We often don’t see the nose as a vital organ in our body. We see it more as an aesthetically pleasing, or unpleasing, addition to our face. However, there is so much the nose does that you may not have thought about or perhaps may have taken for granted.

The nose is certainly complex and yet elegant at the same time. It’s often been overlooked as a vital organ; however, it does play many crucial roles in our overall health and wellbeing. I’ll cover a few of the crucial roles the first of which is the sneeze!

Looking innately at the human body we see the sneeze is an innate response to something the body recognises as not being of benefit and so chooses to expel it with speed which is where the sneeze comes in. How fast is a sneeze? A mighty 160km/h – that’s a very fast ‘Achoo!’

In contrast blowing your nose is a learnt behaviour it is not an innate response. Many a time a mum or dad can been seen with a hanky over their child’s nose instructing them to blow, it’s a skill that is learnt, it’s not natural. When we blow our nose the debris (dust and other particles) is moving at 64km/h – exceedingly slower than the innate sneeze, in fact just over 100km/h slower. Blowing the nose has a deleterious effect on the body as part of the debris is expelled out of the nose, but part goes upward and backward into the nasal passage, going against where innately the debris is supposed to be expelled. Blowing your nose may not be so good after all!

When we were at Palmer College, back in the day, we had a wise philosophy teacher, Dr Fred Barge DC. He used to walk into class adorning his hat and cravat and walking with his cane and greet us with ‘Morning fledgling Chiropractors!’ He was a real gentleman and a professor that always looked at the wisdom of the body. He spoke about blowing vs sneezing and used to say when you next have a runny nose twirl a bit of tissue, pop it up your nose and leave it there for three days, changing as you need to, adding within three days it will all be gone. I have put this to the test many times and told friends and family about it all of which who can attest to it too. Give it a go!

And what about picking your nose and eating it!

It’s definitely seen as a disgusting thing to do isn’t it? Socially wrong and something to be done in private. But children innately pick their nose and eat it and so do adults. It’s not a learnt behaviour. Many a child pick their nose and eat it having never seen a parent do it. But why is this an innate ‘thing’ to do? For me I always like to look logically and wisely at the body and wonder why something is being done. Children in the 0-7 age group are growing physically very fast. Everything and anything is placed in the mouth – it doesn’t matter if it’s a toy, a shoe or dropped food. And the reason is simple…for their immunity. The immune system gets a bolstering when things from the outside are placed into the body via the mouth and that includes snot – the debris that gets captured in the nose. This isn’t a bad thing it’s simply just another way the child grows. And given that immunity starts in the mouth and 70% of the immune system is housed and regulated in the gut, from the mouth to anus, then we can see that picking the nose and eating it is going to make them stronger… and adults too! So next time you see little Johnny picking his nose and eating it, just pause and observe. Don’t yell or shame just bear witness to the extraordinary innate wisdom little Johnny has inside – all in the name of immunity and growth. It really is genius!

Another crucial role of the nose is the primary pathway for breathing. We breathe about 20,000-23,000 times per day. Yes, you read that right! Most of the time we don’t realise we are breathing; the innate intelligence of your body just takes care of it. Once the air comes in it passes up the nose where cilia, small hair-like structures found on the surface of cells, clean the air – trapping the debris so it doesn’t pass through to your lungs. This of course has a positive effect on your immune system. The collected debris is then pushed to the throat and swallowed making it’s pathway to the stomach where it is taken care of.

The cleaner air continues it’s journey to the nasal conchae or turbinates of which there are three – a superior (upper) one, a middle one and an inferior (lower) one. These are shell-shaped networks of bones, vessels, and tissue within the nasal passageways. Here the air is further filtered by these structures, and also drained, warmed and humidified.  The throat and the lungs don’t particularly like too hot or too cold air. I remember my nose feeling like it was burning when I was in Dubai for a stop over on my way to London to speak and the temperature outside was 45C! And contrastingly living in the USA where temperatures would reach -10C and it felt like my nose was frozen. Knowing that these extremes exist is why your innate intelligence uses the nose to regulate the temperature of your breath – adjusting it to suit your body temperature which sits at around 37C. This regulation makes it easier to breathe and for our lungs to extract the oxygen. Another genius moment!

When it comes to smell your nose is your greatest asset, another crucial role that it plays. The nose has a large number of nerve cells that detect odour, and this detection of odour is a protective mechanism to prevent you from consuming something that the body most likely will not agree with. A simple example would be smelling off milk! When you look closely at small children you will see their inbuilt ‘odour detector’ is heightened. That’s because children at a young age do not have command of the English language so they rely on their senses to protect them one of which is smell. Often you will see a child turn their head quickly and squirm their face when they smell something that is not ‘agreeing’ with their being. It’s another example of an innate ‘feedback loop’ used for protection. On the contrary our sense of smell is entwined with our sense of taste, the result of which helps us enjoy food, evoke memories and appreciate the aromas of different dishes and their flavours with family and friends.

The nose over the decades has not garnished much attention instead being placed to the side as people look to other organs or aspects of the nerve system being more important. But your nose is so vital and versatile to your survival – from breathing to immunity to detecting.

I encourage you to look at your body with wisdom, an inquisitive mind and trust that we really do have everything we need inside for our overall health and wellbeing.

Additional Reading:


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