Article #1: The Breath of Life by Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
Man is a child of nature. He is an outdoor animal. Normally he lives amid the beauties of nature, his skin bathed in the morning dew, kissed by the sun, soothed by the gentle zephyrs of Spring and his body fed by the luscious fruits and vegetables all around him, while his spirit is cheered by the songs of birds and the beauty and fragrance of myriads of gorgeously colored flowers. The open air is his home and he who lives in it is fortunate indeed.
Like fish on the floor of the ocean, we live in a sea of air that is much deeper than the hydrosphere in which aquatic animals live. There is always an abundance of much needed oxygen, if we but permit it access to our lungs. The air is self-purifying, so that, while impurities are ceaselessly being discharged into it, these soon find their way to other levels and leave the air fit to breathe. Pent-up air, that is, air that is confined in closed rooms, and air that is held in congested and gas-laden cities quickly becomes unfit for breathing. Such air, if breathed habitually, helps to produce disease; whereas, pure is one of the basic essentials of good health. This is often denied, but we shall continue to insist that pure air is absolutely essential to excellence of health and to the highest beauty and that, on the contrary, impure air tends to the production of poor health and the deterioration of beauty.
Modern city life, with more than sixty-five percent of our population residing in the cities, denies fresh air to the people as certainly as did the closed windows and doors of the houses of our grandparents. It is not that there is no air in the cities, but that it is so badly polluted with smoke, fumes, dust, etc., that it is actually unfit to breathe. The carbon monoxide from the exhaust of automobiles is but one of the air-polluters of modern life. Nitric and sulphuric acids, lead oxides and lead carbonates are among the contaminating elements found in the air of cities. The soot of soft coal is often one-half coal tar and this must help to produce lung cancer as surely as do the tars of tobacco smoke. The particles of carbon (soot) in smoke-filled air accumulate in the lungs and become imbedded in the air cells, gradually changing the lungs from their normal pink to one of sooty blackness. Indeed, this coating of carbon becomes so thick that one wonders how the individual breathes at all. As we become more and more a manufacturing nation and chemistry continues to pollute the air of the cities, they will grow progressively more and more unfit for human beings to inhabit. There are urgent reasons, other than atom and hydrogen bombs, why we should inaugurate an immediate program of decentralization designed to ultimately do away with all cities.
The body’s need for oxygen is constant, hence it is not possible to stop breathing for more than a very brief time. It is impossible to hold the breath for more than a minute or so. If the breath is forcibly cut off for a longer period than this death, death from lack of oxygen quickly occurs. It is estimated that approximately eighty-five percent of the oxygen we need is derived from the air we breathe, ten percent from water and five percent is taken in from the air through the skin. Dr. Tilden held that we get some oxygen from the foods we eat, perhaps from the water in these. There are reasons to doubt that we breathe with the skin. I question that we extract oxygen from water.
Other than an adequate supply of fresh air, the essential of good breathing is an adequate respiratory mechanism; sound lungs, a chest of sufficient size to house lungs large enough to deliver sufficient oxygen to the blood, normal chest movements in breathing and normal passages from the nose to the lungs. If the chest is too small it is not only out of harmony with the rest of the body, hence ugly, but it fails to meet the functional needs of the organism. If we begin early enough and persist in our efforts the chest may be developed in almost everybody to the required size.
The motility of the chest is often only slight, due in most instances, to a lack of use. The motility of the chest may be determined by measuring its expansion. In measuring chest expansion it is common to place the tape just beneath the arms. A truer measure of chest expansion may be obtained by applying the tape over the lower ribs, just beneath the breasts. The chest should be fully contracted and then expanded to its limit. The difference between the two measurements thus obtained gives us the chest expansion. This does not always measure chest capacity, as much of this depends upon the action of the diaphragm.
Air does not require to be forced into the lungs; it has to be forced out. When the chest expands, a vacuum is created and the air automatically flows into this. Normally the activities of the chest in breathing—inspiration and expiration—are automatically adjusted to the needs of the body; these activities increasing when more oxygen is needed or there is more carbon dioxide to expel, and decreasing when there is decreased need for oxygen or decreased production of carbon dioxide. Many things do, however, lower the functioning power of the respiratory system and cause use to function on a lower physiological level.
Impaired respiratory function reduces the amount of oxygen that is taken into the blood and that is carried to the tissues (anoxia) and the amount of oxygen in the blood (anoxemia). Some of the inhibiting factors are external and are supplied by the individual himself; others are internal and are commonly of the individual’s own making. Let us briefly consider these in order.
Cramped positions of sitting and standing that prevent the normal excursions of the chest and diaphragm, tight belts, corsets, foundation garments and other articles of apparel, that constrict of the chest and abdomen and prevent normal chest and diaphragmatic movements, hamper the intake of sufficient oxygen to meet the needs of the organism. Under such conditions, the body is forced to reduce its other functions to a level commensurate with the support provided by the respiratory system. Instead of vigorous function, feeble function is our lot.
Nasal obstructions (adenoids, nasal polyps, thickened nasal membranes, catarrh, bent or broken septum, traumatic and congenital distortion of the nose, small nasal passages, etc.), spasm of the bronchi (as in asthma) tumors that block the respiratory passages, pleurisy, adhesions, tuberculosis of the lungs, water in the lungs, as in advanced heart disease, pneumonia, a cold, smallness and deformities of the chest limit the amount of air that may be taken in at each respiration and the amount of carbon dioxide that can be expelled at each expiration.
Free nasal passages are not only essential to the ingress of adequate oxygen, but also to the normal conditioning of the inspired air for its entrance into the lungs. The air must be warmed or cooled, moistened or dried, as the case may be, in its passage from the outside to the lungs. If the nasal membrane is swollen and congested, for example, it will not only hinder the intake of air, but it will fail to properly condition the air. Dust and dirt must be filtered from the air, as it passes into the air passages and down to the lungs. This fails if the nose is not normal. Thus it becomes apparent that a well-formed, efficiently functioning and fully healthy nose is as necessary to good breathing as a well-developed chest and sound lungs. If the respiratory mechanism is normal, if the air is pure, if there are no external and positional interferences with the mechanism of breathing, this function will be automatically and subconsciously adjusted to the varying needs of the body for oxygen, so that conscious attention to the process is unnecessary.