A journalist wrote a book about breathing and it's surprisingly compelling

Okay, this is a little weird and not at all political but I found it really interesting. Joe Rogan just interviewed a journalist named James Nestor who spent several years writing a book about breathing. The book is called “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” and if you’re like me your first thought is probably something like ‘How did he turn that into a book and why would anyone read it.’ But after watching one clip from the interview, I was hooked.

In this clip, Nestor talks about a sort of sideline to his main topic: crooked teeth. In looking at the human airway, Nestor said he was told by anthropologists he spoke to that prior to about 500 years ago, most human skulls showed straight teeth, even though no one had access to braces. That’s true, he says, even if you go back 5,000 years to the early days of written history. The reason, according to the anthropologists is that our mouths have become smaller.

And that may be because of the change in our diet. Five or ten thousand years ago, it would have been normal for people to be chewing up to 4 hours a day. But thanks to mills and processing our diet has become softer and our jaws seem to be becoming smaller and weaker. One result is crowded and crooked teeth.

Nestor then talked about using a device recommended to him by a doctor which expanded his upper palate over the course of a year. Nestor used the removable device every night for a year and, at the end of that time, medical scans of his skull show that he widened his mouth, added bone to his face and actually changed his appearance. He also believes this is one reason he hasn’t had pneumonia, something which he’d had every year prior to this.

If you’ve never heard of anything like this, it probably sounds pretty weird, but it happens that my wife had a similar device when she had braces as a kid. And a few years ago my daughter had the same device as part of her treatment to straighten her teeth. She now has a perfect smile but getting there (without pulling any teeth) required widening her palate over the course of about a year.

In addition to narrower mouths, human jaws also tend to be smaller now. “If you were to measure a skull and you were to draw one line from it’s ear to its nose and another line perpendicular to that almost every single ancient skull would be above that line, very powerful jaw,” Nestor said. He continued, “Now, 90 percent of modern skulls are below it. They are behind it.”

Here’s this one segment of the interview about crooked teeth and jaws.

Of course that 13 minute is just a small portion of the interview which is nearly 2 hours long. I haven’t watched all of it but the first 20 minutes is about the health impacts of breathing through your nose vs. your mouth. And it turns out Joe Rogan knows something about this first hand because he had a deviated septum and couldn’t breath through his nose until he had surgery when he was 40. It’s an interesting discussion that ties in free divers, Jiu-Jitsu master Rickson Gracie as well as a guy named Swami Rama who could cause his own heart to beat 300 times per minute merely by concentrating. Here’s the full interview. I’m intrigued enough that I’m thinking I’m going to read the book this weekend.