I thought I’d drop you a line to let you know I’m still diligently practicing Buteyko and my asthma has been under control. This is the first time for approx 2 years that I haven’t had an asthma attack every 2 to 3 weeks!!
I’m rapt thanks for your help, I’m very grateful.
I was also pleased when [my health insurance] reimbursed the Buteyko classes.
Ps.: I forgot to mention I’ve had a full blown head cold recently and for about 4 to 5 years, once I’ve had a head cold a severe asthma attack has followed but not this time! Still can’t believe it – thank you
C.S. from Altona (March 2011)
Asthma symptoms as a result of over-breathing
Healthy breathing is like good nutrition, more is not necessarily better!
Unlike conventional asthma management, the Buteyko Breathing Method gives people a natural, drug free alternative to asthma management. The method is based on the laws of physiology and comprehensive scientific research. A starting point for this method is the belief that asthma can be considered not necessarily as a disease, but as a defense mechanism of the body against hyperventilation (over-breathing).
In normal, relaxed breathing most of the work of breathing is done by the diaphragm. At rest, normal breathing is done through the nose, involves little visible movement of the chest and only light visible movement of the diaphragm (your stomach moves in and out a little).
Inappropriate breathing resembles the manner of breathing we use when under stress or when exercising, such as breathing through your mouth and using the chest, shoulder and neck muscles. Inappropriate breathing can lead to chronic over-breathing or hyperventilation.
Generally speaking we should be breathing about 4-6 litres of air per minute. Asthma sufferers may be breathing as much as 15-27 litres of air per minute! The better your breathing, the less breaths you need to take, with 12 breaths per minute being about the upper limit of breaths taken.
What happens when we hyperventilate?
The body makes CO2 through metabolism and the air we breath has approx. 21% oxygen (O2) and 0.03% CO2. The gas mix our lung needs are 14% O2 and 5.5-6% CO2. If we hyperventilate we exhale more CO2 than we make. Therefore we have insufficient CO2 for our needs.
The important role of CO2
- The body needs sufficient CO2 to allow oxygen (O2) to spread into the brain and other organs. If the CO2 levels are low oxygen is bound strongly with our red blood cells and causes oxygen starvation. We need appropriate levels of CO2 to allow the oxygen we breathe in to do its work in the body!
- CO2 is a natural bronchodilator. It dilates (relaxes) smooth muscles which surround our airways and small blood vessels as well as intestinal tract.
- The body uses CO2 to regulate its acid / alkaline balance, which effects the immune system and nervous system in particular. Low CO2 means asthmatics are more susceptible to infections.
Dr. Konstantine Buteyko, a Russian physician, believed that symptoms asthmatics experience are due to a defense mechanism of the body against hyperventilation or chronic over-breathing and the resulting loss of CO2. Symptoms such as airway constriction and excessive mucous production are created to limit this loss of carbon-dioxide (CO2).
Dr. Buteyko believed that the use of bronchodilators contributed to the further depletion of CO2 from the body. Normalizing breathing with the use of the Buteko Breathing Method however helps break the vicious cycle and asthma sufferers experience less asthma symptoms.
The exercises taught during the course of the Buteyko classes help normalize the parameters of breathing as well as manage asthma symptoms when they occur. These exercises are easy to learn, suitable for children as well as adults and most people will experience relief within days. However, changing years of incorrect breathing patterns takes discipline, perseverance and persistence.
Brigitte Bennett is a fully qualified Naturopath and Buteyko Breathing Method Practitioner. She is a member of the Australian Naturopathic Practitioner association and has conducted Buteyko classes since May1999.
She teaches individuals and small groups of adults and uses her former primary school teaching training when she teaches children.
Brigitte invites schools and the corporate sector to enquire about her interactive presentation on the Buteyko Breathing Method and the classes she conducts on a regular basis.
National Asthma Council of Australia
(The Buteyko Breathing Method is currently the only alternative method recommended by the British equivalent of the National Asthma Council of Australia!)
Following is an extract taken from the website of the National Asthma Council of Australia Newsletter, Issue 11, 2003
Asthma and Complementary Therapies
Dr Chris Luttrell, general practitioner, Launceston, Tasmania; member, National Asthma Council General Practitioners’ Asthma Group
"Patients’ expectations of complementary therapies do not need to be statistically significant or have a certain p-value [peak flow value]. Often they are happy just feeling better, even if there is not measurable change in outcomes, such as improvement in peak flow measurements or spirometry. The best ‘local’ example of this is the Buteyko Breathing Technique. There have now been two published randomised controlled trials, the first a group taught in the standard Buteyko manner from Brisbane2 and the second a trial of Buteyko Breathing Technique taught by video3.
While neither group showed increase in measurable parameters (FEV1 or peak flows), they demonstrated a trend towards lowering inhaled steroid use and had a statistically significant reduction in bronchodilator usage and improvement in quality of life scores. Should we not consider this an improvement? Or was it that the patients were being over-medicated by the orthodox practitioner who had not back-titrated their prescribed drug therapy?
While the evidence may not convince us to recommend this method to all asthmatics, if our patients ask if the Buteyko Breathing Method is worth considering, how should we respond? We must look at the parameters by which our patients judge their asthma control. We must understand that both our patients and their complementary practitioners rely on symptoms and quality of life scores to manage their patients, not peak flows and FEV1. I am sure there are many of us who manage our patients with asthma by exactly the same parameters.
What advice should we give patients?
1. Think yourself lucky if your patient trusts you enough to tell you they wish to try another therapy.
2. Talk openly about their reason for their choice and what benefit they hope to get from it.
3. Discuss with the patient that any change should be considered a trial to attempt better control / reduced drug usage in the same way you would trial a new medication regimen.
4. Consider open discussion with the therapist of their choice, just as you would with a physiotherapist or psychologist. Use their language so both practitioners can understand monitoring of the disease.
5. Consider methods for self-assessment of improvement in asthma control for some weeks before, during and after the trial of complementary therapy
- Night-time waking.
- Early morning bronchoconstriction.
- Exercise tolerance.
- Use of bronchodilator.
- Reduction in preventer use
- Days missed from school / work.
6. Contract with the patient to formally assess their asthma control before, during and after the trial of complementary therapy.
- Quality of life symptom scores
- Peak expiratory flow rates
7. Agree with the patient that should there be an improvement in asthma control, a reduction in the use of prescription medication will be attempted.
Should we accept the challenge?
Research into ‘complementary’ therapies for asthma is already progressing in general practice. The roles of diet, environment, smoking, introduction of foods to infants and the use of probiotics in the prevention of the development of asthma are being researched.
Most non-doctor practitioners would advise pregnant women to cease smoking. Is this not a complementary therapy for asthma that has a research base?
Most non-doctor practitioners would recommend the avoidance of antibiotics. Is this not a complementary therapy for asthma that has a research base, not only from the aspect that gastrointestinal microflora may possibly promote an anti-allergenic process, but that allowing the natural T-cell response to infection may reduce IgE mediated allergy triggering?
Doctors have access to funding from the Divisions, RACGP and research grants that most complementary practitioners cannot hope to achieve.
Should we accept the challenge of working with complementary practitioners to coordinate suitably designed trials to assess the use of non-drug therapy in the management of asthma?
Many of us practise managements without, or even contravening, research-based evidence. Are we not all complementary practitioners?" (extract taken from the website of the National Asthma Council of Australia Newsletter, Issue 11, 2003) Full article
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