Shortness of Breath. Say Goodbye to Air Hunger with Supplements

Updated: 10/17/23

Are you feeling out of breath? Shortness of breath is a common experience that can be caused by different health issues, from cardiovascular conditions to respiratory infections. If you’re looking for a natural way to fight air hunger and its associated symptoms, then supplemental remedies may be the cure. In this blog post, we’ll explore how supplements like omega-3 fatty acids and CoQ10 can help ease your breathing difficulties and reduce shortness of breath so you can breathe more freely.

What is Shortness of Breath?

It can be scary to feel like you can’t breathe. We rely so much on the air we breathe, we rarely think about it until something’s wrong. Healthy people can deal with shortness of breath in certain situations, but in most other cases, it is a sign of an underlying illness. It’s important to know about the warning signs and when you should call your doctor. Shortness of breath is one of the most common reasons why people consult their doctors.

Shortness of breath is a symptom, not a disease itself. It can occur suddenly or build up gradually over time, and can affect anyone at any age. Shortness of breath can be caused by different factors, ranging from mild to severe. Anxiety, stress, and intense physical activity can easily lead to temporary shortness of breath, but more serious medical conditions can cause prolonged incidents of shortness of breath. Some of the causes of shortness of breath include asthma, allergic reactions, lung infections, lung cancer, heart diseases, and so on. In some cases, age and obesity can also lead to shortness of breath.

Shortness of breath is also known as dyspnea, or air hunger. Because it is an umbrella term for such a wide range of characteristics, there isn’t one established definition. There are many different ways people can experience feeling short of breath. Some may feel like they are gasping for air, while others describe a feeling like they can’t take a deep breath. No matter what the sensation feels like, being unable to breathe is very distressing. Here are some common signs people describe when they have shortness of breath.

Is Shortness of Breath Normal?

In any given moment, taking a deep breath should not be a chore. It should be easy and natural. So, when you find yourself feeling short of breath, it can be quite concerning. As much as we might experience this as a result of strenuous activities such as running or exercise, it is important to note that shortness of breath is not always normal. Ignoring these symptoms or brushing them off as nothing is not advisable, and this is why we will be looking at the various reasons why shortness of breath is not always normal.

Shortness of Breath Characteristics

Inability to Take a Full Breath

Some people describe a feeling of not being able to breathe as deep as normal. No matter how deep a breath you try to take, you can’t seem to get enough air. In other cases, like if you’re hyperventilating or gasping for air, you’re then unable to take a full breath because of the strong breathing reaction you’re experiencing.

Difficulty Breathing

Difficulty breathing is another common description of shortness of breath. It’s a feeling of breathlessness or like you can’t breathe properly. Some people describe a feeling like they are gasping for air. Others may find that breathing is so exhausting they just can’t keep up.


The sound of wheezing while breathing comes from air moving through narrowed airways. That’s what produces the high-pitched sound we call wheezing. That’s a sign of swelling and inflammation in your airways that can occur due to a variety of different causes.

Tightness in Chest

Tightness around your chest while you breathe is an uncomfortable feeling. Sometimes, it may even be painful. Because you feel like you can’t expand your chest to inhale, it feels like you’re not getting enough air.

Other Characteristics

All these signs of shortness of breath may or may not be due to a serious medical problem. So, how do you know when to call a doctor? The Harvard Medical School suggests if your symptoms are severe and begin abruptly, you likely need to go to the doctor. They’ve also shared some red flags to watch out for. Some of these include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Fever
  • Swollen ankles and feet
  • Painful cough
  • Unusual tiredness

Being short of breath may be a sign of a medical problem, but it can also happen in healthy people too. High altitude, sudden extreme changes to temperature and strenuous exercise are all examples of situations in which healthy people can feel short of breath. In such cases, it’s not a sign of an underlying health problem, but rather the body’s reaction to changes in the environment.

If none of these situations apply to you, then shortness of breath may be a sign of an underlying health issue. There are many causes for shortness of breath ranging from a simple viral infection to more serious, life-threatening conditions. If your symptoms are mild and temporary, you might need to see a doctor, but it’s likely not an emergency.

Causes of Shortness of Breath

Respiratory Diseases

Respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pneumonia often lead to shortness of breath. These conditions narrow down the airways or cause inflammation in the lungs, making them less functional. If you experience shortness of breath frequently, it is best to consult with a healthcare provider to rule out respiratory diseases.

Heart Problems

Heart problems such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, and arrhythmias can cause shortness of breath due to reduced blood flow, which makes the lungs overwork to compensate. Shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain, lightheadedness, and fatigue may indicate a heart problem, and immediate medical attention is required.


If you’re always sniffling and rubbing itchy eyes, you might have an allergy. Allergies can sometimes make shortness of breath worse, or contribute to conditions that cause difficulty breathing. If you have wheezing or trouble breathing with your allergies, you probably have allergic asthma. Common allergic triggers for asthma include various pollens, dust mites, pet dander, mold and cockroaches.

It’s hard to know exactly what you’re allergic too. However, an allergist can be helpful to try and narrow down potential causes. If your symptoms keep coming back and you can’t find an explanation, it might be worth a trip to see one. In more severe cases, you might experience what’s called an anaphylactic reaction to something you’re allergic too. An anaphylactic reaction is a strong allergic response that can be life-threatening. Common triggers are bug bites and stings and peanut allergy or shellfish allergy. If this happens, call for emergency medical care.


The feeling of breathlessness is linked to anxiety and panic attacks. When you get shortness of breath due to anxiety, you’re still getting enough oxygen to your lungs. However, it feels like you can’t get enough air. What a trick our mind can play on us! Though it’s not physically dangerous, it can be very distressing to experience. The worst part is it can be like a vicious cycle. Feeling short of breath can make anxiety even worse. Some people who get panic attacks may feel short of breath during an episode too.


Aside from an airway infection, asthma is among the most common diagnoses for people coming to see a doctor for shortness of breath. Asthma is a type of allergy where your airways get inflamed, making it harder to breathe. Some people have such severe asthma that they need to stay overnight in the hospital. However, there are also many people with only mild forms of asthma. You might have asthma and not even know it. There are also forms of asthma that are triggered occasionally by specific exposures. Allergy-induced asthma triggers shortness of breath only when exposed to things like pollen or dust mites. Other people may have asthma triggered by weather, and they are either sensitive to cold or hot temperatures, or only when they are exercising.


In some cases, shortness of breath can be a sign of infection. Pneumonia is a viral or bacterial infection of the lungs that make it harder for you to breathe. Because it’s an infection, you might develop a fever. The fluid and mucus may cause you to cough too. Pneumonia may be mild or severe depending on your overall health, age and the type of bug causing the infection. Most cases will need at least a visit to your primary doctor. Some situations can even be life-threatening. There are many ways to prevent pneumonia, including maintaining overall health, not smoking and getting a vaccine that protects us from the most common bugs that cause the infection.

Other Causes

There are many reasons why you could get short of breath. Besides a condition affecting the lungs or anxiety, shortness of breath could indicate a problem with the circulatory system or heart as well. Heart failure, a heart attack, and a blood clot in the lungs are potential, life-threatening causes for shortness of breath. That’s why it’s important to recognize warning signs and call your doctor immediately to seek medical care.  Feeling short of breath at night, medically known as paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, is one of the symptoms of heart failure. Other signs include leg swelling and orthopnea, which is the medical term for feeling short of breath when you’re lying down. Other potential health conditions that cause shortness of breath include low blood pressure, other lung infections, anemia and emphysema.

What Causes Shortness of Breath When Lying Down?

The main symptom of orthopnea is shortness of breath when lying down. It usually improves when the individual sits up or stands up. Orthopnea is often accompanied by sudden awakening from sleep, feeling suffocated, wheezing, and coughing. These symptoms worsen over time and can lead to sleep deprivation, causing daytime fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

There are several possible causes of orthopnea. The most common causes are heart and lung problems. Individuals with heart problems such as congestive heart failure, valve problems, and arrhythmias may experience orthopnea. Similarly, individuals with lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and pulmonary fibrosis can experience shortness of breath when lying down. Besides, obesity, pregnancy, and anxiety may also trigger orthopnea.

Can Shortness of Breath Cause High Blood Pressure?

Breathing is one of the most basic and essential things we do as humans. Yet, we often take it for granted. Imagine struggling to catch your breath during simple daily activities. Shortness of breath can be caused by several factors including high blood pressure. This condition, characterized by abnormal levels of pressure in our blood vessels, can lead to serious health problems.

Can Shortness of Breath be Caused by Anxiety?

Anxiety and breathing are closely connected. When we feel anxious or stressed, our bodies respond by releasing adrenaline and other stress hormones. These hormones trigger various bodily responses, including dilation of the airways to allow more oxygen into the body. However, this can also cause faster, shallower breathing, which can sometimes lead to a sensation of not being able to catch your breath.

In addition to this physical response, anxiety can also cause hyperventilation, or over-breathing, which can lead to a feeling of shortness of breath. Hyperventilation can be a vicious cycle; the more you breathe quickly and shallowly, the more panicked you can become, which in turn can cause you to start breathing even faster.

Causes of Shortness of Breath

Breathing Exercises

Shortness of breath is a common issue that affects many people, especially those who are living with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD. It can be a distressing symptom and can cause many difficulties, from feeling unable to complete regular tasks to experiencing anxiety or panic attacks. While there are many treatments available to manage this symptom, including medication and oxygen therapy, it is essential not to overlook the benefits of simple breathing exercises.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises are one of the most effective ways to improve your breathing. It is a type of relaxation technique that can help you combat shortness of breath related to panic attacks and anxiety. It involves inhaling deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand, and exhaling slowly. You can do this while sitting, standing, or even lying down. Repeat this exercise for at least five minutes, two to three times a day, and you will experience an improvement in your breathing over time.

Belly Breathing with Counting

Belly breathing with counting is another effective way to improve your breathing. Using a technique called “belly breathing,” you can practice deep breathing for healthier lungs at home. In this type of breathing, you focus on expanding and contracting your stomach with every breath without moving your chest. The key is to keep your chest as still as you can while you breathe, and to breathe out slowly through pursed lips, kind of like you are whistling. After you’ve mastered belly breathing, you can even try more advanced techniques like roll breathing, or 4-7-8 breathing. Sit comfortably with your back straight and take a deep breath in through your nose. As you inhale, count to three, then exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to six. This technique can help you relax and improve your breathing by slowing down your heart rate.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing is another useful technique for shortness of breath. It involves inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling slowly through pursed lips as if you were blowing out a candle. This technique helps regulate your breathing, making it easier to breathe overall. Do this exercise for at least five minutes, two to three times a day.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that strengthens your diaphragm, which is the muscle used for breathing. Known as diaphragmatic breathing, these exercises can also help people with chronic lung conditions, such as emphysema. By practicing long, slow breaths, you give yourself a better chance of clearing out stale air from the lungs that accumulates in certain lung conditions like asthma. Lie on your back and place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Take a slow deep breath in through your nose and make sure your belly rises as you inhale. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this exercise for at least five minutes, two to three times a day.

Box Breathing

This technique involves taking slow, deep breaths to help you relax and reduce anxiety. To practice box breathing, sit or stand comfortably and breathe in slowly through your nose for four seconds. Hold your breath for four seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth for four seconds. Hold your breath again for four seconds, then repeat the cycle for a few minutes each day.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing is a simple yet powerful technique that balances your breath and calms the mind. Start by sitting comfortably with your back straight. Gently close your right nostril with your right thumb, inhale deeply through your left nostril, hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale out of your right nostril. Repeat on the other side by closing your left nostril with your ring finger and exhaling through your left nostril.

In addition to these specific breathing exercises, there are also lifestyle changes you can make that can help reduce shortness of breath. For example, regular exercise can help improve your lung function and overall fitness, reducing the likelihood of shortness of breath. Additionally, avoiding triggers like allergens or pollutants can help prevent shortness of breath from occurring in the first place.

Supplements for Shortness of Breath

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Not only are omega-3 fatty acids good for your heart, but they can also improve lung function and decrease inflammation. Studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements can help reduce shortness of breath symptoms in people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Omega-3s can be found in fatty fish like salmon, but for a more convenient option, you can also take supplements in the form of fish oil capsules.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that plays a role in energy production in the cells. Studies have shown that taking coenzyme Q10 supplements can improve lung function and reduce shortness of breath symptoms in people with COPD. Coenzyme Q10 is also found in foods like fish, organ meats, and whole grains, but supplements may be a more convenient option.


Magnesium is an important mineral that plays a role in hundreds of bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function. Studies have shown that people with asthma and COPD often have lower levels of magnesium in their bodies, which can lead to bronchoconstriction and worsening of shortness of breath symptoms. Taking magnesium supplements can help improve lung function and reduce the frequency and severity of shortness of breath.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can protect the lungs from oxidative stress and inflammation. Studies have shown that people with asthma and COPD often have lower levels of vitamin C in their bodies, which can lead to increased inflammation and worsening of shortness of breath symptoms. Taking vitamin C supplements can help improve lung function and reduce inflammation, leading to easier breathing.


Quercetin is a flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables, such as apples, onions, and kale. This antioxidant has anti-inflammatory properties and can help relieve respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath. Quercetin supplements can also be taken in pill form.

N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC)

NAC is an amino acid that can help break down mucus in the airways and improve respiratory function. It has been shown to be beneficial for those with COPD and cystic fibrosis. Foods high in NAC include garlic, onions, and broccoli. NAC supplements can also be taken to improve respiratory health.


You can spice up more than just your culinary palate! Ginger is a favorite aromatic dietary condiment cultivated for over 5,000 years. Besides being a flavorful ingredient, the active properties of ginger, known as rhizomes, have long been known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger can also help you with your breathing. One study from Columbia University observed that ginger helps relax the smooth muscle of your airways and decreases its hypersensitivity by changing the calcium levels in the cells. Another study performed by French scientists observed the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger on the airways of mice. They concluded that their evidence points to the potential therapeutic powers of ginger for people who have allergic asthma.

You can choose to supplement your lung health with ginger by either using the natural root or selecting a high-quality extract. The advantage of using an herbal extract over the natural herb is that it’s easier to monitor dosing. Though there aren’t any official guidelines for how ginger should be dosed, it’s safe to use between 250-1,000 mg every day. Side effects of using ginger are uncommon. Rarely, it may cause mild heartburn or digestive upset. There is potential for ginger to affect the clotting of blood, so people taking blood thinners should exercise caution. As always, talk with your doctor before starting any new supplement.

Black Coffee

Getting a jumpstart to your day could do more than awaken your mind. It turns out coffee may help improve your breathing too. One of the drugs used to treat asthma, known as theophylline, is very similar in property to caffeine. Both help to open up your airways so you can breathe easier, helping people with symptoms of wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. In people with asthma, caffeine was found to help with lung function for up to four hours. Though it’s not as strong as an inhaler, coffee can be an additional therapeutic agent to help you temporarily breathe easier if you have asthma.

A typical dose of caffeine in a cup of black coffee is about 60 mg. You can buy pills in varying doses up to 200 mg. It’s recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that up to 400 mg per day is safe for most adults. Though generally safe to consume, coffee can cause some side effects. If you’re dependent on drinking it every day, skipping a day or cutting back can produce migraines, insomnia and restlessness. Other side effects include frequently having to go to the bathroom, digestive upset and heartburn. Taking too much caffeine can produce tremors or heart palpitations too. Some people are more sensitive to coffee than others and may feel these side effects with just a cup or two of black coffee. The FDA also advises against coffee consumption for children.

Other Remedies and Supplements

Though there is limited science supporting its effectiveness, ginseng root extract powder is a popular therapy used in traditional Chinese medicine to alleviate shortness of breath in various respiratory illnesses. Researchers have also found that nutritional supplements like vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, choline and turmeric may help prevent the development of asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses.

The Bottom Line

Shortness of breath can be a concerning and potentially dangerous condition, but it is important to remember that treatment options are available. By educating yourself on the characteristics, causes, and treatment options for shortness of breath, you can take control of your health and seek help when needed. Remember to always seek medical attention if you experience sudden, severe shortness of breath, or if you are unsure of the underlying cause. By implementing preventative measures such as exercise, weight loss, and avoidance of environmental irritants, you can reduce your risk of developing shortness of breath in the future.

The causes for feeling out of breath comes from a wide range of potential causes. You could be simply reacting to an environmental change or have a more serious, underlying medical condition. Pay attention to red flags such as the sudden, severe onset of symptoms, chest pain, sudden extreme fatigue, swollen ankles or feet and high fever. If severe, you may need emergency medical attention. Most of the time, shortness of breath may require some medical care, but isn’t an emergency. 

Shortness of breath can be a symptom of various underlying conditions, but there are supplements available that can aid in improving respiratory health. Magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, quercetin, and NAC are among the supplements that can help improve breathing and relieve shortness of breath. As with any supplement, it’s essential to consult with your doctor before adding any of these supplements to your daily routine. A combination of these supplements and a healthy lifestyle can help individuals with respiratory issues breathe easier.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

Author: Ryan Quigley
Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering the Vegas Golden Knights.