Thursday, September 23, 2021

Does grief make it hard to breathe?

 A friend of mine mentioned to me the other day that her asthma has gotten noticeably worse since her soul mate passed away and she wondered if there was a connection.

Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor or medical expert. I am a nurse by education and experience. But I have researched a lot about what grief does to the human body. It is that that I will share with you.

So, back to my friend’s question. The short answer is “yes”.

Here is a simplified long answer.

Think about what your lungs do for you. They are vital to your well being. Your breath sustains your body.

Inhale and you take in oxygen which nourishes all your organs by first going to your lungs. Once it reaches the innermost parts of your lung tissue, the oxygen interacts with your circulating blood and that oxygen goes everywhere on the highway of your circulatory system supporting kidneys and intestines, fortifying your immune system, and providing moisture to your skin – just to name a few structures.

That exchange also brings waste back to your lungs which is expelled on the exhale.

Now think about how you feel when you grieve. What do you do? You tighten up. You might clench your jaws, shoulders, back. This might tighten your diaphragm. All of this restricts the area need by your lungs to expand. If they can’t expand properly, they can’t do their job. Sure, you’re still getting oxygen but not the full amount. So, your body breathes differently. You feel short of breath, tired, drained. Your immune system is weakened which can lead to further problems. And on and on.

If you already have an underlying lung condition like asthma, it is exacerbated.

Ancient Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the body in a holistic way and in that modality, grief is the emotion of the lung. The lungs govern qi, the energy that is needed for all the bodily functions. Weaken qi and the body suffers.

Working through grief won’t cure asthma. But not working through grief can make asthma – or any lung disorder – potentially worsen.

Knowledge is power. Knowing how things work helps us to help ourselves.


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