Buteyko breathing is a therapy which teaches specific breathing exercises to improve asthma and other respiratory disorders. In addition to breathing techniques, the complex Buteyko method also includes advice and education about medication use, nutrition and exercise, and relaxation / stress management.
The Buteyko Breathing Technique (BBT) is now recognized in many asthma management guidelines and reports from around the world as a therapy that can help manage the symptoms of asthma. The BTS/SIGN Asthma Management Guideline 2019 recommended that “Behavioural programmes centred on breathing exercises and dysfunctional breathing reduction techniques … should ideally be provided as part of integrated medical care.”
Clinical trials have shown that BBT can allow safe reduction of reliever medication usage, without determent to lung function, but with an improvement in asthma symptoms and without an increase in adverse effects such as exacerbations, A+E visits or hospital admissions.
BBT can help subjects with asthma correctly identify asthma symptoms and use their reliever inhaler appropriately, improving their ability to self-manage.
How does it work? By practicing BBT clients learn to breathe properly and efficiently, which can help prevent issues such as wheezing, coughing, and breathlessness. It can also help to clear nasal passages.
In most instances, the Buteyko Technique can successfully be taught to asthma clients in approximately 5 sessions, with the client committing to daily breathwork practice in-between. Clients often notice significant improvement in their symptoms early into the programme, and mostly experience a significant decrease in reliever inhaler usage, with many clients not needing to use the reliever at all, even during high intensity exercise.
Using the techniques of Oxygen Advantage, the Buteyko Breathing Technique can be taken a step further with improvements in exercise stamina and overall fitness.
BBT is often used to prevent over-breathing, which is often connected with asthma. Hyperventilation can lead to hypocapnia (also known as hypocarbia) (a decrease in alveolar and blood carbon dioxide levels below the normal reference range of 35 mmHg) and respiratory alkalosis (when high levels of carbon dioxide disrupt the blood’s acid-base balance).
In 2008, a randomised controlled trial of the Buteyko technique was conducted in a group of adults with asthma. The control group was trained by a physiotherapist in breathing and relaxation techniques. The researchers concluded that six months after the study was completed, both groups showed improved control of their asthma along with a reduction in inhaled corticosteroid use in the Buteyko group.
A review was conducted in 2005 of all of the research to date on the Buteyko Technique for asthma control – which admittedly was not many. Included in this paper was a table summarising the outcomes of the various studies included in the review (see table one below). Results of these studies with regards to the BBT method include decreased medication use, decreased minute ventilation, increased quality of life, decreased symptoms, and increased end tidal carbon dioxide (the level of carbon dioxide that is released at the end of an exhaled breath).
In a study, published by Bowler et al the Buteyko method was compared with traditional asthma education and general breathing exercises in a randomised group of participants – 20 in the control group and 19 in the Buteyko. Participants in all groups were encouraged to use their reliever (beta-agonist) only when asthma symptoms were present. Preventer (corticosteroid) medicines were gradually reduced if the patient remained stable. Those treated with Buteyko needed their reliever inhalers less often (median reduction of 904 micrograms in the Buteyko group and 57 micrograms in the control), and there was a trend towards lower inhaled corticosteroid use (49% reduction in the Buteyko group vs 0% in the control). Quality of Life scores generally improved in the Buteyko group.
In 2003 McHugh et al broadly replicated the findings of Bowler et al. In this study, 19 participants received training in Buteyko, and 19 received traditional asthma education and relaxation techniques. The Buteyko group reduced their reliever usage by 85% (37% in the control group), and their inhaled corticosteroid dose by 50% (0% in the control group).
Book an enquiry call or a session if you would like to learn how to manage your asthma symptoms with Buteyko breathing.