I came across the Buteyko method online and thought I would try it out to see if the bold claims about its ability to treat many diseases (I believe its practitioners say that it can treat around 150) had any merit. The Buteyko method is a breathing technique in which people breathe through their noses and into the lower portion of their lungs. They then try to reduce their minute ventilation (the amount of air that they breathe in and out every minute). The belief being that this will allow carbon dioxide to accumulate and that for those of us in developed countries, this will greatly improve our health. It is thought that due to our modern diets, lack of exercise, and poor postures, that we don't breathe correctly. More specifically, these aspects of our daily life cause us to breathe using our mouths and to take air into the upper portion of our lungs. I have much more information on this in the "Everything I Know: Breathing" post but I don't agree entirely with Buteyko breathing. The practitioners of Buteyko breathing swear by the idea that if we continuously try to reduce our breathing rate and allow carbon dioxide to accumulate then this will cause the respiratory centre of our brain to adjust itself so that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the blood will become tolerable. They say that the level of carbon dioxide in the blood that we have adapted to is a useful indicator of the oxygenation of our cells. They measure the relative oxygenation of cells through a short breath-holding technique called the "Control Pause". This entails holding your breath while paying attention to any involuntary movement of your body. Once any involuntary movement occurs, you record how long you were able to hold your breath for and you begin to breathe normally again. The length of time that you could hold your breath for during the control pause is thought to be both an indication of cellular oxygenation and also the pressure of carbon dioxide that your body is able to tolerate. While this may very well be true, I have read that in Buteyko practitioners who were tested, the higher their control pause, the lower their carbon dioxide levels were (there was only a very slight reduction in carbon dioxide levels but it still goes against the belief of the practitioners). However, this was only one test and can't be considered conclusive. That being said, I do not personally believe that the Buteyko method increases carbon dioxide levels to the extent that its practitioners believe, but I think that the method is still beneficial. I wouldn't be quick to put aside the belief that because of this test the Buteyko method doesn't work. I feel that the Buteyko method has implications in combating stress, believed to be a major cause of disease.
Reading forum posts on Buteyko Breathing
So today I went through a lot of forums where people talked about Buteyko... all in all I found 1 negative report, 2 reports of no change, and 33 positive reports.
Bad news first then, the negative report was about a person who had gone to learn about the Buteyko method and had a panic attack due to the breath holding. In some medical studies that I can't locate but do exist, I swear, there has been a link shown between panic disorder and increased sensitivity to CO2 induced breathlessness. I assume that in persons with this heightened sensitivity that breath holding may produce the panic attack that occurred in the negative report I'm referring to. For these people it would probably be best to not do any serious breath holding (maximum pauses or straining hard on the control pause), and they may also find it better to just do nasal breathing, control pauses seem to be solely for the purpose of measuring progress so they don't have to be done regularly as part of the training exercises.
The 2 reports of no change came from people who had either multiple sclerosis or chronic fatigue. They both basically concluded that the treatment was not helpful for their conditions, though I'm unsure as to how long or intensely they tried the method.
Of the 33 positive reports, 19 were from asthmatics and 14 were anxiety related. Of the asthma sufferers, 7 reports indicated that the persons no longer needed / used inhalers and/or that they considered themselves cured/fixed. The remaining 12 said that the method was in some way helpful. Of the anxiety reports, 4 persons have/had social anxiety, 2 had adrenal fatigue, 1 had panic disorder and agoraphobia, 1 report was quoting a psychologist (Dr Meuret PhD) who advocated reduced breathing in anxiety disorders (though not specifically Buteyko) and the remaining reports were from persons suffering from unspecified anxiety complaints. Of the sufferers, around half said it helped and the other half said it was a huge help / was a massive help or words to that effect anyway.
Sources: google searched "Buteyko forum" and went through the first 10 pages.
For both anxiety and asthma it is said (by some Buteyko practitioners) that once the control pause reaches 30 seconds the vast majority of symptoms are alleviated, with seemingly full recovery occurring at a CP of 40 seconds. This is still a long way off the 60 second control pause recommended for optimal health. I'm still not sure if this method lives up to its own theory but as I've said before... it definitely seems to be doing something beneficial.
By the way, I get most of my Buteyko information online at: http://www.normalbreathing.com/Articles-warm-hands-feet.php#.US48FqKSJ0E if you'd like to check it out.