What is Buteyko Breathing? Can it Help High Blood Pressure?

The Buteyko Breathing Technique is gaining popularity as people with many sicknesses, who begin using the therapy, notice changes in their health in just a few days.

If you don’t know what it is, you are not alone. Many people like I have heard of breathing therapy but didn’t realize that it could have such an impact on a variety of health problems.

In fact, did you know it is now recognized as an effective treatment for asthma and has been included in the British Guidelines on the Management of Asthma?

Training of the technique was being offered at Coventry University in England with the help of the Buteyko Breathing Association in April 2009 to help treat people with asthma, so reported The Nursing Times.

The courses run for six days to educate health care professionals how to administer the technique, and help asthmatic patients learn how to control their breathing during an attack.

This is a great step forward in support of natural methods of controlling the malady, but one nurse who was trained by Alexander Stalmatski, an associate of Dr Buteyko, is concerned and said that this training program for the nurses is lacking. Her concerns are based on the amount of training that is being offered, because extensive training is needed before a practitioner is qualified to treat patients in general. It is never-the-less, a move in the right direction.

Buteyko Breathing, Carbon dioxide and the pH balance

Have you been led to believe that carbon dioxide (CO2) is just a by-product that our bodies expel and can’t use? Then think again! We need our carbon dioxide too.

The breathing exercises help balance carbon dioxide levels in the blood that helps to take the needed oxygen to the brain and other organs and aids in lowering high blood pressure.

Carbon dioxide helps regulate the pH balance in your body. When it is reduced through hyperventilating, it can lead to abnormal blood pressure, besides other complications.

Hyperventilation problems are not recognized, diagnosed and treated by most doctors simply because they did not study this field of medicine in medical school. In fact, are we not told to take a deep breath when we are feeling faint, or having an asthma, panic or anxiety attack?

Health benefits do exist between stress, anger, or anxiety and breathing, but not the way we have always been taught. We are quite happy to go along with the advice the doctors have always dished out because it sounds logical, but we are so, so wrong! Unlike Buteyko breathing, hyperventilating, or breathing deeply, actually triggers the haemoglobin in our blood stream to hold onto the oxygen due to the lack of carbon dioxide needed to release it.

It seems ironic that at one time asthma sufferers used to be given the advice to breathe using a paper bag, which in effect was putting the carbon dioxide back into our bodies, and it effectively, although only temporarily, stopped the asthmatic attack. Why this phenomena was not investigated by mainstream medicine, I will never know. Well, maybe I do!

Buteyko Breathing Versus Steroids That Can Trigger Hypertension

If you suffer from asthma or hay fever, taking steroids could lead to even more health complications, like high blood pressure and diabetes, or aggregate the conditions if you already suffer from them.

It addresses these conditions without the use of drugs. In July 2003, research results from Washington University School of Medicine suggested that glucocorticoid steroids used for treating asthma, arthritis and other problems that cause pain, can trigger secondary hypertension as well as diabetes.

An article written by the Mayo Clinic staff just recently in March 12, 2007 said that 5% of all cases of persistent high blood pressure are classed under secondary hypertension. Among the culprit drugs that cause it are glucocorticoid steroids. They are also known to interfere with your medications. So nothing much has changed in 4 years.

If you suffer from asthma or serious hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) symptoms, breathing exercises may help, and according to Dr. Buteyko who discovered the pause control and shallow breathing technique, you may be able to control it without drugs. It could be a sensible alternative that will not interfere with your meds.

Buteyko Breathing for Sleep Apnea

One of the causes of high blood pressure is sleep apnea or apnoea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common of the three groups of sleep apnea and the easiest to treat.

Breathing becomes difficult when a person sleeps on his or her back and the soft tissue at the back of the throat drops down and closes the airway. It causes the heart to beat harder and faster and this process can repeat several times during the night, even over a hundred times, and if not treated can cause hypertension.

There are several points of action you can incorporate when using this breathing technique.

Changing your sleeping position is effective. Try sleeping on your left side in the fetal position which has been proven to be the best. Prop up, using more pillows as lying flat only causes you to hyperventilate.

To prevent mouth breathing, try using a light tape on your mouth until you adapt. It doesn’t sound too good but there is really nothing to it, and the tape comes of easily. It’s worth it for a good night’s sleep and the thought that your health will improve. Only go to bed when you are really tired.

Butyko Breathing – Hypertension Breathing

When carbon dioxide is in short supply, cardiovascular vessels are constricted and circulation is reduced in the arteries of the heart, brain, liver and kidneys. The restricting of blood flow can cause angina and other cardiovascular problems.

High blood pressure or hypertension is also linked to carbon dioxide deficiency. The vessels in the brain when constricted cause the body’s mechanism to kick in. This in turn raises the blood pressure in order to maintain a safe level of oxygen in the brain and will help regulate it. After consulting with your doctor and having your bp checked he can then reduce your medication until you don’t need it any more.

Can’t you just envisage that liberation!

Buteyko Breathing Exercises

The exercises differ in length and frequency; depending on the illness you are addressing.

All of them begin by checking the pulse rate. Using your index and middle finger, check the pulse on your wrist. Seventy beats a minute means you are healthy, eighty, you can get away with, but 100 usually means your health needs attention.

The next step is the Control Pause, which is done by breathing in then out normally, and then holding off from breathing in by pinching the nose until you have reached your own threshold. Then you shallow breathe for the duration of a few minutes, perhaps using your hand to prevent mouth breathing.

The Pause control is done again and repeated a few more times ending with a pulse check. This is done several times a day.

Here is a typical exercise for stress. –

  • Start by taking the pulse
  • Do a Control Pause
  • Do 5 seconds of shallow breathing
  • 2nd Control Pause
  • 10 seconds of shallow breathing
  • 3rd Control Pause
  • 15 -20 seconds of shallow breathing
  • Continue shallow breathing for 2-3 minutes.

I repeat, Buteyko Breathing exercises range in frequency and length according to the disease and are best attempted under the supervision of a Healthy Breathing practitioner.So, good health to you!


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