCO has developed a less toxic formulation, which has recently been introduced to the EasyJet aircraft fleet—a step in the right direction.
- Chemical sensors to detect contaminated air in the bleed air supply would alert pilots to a problem allowing for prompt intervention, as confirmed by a 2017 study.[x]
Until the airlines implement some greatly-overdue changes, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from exposure to toxic inhalants when you fly. At the top of the list is wearing an appropriate mask.
Travel Masks Can Be a Lifesaver for Your Family
There are many kinds of masks on the market that can protect you from air pollution. The Aerotoxic Association has a page about masks specifically geared for airline travel, with the following guidelines:[xi]
If you are looking for a small, foldable mask with good protection you should always check out the technology they use. It should also indicate for which particulates, VOC’s, type of fumes, smoke, gas etc. the specific mask is good for, and that it has an “activated carbon” filter within.
They recommend Cambridge Mask Co., which offers masks with the correct filtration technology in five different sizes, from infants on up. Cambridge masks are soft and foldable and meet the NIOSH N99 standard for filtration, which means filtration of 99 percent of particulates, 99.6 percent of viruses and 99.8 percent of airborne bacteria—so you will also receive some protection from those uninvited pathogens that can hitch a ride home in your respiratory tract.
Cambridge Mask Co. is affiliated with the Aerotoxic Team, so when you purchase from them you are also supporting the important work this organization is doing for the cause. To order, please visit the mask page on the Aerotoxic Team website—and make sure to add the code AEROMASK at checkout to receive a 10 percent discount.[xii] Many people report that these masks run small, so keep that in mind when you order.
It’s worth noting that aircraft drop-down oxygen masks are used only for cabin decompression—pilots do not drop them in the event of smoke or fumes in the cabin. These deliver 50 percent oxygen and 50 percent cabin air so they are of little use during a fume event.
Other Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones When Flying
In addition to wearing a mask, keep in mind the following:
1. Stay well hydrated before and during a flight by drinking plenty of pure water (filtered water from home or bottled water, not airline water).
2. Avoid departing in an exhausted or stressed state as that may compromise your immune system.
3. Adjust overhead air vents so the flow is directed away from you; if you suspect a fume event, turn the vent off immediately.
4. Many people coughing on a flight may indicate an air contamination problem.
5. Report unusual smells or visible smoke to the flight crew and ask them to alert the captain. The smell of these fumes has been described as wet dog-like, dirty socks, burning oil or electrical. You can file a fume event report online or using this QR code, if you have a smart phone.
For more information about this issue, the following resources and organizations may be helpful.
· Global Aerotoxic Team[xiii]
· Information for passengers[xiv]
· Toxic Free Airlines: protocols, fume reporting guidelines and forms, informational handouts and more[xv]
· Exposure to Aircraft Bleed Air Contaminants Among Airline Workers: A Guide for Healthcare Providers[xx]
· Documentary by 60 Minutes Australia (free)[xxi]
· Documentary: “Angel Without Wings”[xxii]
· Documentary: “Unfiltered Breathed In: The Truth About Aerotoxic Syndrome”[xxiii]
Air travel has many associated risks, and contaminated air is probably the least well known. You can protect yourself by exercising a few basic precautions, such as wearing a mask. Raise awareness about this important issue! Share this article with your friends and family, and educate other passengers as the opportunities arise. Write to airline and aviation regulators insisting that toxic air detectors be fitted to all passenger jets, and encourage others to do the same.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Aerotoxic Team for their contributions to this article, and for spearheading the movement toward toxic-free air on all aircraft, on behalf of passengers and crew worldwide.
[i] S Michaelis, J. Burdon, and V. Howard, “Aerotoxic Syndrome: A New Occupational Disease?” Public Health Panorama June 2017; 3(2): 141-356, http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/341533/5_OriginalResearch_AerotoxicSyndrom_ENG.pdf, accessed July 14, 2017.
[ii] C Winder and JC Balouet, “Aerotoxic Syndrome: Adverse Health Effects Following Exposure to Jet Oil Mist During Commercial Flights,” Aerotoxic Association, June 10, 2014, http://aerotoxic.org/information/reports-and-evidence/aerotoxic-sydrome-adverse-health-effects-following-exposure-jet-oil-mist-commercial-flights/, accessed July 14, 2017.
[iii] SC Herndon et al., “Hydrocarbon emissions from in-use commercial aircraft during airport operations,” Environmental Science and Technology 2006; 40(14):4406-4413, http://www.ce.cmu.edu/~gdrg/readings/2006/07/18/HerdonAirportEmissions.pdf, DOI: 10.1021/es051209l, accessed July 20, 2017.
[iv] “3. Health Effects of JP-5, JP-8, and Jet Fuels,” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC), pages 23-143; https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp121-c3.pdf, accessed July 21, 2017.
[vi] S Michaelis, “Implementation of the Requirements for the Provision of Clean Air in Crew and Passenger Compartments Using the Aircraft Bleed Air System.” Cranfield University Master’s Thesis, June 2015, http://www.susanmichaelis.com/pdf/2016_Susan%20Michaelis_MSc%20Cranfield-Clean%20air%20requirements%20using%20bleed%20air%20system.pdf, accessed July 14, 2017.
[viii] “German scientists find dangerous gas in plane cabins,” The Local, February 16, 2016, https://www.thelocal.de/20160216/german-scientists-find-dangerous-gas-in-plane-cabins, accessed July 14, 2017.
[x] BW Jones et al., “The nature of particulates in aircraft bleed air resulting from oil contamination,” 2017 ASHRAE Winter Conference Papers, LV-17-C046, http://www.aerotoxicteam.com/uploads/6/0/3/8/6038702/jones_et_al_nature_of_particulates_in_oil_contaminated_bleed_2017.pdf, accessed July 21, 2017.
[xii] “Protection on Board from Contaminated Cabin Air,” Global Aerotoxic Team, http://www.aerotoxicteam.com/protect-yourself-with-masks.html, accessed July 20, 2017.
[xviii] Toxic Free Airlines, https://www.facebook.com/ToxicFreeAirlines/?hc_ref=SEARCH.
[xx] R Harrison et al., “Exposure to Aircraft Bleed Air Contaminants Among Airline Workers,” Toxic Free Airlines, http://www.toxicfreeairlines.com/images/stories/medicalprotocolforhcp2008.pdf, accessed July 14, 2017.
[xxiii] Vimeo, “Unfiltered Breathed In: The Truth About Aerotoxic Syndrome,” November 22, 2016, https://vimeo.com/ondemand/unfilteredbreathedin?utm_source=email&utm_medium=vod-rentalexpire-201602&utm_campaign=29548, accessed July 14, 2017.
Your life path number can tell you A LOT about you.
If Your DNA Information Is Being Sold, Shouldn’t You Make The Profit?
- The Facts:
Companies like 23andMe, Ancestry.com and others are collecting your DNA data and can sell the data to third party companies. Timicoin is a blockchain based ecosystem that allows you to monetize your health data.
- Reflect On:
Shouldn't you have the option to sell your own data? Is your DNA data safe with some of these companies? The blockchain is helping to create further security and consumer-based monetization of personal data.
Amidst the rise in popularity of companies who take samples of our DNA in order to provide us with information about our ancestry and health risks, there are growing concerns that are not immediately apparent to the average consumer. While most are just happy to be getting exotic information about where they came from and what they should be watching out for health-wise, all for little more than a few hundred dollars, not many consumers are seeing this as a threat to their privacy, and more specifically, as a threat to their control over the most essential information about their unique personal identity–their DNA sequences.
“The key thing about your genetic data … it is uniquely yours. It identifies you, so if you are going to entrust it to a company, you should try to understand what the consequences are,” said Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, whose research on the issue and interviews with individuals shows a lack of consumer knowledge.
Of course, companies who deal in such services will do all they can to convince consumers that their data is safe and secure. But as this CNBC article notes,
Companies in this space, including 23andMe, Veritas Genetics and Ancestry, have a good reason to protect your DNA — their business future depends on maintaining the trust of consumers. But there are thorny issues related to genetic privacy that still today don’t have easy answers or iron-clad legislative protections. And regulators aren’t convinced they are doing right by consumers. A recent Fast Company report indicates that 23andMe and Ancestry are being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission over their policies for handling personal info and genetic data and how they share that info with third parties.
All of these companies say they have clear policies that they will not share your DNA with any third-party unless you explicitly consent to it:
23andMe provides consumers the choice of opting into research conducted on behalf of academic, nonprofit and industry organizations. They also offer an option to consent separately to specific disease studies in which their DNA is used in conjunction with for-profit drug companies, such as the Parkinson’s disease research conducted with Genentech and the lupus and IBD research conducted with Pfizer.
Abuse Of Private Data
Hearing about research conducted on behalf of ‘academic, nonprofit and industry organizations’ reminds me of the article I wrote on Cambridge Analytica’s fraudulent effort to characterize themselves as an academic organization while mining people’s private Facebook information to target them with ads for the 2016 U. S. Presidential Election. Facebook knowingly sold the information to Cambridge Analytica demonstrating that, when it comes to big companies and corporations, the only thing we know for sure is that money and profit will eventually trump respect for the privacy of people’s information.
If there is money to be made by selling our personal information, corporations will do whatever they can to skirt around privacy agreements. They may even flat-out change their policy and inform us in a pages-long letter that they know no one reads and will simply click the ‘accept’ button. In the current environment, it is wise to be extremely cautious when deciding to consent to having one company share our information, especially our genetic information, with third parties.
Think about it. As technology evolves, surely there will be ways our DNA codes could be used in the future that we would not agree with. But once we have given our consent to the use of this most private information, we can no longer guarantee what happens with it. Wouldn’t it be great if WE had control over our genetic information, encrypted and only accessible by us, to use and share in a manner of OUR choosing?
If we so choose, we may even be able to profit from it. Did you know that health information is a commodity that is already collected and sold via third-party companies? Selling health data around the world is already a multi-billion dollar industry, much like how your data collected from Facebook is. But how do we get back control of our DNA information, which could be our most valuable resource about who we are?
Think outside the box. Think blockchain. Think Timicoin.
Timicoin is a platform bringing together a crypto token and the blockchain and is pioneering the tokenization of health information, including your DNA sequencing and other genetic information, through a decentralized blockchain ecosystem. They promise to allow users to monetize their own data, have access to their health information whenever they need it and verify that it is accurate.
The Timicoin platform is built on their own custom blockchain and it’s already fully functioning. This means that in a short time, you will be able to begin using Timicoin’s blockchain to monetize your health data. For more information, please refer to this earlier CE article. You can also read Timicoin’s White Paper here.
Shift In Business Paradigm
Analysts believe that Healthcare information on the blockchain will grow aggressively in the coming years given the global need for ease of sharing healthcare information. Secure storage of our DNA information is only one part of Timicoin’s larger endeavor to make your healthcare information available globally and instantaneously as needed, but only with your personal consent.
It represents a new business paradigm, whereby information is centralized in terms of permitted access but decentralized in terms of who has the power over the information. No longer will masses of valuable personal information be owned and controlled by large corporations, but rather will be owned and controlled by each individual, not only giving the individual the ability to monetize their personal information themselves, but also securing the validity of that information through personal verification and safeguarding against fraud. Supporting blockchain technologies is supporting individual empowerment in our society, a move that undoubtedly scares the power structure at top levels of our current corporatocracy.
Your life path number can tell you A LOT about you.
The Damaging Effects Of 5G Wireless On Your Health
Wireless radiation is a huge health problem that continues to be ignored and another opportunity for us to gaze into the past of similar occurrences and learn from our mistakes. Take tobacco for example, at one time in history you were considered a fool and ‘crazy’ for speaking up against the big tobacco companies and letting people know that cigarettes compromise our health. Today, science has spoken, and it has spoken for a long time, despite what the corporations put out into the public and the “science” they used to approve these things in the first place.
There doesn’t seem to be much more of a difference between communication companies that sell and manufacture wireless products and services, which, according to hundreds of scientists and countless amounts of publications, are urging authorities to pay closer attention to what wireless radiation is doing to human health.
This is one of the multiple examples where corporate control rules and dictates government policy, policies that favour big corporations at the behest of planet Earth and the rest of the human population. But it’s more so apparent in North America.
In Europe, multiple countries have restrictions on WiFi and have pointed out some disturbing things. France passed a law in 2015 banning WiFi from all nursery schools, the law states that WiFi must be turned off in all elementary schools when it’s not in use. W wired connection if possible, is preferred. Advertisements directing cell phone use towards young children are banned.
An example from Namibia states quite clearly that current so-called “safety” standards don’t protect citizens from long-term health effects, and that the guidelines governing their use do not guarantee adequate protection against the effects of long-term exposure.
Other countries include Belgium, Spain, Israel, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, India, Finland, Cyprus and more.
Why are they saying no to WiFi? See for yourself:
You can access hundreds of these scientific papers and read more here, just click on the science section and under each heading, there are links directly to the research. If you click on the drop-down tab, a list of scientific references as documentation appears.
Related CE Article with more information:
Yes, we are making progress, and awareness is being created and steps are being taken, but the corporate take over of North America and almost the entire planet is simply brushing our health under the table, because, unfortunately, they have the power to do so.
At the same time, we are the ones using this technology. It’s becoming so useful, and so easy to just rely on the corporation like we do with everything else. How ironic is it that we raise money and advocate for cancer, yet support the very things that are contributing to it, on grande scales?
Millions of children and adults in schools around the world spend significant amounts of time around wireless devices and Wi-Fi. Many schools are introducing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and installing industrial wireless routers for tablets. However, wireless devices expose students and staff to microwave radiation that can impede learning and overall health. Studies have shown that microwave radiation can damage reproductive systems, impact the immune system, alter brain functioning, and may increase cancer risk. Tablets have up to 5 antennae that are constantly emitting short intense bursts of radiation even when not connected to the Internet. Wireless devices in classrooms thus result in multiple sources of wireless radiation exposure. – Environmental Health Trust
The 5G Health Concerns
So, what about 5G? Science already indicates that the current wireless technologies of 2G, 3G and 4G – in use today with our cell phones, computers, and wearable tech. – creates radio frequency exposure which poses a serious health risk to humans, animals and the environment. 5G is the term used to describe the next-generation of mobile networks beyond the 4G LTE mobile networks used today. 5G is intended to be the technology that allows the “Internet of Things” (IOT) to exist and connects all internet connected devices together.
Scientists have been studying the health effects of 5G and wireless radiation and are deeply concerned with their findings and are calling for a stop to the rollout of 5G, as well as a halt to the proposed increase in radio frequency radiation exposure to the public.
Thanks to all of the efforts by various researchers, scientists and more, the world is waking up to this information and it’s actually starting to become talked about within the mainstream. It always seems like such a long process from the point where something is known, to actually mass consensus and action steps being created.
A CBS news report recently emphasized:
The wireless industry is in a race to roll out. The network is supposed to be up to 100 times faster than current data speeds, but it requires cellphone tower equipment to be closer to users than before. Wireless companies in the U.S. say they’ll have to install about 300,000 new antennas – roughly equal to the total number of cell towers built over the past three decades. That’s causing outrage and alarm in some neighbourhoods, as antennas go up around homes.
5G requires the installation of new equipment across the U.S. Every wireless company is working to build its own 5G network. This is worse than cell phone use, and yet, according to government health authorities, “a limited number of studies have shown some evidence of statistical association of cell phone use and brain tumour risks… but most studies have found no association.”
Waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof before taking action to prevent well-known risks can lead to very high health and economic costs, as was the case with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.
“Putting it bluntly they are damaging the living cells in our bodies and killing many of us prematurely” (source)
Melissa Arnoldi, who leads AT&T’s efforts, said “if it’s not already in your neighbourhood, it’s coming.” This is quite concerning, she told CBS news that “5G uses high-frequency waves that support faster speeds but don’t travel as far as current wireless frequencies. So instead of relying on large cellphone towers spread far apart, they need “small cell” sites that are much closer together.”
Sometimes I wonder, how is this even allowed to happen? Who are the people which control what type of information with regards to our health gets emphasized, and what doesn’t?
This new 5G equipment is currently being installed in a neighbourhood near you.
I’ll leave you with this TED talk by a Silicon-valley engineer turned technology health advocate, Jeromy Johnson.
Related CE Article:
You can use a wired connection, which is very fast and in most cases faster than a wireless connection. Minimize your cell phone use, and perhaps look into some devices that may be used to block the biological effects this stuff is, does, and can have on us.
Your life path number can tell you A LOT about you.
This Super Simple Breathing Technique Can Help Alleviate Anxiety & Depression
- The Facts:
Small study finds breathing technique can help treat major depressive disorder and anxiety.
- Reflect On:
The answers to our challenges are much simpler than we thought, we have everything we need inside of us. Great alternative to prescription anti-depressant medication, or other substances.
The breath is one of the most underrated and under-utilized methods of healing. Breathing comes naturally to us, we do it without thinking, which is why it is not something we generally think of as a way to connect deeply with ourselves, calm our anxieties or even reach higher levels of consciousness. Something as simple as breathing can help those who suffer from severe mental conditions and those who have survived global disasters.
There are many forms of breathwork, there is the well-known Holotropic Breathing, made popular by the Iceman himself, Wim Hof. There is another technique known as transformational breathwork and the featured practice of breathing that will be featured in this article, resonant breathing or Coherent Breathing, which is a trademarked term.
This specific style of breathwork came from years of studying the ancient breathing practices of indigenous people all over the world including those from African, Hawaiian, and Native American traditions.
Assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College, Patricia Gerbarg, studies the technique with her husband, Richard Brown, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “We wanted to identify a short program that could be given quickly to people, that they would have immediate relief within five or ten minutes, and that over time would produce long-term changes,” Gerbarg told Vice.
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary medicine in 2017 led by researchers from Boston University asked 30 people with major depression to practice the breathing technique regularly as well as Iyengar yoga. After 3 months, results from a standard depression inventory test showed how the depressive symptoms had significantly declined.
Even though the study size was very small, it is comforting to know that something as simple as breath alone could help to alleviate symptoms of severe depression. No pills needed. This technique is especially powerful because it can be practiced anytime, anywhere. The process involved taking regular breaths in and out of the nose, at a pace of 5 breaths per minute, each breath in and out taking around 6 seconds. When starting out, it is recommended that this be practiced with the eyes closed, but once you get it under control you can easily do it with your eyes open, meaning while you’re driving, while in a meeting, anytime during the day that you may find yourself feeling anxious, stressed or down. Gerbarg says, “It’s totally private. Nobody knows you’re doing it.”
The breath should be calm and gentle because the goal is to balance the sympathetic — fight or flight with the parasympathetic — rest and digest areas of the nervous system. Interestingly, when the couple first began looking into the power of the breath, the first thought was that this must send extra oxygen to the brain that we may have otherwise been lacking. However, they knew that there must be more to this to explain the profound effects they had been seeing in those who practiced the breathing technique. Not to mention, some types of breathwork actually decreases the amount of oxygen going to the brain.
Why Does This Work?
Gerbarg and Brown believe that the reason this technique works is thanks to the vagal nerves, those connecting the brain to the body and what tell the organs when to beat, digest, breathe and all other functions, have been found in recent years to send even more messages in the opposite direction from the body to the brain. “These ascending messages strongly influence stress response, emotion and neurohormonal regulatory networks,” stated in a book written by the couple, Yoga Therapy: Theory and Practice.
According to Gerbarg, “Respiration is the only autonomic function we can voluntarily control,” it’s easy to see how changing the breathing pattern can shift the messages received by the brain.
The calm and even breaths send messages of safety, according to Gerbarg, this can reduce anxious or depressive thoughts and makes way for more loving and connected emotions to be felt. Adverse reactions are generally rare, but those with asthma or other breathing conditions should only try this practice under the guidance of a trained professional.
We really do have everything we need inside of us. Our human bodies are magnificent, and if something as simple as breathing can help alleviate symptoms of depression, then we should certainly be studying this more. If you are skeptical about this information and feel it’s too good to be true, give it a shot next time you find yourself feeling down or anxious and see if it helps!
Your life path number can tell you A LOT about you.
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