Shortness of breath, 5 reasons and how to fix it

Shortness of breath, 5 reasons and how to fix it

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We probably don't think much about our breathing in a day. For most people, since the doctor hit us on the back the day we were born, they don't think twice about taking a breath. Maybe you thought about it after running laps in that coach's class who was ruthless. There are multiple reasons why a person may have shortness of breath or dyspnea, which are not only related to their lungs. Science explains five reasons why people have trouble breathing and how to fix it.


We are familiar with “catching our breath” after a hard workout or game of basketball or other sport. Our breathing becomes difficult, in short, quick breaths, and we may feel a bit dizzy or weak. Our hearts are probably pounding and we are sweating. Those are some of the symptoms of shortness of breath or dyspnea, as it refers to the medical field. Although it comes from our effort, it still qualifies as shortness of breath. Usually, people recover fairly quickly and get on with their day.


In other cases, they have those symptoms due to various conditions. Symptoms of shortness of breath include:

  • Breathing is difficult and difficult or laborious.
  • Chest tightness
  • Quick, short breaths
  • The heartbeat is irregular or fast.
  • The feeling of suffocation due to the inability to get enough air.
  • Wheezing and coughing

While Unity Point Health indicates that exercise can cause shortness of breath, if these additional symptoms accompany it, see your doctor:

  • Chest feels heavy and heart rate is high
  • Chest pains, pressure, or irregular heart rate.
  • You are pale in complexion
  • Feeling that sinking feeling like you're about to pass out or dizzy
  • Fainting
  • Strong fatigue

As we age, a certain amount of shortness of breath is to be expected and is considered normal. Abnormal shortness of breath occurs when you cannot do your daily activities without having trouble breathing. Sometimes it even happens when you are sleeping or lying down. Having shortness of breath like a child over 50 who tries to do exercises or other activities, without having built up resistance is not considered abnormal.

Nor should we confuse shallow breathing with shortness of breath. Shallow breathing is mainly associated with the way we breathe in a state of rest. In the same article above on LiveWell, Unity Health pulmonologist Dr. Sandeep Gupta is quoted as stating that the difference between shallow breathing and shortness of breath is:

“Technically, shallow breathing means inhalation and exhalation shorter than normal breathing but with the same cadence. Although with difficulty in breathing, inhalation is usually much shorter than exhalation ”.

In short, short of breath. We take in less air than we exhale. This deficit is the reason why it feels like "we can't catch our breath."


Dyspnea can be a temporary and easily treatable condition, or a long-term chronic symptom.


Acute dyspnea is a short period in which one may experience shortness of breath. It is usually related to a medical condition. The medical condition itself can be chronic and lead to chronic dyspnea if the intervention is unsuccessful or cannot be corrected. For cases of acute dyspnea, the cause of the shortness of breath can be treated quickly. Examples of this include:

  • Asthma attacks (Although asthma is a chronic condition, shortness of breath is a symptom of lungs being irritated by a trigger, and in most cases can be quickly treated with an inhaler)
  • –Allergies to an allergen in the air or causing anaphylactic shock
  • -COPD attacks (COPD itself is a chronic condition, but shortness of breath comes and goes with proper medication)
  • -Lung infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
  • -Heart problems such as heart attack, irregular heartbeat, heart failure
  • -A blood clot in the lung or a collapsed lung.
  • - Choking on something that obstructs the passage of the airway.
  • -Panic attacks
  • -Carbon dioxide poisoning
  • -The pregnancy


Chronic dyspnea is generally related to a chronic medical condition that results in shortness of breath for weeks, months, or a lifetime.

-Various lung diseases, including lung cancer, excess fluid in the lungs, T.B., inflammation of the lung tissues.
-Different heart conditions
-EPOC (when it cannot be managed properly or in a progressive state)
-Anxiety disorders
-Asthma (when it cannot be managed properly)


Sometimes shortness of breath is the only symptom you may have for a serious condition that can be more easily treated if caught early. When should shortness of breath be a cause for concern?

  • -A sudden or unexplained change in your ability to breathe.
  • -Have to decrease more activities due to lack of air.
  • Swollen feet or ankles
  • -Incapable of breathing when lying down (typical of heart or lung problems)
  • -Flu-like symptoms: cough, fever, chills
  • -Breathing creates hissing sounds
  • -Incapable of breathing completely
  • -You feel pain in your sides or chest when you breathe or breathe deeply.


After looking at the list above, running out of breath can scare you. Fortunately, there are additional causes that we all have control over and can take steps to address. Science has pinpointed 5 possible reasons why people have shortness of breath and are mainly related to abdominal symptoms.

Have you noticed that after eating a large meal, you find it more difficult to breathe deeply? Maybe you need to unbutton your jeans so you can breathe easier? This is because when you eat a lot, your stomach swells and pushes on your other organs, including your diaphragm. Our diaphragm is the muscle below our lungs that contracts to cause the lungs to expand and contract when we breathe. When it contracts, it pushes down. When your abdomen is swollen and pushing up, the diaphragm cannot contract properly, limiting the movement of your lungs as well.

Some of the causes that we control, which can contribute to swelling of the abdomen and later difficulty breathing are:

  • -Being severely overweight to being obese
  • -Allergic reactions to certain foods.
  • Irritable bowel disease
  • -Eating excess fiber, drinking carbonated beverages or using artificial sweeteners can cause excess gas.
  • -Acid reflux or GERD
  • -The connection of GERD or acid reflux, which causes shortness of breath is due to bloating of the abdomen along with slower digestion. This situation causes stomach acid to move up through the esophagus. It will also cause shortness of breath from the acid that enters the lungs during sleep.


While there may be more serious reasons behind having a bloated abdomen and shortness of breath, ask your doctor to rule out these causes if they recognize a connection. Here are some solutions you can implement:

  • -Lose weight if you know you are significantly overweight.
  • -Keep a food diary if you notice that you don't get bloated from everything you eat. Track what you eat and when symptoms occur to isolate the cause.
  • -Eat smaller meals and don't eat before bed
  • -Avoid carbonated drinks or artificial sweeteners.
  • -Try a diet to reduce inflammation in your gut and rule out food sensitivities.
  • -Decrease foods rich in fiber and high gas production, such as beans, lentils, whole grains
  • -Avoid or reduce processed foods.

Usually the shortness of breath will improve when the food has been digested and passed. Sometimes, as in food intolerances or obesity, it will take longer to decrease the pressure. A doctor should be consulted if symptoms are accompanied by:

  • -Severe pain
  • -Multiple days of vomiting.
  • -Incapacity to control your bladder or bowels
  • Bloody stools

Video: Difficulty Breathing Anxiety and Panic Symptoms Explained! (August 2022).