We breathe in an estimated 25,000 times a day and most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
However, for some it may not be so easy, for example due to asthma or after surgery.
But can products that improve lung function make a difference?
ADRIAN MONTI asked experts to rate a selection, which we then rated.
Humans breathe with their lungs an estimated 25,000 times a day
30ml, £25, dropfx.com
CLAIM: This liquid supplement contains peppermint, coconut, monk fruit and wintergreen. Apply a drop to the back of your tongue using the included pipette. This, according to the manufacturer, will immediately “expand your airways” and “increase oxygen flow and performance” to improve “energy levels, clarity of mind, and breathing efficiency.” The benefits last one to three hours.
EXPERT VERDICT: Sucking a mint can sometimes make it easier to breathe when you have a cold or a stuffy nose, as the menthol in it can act on receptors in the nose and sinuses to reduce mucus production, says Professor Pallav Shah, a consultant doctor in respiratory medicine at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London.
“But I have seen no evidence that such drops have long-term effects. “I think the manufacturer is exaggerating the product by saying that it dilates the airways and increases oxygen flow in this way.” 2/10
This liquid supplement contains peppermint, coconut, monk fruit and wintergreen
CLAIM: Worn between your chest and navel, this adjustable belt “reduces snoring, sleep apnea, asthma, stress anxiety and other breathing problems,” says the manufacturer. It applies “gentle resistance” so you breathe easier than normal and “experience calm throughout the day.” It can be worn while working, exercising and sleeping.
EXPERT VERDICT: Dr. Simon Taggart, consultant chest and general practitioner at Spire Manchester Hospital, said: “I see this belt has potential for providing respiratory muscle training.”
“It probably has some elasticity to it, so it functions like a resistance band you might use in the gym. By slightly restricting your breathing, you train your lungs and breathing muscles.
“But for asthma, I would rather give a patient inhalers than recommend a belt like this.” Relying on this belt alone could make things worse.
“I can’t imagine how it would help with sleep apnea or snoring, as other mechanisms can also play a role – for example blocked or narrowed airways.” 4/10
Tilcare respiratory muscle trainer
CLAIM: According to the manufacturer, breathing in and out into this tubular plastic device strengthens your diaphragm muscles and “helps increase the volume capacity of your lungs, allowing you to breathe deeply and getting more oxygen into your blood.”
The manufacturer recommends using it once a day for five minutes and states that it provides breathing support for asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as people who have suffered a stroke or suffer from Parkinson’s disease.
EXPERT VERDICT: “This creates a certain resistance when you breathe deeply,” says Professor Shah. “It could help people with chronic bronchitis or COPD, when the airways narrow and cause shortness of breath.”
“It could help them produce mucous secretions in the lungs more easily by strengthening their intercostal muscles [rib] Muscles.
“But I’m hesitant about whether it helps with asthma.” This device wouldn’t improve your lung capacity – which you physically can’t increase. But with regular use, it could make your lungs more efficient by strengthening the diaphragm. I don’t think it’s worth buying as it only makes a small difference – unlike, say, quitting smoking.” 5/10
CLAIM: The manufacturer says this device (which consists of a tube attached to a small, clear plastic box with three chambers) “helps maintain lung capacity and function after periods of inactivity” by encouraging deep breathing. By breathing forcefully into the mouthpiece, a small plastic ball “floats” in each chamber. Use it after heart or lung surgery and “the quality of your breathing will improve.”
EXPERT VERDICT: “Studies have shown that these types of devices – where you breathe in or out against resistance – are very effective,” says Dr. Taggart. “Using a medication for about ten minutes a day for 12 weeks has been shown to result in reduced shortness of breath in COPD patients.” It may also help patients with heart failure because stronger muscles make sticky mucus easier to swallow can be removed from the lungs.
“This cheap and cheerful device is very good.” I would recommend it to anyone with a weak diaphragm.” 9/10
The manufacturer says this device “helps maintain lung capacity and function after periods of inactivity” by encouraging deep breathing
BreathSync Stress and Anxiety Relief Necklace
CLAIM: When you use it, you can “quickly and easily achieve calm and focus by slowing your breathing” as a “relief from anxiety and stress,” says the manufacturer. Put it to your lips like a whistle, inhale deeply through your nose – and then gently exhale through the pendant, focusing on “lengthening your exhalation.” The manufacturer claims it will “lower heart rate” and contribute to deeper sleep.
EXPERT VERDICT: “This device will appeal to people with stress and anxiety issues who respond to tactile things; Having this around their neck may remind them to think about their breathing,” says Dr. Ari Manuel, consultant respiratory and sleep specialist at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It might also help those who hyperventilate regulate their breathing, “as it encourages you to focus on breathing more slowly and with more control,” he says. “But it won’t work for everyone.” 4/10
CLAIM: This pocket-sized device is suitable for people with “asthma, cystic fibrosis or COPD” who need to self-monitor their breathing, the website says. It’s a spirometer – a device that measures how much air you can inhale and exhale.
You blow into a mouthpiece that is connected to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. It measures lung function by recording how quickly and hard air is blown out. The results can be sent to a healthcare professional.
EXPERT VERDICT: Professor Shah says: “We give patients with cystic fibrosis or those who have had a lung transplant a spirometer to monitor lung function.” If you are asthmatic, I’m not sure this device plays a role because if you are breathless this is enough to show that your condition is not sufficiently under control.
“For someone with COPD, this could be an early sign that their lung function is deteriorating.
“But spirometry at home is never as good as when performed by a healthcare professional.” 6/10
Oxygen Pro canister
15L, £19.99, amazon.co.uk
CLAIM: Press the trigger on the inhaler’s “cup” to release a jet of 99.5 percent pure oxygen directly into your mouth.
The manufacturer says it “supports breathing during illness and can relieve fatigue and stress.”
It is also said to improve concentration.
Press the trigger on the inhaler’s “cup” to release a jet of 99.5 percent pure oxygen directly into your mouth
EXPERT VERDICT: Dr. Taggart stresses that anyone who needs oxygen for an illness should get it from the NHS, where it is provided under strict guidelines – “pure oxygen can be very dangerous and can cause a large explosion if it comes into contact with an open flame” , he says .
While severe shortness of breath due to COPD results in not breathing in enough oxygen, it can also mean a patient is retaining too much carbon dioxide instead of breathing it out, he says. “If you had this problem, breathing pure oxygen from a can could cause carbon dioxide anesthesia.” [where excessive carbon dioxide causes a reduced level of consciousness]. This can lead to respiratory failure for a long period of time.
“For this reason, COPD patients in the hospital receive low-dose medical oxygen – about 24-35 percent pure oxygen – and the cylinder has a regulator to control the flow.”
“But with this product you give yourself a random kick at your own discretion.” 0/10
The device makes you relax
CLAIM: Described as “your personal breathing trainer,” this oval device – the size of an avocado – expands and contracts like a balloon in your hand. Gently shake the device and then place your thumb on the sensor.
This can apparently detect heart rhythm and heart rate variability to indicate how stressed you are. The idea is that breathing exercises will help slow this down so you can relax and be ready to sleep.
You breathe in as the device inflates and breathe out as it deflates. The application “can improve sleep quality by 37 percent,” “reduce anxiety within five minutes and reduce stress in ten minutes,” says the manufacturer.
EXPERT VERDICT: “The main goal of this device is to slow and regulate breathing, which helps some people relax before bed,” says Dr. Ari Manuel, a consultant respiratory and sleep specialist.
“By mimicking breathing in a typical sleep state, it attempts to trick your natural urge to sleep.” I imagine it would take a few weeks rather than minutes to take effect. Although it’s not cheap, some people might want to give it a try.” 7/10