Heavy Breathing: Common Causes and Natural Treatments

Heavy Breathing

Breathing is so easy but important and of course the primary need of any living organism to survive on this globe. However, when breathing becomes heavy, slower or too fast, then it is a matter of concern. Heavy breathing can be a sign of that something is wrong with your body or an early sign of something worse coming up.

In this article we will see different causes of heavy, rapid breathing and natural ways to cure this breathing problem.

What is Heavy Breathing?

Heavy breathing is also known as Tachypnea. It as an elevated respiration rate which occurs when an individual is at rest. It is a condition when you suddenly become out of breath or start rapid and shallow breathing, even when at rest. The person may also experience bouts of breathlessness and heaviness in chest.

Heavy breathing is taking more than 20 breaths per minute, whereas normal respiratory rate is 12 to 20 breaths per minute. This condition is often confused with Hyperventilation, i.e. rapid breathing but deep. Both disorders are due to build-up carbon dioxide in the lungs, and thus in the bloodstream.

In simplest words, breathing that is audible or labored, especially in sleep or as a result of exertion is heavy breathing.

What Causes Heavy Breathing?

There are many reasons behind heavy, rapid breathing and some of them are as follows:

1. Allergies

A particular type of allergens like green grass, weed, fresh flowers, stamen, dander of pet dogs or cats, food, and dust cause allergies. Breathing air can be the easiest way for these allergens to enter the respiratory passage. These allergens cause the inflammation of the lungs and bronchial passages, ad thus cause heavy breathing.

2. Anxiety

Anxiety is a nervousness, feeling of worry or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. It could result in breathing heavily, fatigue, increased heart rate, sweating, trembling.

Heavy breathing results in hyperventilation which, if not corrected, decreases oxygenation of blood which can lead to potential brain damage.

3. Asthma

It is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs, where your airways become especially sensitive and prone to overreaction. Asthma causes airways to swell and inflame blocking the passage of air to and from your lungs.

Airborne allergens, temperature, dust, pollens, stress, certain foods or drinks, perfumes or strong scents, smoke, etc. can cause Asthma. For Asthma patients, exercise can also induce an asthma attack. The person may experience shortness of breath, excessive coughing or wheezing, heavy and noisy breathing, along with chest tightness.

4. Cardiovascular Ailment

The heart adjusts, controls and maintains the rate at which the body demands oxygen. If an individual is at rest for a good amount of time, and still the body demands more O2 than normal, or the heart pumps at the higher rate than normal, then it can be a symptom of cardiovascular ailment.

If the heavy breathing is associated with chest pain or heart palpitations, it can be a sign of heart attack or stroke. In this case, an immediate medical intervention is advised.


COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible. The more familiar terms, ‘chronic bronchitis’ and ’emphysema’ are often used, which are its prevalent forms (1).

COPD is usually the result of long-term exposure to irritating particulates. Emphysema destroys the air sacs (alveoli) at the ends of the air passages. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes that carry air from the alveoli to the lungs.

A daily cough and sputum production are the main symptoms of chronic bronchitis. COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, waking up with excess mucus in the lungs, and frequent respiratory infections.

6. Obesity

It is the state of abnormal fat percentage or overweight. Unhealthy lifestyle practices like excessive food intake, unusual meal timings, abnormal or lack of sleep, sedentary lifestyle, can cause obesity. Genetic obesity is also very common.

Obesity is when your BMI counts more than 30 kg per meter square. More the surface area of the body, more the heart and lungs have to stress themselves to work faster. It results in heavy breathing, as there is more pressure on lungs and heart than normal.

7. Smoking

Smoking tobacco or inhaling drugs can cause deposition of inorganic materials in the lungs. Nasal skin contains few hair structures, called ‘villi.’ Epithelial cells secrete sebum. They restrict the entry of foreign particles to enter the organ.

However, the heat of smoke and chemicals are strong enough to burn off the villi. The phlegm will continue to build up, absorbing foreign particles.

This gradually forms a sort of tar on the inside of the lungs. As your body struggles to get adequate air through a smaller passage, it results in narrowing airways, wheezing, heavy, or rapid breathing.

8. Sleep Apnea or Snoring

It is a common disorder but a dangerous one because it occurs when we are sleeping. However, the severity of snort can be a judgmental factor. Sleep apnea is when you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more in an hour (2).

Normal breathing starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. Sleep apnea is usually caused by obesity, asthma, or smoking, among other conditions.

Natural Cures for Heavy Breathing

There are effective natural remedies for heavy breathing. Having said that, it is always wise to seek a professional medical help before trying any home remedy for heavy, rapid breathing problems.

1. Avoid the Triggers of Heavy Breathing

One of the best ways to cure heavy breathing is to stay away from the triggers. Obesity can be prevented or cured by adopting a healthy lifestyle, regular exercises, and good food habits.

Allergies can be avoided by avoiding exposure to allergens or certain foods or wearing a facemask when prone to exposure. Avoid smoking, Managing stress and keeping cool when such conditions arrive.

2. Treat Allergies, COPD, and Cardiovascular Problems

Allergies can be treated with antihistamines to minimize the immune response and ease the inflammation. The steroids in the asthma inhalers can help clear the airway. The bronchodilators and steroids are often used to treat COPD. Your doctor may prescribe, oxygen therapy or pulmonary rehabilitation in some cases.

3. Switch to Healthy Lifestyle

If your current lifestyle causes significant health challenges, you should start adapting a better one. One should start eating healthy food, add exercise to your daily schedule. Obese or overweight people should start cardio-exercises strictly.

Avoid smoking and such harmful drug containing things completely. Lifestyle adjustments can ease symptoms or improve lung strength.

When to See Your Doctor?

Seeking the professional medical help is the first things you should do. Symptoms of heavy breathing change from person to person, disease to disease, age to age and so on.

Although there are some easy, natural remedies for heavy breathing, it is better to see your doctor when you see any sign indicating something wrong with any organ of your body.

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Dr. Mark Williams, MD

Dr. Mark Williams is a leader in alternative and integrated medicines. He is a medical writer and reviewer at Daily Health Cures. He received his medical degree in 1988. Mark brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Daily Health Cures editorial team. He is a natural health advisor and provides a variety of alternative healing techniques in his practice.