One Side of the Nose Knows? (Today's Daily Presence)

My current illness has acquainted me more intimately than I’d like to be with how my nose is functioning. Specifically, I’ve woken up every morning this week with the sensation that I could only breath out of one side of it. As I sought out information about why this was happening, I was delighted to learn about an entire aspect of biology I’d been overlooking, which is called the nasal cycle.

Tissue within our nose is able to be “erect” and to constrict on one side at a time. This means that one side is receiving more airflow than the other. Our general preference tends to mirror our handedness, so left-handed people breath more through the left-side and vice versa. I’m right-handed and the left side of my nose has been the one that’s felt closed every morning, so it tracks with this. (Note that the second study I found showed the opposite pattern).

Our autonomic nervous system, which I’ve previously discussed, is what is responsible for the shifts that occur every few hours in terms of which nostril is taking in more air. The side that we lay on affects this cycle. We switch less frequently when we are asleep than we do when we are awake. I’ve been waking up at odd times for the past several nights since I got sick, which makes me wonder if my brain is trying to change over the left side, realizing no air is coming in, and then alerting me so that I will adjust my position.

One theory as to why we have a nostril taking in a lot of air and another that is taking in less air is that we are able to notice different aspects of smells depending on how the air is flowing through our nose. I feel like I’m only picking up the “loud” notes of the few scents I can currently detect, which seems to fit with this idea. It is thought that perhaps we need these differences in scent detection to sniff out happy smells like tasty food as well as smells that portend danger such as wild animals.

The speed of our breathing also affects how our nose works. I’ve examined the benefits of slow breathing and can now add that it has an impact on our nasal cycle. Breathing more slowly is linked with having a greater difference between the left and the right nostril airflow. Shallow breathing tends to cause the airflow to be more balanced.

Before examining the research on this topic, I did not know that my nose was shifting every few hours in terms of which nostril received more air. It’s frustrating that it took a bout of a respiratory illness to lead me to slow down enough to consider how this part of my body works, but I think I will now have more appreciation for simple joys such as actually being able to smell the food I’m eating and being able to breath in deeply through my nose without feeling restricted. How is your nose functioning? Do you have any sense of breathing in through one side of it more than another? What’s the connection between the rate at which you breath and your enjoyment of pleasant smells?

Appreciating Health (Today's Daily Presence)

Well, I just typed and lost an entire post for the first time so here goes a re-write!

As I noted yesterday, I am feeling under the weather with some sort of respiratory illness. I’m coughing a lot and my voice sounds as though a frog is trapped in my larynx. I selected the teeth and jaw card from my Daily Presence deck, and was shocked to realize these areas of my body are feeling better than they normally do.

I’ve been diagnosed with both TMJ and trigeminal neuralgia. My trigeminal neuralgia has gotten better after having a tooth extracted last year, but a recent visit to the dentist showed me it is still active. She merely manipulated my jaw in her evaluation (no cleaning or dental work) and my pain starting spiking on my drive home.

Today, though, my jaw feels loose and my teeth do not hurt. Simply noticing this feels like a sign that I am living with more awareness. It has been easy for me to focus all of my attention instead on what is going wrong with my body. There are of course times where my pain becomes so severe that I cannot ignore it and during which I need to use additional resources to help myself cope. For me, living with chronic pain has been about learning to work with my body as much as I can.

As I grow to fully inhabit the landscape of my body, my attention has widen and my care for parts that are healthy has improved. This awareness has increased rather than diminished my ability to respond to what my body needs when it is ill. Which parts or body systems are working well for you today? How is your jaw and tooth health? How do you balance responding to your body’s needs alongside appreciating what is working well for it?

Bodily Filtration (Today's Daily Presence)

For today’s Daily Presence card, I chose the card focused on the lymphatic system. This is a body system I know little about in terms of how it actually functions. I’ve absorbed snippets of information, but, in investigating further, realized there is a lot I don’t fully understand. In order to pay mindful attention and honor an area of the body, I find more meaning when the biological processes involved are clear to me.

What I learned about the system is that it acts as a filtration setup for lymph, which in itself is a substance made of white blood cells that attack viruses and bacteria, as well as chyle which consists of fats from our small intestines. Lymph nodes are where the response to infections take place, so they swell when we are fighting off an infection because there are more white blood cells being produced. In addition, the lymph system helps to keep our body balanced in terms of fluids. Taken together, problems in these functions can spell trouble in terms of immune capacity as well as lymphedema (swelling) in affected areas of the body.

As I educated myself about how my lymphatic system functions, I found myself wondering how much it affects my experience of chronic pain and my general health and well-being. We can test our cardiovascular system with tools like a blood pressure cuff and pulsometer, but I am unaware of similar products to evaluate how well fluid is being drained or how well our lymph nodes are working to filter bodily invaders out. All I found in looking into this were “contrast MRI’s” and the like, although I’m sure basic bloodwork, with its white blood cell counts and all, gives some insight.

I also spent time looking into how to improve the function of my lymphatic system and was disappointed that there were few scientifically-reviewed practices available. One message I found repeated was the importance of drinking water to keep our bodies hydrated. If there are areas of poor lymph drainage, massage can be helpful but should be performed by someone certified in the process and only if a doctor recommends it based on a person’s medical status. Finally, the cardiovascular system is related to the lymphatic system, so improving cardiovascular health might help to reduce inflammation, which, in turn, may be beneficial to the lymphatic system.

All in all, I found myself both intrigued and frustrated by my exploration of the research on this topic as I do not feel as though I gained a full understanding of how it works or how to ensure I am doing what I can to improve its function. Whenever I get a professional massage, I feel queasy and odd for a few hours afterwards. I’m curious as to what my lymph systems “levels” look like after an experience like that. In thinking about my heart health, I will also consider now my immune system and how they interrelate. Finally, I find it highly relevant to how I work as a person to consider that our immune defense has a passive feel to it; to some extent, invaders are allowed to “flow” until they reach the filter, at which time all hell breaks loose and they get (hopefully) destroyed. To what extent do you bring conscious awareness to your lymphatic system? Does it represent anything on a spiritual or energetic level to you? Are there any actions you are taking to improve its function?

Raise Your Toes (Today's Daily Presence)

Today’s Daily Presence card invited awareness to my toes. I’ve managed to break more than one of them in recent years, so they could certainly use some TLC. I decided to spend some time conducting toe stretches.

In attempting the stretches I found, the simplest movement–placing my feet flat on the floor and reaching upward with my toes–seemed to help to adjust my toe posture. I discovered I do not have a lot of lateral mobility, especially in the second to last toe, which seems to be the one I’ve injured the most on both feet. I was tempted by the marble exercise but envisioned my dog trying to eat each one so I declined to pursue it.

I was intrigued by focusing solely on my toes as I haven’t done it before in terms of stretches, and I found that it challenged my body in a way it had not been before. I noticed some of my ankle and calf pain and tension unexpectedly releasing as I worked. I’ve lived so long with little awareness of my body, so I feel like I’m discovering new connections each time I slow down enough to attend to it. To whatever extent it exists, what is your relationship like with your toes? If you’ve had any injuries or loss of toe(s), what effect has it had on you? If it was accessible to you and you tried the toe stretches in the link, which one do you enjoy?