Effects of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Health: A Narrative Review

Medicines (Basel). 2020 Oct 15;7(10):65. doi: 10.3390/medicines7100065.


Background: Breathing is an essential part of life. Diaphragmatic breathing (DB) is slow and deep breathing that affects the brain and the cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems through the modulation of autonomic nervous functions. However, the effects of DB on human health need to be further investigated. Methods: The author conducted a PubMed search regarding the current evidence of the effect of DB on health. Results: This review consists of a total of 10 systematic reviews and 15 randomized controlled trials (RCTs). DB appears to be effective for improving the exercise capacity and respiratory function in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although the effect of DB on the quality of life (QoL) of patients with asthma needs to be investigated, it may also help in reducing stress; treating eating disorders, chronic functional constipation, hypertension, migraine, and anxiety; and improving the QoL of patients with cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and the cardiorespiratory fitness of patients with heart failure. Conclusions: Based on this narrative review, the exact usefulness of DB in clinical practice is unclear due to the poor quality of studies. However, it may be a feasible and practical treatment method for various disorders.

Keywords: abdominal breathing; breathing exercise; diaphragmatic breathing; randomized controlled trial; respiratory function; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review