Buteyko, also called the Buteyko method, is an asthma management method based on breathing exercises that reduce airway constriction e. The therapy is a learned breathing technique that is designed to slow and lessen the intake of air into the lungs, which if practiced over time is proposed to to reduce the symptoms and severity of respiratory problems.
The Buteyko method is named after its developer, Russian scientist Konstantin Buteyko. In the 1950s in Moscow, Buteyko was involved in studies of the breathing patterns in sick and healthy people, and he came to conclusions about the breath that went against medical opinion at the time. Buteyko noticed that the breath tended to be deeper in patients who were very ill or approaching death, and concluded that long-term over-breathing was a cause of imbalance in the body. He called this habit Hidden Hyperventilation, which he observed to be prevalent. Professor Buteyko claimed to cure patients of respiratory disorders by correcting their breathing to more shallow and slower patterns. He also did scientific studies to study the mechanisms of over-breathing's negative effects n the body.
Buteyko concluded that over-breathing causes an imbalance in the carbon dioxide levels in the body (especially lungs and bloodstream), which in turn changes blood oxygen levels and decreases the amount of oxygen that cells receive. Body acidity/alkalinity balance can also be influenced by breathing pattern, and CO2/O2 concentrations. In time, over-breathing can stress the systems of the body including the respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems. According to Buteyko, breathing difficulties such as asthma are believed to be symptoms of over-breathing, and are in fact the body's natural reaction to reduce the intake of air into the lungs. For Buteyko, many diseases were viewed as the body's reaction to over-breathing. Buteyko also believed that over-breathing was a bad habit that people learned, citing the prevailing beliefs in in Russian society that deep breathing was good for the body and the nerves. He also identified improper breathing habits as being caused by the excess consumption of protein, which requires increased metabolism for digestion and thus deeper breathing. Other causes of improper breathing habits include stress and a sedentary lifestyle
Buteyko claimed that many symptoms are caused by over-breathing, including bronchial spasms, excess mucus, nervous problems, dizziness , headaches, and allergies . Buteyko also theorized that over-breathing is directly linked to many diseases including asthma, hypertension, heart disease , strokes, hemorrhoids , and eczema . Buteyko's philosophy of medicine was, "Having not found the reason [cause] of the disease, the physician has no right to treat the patient. Only having discovered the reason for the disease, is it possible to guarantee recovery." For Buteyko, deepbreathing was the cause of many diseases, and the bad habit could be easily replaced by a healthier pattern. He developed a technique to recondition breathing patterns, and demonstrated success in healing some diseases and conditions with the breathing technique. Buteyko's method was met with resistance from the mainstream Russian medical system, and his findings were resisted and suppressed, until other doctors observed and agreed with its beneficial effects for asthma sufferers. In the 1990s one of Buteyko's pupils, Alexander Stalmatski, went to Australia to train practitioners in the Buteyko method. He stayed in Australia for six years and then took his teachings to England. In the early 2000s, Australia and England had the largest number of trained Buteyko practitioners, while the method was slowly making its way into the alternative health profession in the United States.
The Buteyko method is used primarily as a natural technique to reduce the symptoms and severity of asthma. It is also used by asthma sufferers to reduce dependency on medications. The method is also used for other respiratory conditions including bronchitis and emphysema .
During an attack, asthma sufferers breathe about twice as fast as people without the condition, which is known as hyperventilation The Buteyko method aims to correct the breathing pattern, thereby maintaining balance body CO2 and cellular oxygenation levels. With careful and consistent practice of the technique, asthma sufferers can retrain their breathing patterns and often improve their symptoms of the disease.
The Buteyko method strives to remove the bad habits of over-breathing and to replace them with new habits of slower, shallower breathing, called "reduced breathing." Emphasis is placed on posture and relaxation in the upper body. Proper breathing technique is one in which the navel and lower ribcage move out slowly during inspiration and move inward during a relaxed expiration. People are taught to avoid breathing through the mouth as much as possible, taking breaths through the nostrils even during exercise and sleep.
During training for reduced breathing, the pulse is monitored as a feedback signal: shallow and efficient breathing reduces the pulse and heart rate. During training, there is also attention to what is called a controlled pause, in which breathing stops and the duration of pausing the breath is recorded and extended through practice. In correct Buteyko breathing, the body can maintain a controlled pause of 40 to 60 seconds. For asthma sufferers, the controlled pause is typically only 5 to 15 seconds; through habituation to the technique the controlled pause can be held for much longer.
When the technique is effectively practiced and reduced breathing becomes habitual, fewer allergens are inhaled and the airways become less dehydrated and irritated. Mucus and histamine production decreases, inflammation decreases, and breathing becomes easier.
People seeking to learn the Buteyko method are encouraged to find a certified practitioner or class. Books and videos are available that give step-by-step instructions in the technique.
Asthma sufferers learning the technique should continue use of their asthma medication; but may taper down with dosages under their doctors' supervision.
No unfavorable side effects with the technique have been observed.
Research & general acceptance
The Buteyko method has not gained widespread popularity in the United States. The technique is more prevalent in Australia and England. Conclusive scientific studies of the method have yet to be conducted.
In Australia two studies have pointed to the effectiveness of the technique for asthma. In Brisbane, a group of asthma sufferers taught the Buteyko method were able to reduce the use of bronchodilators by 90 percent after six weeks, compared to 5 percent of the control group, and reduced the use of steroids by nearly 50 percent after 12 weeks. Another study at Victoria University showed that, 12 weeks after learning the Buteyko method, asthma suffers were able to reduce medication by 92 percent. Two clinical trials in Russia pointed to the method's success for asthma treatment. Finally, the link between asthma and hyperventilation, a central idea to the Buteyko method, has been documented in medical studies since the 1940s.
Training & certification
Trained instructors may lead individual and group training sessions. Certification classes are available in large cities throughout the United States, although classes and trained teachers are more readily available in Australia and England.
Bradley, Dinah. Self-Help for Hyperventilation Syndrome. Publishers Group West, 2001.
Hale, Teresa. Breathing Free: The Revolutionary 5-Day Program to Heal Asthma, Emphysema, Bronchitis, and other Respiratory Ailments. Three Rivers Press, 2000.
Buteyko Health Center. http://www.buteyko.com.
Buteyko Institute of Health and Breathing. http://www.bibh.org.