One of the biggest fallacies that continue to be promoted in fitness and health care is that deeper or faster breathing will necessarily increase your function and health.
What? My yoga instructor at the gym said to breathe faster and deeper to get more oxygen to the cells!
Sorry, that's a misconception that has survived, and perpetuated by some well-meaning, but ignorant practitioners, despite the Bohr effect and Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome (CHVS) being explained in the early 1900's.
Weight lifting and yoga are not aerobic activities, and successful athletes prove that even aerobic breathing can be through the nose if the body is adjusted to
Regarding "yogic breath", anyone who states that Pranayama or Ujjayi breathing should be rapid, deep, noisy and forceful, does not understand Pranayama nor breathing physiology.
Unfortunately, the solution to overbreathing is not only counterintuitive, but is also contrary to the myth of "taking a deep breath" for relaxation.
While taking one deep breath may temporarily distract one from stress if performed slowly, breathing too much damages your health. Have you noticed that healthy older people do not breathe loudly nor through their mouths?
breathing only through the nose (using tape at night to close the mouth if necessary)
lowering breathing volume, by breath that is relaxed, slow, light, quiet and always from the diaphragm
simple exercises to clear nose and slow breath rate
control pause test to self-check progress
always maintain medical supervision if medicating!
Mouth-breathing is a major factor.
Healthy lungs exhale air with near 100% humidity.
Inhaling and exhaling through the nose helps to keep the moisture inside, at the membranes that need it.
However, breathing in or out through the mouth causes excessive moisture loss, disrupting alveoli and pulmonary lymphatics. To compensate, the lungs tend to produce more mucous and constrict the bronchii to reduce surface area and loss of moisture, contributing to asthma symptoms. Heated air indoors is dryer and compounds this problem of drying mucous membranes in the Winter, which is coincidentally "flu season", when people seem to touch their noses and eyes more, which transfers viruses to the irritated membranes. These simple facts seem to be overlooked by many medical practitioners not familiar with overbreathing theories.
Doctor Konstantin Buteyko
observed in the 1950's that excessive breathing was common in the patients that died in his hospital, and realized that high breathing volume was a significant contributory factor to respiratory and other conditions, including muscle metabolism and allergy complications.
Excessive breathing is hidden, and
medical personnel misreporting respiratory rates compounds the difficulty of diagnosing it.
However typical traits of an overbreather include higher respiratory rate, high blood pressure, mouth breathing, audible breathing, upper chest breathing movements, and frequent sighs and yawns.
Fifty years of research has shown that Buteyko therapy can be taught to adults and children over 4 years of age with different severities of asthma and
to improve their condition through normal physiologic processes.
During the past 30 years athletes have found that overeating greatly reduces performance. Now athletes are finding the importance of proper breathing, massage and other "therapies."
Just as quickly eating a bowl of spaghetti 15 minutes before an event would be contraindicated, so is increasing the breathing rate.
Of course, during an true aerobic performance, breathing rate and depth normally should increase, but overbreathing before, during and after performance can be dysfunctional even for short durations.
For example, most people playing tennis, should never have to open their mouths to breathe.
(The photos at right show two Russian mouth-breathers losing to American nose-breathers who won gold.)
Buteyko exercises are a set of tools,
which allow asthmatics and others who are prone to
(deficiency of carbon dioxide in the blood) resulting from hyperventilation (overbreathing), to return to stasis without (or with fewer) drugs, under medical supervision.
Buteyko breathing exercises recalibrate the baroreceptors and parasympathetic nervous system, allowing for a lower breathing rate, and more normalized CO2, carbonate and pH levels in the blood, allowing the tissues to utilize oxygen better.
Remember doctors using paper bags to stabilize asthmatics? (Do not breathe into a bag without medical supervision!)
The Quick Breath Test Check the boxes for signs of hypocapnic condition:
Shortness of breath or breathlessness
Headaches, migraines and mental fatigue
Chest or stomach queasiness
Excessive nasal mucus on waking
Low stress tolerance
Frequent throat clearing
Shoulder or "Chest-breathing" instead of "belly-breathing"
"Mouth-breathing" instead of "nose-breathing"
Does your breathing take a long time to slow after exercise?
And most importantly, can you or others hear or see you breathing while at rest?
Overbreathing may be triggered by various triggers and factors which influence people to breathe more frequently and deeply than their body would otherwise.Many doctors now agree that overconsumption
of nutrients (overeating) does not necessarily add more nutrients to the tissues, but not many seem to consider respiration in the health equation, and that overbreathing may play a key role in respiratory "disorders". In fact, some doctors no longer check respiration rate during an exam. It is commonly known that increased obesity results in metabolism dysfunction, large meals cause blood sugar spikes and metabolism accelerators (dieting drugs and supplements) do not increase stasis in tissues, making loss of fat more difficult in the long term.
Similarly, anxiety, allergies, pollution or other triggers can lead to
overbreathing, causing processes
which decrease alvioli efficiency, disrupt breathing rate "calibration", disrupt oxygenation of tissues, thus starving the body's cells.
Insufficient carbon dioxide causes smooth muscle spasms throughout the body, such as in the brain (as in migraines) and in the bronchii (as during asthma attacks).
Despite more air entering the lungs of an "overbreather", no increase in blood oxygen level is has been shown, but because of the lowered CO2 level, less oxygen actually makes it to the cells that need it. Because asthma and allergy medications do not address this cause, the conditions can easily become chronic and spiral out of control.
In September 2007, Ohio State University Medical Center released a study of 107 varsity athletes given
hour-long eucapnic voluntary hyperpnoea tests, requiring the subject to hyperventilate 5% CO2
at a target ventilation of 30 times the subject’s forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1).
This "screening for exercise-induced asthma" found 39 percent (42/107) to test positive, despite 36 of those 42 athletes had no prior history of asthma, and one out of every 10 people has no classic features of chronic asthma, yet still experience symptoms of asthma during exercise.
Atmospheric air contains approximately 0.033% CO2,
but humans can tolerate 2% or 3% for weeks (as on submarines), although the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers 4% dangerous. As stated above, the asthma test uses 5%. At high levels of CO2 many physiologic changes can occur, such as lowered release of oxygen by red blood cells, intensified acetycholine synthesis in the nervous tissue and higher requirement of ATP.
This suggests that the forced overbreathing test with unhealthy gas mixture could cause airway constriction as a body's proper physiologic reactions to the severe increase in CO2. Highly stressed bodies (such as overtrained athletes) may be being diagnosed and medicated for a condition which the doctor's asthma testing actually promotes.
In fact, medical personnel incorrectly report breathing data. One time a nurse assistant checked my pulse, bp and respiratory rate and reported that I had 18 breaths per minute, however I measured 6-7 breaths. I asked how she measured it, and she stated simply that "everyone has 18-20 breaths." Several subsequent times at different clinics and hospitals I posed this question, and their answer was 14, 16, 18, 22... while I measured 6-10.
Such inaccuracy may complicate conclusions by medical staff, if respiration is considered at all.
In 1905, scientist J.B.S. Haldane discovered that low carbon dioxide levels actually disturb how we breathe.
Later Dr. Buteyko used a physiological precept called the Bohr Effect, which was discovered in 1904 by Christian Bohr (father of physicist Niels Bohr). The Bohr Effect helped disprove the erroneous mindset that breathing more delivers more oxygen to the body. The Bohr Effect describes relationships between hemoglobin and oxygen. When carbon dioxide levels fall, or pH decreases,
below a certain threshold, hemoglobin interprets the low carbon dioxide as a sign that it needs to hold onto the oxygen that it is carrying. With acapnia, even though there is plenty of oxygen in the blood, not all is available to the cells. Consequently, when we increase our breathing volume, instead of alleviating the symptoms of breathlessness, this actually lowers the amount of available oxygen and may aggravate various symptoms.
Some argue that "We are under constant stress because we don't breathe enough," without really measuring the actual volume of gases inhaled. Typically respiratory rate and volume increase when stress increases.
The Johnson & Johnson Company sponsored research by University of Miami School of Medicine (Director Tiffany Field, Ph.D.)
shows that massage increased pulmonary function in asthma patients. People normally slow their breathing after a massage.
In 2005, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reported that
"Hypocapnic but Not Metabolic Alkalosis Impairs Alveolar Fluid Reabsorption."
What this means is that a low CO2
level causes blood pH to change, and more fluid build up in the lungs. Thus the more a person breathes, the more CO2
escapes, and more fluid may build up in the lungs. Buteyko theory includes the facts of the body's attempts to regulate carbonates and alkalinity.
Many university human biology classes still teach that the "major function of the respiratory system is to supply the body with oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide."
The Lungs are known for gas exchange, but the lungs' capillary endothelium is also metabolically active, with various prostanglandin conversions, and is the principal site of liquid and solute filtraton with a net outward flow of 10-20ml/hr in adults.
This fluid is removed via the pulmonary lymphatics. Thus alveolar disruption caused by overbreathing could have far reaching consequences, such as immune system problems and cancer.
originated in the Ukraine Forty years ago, and has gained medical acceptance in Russia, Australia, Asia and England, it remains a seldom used "alternative" treatment in the USA.
The American Lung Association, which describes itself as an "educational entity", stated that they do "not have a policy on Buteyko" and their rep confused it with a supplement. Several other "Lung" organizations in the USA did not respond when questioned about Buteyko.
John Harris, who is said to breathe 3/min at rest, and 1/min during meditation,
brought the first Buteyko Therapy Practitioner to the USA in the 1980's: Rosalba Courtney, ND, DO, DipAc, CA,
an Australian osteopath, naturopath, California-certified acupuncturist, and chairperson of the Australasian Buteyko Association. The practice has been taught to many practitioners and countless patients who, under medical supervision, have overcome much or all of their dependence on asthma medications. Rosalba returned to Australia, where she has treated many people and continues to conduct research recently published by PubMed.
Most meditation practices promote slowed breathing, and can accomplish similar benefits, when breathing is slowed more in ratio to the metabolic rate. Vocalizing the typical "oum" slowly while breathing through the nose only, will slow the breathing, and CO2 levels can stabilize toward a normal level. It is the respiratory rate and partial pressures that mainly control how much O2 in the lungs will pass into the blood. Proper singing and playing wind instruments perhaps may have similar effects when not performed too vigorously, partly due to the increased partial pressure inside the lungs.
Most Pilates trainers, Yoga instructors and even physicians speak of shallow and deep breathing, but frequently encourage increased rate or don't specify breathing rate.
Some yoga classes sound like
an aerospace wind tunnel.
However experienced yogis are rarely seen forcing their breath, and even with Ujjayi Pranayama, they breathe s-l-o-w-l-y, which along with the resistance of Ujjayi, may cause partial pressure inside the lungs to absorb more of the oxygen while keeping enough carbon dioxide to maintain balance. Have you ever seen a Buddhist monk panting?
By slowing breathing to more fully utilize O2 efficiency and not depleting CO2 levels necessary for proper muscle and lung physiology, Buteyko breathing is said to enhance performance. Traditional Pilates and certain modern yoga practices that encourage faster breathing rates thus may cause an opposite effect. After I began to master these techniques, my breathing slowed during my workouts, and my efficiency increased. I learned that if my mouth would open during a regular run, it was time to back off, slow the exhale, until my efficiency increased again. Once you open the mouth, the breathing efficiency goes down the toilet. Now if a sprint is required, forget the rules, and when activity is over, then immediately close the mouth and slow the breath. Watch a video of Natalia Molchanova, world record freediver, and see how slowly she breathes after swimming under water for several minutes. I have also found that "catching" the breath only throws the balance off, because the baro receptors need recalibration.
By 2006 MNBC reported that slower breathing may ease hypertension,
but most doctors still do not seem to promote it.
However the American Lung Association has informed me that since most research has been in Russia and Australia, they are waiting for more USA trials on Buteyko before they comment or promote it for asthma. What a disgrace.
One day I was examining the lungs of a cadaver and noticed that significantly diseased lungs with a fraction of their original available surface area still kept the person alive. Later that day as I was swimming (controlled breathing exercise, right?) I experimented with different breathing depths and rates, and thought of Buteyko's theory, and that
wide ranges of breathing patterns may have strong effects on what the lungs pass to and from the bloodstream, and resultant physiological responses. Apparently humans are overdesigned in many ways, thus improper function may occur for long periods before symptoms become apparent, and finally nudge a person to submit to crisis-control allopathy.
Years ago I took a confined space training class, and we took turns blowing into an O2 detector after holding our breaths. Most trainees yielded 16-18% O2. I blew a 14% since I held my breath much longer. Assuming
that the office had ~19% O2, this taught me that normal breathing is not very efficient, and perhaps has to be inefficient to allow for sufficient tensile strength of lung and vascular tissue, and delicate balance of blood chemicals. It occurred to me that more volume of air passing through the lungs does not necessarily mean that more oxygen is being passed to the bloodstream.
Two days after diving in the Pacific ocean, I was hiking in the snow up Cotopaxi at about 16,000' (+4800m) above sea level. My extremely fit, but asthma-prone girlfriend began having shortness of breath. I also became light headed, and began experimenting with my breath as I trekked up the volcano. Several such times I inhaled deeply and compressed my chest with my intercostal (rib) muscles for a long moment. This seemed to help increase my consciousness even after I released the breath, and I realized that I had the power to change my physiologic state quite simply. It became clear to me how the mechanics of overbreathing/ heavy breathing and the partial pressure dynamics
(elaborated by Buteyko doctors and scientists)
may have much to do with the asthmatic response.
About ten months after NPR, and eight months after Oprah Winfrey started a neti bowl craze, I noticed that neti bowls were more popular on the net, but at a drugstore I asked two pharmacists for "nasal irrigation such as neti bowl or neti pot" and they did not know what it was. I was promptly shown the medications section, and then I found and showed the pharmacist a plastic irrigation bottle which the store carried. This is an example of medically trained persons not even knowing the available alternatives to "conventional" therapy.
One day I was swimming in the ocean with a tight wetsuit for about 45 minutes, I then swam to the beach and all of a sudden, I noticed that my breathing was still rapid although my effort was decreasing as I rode some waves in. I began to overventilate, and experienced my first taste of pre-asthmatic behavior.
I was in a yoga class, and the instructor was discussing Pranic Breathing. A student asked him to demonstrate, but he stated that it may cause him to start coughing. I wondered why anyone would practice a breathing routine that would cause coughing? I ended up developing
my own practice of yoga.
At the 2007 IDEA Conference, I began a test for O2/
CO2 output, but the test was suspended because the machine kept turning off due to my breathing rate of 6-7 breaths per minute. The tester stated that I had to breathe at least 10 breaths per minute to keep the machine on! I decided to abandon the test.
Manual Bodywork can also help stabilize body systems by assisting the parasympathetic system to resume control.
Nevertheless, always consult a medical doctor before beginning or changing an exercise or treatment program, or when you have new symptoms.
Tip for those who are studying Buteyko Breathing: when you need to yawn, you can inhale deeply, but can try to hold breath and then exhale very slowly.
Rosalba Courtney, ND, DO, DipAc, CA, Chairperson of the Buteyko Practitioners Association and instructor for Eucapnic-Buteyko Practitioners, has released a new research paper showing (search medline) that the Buteyko Control Pause may not be a reliable indicator of healthy breathing or CO2 levels, however the eucapnic breathing exercises are showing strong effects to reduce asthma symptoms.
Excerpt from Times Online (July 27, 2006):
A CLASS of commonly prescribed asthma drugs may actually cause severe asthma attacks and even death, doctors have said.
Experts in respiratory care have called on the Europe’s drug watchdog, the European Medicines Agency, to warn patients of the dangers of long-acting beta-agonist (LABA) drugs, which are used to treat the more severe forms of asthma.
Asthma affects more than five million people in Britain and is responsible for about 70,000 hospital admissions and 1,400 deaths a year.
Dr Vassilis Vassiliou, of the University of Cambridge, and Christos Zipitis, of Burnley General Hospital, studied the results of GlaxoSmithKline’s Salmeterol Multicentre Asthma Research Trial, which looked at salmeterol’s effect on more than 26,000 asthma sufferers.
The trial was halted in 2003 after interim results showed that there were more respiratory-related deaths among patients on salmeterol than those using a placebo.
Last year (2005) the US Food and Drug Administration gave a warning that LABA drugs may be linked with asthma-related deaths and serious asthma attacks, and told drug companies to inform doctors and patients about the possible risks.
It is crucial the European Medicines Agency follow (this lead),” Dr Vassiliou said.
Martyn Partridge, the chief medical adviser at Asthma UK, said that the drugs were of benefit to most people and that any possible risk highlighted might be because of genetic or racial differences between users. However, he said that use of salmeterol on its own — without a steroid inhaler such as Becotide — should be avoided.
The consumer watchdog group, Public Citizen, blasted GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for presenting misleading findings about the popular and potentially deadly asthma drug, Serevent (salmeterol) to the FDA. (Ref. Yahoo News and www.citizen.org, October 7, 2005.)
The conflict involves GSK's failure to report that some of the study findings it had released about Serevent occurred six months after the drug trial ended. Based on the original 28-week study, Serevent increased an asthmatic patient's risk of death. Adding the extra data after the study ended, Public Citizen says, merely waters down Serevent's risks making them appear lower than they truly are.
After hearing about the discrepancy, an FDA advisory committee recommended strengthening the warning for Serevent as well as Advair (another GSK product that contains both steroids and beta agonists) but no final ruling has been issued.
Though some experts believe GSK played ''by the rules'' here, it's worth reminding you Serevent was one of the five drugs, in addition to Vioxx, that were named by Dr. David Graham during his Congressional testimony nearly a year ago as putting the lives of the public at great risk.
The FDA also asked the manufacturers of three common asthma medications -- Advair, Serevent and Foradil -- to include safety warnings about a patient's increased chances of severe and fatal asthma attacks. That toxic trio of beta-agonist drugs has prompted European experts to request the very same warning.
Children make up the bulk of chronic asthma sufferers, and are typically treated with one beta-agonist drug -- the most dangerous possible way to use it.
When the FDA issued their warning, Serevent manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline strongly objected.
In 2005 Prilosec was the top selling prescription drug in the world, earning Astra Zeneca, the drug's maker, 6 billion dollars.
This may lead one to believe that the Buteyko overbreathing idea is related to heartburn also.
(My hypothetical opinion.)
The popular nighttime heartburn drug, Propulsid (cisapride), by Janssen Pharmaceutica, was removed from sale after a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) statement issued March 23, 2000 noted that the drug has been associated with 341 reports of heart rhythm abnormalities including 80 reports of deaths.
Approximately 350,000 Americans were taking Propulsid, and some 30 million U.S. residents have taken the medication since 1993. While Propulsid was
one of Johnson & Johnson's top-selling drugs, its sales were far behind market leader Prilosec.
(Ref: Washington Post Friday, March 24, 2000; Page A11)
Even German researchers noted that "Cough, asthma and Co. are often caused by reflux."
(Ref. MMW Fortschritte der Medezin. 2004 Nov 4;146(45):61.)
and "Remarkably many asthma patients have reflux. Asthma--a case for PPI?"
(Ref. MMW Fortschritte der Medezin. 2004 Jul 22;146(29-30):8,10.
However a Russian study, by N.R. Paleev, V.A. Isakov, N.K. Chereiskaya and O.V. Ivanova, finds that
concomitant GERD was revealed in 45.94% of the patients with and bronchial asthma (BA), and esophagitis signs in only 5.4% of the patients, which shows that endoscopically negative forms of GERD are more prevalent among patients with BA. Treatment with proton pump inhibitors did not result in complete regression of the clinical manifestations of BA. In the authors' opinion, even casual-effect relation between bronchial obstruction attacks does not always suggest that GERD is the cause of the illness. Most likely, GERD is one of many triggers provoking BA attacks. Thus, the term "reflux-induced BA" is irrelevant.
(Ref. Vestnik Rossiiskoi Akademii Meditsinskikh Nauk. 205;(6):3-7.)
Stress is related to heartburn and GERD, and so is asthma, it appears.
One study by UW-Madison psychology professor Richard Davidson, an expert on emotions; and University of Wisconsin-Madison medicine professor William Busse, an expert on asthma, et al.
concludes that the mere mention of a stressful word like "wheeze" can activate two brain regions in asthmatics during an attack, and this brain activity may be associated with more severe asthma symptoms. (Ref. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 29, 2005)
"In asthmatics, the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula may be hyper-responsive to emotional and physiological signals, like inflammation, which may in turn influence the severity of symptoms," says Davidson.
The two brain structures are involved in transmitting information about the physiological condition of the body, such as shortness of breath and pain levels, and they have strong connections with other brain structures essential in processing emotional information.
Davidson, director of the affective neuroscience laboratory, states that, "The data suggest potential future targets for the development of drugs and behavioral interventions to control asthma and other stress-responsive disorders."
In 2002 drug companies spent over three BILLION dollars advertising nebulizers, steroids, advair, ventolin and other asthma drugs to consumers. Americans spent over 500 billion dollars on drugs that year. Would not it be sad if we find out that asthma is a bogus non-disease invented by the drug industry to earn billions of dollars while creating an army of young, life-long drug addicts?
Jonathan D. Finder, M.D
Structure of the Airways, Parenchyma and Blood Vessels
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
3705 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
(Return to Reference 2 in text)
BIOL 231 Human Anatomy: INTRODUCTION TO RESPIRATION
Revised 11/5/2007. Morehead State University
150 University Blvd. Morehead, KY 40351
(Return to Reference 3 in text)
Jonathan Parsons, pulmonologist and associate director of the Medical Center's Asthma Center
(Exercise Induced Asthma Tested by Eucapnic Voluntary Hypernea Technique)
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2008,
Contact: Sherri L. Kirk
Ohio State University.
(Return to Reference 4 in text)
acapnia - a state in which the level of carbon dioxide in the blood is lower than normal; can result from deep or rapid breathing.
Dictionary.com. WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/acapnia (accessed: November 25, 2008). [syn: hypocapnia] [ant: hypercapnia]
(Return to Reference 5 in text)
7. Chan Park, Christopher Stafford, and Warren Lockette,
Exercise-Induced Asthma May Be Associated With Diminished Sweat Secretion Rates in Humans
CHEST the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), Sep 2008; 134: 552 - 558.
(Return to Reference 7 in text)
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