Buteyko is known as an asthma, sleep apnea and anxiety treatment; however, it is effective in treating a wide range of chronic health issues, as well as being good for general health and wellbeing.
According to the World Health Organization a human at rest or low activity needs to breathe 4 to 6 litres of air per minute. Three studies of asthmatics found breathing of 14.1 (Bowler), 12 (McFadden) and 15 (Johnson) litres of air per minute.
WHY ARE ASTHMATICS BREATHING 2 TO 4 TIMES MORE AIR THAN THEY REQUIRE? Asthmatics are not alone in this regard......
The condition of chronic excessive breathing, or chronic hyperventilation syndrome, is not limited to asthmatics. Dr. Buteyko believed as much as 80% of the general population in western countries breathes excessively. Anyone who snores is a chronic hyperventilator. As is anyone with asthma, sleep apnoea , allergies, eczema, high blood pressure, anxiety or panic attacks, sleep disorders such as insomnia...many chronic conditions.
Chronic hyperventilation is not a habit but rather a 'dysfunction' of breathing. Respirologists measure breathing as 'minute volume', that is, litres of air breathed per minute. As noted above people can have a minute volume four times higher than normal but not necessarily notice it. Breathing rate (number of breaths per minute) can also be an indicator of excessive breathing. More noticeably frequent sighing or yawning, shortness of breath, restless leg, frequent nasal/sinus problems, are all symptoms of hyperventilation.
Another sign of someone with chronic hyperventilation is the tendency to do a lot of breathing through the mouth. (see below)
What's Wrong with breathing excessively (Chronic hyperventilation)?
Why does excessive breathing/chronic hyperventilation matter?
Dr. Buteyko believed that the main problem with excessive breathing is a loss of carbon dioxide. CO2 (carbon dioxide) is far from the 'waste gas' as taught in school. It is vital to many processes in the body including the release of oxygen from the blood to all of the body's cells (the Bohr Effect).
In other words chronic hyperventilation means poor oxygenation, which may seem contradictory. Breathing more means getting less oxygen! The easiest way to demonstrate this is to deliberately hyperventilate (the hyperventilation provocation test). A few minutes of breathing very deeply and quickly will result in carbon dioxide loss and therefore poor oxygenation. You will become dizzy and nauseous and will faint if you continue. Don't try this if you have asthma or a heart condition
Low carbon dioxide causes stress on all the body's organ systems:
- Carbon dioxide pressure affects the bond between oxygen and haemoglobin. The lower the pressure of arterial CO2 the tighter the bond between oxygen and haemoglobin, depriving all cells in the body of adequate oxygen (the Bohr Effect).
- CO2 plays a vital role in balancing pH of bodily fluids.
- CO2 is involved in controlling the balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and balancing of pH inside nerve cells.
- CO2 regulates the breathing pattern.
- CO2 controls blood flow to the brain and the body's extremities.
- CO2 facilitates message sending by nerves
"The theory of life, in brief, is such that carbon dioxide is the basic nutrition of every life form on Earth.... It acts as the regulator of all functions in the organism, it maintains the internal environment of the organism, it is the vitamin of all vitamins." Dr. K. P. Buteyko
"Carbon dioxide is, in fact, a more fundamental component of living matter than is oxygen. Carbon dioxide is the chief hormone of the entire body; it is the only one that is produced by every tissue and probably acts on every organ." Yandell Henderson, PhD.
breathing: Nose VS. MOUTH
The person who breathes excessively is likely to do a lot of their breathing through their mouth. More air can be moved more quickly through the mouth than nose so mouth breathing becomes a matter of convenience. However just because we can breathe through the mouth doesn't mean we should. Even a cursory analysis of respiratory anatomy shows that the nose is far superior for breathing.
The mouth does a poor job of breathing whereas the nose is perfectly designed for the job. People with nasal problems, stuffed up noses, sinusitis, rhinitus, nasal polyps etc, usually have these problems because they don't use their noses for all their breathing. For the environment of the nostrils and nasal cavity to stay healthy air must be kept moving through it. Don't use it and you lose it.
A short list of the advantages of nasal breathing:
- The nose regulates the speed and volume of air leaving and entering the lungs. The shape of the nostrils and nasal cavity create pressure differences that ensure proper distribution of air throughout the lungs.
- The nose cleans and filters particles in the air.
- Nitric oxide produced in the paranasal sinus sterilizes inhaled air and dilates bronchial tissues. Breathe through the mouth and nitric oxide production ceases.
- Nose breathing controls CO2 loss.
There are many more advantages to nasal breathing.
CONDITIONS AND PATHOLOGIES ASSOCIATED WITH HYPERVENTILATION
Acathisia (ADHD), Allergies, Asthma, Anxiety, Chronic Bronchitis, Chronic Cough, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Eczema, Hayfever, Insomnia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Nasal Polyps, Sinusitis, Sleep Apnoea, Snoring.
SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH CHRONIC HYPERVENTILATION
RESPIRATORY SYSTEM: Upper chest breathing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, over-sensitivity of airways, mucus production, (partially) blocked sinus, runny sinus, excessive yawning, or sighing, or sneezing.
NERVOUS SYSTEM: Lightheadedness, dizziness, unsteadiness, poor concentration, numbness, tingling in the fingers, hands or face. In severe cases loss of memory or loss of consciousness.
GENERAL: Dry mouth, easily tired, poor sleep including: insomnia, restless legs, frequent waking and snoring, sweaty palms or feet, headaches, sore muscles, cold hands and feet, chest pain that is not related to heart problems, malocclusion (crooked teeth).
HEART: Racing, pounding pulse or skipped beats.
DIGESTION: Abdominal bloating, belching, flatulence
PSYCHOLOGICAL: Degrees of anxiety, tension, apprehension or depression.