Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Breathe less to curb asthma symptoms

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Asthmatics usually feel like their goal is to breathe more, because attacks can leave us feeling breathless. But according to practitioners of the Buteyko method, what we all should be doing -- asthmatic or not -- is breathing less.

Over breathing, or chronic hyperventilation, has been linked to a litany of health problems, including asthma, but also conditions like allergies, snoring, sleep apnea, and heart palpitations, among others. The Buteyko method teaches patients to breathe less through reduced breathing exercises, slowly and naturally raising body's CO2 set point. In clinical trials, asthmatics saw a 90% drop in the use of bronchodilaters and reduced the use of inhaled steroids by about 50%. (Buteyko practitioners do not recommend stopping any asthma medications and encourage patients to use emergency inhalers when necessary. When symptoms improve, patients are taught only to reduce the use of preventer medication ONLY with the help of their doctor.)

My own asthma flared this spring and refused to respond to an increase in medications, which led me to Buteyko. I read a book and ordered a DVD, but ultimately ended up meeting with a trainer anyway and was glad I did. In the month that I've been learning the techniques, I've seen my own reduction of bronchodilater use and hope that as I get better and more consistent with the reduced breathing exercises, I see an even bigger reduction of symptoms.

For more information about Buteyko or to find a practitioner, visit the Buteyko Institute of Breathing and Health.

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